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Best Famous Death Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Death poems. This is a select list of the best famous Death poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Death poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of death poems.

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Written by George (Lord) Byron | Create an image from this poem

The Dream

 I

Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power— 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought, A slumbering thought, is capable of years, And curdles a long life into one hour.
II I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill Was crowned with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fixed, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing—the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him; he had looked Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words; she was his sight, For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers, Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased To live within himself: she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestowed on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why? Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved Another; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood Looking afar if yet her lover's steed Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
III A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparisoned: Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere With a convulsion—then rose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-entered there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved; she knew— For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came; He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
IV A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds Of fiery climes he made himself a home, And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt With strange and dusky aspects; he was not Himself like what he had been; on the sea And on the shore he was a wanderer; There was a mass of many images Crowded like waves upon me, but he was A part of all; and in the last he lay Reposing from the noontide sultriness, Couched among fallen columns, in the shade Of ruined walls that had survived the names Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds Were fastened near a fountain; and a man, Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while, While many of his tribe slumbered around: And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful, That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
V A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better: in her home, A thousand leagues from his,—her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold! Upon her face there was a tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which preyed Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
VI A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand Before an altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then— As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reeled around him; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall, And the remembered chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light; What business had they there at such a time? VII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth? Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedness, Making the cold reality too real! VIII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compassed round With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains; with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues: and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was opened wide, And voices from the deep abyss revealed A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
IX My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality—the one To end in madness—both in misery.
Written by Emily Dickinson | Create an image from this poem

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death-- 
He kindly stopped for me-- 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-- 
And Immortality.
We slowly drove--He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility-- We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess--in the Ring-- We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-- We passed the Setting Sun-- Or rather--He passed us-- The Dews drew quivering and chill-- For only Gossamer, my Gown-- My Tippet--only Tulle-- We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground-- The Roof was scarcely visible-- The Cornice--in the Ground-- Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity--
Written by Tupac Shakur | Create an image from this poem

Life Through My Eyes

Life through my bloodshot eyes
would scare a square 2 death
poverty,murder,violence
and never a moment 2 rest
Fun and games are few
but treasured like gold 2 me
cuz I realize that I must return
2 my spot in poverty
But mock my words when I say
my heart will not exist
unless my destiny comes through
and puts an end 2 all of this 
Written by Emily Dickinson | Create an image from this poem

How far is it to Heaven?

 How far is it to Heaven?
As far as Death this way --
Of River or of Ridge beyond
Was no discovery.
How far is it to Hell? As far as Death this way -- How far left hand the Sepulchre Defies Topography.
Written by Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

