Phillis Wheatley | |
Grim monarch! see, depriv'd of vital breath,
A young physician in the dust of death:
Dost thou go on incessant to destroy,
Our griefs to double, and lay waste our joy?
"Enough" thou never yet wast known to say,
Though millions die, the vassals of thy sway:
Nor youth, nor science, nor the ties of love,
Nor aught on earth thy flinty heart can move.
The friend, the spouse from his dire dart to save,
In vain we ask the sovereign of the grave.
Fair mourner, there see thy lov'd Leonard laid,
And o'er him spread the deep impervious shade;
Clos'd are his eyes, and heavy fetters keep
His senses bound in never-waking sleep,
Till time shall cease, till many a starry world
Shall fall from heav'n, in dire confusion hurl'd,
Till nature in her final wreck shall lie,
And her last groan shall rend the azure sky:
Not, not till then his active soul shall claim
His body, a divine immortal frame.
But see the softly-stealing tears apace
Pursue each other down the mourner's face;
But cease thy tears, bid ev'ry sigh depart,
And cast the load of anguish from thine heart:
From the cold shell of his great soul arise,
And look beyond, thou native of the skies;
There fix thy view, where fleeter than the wind
Thy Leonard mounts, and leaves the earth behind.
Thyself prepare to pass the vale of night
To join for ever on the hills of light:
To thine embrace his joyful sprit moves
To thee, the partner of his earthly loves;
He welcomes thee to pleasures more refin'd,
And better suited to th' immortal mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson | |
IT fell in the ancient periods
Which the brooding soul surveys
Or ever the wild Time coin'd itself
Into calendar months and days.
This was the lapse of Uriel 5
Which in Paradise befell.
Once among the Pleiads walking
Sayd overheard the young gods talking;
And the treason too long pent
To his ears was evident.
The young deities discuss'd
Laws of form and metre just
Orb quintessence and sunbeams
What subsisteth and what seems.
One with low tones that decide 15
And doubt and reverend use defied
With a look that solved the sphere
And stirr'd the devils everywhere
Gave his sentiment divine
Against the being of a line.
'Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced all rays return;
Evil will bless and ice will burn.
As Uriel spoke with piercing eye 25
A shudder ran around the sky;
The stern old war-gods shook their heads;
The seraphs frown'd from myrtle-beds;
Seem'd to the holy festival
The rash word boded ill to all; 30
The balance-beam of Fate was bent;
The bounds of good and ill were rent;
Strong Hades could not keep his own
But all slid to confusion.
A sad self-knowledge withering fell 35
On the beauty of Uriel;
In heaven once eminent the god
Withdrew that hour into his cloud;
Whether doom'd to long gyration
In the sea of generation 40
Or by knowledge grown too bright
To hit the nerve of feebler sight.
Straightway a forgetting wind
Stole over the celestial kind
And their lips the secret kept 45
If in ashes the fire-seed slept.
But now and then truth-speaking things
Shamed the angels' veiling wings;
And shrilling from the solar course
Or from fruit of chemic force 50
Procession of a soul in matter
Or the speeding change of water
Or out of the good of evil born
Came Uriel's voice of cherub scorn
And a blush tinged the upper sky 55
And the gods shook they knew not why.
R S Thomas | |
Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind—
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind's attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed, even in death's confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.
More great poems below...
Arthur Hugh Clough | |
What we, when face to face we see
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
Ah! did he tell what we are here!
A mind for thoughts to pass into,
A heart for loves to travel through,
Five senses to detect things near,
Is this the whole that we are here?
Rules baffle instincts--instinct rules,
Wise men are bad--and good are fools,
Facts evil--wishes vain appear,
We cannot go, why are we here?
O may we for assurance's sake,
Some arbitrary judgement take,
And wilfully pronounce it clear,
For this or that 'tis we are here?
Or is it right, and will it do,
To pace the sad confusion through,
And say:--It doth not yet appear,
What we shall be, what we are here?
