Maya Angelou |
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Ralph Waldo Emerson |
GIVE all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends kindred days
Estate good fame
Plans credit and the Muse¡ª 5
'Tis a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly
Hope beyond hope: 10
High and more high
It dives into noon
With wing unspent
But it is a god 15
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.
It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout
Souls above doubt 20
Such 'twill reward;¡ª
They shall return
More than they were
And ever ascending.
Leave all for love;
Yet hear me yet
One word more thy heart behoved
One pulse more of firm endeavour¡ª
Keep thee to-day 30
To-morrow for ever
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise 35
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee
Free be she fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture's hem 40
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.
Though thou loved her as thyself
As a self of purer clay;
Though her parting dims the day 45
Stealing grace from all alive;
When half-gods go
The gods arrive.
Galway Kinnell |
As this plane dragged
its track of used ozone half the world long
thrusts some four hundred of us
toward places where actual known people
live and may wait,
we diminish down in our seats,
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours,
and yet we do not forget for a moment
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter:
where I will meet her again
and know her again,
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars.
Very likely she has always understood
what I have slowly learned,
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away
as one can get on this globe, almost
as far as thoughts can carry - yet still in her presence,
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her
as by things she had already reminded me of,
shadows of her
cast forward and waiting - can I try to express:
that love is hard,
that while many good things are easy, true love is not,
because love is first of all a power,
its own power,
which continually must make its way forward, from night
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult day.
And as the plane descends, it comes to me
in the space
where tears stream down across the stars,
tears fallen on the actual earth
where their shining is what we call spirit,
that once the lover
recognizes the other, knows for the first time
what is most to be valued in another,
from then on, love is very much like courage,
perhaps it is courage, and even
out of old selves, smearing the darkness
of expectation across experience, all of us little
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts
of landing to the imponderable world,
the transoceanic airliner,
resting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly,
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears
all its tires know the home ground.
More great poems below...
Allen Ginsberg |
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whit-
man, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees
with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images,
I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole fam-
ilies shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives
in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old
grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator
and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed
the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of
cans following you, and followed in my imagination
by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in
our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every
frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors
close in an hour.
Which way does your beard point
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.
Will we walk all night through solitary streets?
The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses,
we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming ofthe lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-
teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit
poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank
and stood watching the boat disappear on the black
waters of Lethe?
William Cowper |
Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
With warmer wishes sent.
He lov'd them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But wag'd with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevail'd,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford;
And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent pow'r,
His destiny repell'd;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried--Adieu!
At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast,
Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page
Of narrative sincere;
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allay'd,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
We perish'd, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.
Robert William Service |
Today I opened wide my eyes,
And stared with wonder and surprise,
To see beneath November skies
An apple blossom peer;
Upon a branch as bleak as night
It gleamed exultant on my sight,
A fairy beacon burning bright
Of hope and cheer.
"Alas!" said I, "poor foolish thing,
Have you mistaken this for Spring?
Behold, the thrush has taken wing,
And Winter's near.
Serene it seemed to lift its head:
"The Winter's wrath I do not dread,
Because I am," it proudly said,
"Some apple blossom must be first,
With beauty's urgency to burst
Into a world for joy athirst,
And so I dare;
And I shall see what none shall see -
December skies gloom over me,
And mock them with my April glee,
And fearless fare.
"And I shall hear what none shall hear -
The hardy robin piping clear,
The Storm King gallop dark and drear
Across the sky;
And I shall know what none shall know -
The silent kisses of the snow,
The Christmas candles' silver glow,
Before I die.
"Then from your frost-gemmed window pane
One morning you will look in vain,
My smile of delicate disdain
No more to see;
But though I pass before my time,
And perish in the grale and grime,
Maybe you'll have a little rhyme
To spare for me.
Anne Sexton |
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
William Cullen Bryant |
ONCE this soft turf, this rivulet's sands,
Were trampled by a hurrying crowd,
And fiery hearts and arm¨¨d hands
Encountered in the battle-cloud.
Ah! never shall the land forget 5
How gushed the life-blood of her brave¡ª
Gushed, warm with hope and courage yet,
Upon the soil they fought to save.
Now all is calm, and fresh, and still;
Alone the chirp of flitting bird, 10
And talk of children on the hill,
And bell of wandering kine, are heard.
No solemn host goes trailing by
The black-mouthed gun and staggering wain;
Men start not at the battle-cry,¡ª 15
O, be it never heard again!
Soon rested those who fought; but thou
Who minglest in the harder strife
For truths which men receive not now,
Thy warfare only ends with life.
A friendless warfare! lingering long
Through weary day and weary year;
A wild and many-weaponed throng
Hang on thy front, and flank, and rear.
Yet nerve thy spirit to the proof, 25
And blench not at thy chosen lot,
The timid good may stand aloof,
The sage may frown¡ªyet faint thou not.
Nor heed the shaft too surely cast,
The foul and hissing bolt of scorn; 30
For with thy side shall dwell, at last,
The victory of endurance born.
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain, 35
And dies among his worshippers.
Yea, though thou lie upon the dust,
When they who helped thee flee in fear,
Die full of hope and manly trust,
Like those who fell in battle here.
Another hand thy sword shall wield,
Another hand the standard wave,
Till from the trumpet's mouth is pealed
The blast of triumph o'er thy grave.
Kahlil Gibran |
Then said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.
You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving.
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.