Maple

 Her teacher's certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, "Maple— Maple is right.
" "But teacher told the school There's no such name.
" "Teachers don't know as much As fathers about children, you tell teacher.
You tell her that it's M-A-P-L-E.
You ask her if she knows a maple tree.
Well, you were named after a maple tree.
Your mother named you.
You and she just saw Each other in passing in the room upstairs, One coming this way into life, and one Going the other out of life—you know? So you can't have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard It must have made your dimple there, and said, 'Maple.
' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.
' She nodded.
So we're sure there's no mistake.
I don't know what she wanted it to mean, But it seems like some word she left to bid you Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree's for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn't try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know About the different trees, and something, too, About your mother that perhaps may help.
" Dangerous self-arousing words to sow.
Luckily all she wanted of her name then Was to rebuke her teacher with it next day, And give the teacher a scare as from her father.
Anything further had been wasted on her, Or so he tried to think to avoid blame.
She would forget it.
She all but forgot it.
What he sowed with her slept so long a sleep, And came so near death in the dark of years, That when it woke and came to life again The flower was different from the parent seed.
It carne back vaguely at the glass one day, As she stood saying her name over aloud, Striking it gently across her lowered eyes To make it go well with the way she looked.
What was it about her name? Its strangeness lay In having too much meaning.
Other names, As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie, Signified nothing.
Rose could have a meaning, But hadn't as it went.
(She knew a Rose.
) This difference from other names it was Made people notice it—and notice her.
(They either noticed it, or got it wrong.
) Her problem was to find out what it asked In dress or manner of the girl who bore it.
If she could form some notion of her mother— What she bad thought was lovely, and what good.
This was her mother's childhood home; The house one story high in front, three stories On the end it presented to the road.
(The arrangement made a pleasant sunny cellar.
) Her mother's bedroom was her father's still, Where she could watch her mother's picture fading.
Once she found for a bookmark in the Bible A maple leaf she thought must have been laid In wait for her there.
She read every word Of the two pages it was pressed between, As if it was her mother speaking to her.
But forgot to put the leaf back in closing And lost the place never to read again.
She was sure, though, there had been nothing in it.
So she looked for herself, as everyone Looks for himself, more or less outwardly.
And her self-seeking, fitful though it was, May still have been what led her on to read, And think a little, and get some city schooling.
She learned shorthand, whatever shorthand may Have had to do with it--she sometimes wondered.
So, till she found herself in a strange place For the name Maple to have brought her to, Taking dictation on a paper pad And, in the pauses when she raised her eyes, Watching out of a nineteenth story window An airship laboring with unshiplike motion And a vague all-disturbing roar above the river Beyond the highest city built with hands.
Someone was saying in such natural tones She almost wrote the words down on her knee, "Do you know you remind me of a tree-- A maple tree?" "Because my name is Maple?" "Isn't it Mabel? I thought it was Mabel.
" "No doubt you've heard the office call me Mabel.
I have to let them call me what they like.
" They were both stirred that he should have divined Without the name her personal mystery.
It made it seem as if there must be something She must have missed herself.
So they were married, And took the fancy home with them to live by.
They went on pilgrimage once to her father's (The house one story high in front, three stories On the side it presented to the road) To see if there was not some special tree She might have overlooked.
They could find none, Not so much as a single tree for shade, Let alone grove of trees for sugar orchard.
She told him of the bookmark maple leaf In the big Bible, and all she remembered of the place marked with it—"Wave offering, Something about wave offering, it said.
" "You've never asked your father outright, have you?" "I have, and been Put off sometime, I think.
" (This was her faded memory of the way Once long ago her father had put himself off.
) "Because no telling but it may have been Something between your father and your mother Not meant for us at all.
" "Not meant for me? Where would the fairness be in giving me A name to carry for life and never know The secret of?" "And then it may have been Something a father couldn't tell a daughter As well as could a mother.
And again It may have been their one lapse into fancy 'Twould be too bad to make him sorry for By bringing it up to him when be was too old.
Your father feels us round him with our questing, And holds us off unnecessarily, As if he didn't know what little thing Might lead us on to a discovery.
It was as personal as be could be About the way he saw it was with you To say your mother, bad she lived, would be As far again as from being born to bearing.
" "Just one look more with what you say in mind, And I give up"; which last look came to nothing.
But though they now gave up the search forever, They clung to what one had seen in the other By inspiration.
It proved there was something.
They kept their thoughts away from when the maples Stood uniform in buckets, and the steam Of sap and snow rolled off the sugarhouse.
When they made her related to the maples, It was the tree the autumn fire ran through And swept of leathern leaves, but left the bark Unscorched, unblackened, even, by any smoke.
They always took their holidays in autumn.
Once they came on a maple in a glade, Standing alone with smooth arms lifted up, And every leaf of foliage she'd worn Laid scarlet and pale pink about her feet.
But its age kept them from considering this one.
Twenty-five years ago at Maple's naming It hardly could have been a two-leaved seedling The next cow might have licked up out at pasture.
Could it have been another maple like it? They hovered for a moment near discovery, Figurative enough to see the symbol, But lacking faith in anything to mean The same at different times to different people.
Perhaps a filial diffidence partly kept them From thinking it could be a thing so bridal.
And anyway it came too late for Maple.
She used her hands to cover up her eyes.
"We would not see the secret if we could now: We are not looking for it any more.
" Thus had a name with meaning, given in death, Made a girl's marriage, and ruled in her life.
No matter that the meaning was not clear.
A name with meaning could bring up a child, Taking the child out of the parents' hands.
Better a meaningless name, I should say, As leaving more to nature and happy chance.
Name children some names and see what you do.
Written by Sandra Cisneros | Create an image from this poem

Cloud

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and murmuring like a mouth.
You were the shadows of a cloud cross- ing over a field of tulips.
You were the tears of a man who cried into a plaid handkerchief.
You were the sky without a hat.
Your heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line.
And when you were a tree, you listened to the trees and the tree things trees told you.
You were the wind in the wheels of a red bicycle.
You were the spidery Mariatattooed on the hairless arm of a boy in dowtown Houston.
You were the rain rolling off the waxy leaves of a magnolia tree.
A lock of straw-colored hair wedged between the mottled pages of a Victor Hugo novel.
A crescent of soap.
A spider the color of a fingernail.
The black nets beneath the sea of olive trees.
A skein of blue wool.
A tea saucer wrapped in newspaper.
An empty cracker tin.
A bowl of blueber- ries in heavy cream.
White wine in a green-stemmed glass.
And when you opened your wings to wind, across the punched- tin sky above a prison courtyard, those condemned to death and those condemned to life watched how smooth and sweet a white cloud glides.
Written by Edna St Vincent Millay | Create an image from this poem