Ah yet, when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope we must believe,
And what is given us receive;
Must still believe, for still we hope
That in a world of larger scope,
What here is faithfully begun
Will be completed, not undone.
My child, we still must think, when we
That ampler life together see,
Some true result will yet appear
Of what we are, together, here.
Arthur Hugh Clough | |
"There is no God," the wicked saith,
"And truly it's a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It's better only guessing.
"There is no God," a youngster thinks,
"or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby.
"There is no God, or if there is,"
The tradesman thinks, "'twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money.
"Whether there be," the rich man says,
"It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.
Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.
But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson's wife,
And mostly married people;
Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;
And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.
John Crowe Ransom | |
Do not enforce the tired wolf
Dragging his infected wound homeward
To sit tonight with the warm children
Naming the pretty kings of France.
The images of the invaded mind
Being as the monsters in the dreams
Of your most brief enchanted headful,
Suppose a miracle of confusion:
That dreamed and undreamt become each other
And mix the night and day of your mind;
And it does not matter your twice crying
From mouth unbeautied against the pillow
To avert the gun of the same old soldier;
For cry, cock-crow, or the iron bell
Can crack the sleep-sense of outrage,
Annihilate phantoms who were nothing.
But now, by our perverse supposal,
There is a drift of fog on your mornings;
You in your peignoir, dainty at your orange cup,
Feel poising round the sunny room
Invisible evil, deprived and bold.
All day the clock will metronome
Your gallant fear; the needles clicking,
The heels detonating the stair's cavern
Freshening the water in the blue bowls
For the buck berries, with not all your love,
You shall he listening for the low wind,
The warning sibilance of pines.
You like a waning moon, and I accusing
Our too banded Eumenides,
While you pronounce Noes wanderingly
And smooth the heads of the hungry children.
Mark Van Doren | |
The deepest dream is of mad governors,
Down, down we feel it, till the very crust
Of the world cracks, and where there was no dust,
Atoms of ruin rise.
And fear; and all our thoughts--dark scavengers--
Feed on the center's refuse.
Hope is thrust
Like wind away, and love sinks into lust
For merest safety, meanest of levelers.
And then we wake.
Or do we? Sleep endures
More than the morning can, when shadows lie
Sharper than mountains, and the cleft is real
Between us and our kings.
What sun assures
Our courage, and what evening by and by
Descends to rest us, and perhaps to heal?
Wole Soyinka | |
My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, 'I am a civilian.
' It only served
To aggravate your fright.
For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.
You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your traing sessions, cautioning -
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear.
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.
I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier.
No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question - do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?
Francis Scott Key | |
Tune -- ANACREON IN HEAVEN
O! say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there --
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream --
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havock of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul foot-steps' pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home, and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto -- "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |
OH thou cruel deadly-lovely maiden,
Tell me what great sin have I committed,
That thou keep'st me to the rack thus fasten'd,
That thou hast thy solemn promise broken?
'Twas but yestere'en that thou with fondness
Press'd my hand, and these sweet accents murmured:
"Yes, I'll come, I'll come when morn approacheth,
Come, my friend, full surely to thy chamber.
On the latch I left my doors, unfasten'd,
Having first with care tried all the hinges,
And rejoic'd right well to find they creak'd not.
What a night of expectation pass'd I!
For I watch'd, and ev'ry chime I number'd;
If perchance I slept a few short moments,
Still my heart remain'd awake forever,
And awoke me from my gentle slumbers.
Yes, then bless'd I night's o'erhanging darkness,
That so calmly cover'd all things round me;
I enjoy'd the universal silence,
While I listen'd ever in the silence,
If perchance the slightest sounds were stirring.
"Had she only thoughts, my thoughts resembling,
Had she only feelings, like my feelings,
She would not await the dawn of morning.
But, ere this, would surely have been with me.
Skipp'd a kitten on the floor above me,
Scratch'd a mouse a panel in the corner,
Was there in the house the slightest motion,
Ever hoped I that I heard thy footstep,
Ever thought I that I heard thee coming.