Henry Van Dyke |
Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul;
Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
Not mourning for the things that disappear
In the dim past, nor holding back in fear
From what the future veils; but with a whole
And happy heart, that pays its toll
To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.
So let the way wind up the hill or down,
O'er rough or smooth, the journey will be joy:
Still seeking what I sought when but a boy,
New friendship, high adventure, and a crown,
My heart will keep the courage of the quest,
And hope the road's last turn will be the best.
Charles Bukowski |
at their best, there is gentleness in Humanity.
some understanding and, at times, acts of
but all in all it is a mass, a glob that doesn't
have too much.
it is like a large animal deep in sleep and
almost nothing can awaken it.
when activated it's best at brutality,
selfishness, unjust judgments, murder.
what can we do with it, this Humanity?
avoid the thing as much as possible.
treat it as you would anything poisonous, vicious
but be careful.
it has enacted laws to protect
itself from you.
it can kill you without cause.
and to escape it you must be subtle.
it's up to you to figure a plan.
I have met nobody who has escaped.
I have met some of the great and
famous but they have not escaped
for they are only great and famous within
I have not escaped
but I have not failed in trying again and
before my death I hope to obtain my
from blank gun silencer - 1994
Robert William Service |
I must not let my boy Dick down,
Knight of the air.
With wings of light he won renown
Then crashed somewhere.
To fly to France from London town
I do not dare.
Oh he was such a simple lad
Who loved the sky;
A modern day Sir Galahad,
No need to die:
Earthbound he might have been so glad,
Yet chose to fly.
I ask from where his courage stemmed?
I've never flown;
Air-travel I have oft condemned,--
Now I'm alone,
Yet somehow hold the bright belief
God gave his brief.
So now I must live up to him
Who won on high
A lustre time will never dim;
Though coward I,
Let me revere till life be done
My hero son.
Isaac Watts |
Up from my youth, may Isr'el say,
Have I been nursed in tears;
My griefs were constant as the day,
And tedious as the years.
Up from my youth I bore the rage
Of all the sons of strife;
Oft they assailed my riper age,
But not destroyed my life.
Their cruel plow had torn my flesh
With furrows long and deep;
Hourly they vexed my wounds afresh,
Nor let my sorrows sleep.
The Lord grew angry on his throne,
And, with impartial eye,
Measured the mischiefs they had done,
Then let his arrows fly.
How was their insolence surprised
To hear his thunders roll!
And all the foes of Zion seized
With horror to the soul!
Thus shall the men that hate the saints
Be blasted from the sky;
Their glory fades, their courage faints
And all their projects die.
[What though they flourish tall and fair,
They have no root beneath;
Their growth shall perish in despair,
And lie despised in death.
[So corn that on the house-top stands
No hope of harvest gives;
The reaper ne'er shall fill his hands,
Nor binder fold the sheaves.
It springs and withers on the place;
No traveller bestows
A word of blessing on the grass,
Nor minds it as he goes.
Anne Bronte |
Love, indeed thy strength is mighty
Thus, alone, such strife to bear --
Three 'gainst one, and never ceasing --
Death, and Madness, and Despair!
'Tis not my own strength has saved me;
Health, and hope, and fortitude,
But for love, had long since failed me;
Heart and soul had sunk subdued.
Often, in my wild impatience,
I have lost my trust in Heaven,
And my soul has tossed and struggled,
Like a vessel tempest-driven;
But the voice of my beloved
In my ear has seemed to say --
'O, be patient if thou lov'st me!'
And the storm has passed away.
When outworn with weary thinking,
Sight and thought were waxing dim,
And my mind began to wander,
And my brain began to swim,
Then those hands outstretched to save me
Seemed to call me back again --
Those dark eyes did so implore me
To resume my reason's reign,
That I could not but remember
How her hopes were fixed on me,
And, with one determined effort,
Rose, and shook my spirit free.
When hope leaves my weary spirit --
All the power to hold it gone --
That loved voice so loudly prays me,
'For my sake, keep hoping on,'
That, at once my strength renewing,
Though Despair had crushed me down,
I can burst his bonds asunder,
And defy his deadliest frown.
When, from nights of restless tossing,
Days of gloom and pining care,
Pain and weakness, still increasing,
Seem to whisper 'Death is near,'
And I almost bid him welcome,
Knowing he would bring release,
Weary of this restless struggle --
Longing to repose in peace,
Then a glance of fond reproval
Bids such selfish longings flee
And a voice of matchless music
Murmurs 'Cherish life for me!'
Roused to newborn strength and courage,
Pain and grief, I cast away,
Health and life, I keenly follow,
Mighty Death is held at bay.
Yes, my love, I will be patient!
Firm and bold my heart shall be:
Fear not -- though this life is dreary,
I can bear it well for thee.
Let our foes still rain upon me
Cruel wrongs and taunting scorn;
'Tis for thee their hate pursues me,
And for thee, it shall be borne!
Jack Gilbert |
The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German
Tanks on horses.
Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers,
A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace.
And yet this poem would lessen that day.
Say it's not courage.
Call it a passion.
Would say courage isn't that.
Not at its best.
It was impossib1e, and with form.
They rode in sunlight,
But I say courage is not the abnormal.
Not the marvelous act.
Not Macbeth with fine speeches.
The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment.
It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse,
And the failure to sustain even small kindness.
Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being.
Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.
The even loyalty.
Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus.
The thing steady and clear.
Then the crescendo.
The real form.
And the exceeding.
Not the surprise.
The amazed understanding.
Not the month's rapture.
Not the exception.
That is of many days.
Steady and clear.
It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.