Ode To Silence

 Aye, but she?
Your other sister and my other soul
Grave Silence, lovelier
Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
Clio, not you,
Not you, Calliope,
Nor all your wanton line,
Not Beauty's perfect self shall comfort me
For Silence once departed,
For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
Whom evermore I follow wistfully,
Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
Thalia, not you,
Not you, Melpomene,
Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore, I seek in this great hall,
But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
I seek her from afar, I come from temples where her altars are, From groves that bear her name, Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame, And cymbals struck on high and strident faces Obstreperous in her praise They neither love nor know, A goddess of gone days, Departed long ago, Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes Of her old sanctuary, A deity obscure and legendary, Of whom there now remains, For sages to decipher and priests to garble, Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble, Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases, And the inarticulate snow, Leaving at last of her least signs and traces None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.
"She will love well," I said, "If love be of that heart inhabiter, The flowers of the dead; The red anemone that with no sound Moves in the wind, and from another wound That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth, That blossoms underground, And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
And will not Silence know In the black shade of what obsidian steep Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep? (Seed which Demeter's daughter bore from home, Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago, Reluctant even as she, Undone Persephone, And even as she set out again to grow In twilight, in perdition's lean and inauspicious loam).
She will love well," I said, "The flowers of the dead; Where dark Persephone the winter round, Uncomforted for home, uncomforted, Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily, With sullen pupils focussed on a dream, Stares on the stagnant stream That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell, There, there will she be found, She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound.
" "I long for Silence as they long for breath Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea; What thing can be So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death What fury, what considerable rage, if only she, Upon whose icy breast, Unquestioned, uncaressed, One time I lay, And whom always I lack, Even to this day, Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away, If only she therewith be given me back?" I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth, Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell, And in among the bloodless everywhere I sought her, but the air, Breathed many times and spent, Was fretful with a whispering discontent, And questioning me, importuning me to tell Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more, Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
I paused at every grievous door, And harked a moment, holding up my hand,—and for a space A hush was on them, while they watched my face; And then they fell a-whispering as before; So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
I sought her, too, Among the upper gods, although I knew She was not like to be where feasting is, Nor near to Heaven's lord, Being a thing abhorred And shunned of him, although a child of his, (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath, Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
Fearing to pass unvisited some place And later learn, too late, how all the while, With her still face, She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile, I sought her even to the sagging board whereat The stout immortals sat; But such a laughter shook the mighty hall No one could hear me say: Had she been seen upon the Hill that day? And no one knew at all How long I stood, or when at last I sighed and went away.
There is a garden lying in a lull Between the mountains and the mountainous sea, I know not where, but which a dream diurnal Paints on my lids a moment till the hull Be lifted from the kernel And Slumber fed to me.
Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene, Though it would seem a ruined place and after Your lichenous heart, being full Of broken columns, caryatides Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees, And urns funereal altered into dust Minuter than the ashes of the dead, And Psyche's lamp out of the earth up-thrust, Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.
There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall, And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds; There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds; But never an echo of your daughters' laughter Is there, nor any sign of you at all Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria! Only her shadow once upon a stone I saw,—and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.
I tell you you have done her body an ill, You chatterers, you noisy crew! She is not anywhere! I sought her in deep Hell; And through the world as well; I thought of Heaven and I sought her there; Above nor under ground Is Silence to be found, That was the very warp and woof of you, Lovely before your songs began and after they were through! Oh, say if on this hill Somewhere your sister's body lies in death, So I may follow there, and make a wreath Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast Shall lie till age has withered them! (Ah, sweetly from the rest I see Turn and consider me Compassionate Euterpe!) "There is a gate beyond the gate of Death, Beyond the gate of everlasting Life, Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell," she saith, "Whereon but to believe is horror! Whereon to meditate engendereth Even in deathless spirits such as I A tumult in the breath, A chilling of the inexhaustible blood Even in my veins that never will be dry, And in the austere, divine monotony That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.
This is her province whom you lack and seek; And seek her not elsewhere.
Hell is a thoroughfare For pilgrims,—Herakles, And he that loved Euridice too well, Have walked therein; and many more than these; And witnessed the desire and the despair Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air; You, too, have entered Hell, And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak None has returned;—for thither fury brings Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there.
" Oh, radiant Song! Oh, gracious Memory! Be long upon this height I shall not climb again! I know the way you mean,—the little night, And the long empty day,—never to see Again the angry light, Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain! Ah, but she, Your other sister and my other soul, She shall again be mine; And I shall drink her from a silver bowl, A chilly thin green wine, Not bitter to the taste, Not sweet, Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,— To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth— But savoring faintly of the acid earth, And trod by pensive feet From perfect clusters ripened without haste Out of the urgent heat In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine .
Lift up your lyres! Sing on! But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.
Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | Create an image from this poem