And so lay I long, and ever longer,
And already was the daylight dawning,
And both here and there were signs of movement.
"Is it yon door? Were it my door only!"
In my bed I lean'd upon my elbow,
Looking tow'rd the door, now half-apparent,
If perchance it might not be in motion.
Both the wings upon the latch continued,
On the quiet hinges calmly hanging.
And the day grew bright and brighter ever;
And I heard my neighbour's door unbolted,
As he went to earn his daily wages,
And ere long I heard the waggons rumbling,
And the city gates were also open'd,
While the market-place, in ev'ry corner,
Teem'd with life and bustle and confusion.
In the house was going now and coming
Up and down the stairs, and doors were creaking
Backwards now, now forwards,--footsteps clatter'd
Yet, as though it were a thing all-living,
From my cherish'd hope I could not tear me.
When at length the sun, in hated splendour.
Fell upon my walls, upon my windows,
Up I sprang, and hasten'd to the garden,
There to blend my breath, so hot and yearning,
With the cool refreshing morning breezes,
And, it might be, even there to meet thee:
But I cannot find thee in the arbour,
Or the avenue of lofty lindens.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |
THE warder looks down at the mid hour of night,
On the tombs that lie scatter'd below:
The moon fills the place with her silvery light,
And the churchyard like day seems to glow.
When see! first one grave, then another opes wide,
And women and men stepping forth are descried,
In cerements snow-white and trailing.
In haste for the sport soon their ankles they twitch,
And whirl round in dances so gay;
The young and the old, and the poor, and the rich,
But the cerements stand in their way;
And as modesty cannot avail them aught here,
They shake themselves all, and the shrouds soon appear
Scatter'd over the tombs in confusion.
Now waggles the leg, and now wriggles the thigh,
As the troop with strange gestures advance,
And a rattle and clatter anon rises high,
As of one beating time to the dance.
The sight to the warder seems wondrously queer,
When the villainous Tempter speaks thus in his ear:
"Seize one of the shrouds that lie yonder!"
Quick as thought it was done! and for safety he fled
Behind the church-door with all speed;
The moon still continues her clear light to shed
On the dance that they fearfully lead.
But the dancers at length disappear one by one,
And their shrouds, ere they vanish, they carefully don,
And under the turf all is quiet.
But one of them stumbles and shuffles there still,
And gropes at the graves in despair;
Yet 'tis by no comrade he's treated so ill
The shroud he soon scents in the air.
So he rattles the door--for the warder 'tis well
That 'tis bless'd, and so able the foe to repel,
All cover'd with crosses in metal.
The shroud he must have, and no rest will allow,
There remains for reflection no time;
On the ornaments Gothic the wight seizes now,
And from point on to point hastes to climb.
Alas for the warder! his doom is decreed!
Like a long-legged spider, with ne'er-changing speed,
Advances the dreaded pursuer.
The warder he quakes, and the warder turns pale,
The shroud to restore fain had sought;
When the end,--now can nothing to save him avail,--
In a tooth formed of iron is caught.
With vanishing lustre the moon's race is run,
When the bell thunders loudly a powerful One,
And the skeleton fails, crush'd to atoms.
Phillis Wheatley | |
THROUGH thickest glooms look back, immortal
On that confusion which thy death has made:
Or from Olympus' height look down, and see
A Town involv'd in grief bereft of thee.
Thy Lucy sees thee mingle with the dead,
And rends the graceful tresses from her head,
Wild in her woe, with grief unknown opprest
Sigh follows sigh deep heaving from her breast.
Too quickly fled, ah! whither art thou gone?
Ah! lost for ever to thy wife and son!
The hapless child, thine only hope and heir,
Clings round his mother's neck, and weeps his sorrows
The loss of thee on Tyler's soul returns,
And Boston for her dear physician mourns.
When sickness call'd for Marshall's healing hand,
With what compassion did his soul expand?
In him we found the father and the friend:
In life how lov'd! how honour'd in his end!