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
Written by C S Lewis | Create an image from this poem

On Being Human

 Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence 
Behold the Forms of nature.
They discern Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying, Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear, High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal Huge Principles appear.
The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of Arboreal life, how from earth's salty lap The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness Enacted by leaves' fall and rising sap; But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance Of sun from shadow where the trees begin, The blessed cool at every pore caressing us -An angel has no skin.
They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory That from each smell in widening circles goes, The pleasure and the pang --can angels measure it? An angel has no nose.
The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes On death, and why, they utterly know; but not The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf's billowy curves, Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
—An angel has no nerves.
Far richer they! I know the senses' witchery Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see; Imminent death to man that barb'd sublimity And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior, This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares With living men some secrets in a privacy Forever ours, not theirs.
Written by John Keats | Create an image from this poem

Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 5 
But being too happy in thine happiness, 
That thou, light-wing¨¨d Dryad of the trees, 
In some melodious plot 
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
10 O for a draught of vintage! that hath been Cool'd a long age in the deep-delv¨¨d earth, Tasting of Flora and the country-green, Dance, and Proven?al song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South! 15 Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple-stain¨¨d mouth; That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20 Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25 Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
30 Away! away! for I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: Already with thee! tender is the night, 35 And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
40 I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalm¨¨d darkness, guess each sweet Wherewith the seasonable month endows The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45 White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves; And mid-May's eldest child, The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
50 Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call'd him soft names in many a mus¨¨d rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 55 To cease upon the midnight with no pain, While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain¡ª To thy high requiem become a sod.
60 Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65 Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that ofttimes hath Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
70 Forlorn! the very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75 Past the near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:¡ªdo I wake or sleep? 80
Written by Sylvia Plath | Create an image from this poem

Letter In November

 Love, the world
Suddenly turns, turns color.
The streetlight Splits through the rat's tail Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic, This little black Circle, with its tawn silk grasses - babies hair.
There is a green in the air, Soft, delectable.
It cushions me lovingly.
I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous, I am so stupidly happy, My Wellingtons Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.
This is my property.
Two times a day I pace it, sniffing The barbarous holly with its viridian Scallops, pure iron, And the wall of the odd corpses.
I love them.
I love them like history.
The apples are golden, Imagine it ---- My seventy trees Holding their gold-ruddy balls In a thick gray death-soup, Their million Gold leaves metal and breathless.
O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me Walks the waist high wet.
The irreplaceable Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Song at Sunset

 SPLENDOR of ended day, floating and filling me! 
Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past! 
Inflating my throat—you, divine average! 
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.
Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness, Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection, Natural life of me, faithfully praising things; Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnumber’d spirits; Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest insect; Illustrious the attribute of speech—the senses—the body; Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the new moon in the western sky! Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart; Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-color’d flesh; To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large; To be this incredible God I am; To have gone forth among other Gods—these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself! How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on! How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks—with branches and leaves! (Surely there is something more in each of the tree—some living Soul.
) O amazement of things! even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents—now reaching me and America! I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher’d, or at noon, or, as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the growths of the earth, I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I sail’d down the Mississippi, As I wander’d over the prairies, As I have lived—As I have look’d through my windows, my eyes, As I went forth in the morning—As I beheld the light breaking in the east; As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the Western Sea; As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago—whatever streets I have roam’d; Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war; Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities, modern or old, I sing the endless finales of things; I say Nature continues—Glory continues; I praise with electric voice; For I do not see one imperfection in the universe; And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Ghosts