And must not then our AEsculapius stay
To bring his ling'ring infant into day?
The babe unborn in the dark womb is tost,
And seems in anguish for its father lost.
Gone is Apollo from his house of earth,
But leaves the sweet memorials of his worth:
The common parent, whom we all deplore,
From yonder world unseen must come no more,
Yet 'midst our woes immortal hopes attend
The spouse, the sire, the universal friend.
Richard Wilbur | |
It is a cramped little state with no foreign policy,
Save to be thought inoffensive.
The grammar of the language
Has never been fathomed, owing to the national habit
Of allowing each sentence to trail off in confusion.
Those who have visited Scusi, the capital city,
Report that the railway-route from Schuldig passes
Through country best described as unrelieved.
Sheep are the national product.
The faint inscription
Over the city gates may perhaps be rendered,
"I'm afraid you won't find much of interest here.
Census-reports which give the population
As zero are, of course, not to be trusted,
Save as reflecting the natives' flustered insistence
That they do not count, as well as their modest horror
Of letting one's sex be known in so many words.
The uniform grey of the nondescript buildings, the absence
Of churches or comfort-stations, have given observers
An odd impression of ostentatious meanness,
And it must be said of the citizens (muttering by
In their ratty sheepskins, shying at cracks in the sidewalk)
That they lack the peace of mind of the truly humble.
The tenor of life is careful, even in the stiff
Unsmiling carelessness of the border-guards
And douaniers, who admit, whenever they can,
Not merely the usual carloads of deodorant
But gypsies, g-strings, hasheesh, and contraband pigments.
Their complete negligence is reserved, however,
For the hoped-for invasion, at which time the happy people
(Sniggering, ruddily naked, and shamelessly drunk)
Will stun the foe by their overwhelming submission,
Corrupt the generals, infiltrate the staff,
Usurp the throne, proclaim themselves to be sun-gods,
And bring about the collapse of the whole empire.
Richard Wilbur | |
A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.
What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from the lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?
Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issues in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
Like whips that map the countries of the air.
Anne Kingsmill Finch | |
A Peevish Fellow laid his Head
On Pillows, stuff'd with Down;
But was no sooner warm in Bed,
With hopes to rest his Crown,
But Animals of slender size,
That feast on humane Gore,
From secret Ambushes arise,
Nor suffer him to snore;
Who starts, and scrubs, and frets, and swears,
'Till, finding all in vain,
He for Relief employs his Pray'rs
In this old Heathen strain.
Great Jupiter! thy Thunder send
From out the pitchy Clouds,
And give these Foes a dreadful End,
That lurk in Midnight Shrouds:
Or Hercules might with a Blow,
If once together brought,
This Crew of Monsters overthrow,
By which such Harms are wrought.
The Strife, ye Gods! is worthy You,
Since it our Blood has cost;
And scorching Fevers must ensue,
When cooling Sleep is lost.
Strange Revolutions wou'd abound,
Did Men ne'er close their Eyes;
Whilst those, who wrought them wou'd be found
At length more Mad, than Wise.
Passive Obedience must be us'd,
If this cannot be Cur'd;
But whilst one Flea is slowly bruis'd,
Thousands must be endur'd.
Confusion, Slav'ry, Death and Wreck
Will on the Nation seize,
If, whilst you keep your Thunders back,
We're massacr'd by Fleas.
Why, prithee, shatter-headed Fop,
The laughing Gods reply;
Hast thou forgot thy Broom, and Mop,
And Wormwood growing nigh?
Go sweep, and wash, and strew thy Floor,
As all good Housewives teach;
And do not thus for Thunders roar,
To make some fatal Breach:
Which You, nor your succeeding Heir,
Nor yet a long Descent
Shall find out Methods to repair,
Tho' Prudence may prevent.
For Club, and Bolts, a Nation call'd of late,
Nor wou'd be eas'd by Engines of less Weight:
But whether lighter had not done as well,
Let their Great-Grandsons, or their Grandsons tell.