 Smith, great writer of stories, drank; found it immortalized his pen;
Fused in his brain-pan, else a blank, heavens of glory now and then;
Gave him the magical genius touch; God-given power to gouge out, fling
Flat in your face a soul-thought -- Bing!
Twiddle your heart-strings in his clutch.
"Bah!" said Smith, "let my body lie stripped to the buff in swinish shame, If I can blaze in the radiant sky out of adoring stars my name.
Sober am I nonentitized; drunk am I more than half a god.
Well, let the flesh be sacrificed; spirit shall speak and shame the clod.
Who would not gladly, gladly give Life to do one thing that will live?" Smith had a friend, we'll call him Brown; dearer than brothers were those two.
When in the wassail Smith would drown, Brown would rescue and pull him through.
When Brown was needful Smith would lend; so it fell as the years went by, Each on the other would depend: then at the last Smith came to die.
There Brown sat in the sick man's room, still as a stone in his despair; Smith bent on him his eyes of doom, shook back his lion mane of hair; Said: "Is there one in my chosen line, writer of forthright tales my peer? Look in that little desk of mine; there is a package, bring it here.
Story of stories, gem of all; essence and triumph, key and clue; Tale of a loving woman's fall; soul swept hell-ward, and God! it's true.
I was the man -- Oh, yes, I've paid, paid with mighty and mordant pain.
Look! here's the masterpiece I've made out of my sin, my manhood slain.
Art supreme! yet the world would stare, know my mistress and blaze my shame.
I have a wife and daughter -- there! take it and thrust it in the flame.
" Brown answered: "Master, you have dipped pen in your heart, your phrases sear.
Ruthless, unflinching, you have stripped naked your soul and set it here.
Have I not loved you well and true? See! between us the shadows drift; This bit of blood and tears means You -- oh, let me have it, a parting gift.
Sacred I'll hold it, a trust divine; sacred your honour, her dark despair; Never shall it see printed line: here, by the living God I swear.
" Brown on a Bible laid his hand; Smith, great writer of stories, sighed: "Comrade, I trust you, and understand.
Keep my secret!" And so he died.
Smith was buried -- up soared his sales; lured you his books in every store; Exquisite, whimsy, heart-wrung tales; men devoured them and craved for more.
So when it slyly got about Brown had a posthumous manuscript, Jones, the publisher, sought him out, into his pocket deep he dipped.
"A thousand dollars?" Brown shook his head.
"The story is not for sale, " he said.
Jones went away, then others came.
Tempted and taunted, Brown was true.
Guarded at friendship's shrine the fame of the unpublished story grew and grew.
It's a long, long lane that has no end, but some lanes end in the Potter's field; Smith to Brown had been more than friend: patron, protector, spur and shield.
Poor, loving-wistful, dreamy Brown, long and lean, with a smile askew, Friendless he wandered up and down, gaunt as a wolf, as hungry too.
Brown with his lilt of saucy rhyme, Brown with his tilt of tender mirth Garretless in the gloom and grime, singing his glad, mad songs of earth: So at last with a faith divine, down and down to the Hunger-line.
There as he stood in a woeful plight, tears a-freeze on his sharp cheek-bones, Who should chance to behold his plight, but the publisher, the plethoric Jones; Peered at him for a little while, held out a bill: "NOW, will you sell?" Brown scanned it with his twisted smile: "A thousand dollars! you go to hell!" Brown enrolled in the homeless host, sleeping anywhere, anywhen; Suffered, strove, became a ghost, slave of the lamp for other men; For What's-his-name and So-and-so in the abyss his soul he stripped, Yet in his want, his worst of woe, held he fast to the manuscript.
Then one day as he chewed his pen, half in hunger and half despair, Creaked the door of his garret den; Dick, his brother, was standing there.
Down on the pallet bed he sank, ashen his face, his voice a wail: "Save me, brother! I've robbed the bank; to-morrow it's ruin, capture, gaol.
Yet there's a chance: I could to-day pay back the money, save our name; You have a manuscript, they say, worth a thousand -- think, man! the shame.
.
.
.
" Brown with his heart pain-pierced the while, with his stern, starved face, and his lips stone-pale, Shuddered and smiled his twisted smile: "Brother, I guess you go to gaol.
" While poor Brown in the leer of dawn wrestled with God for the sacred fire, Came there a woman weak and wan, out of the mob, the murk, the mire; Frail as a reed, a fellow ghost, weary with woe, with sorrowing; Two pale souls in the legion lost; lo! Love bent with a tender wing, Taught them a joy so deep, so true, it seemed that the whole-world fabric shook, Thrilled and dissolved in radiant dew; then Brown made him a golden book, Full of the faith that Life is good, that the earth is a dream divinely fair, Lauding his gem of womanhood in many a lyric rich and rare; Took it to Jones, who shook his head: "I will consider it," he said.
While he considered, Brown's wife lay clutched in the tentacles of pain; Then came the doctor, grave and grey; spoke of decline, of nervous strain; Hinted Egypt, the South of France -- Brown with terror was tiger-gripped.
Where was the money? What the chance? Pitiful God! .
.
.
the manuscript! A thousand dollars! his only hope! he gazed and gazed at the garret wall.
.
.
.
Reached at last for the envelope, turned to his wife and told her all.
Told of his friend, his promise true; told like his very heart would break: "Oh, my dearest! what shall I do? shall I not sell it for your sake?" Ghostlike she lay, as still as doom; turned to the wall her weary head; Icy-cold in the pallid gloom, silent as death .
.
.
at last she said: "Do! my husband? Keep your vow! Guard his secret and let me die.
.
.
.
Oh, my dear, I must tell you now -- the women he loved and wronged was I; Darling! I haven't long to live: I never told you -- forgive, forgive!" For a long, long time Brown did not speak; sat bleak-browed in the wretched room; Slowly a tear stole down his cheek, and he kissed her hand in the dismal gloom.
To break his oath, to brand her shame; his well-loved friend, his worshipped wife; To keep his vow, to save her name, yet at the cost of what? Her life! A moment's space did he hesitate, a moment of pain and dread and doubt, Then he broke the seals, and, stern as fate, unfolded the sheets and spread them out.
.
.
.
On his knees by her side he limply sank, peering amazed -- each page was blank.
(For oh, the supremest of our art are the stories we do not dare to tell, Locked in the silence of the heart, for the awful records of Heav'n and Hell.
) Yet those two in the silence there, seemed less weariful than before.
Hark! a step on the garret stair, a postman knocks at the flimsy door.
"Registered letter!" Brown thrills with fear; opens, and reads, then bends above: "Glorious tidings! Egypt, dear! The book is accepted -- life and love.
"
Written by Charles Baudelaire | Create an image from this poem

THE DANCE OF DEATH

 CARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves, 
Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves 
With all the careless and high-stepping grace, 
And the extravagant courtesan's thin face.
Was slimmer waist e'er in a ball-room wooed? Her floating robe, in royal amplitude, Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.
The swarms that hum about her collar-bones As the lascivious streams caress the stones, Conceal from every scornful jest that flies, Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways, Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
O charm of nothing decked in folly! they Who laugh and name you a Caricature, They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure, The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone, That is most dear to me, tall skeleton! Come you to trouble with your potent sneer The feast of Life! or are you driven here, To Pleasure's Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir And goad your moving corpse on with a spur? Or do you hope, when sing the violins, And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins, To drive some mocking nightmare far apart, And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart? Fathomless well of fault and foolishness! Eternal alembic of antique distress! Still o'er the curved, white trellis of your sides The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.
And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find, Among us here, no lover to your mind; Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave? The charms of horror please none but the brave.
Your eyes' black gulf, where awful broodings stir, Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath, The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.
For he who has not folded in his arms A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms, Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent, When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.
O irresistible, with fleshless face, Say to these dancers in their dazzled race: "Proud lovers with the paint above your bones, Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons! Withered Antino?s, dandies with plump faces, Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces, Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath, Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.
From Seine's cold quays to Ganges' burning stream, The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream; They do not see, within the opened sky, The Angel's sinister trumpet raised on high.
In every clime and under every sun, Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run; And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye And mingles with your madness, irony!"
Written by Edgar Allan Poe | Create an image from this poem

The City In the Sea

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West 
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!) Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around by lifting winds forgot Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie.
No rays from the holy heaven come down On the long night-time of that town; But light from out the lurid sea Streams up the turrets silently- Gleams up the pinnacles far and free- Up domes- up spires- up kingly halls- Up fanes- up Babylon-like walls- Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers- Up many and many a marvellous shrine Whose wreathed friezes intertwine The viol the violet and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there That all seem pendulous in air While from a proud tower in the town Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves Yawn level with the luminous waves; But not the riches there that lie In each idol's diamond eye- Not the gaily-jewelled dead Tempt the waters from their bed; For no ripples curl alas! Along that wilderness of glass- No swellings tell that winds may be Upon some far-off happier sea- No heavings hint that winds have been On seas less hideously serene.
But lo a stir is in the air! The wave- there is a movement there! As if the towers had thrust aside In slightly sinking the dull tide- As if their tops had feebly given A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow- The hours are breathing faint and low- And when amid no earthly moans Down down that town shall settle hence Hell rising from a thousand thrones Shall do it reverence.