John Betjeman |
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun.
All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes .
it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
John Clare |
The winter comes; I walk alone,
I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please—no bees to hum—
The coming spring's already come.
I never want the Christmas rose
To come before its time;
The seasons, each as God bestows,
Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing;
'Tis but the winter garb of spring.
I never want the grass to bloom:
The snowstorm's best in white.
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O'er snow-white meadows sees the spring.
I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove's brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.
It is the foliage of the woods
That winters bring—the dress,
White Easter of the year in bud,
That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring,
Nature's white spurts of the spring.
Robert Lowell |
Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican.
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear.
These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty.
Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.
Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.
I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.
?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections.
More great poems below...
Lewis Carroll |
"Are you deaf, Father William!" the young man said,
"Did you hear what I told you just now?
"Excuse me for shouting! Don't waggle your head
"Like a blundering, sleepy old cow!
"A little maid dwelling in Wallington Town,
"Is my friend, so I beg to remark:
"Do you think she'd be pleased if a book were sent down
"Entitled 'The Hunt of the Snark?'"
"Pack it up in brown paper!" the old man cried,
"And seal it with olive-and-dove.
"I command you to do it!" he added with pride,
"Nor forget, my good fellow to send her beside
"Easter Greetings, and give her my love.
John Betjeman |
The last year's leaves are on the beech:
The twigs are black; the cold is dry;
To deeps byond the deepest reach
The Easter bells enlarge the sky.
O ordered metal clatter-clang!
Is yours the song the angels sang?
You fill my heart with joy and grief -
Belief! Belief! And unbelief.
And, though you tell me I shall die,
You say not how or when or why.
Indifferent the finches sing,
Unheeding roll the lorries past:
What misery will this year bring
Now spring is in the air at last?
For, sure as blackthorn bursts to snow,
Cancer in some of us will grow,
The tasteful crematorium door
Shuts out for some the furnace roar;
But church-bells open on the blast
Our loneliness, so long and vast.
Oscar Wilde |
The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
'Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest.
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.
George Herbert |
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did begin:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
Rudyard Kipling |
The Babe was laid in the Manger
Between the gentle kine --
All safe from cold and danger --
"But it was not so with mine,
(With mine! With mine!)
"Is it well with the child, is it well?"
The waiting mother prayed.
"For I know not how he fell,
And I know not where he is laid.
A Star stood forth in Heaven;
The Watchers ran to see
The Sign of the Promise given --
"But there comes no sign to me.
(To me! To me!)
"My child died in the dark.
Is it well with the child, is it well?
There was none to tend him or mark,
And I know not how he fell.
The Cross was raised on high;
The Mother grieved beside --
"But the Mother saw Him die
And took Him when He died.
(He died! He died!)
"Seemly and undefiled
His burial-place was made --
Is it well, is it well with the child?
For I know not where he is laid.
On the dawning of Easter Day
Comes Mary Magdalene;
But the Stone was rolled away,
And the Body was not within --
"Ah, who will answer my word?
The broken mother prayed.
"They have taken away my Lord,
And I know not where He is laid.
"The Star stands forth in Heaven.
The watchers watch in vain
For Sign of the Promise given
Of peace on Earth again --
"But I know for Whom he fell" --
The steadfast mother smiled,
"Is it well with the child -- is it well?
It is well -- it is well with the child!"
Edmund Spenser |
MOST glorious Lord of Lyfe! that on this day
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And having harrowd hell didst bring away
Captivity thence captive us to win:
This joyous day deare Lord with joy begin; 5
And grant that we for whom thou diddest dye
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily
May likewise love Thee for the same againe; 10
And for Thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love deare Love lyke as we ought
¡ªLove is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Robert Browning |
Morning, evening, noon and night,
``Praise God!; sang Theocrite.
Then to his poor trade he turned,
Whereby the daily meal was earned.
Hard he laboured, long and well;
O'er his work the boy's curls fell.
But ever, at each period,
He stopped and sang, ``Praise God!''
Then back again his curls he threw,
And cheerful turned to work anew.
Said Blaise, the listening monk, ``Well done;
``I doubt not thou art heard, my son:
``As well as if thy voice to-day
``Were praising God, the Pope's great way.
``This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome
``Praises God from Peter's dome.
Said Theocrite, ``Would God that I
``Might praise him, that great way, and die!''
Night passed, day shone,
And Theocrite was gone.
With God a day endures alway,
A thousand years are but a day.
God said in heaven, ``Nor day nor night
``Now brings the voice of my delight.
Then Gabriel, like a rainbow's birth,
Spread his wings and sank to earth;
Entered, in flesh, the empty cell,
Lived there, and played the craftsman well;
And morning, evening, noon and night,
Praised God in place of Theocrite.
And from a boy, to youth he grew:
The man put off the stripling's hue:
The man matured and fell away
Into the season of decay:
And ever o'er the trade he bent,
And ever lived on earth content.
(He did God's will; to him, all one
If on the earth or in the sun.
God said, ``A praise is in mine ear;
``There is no doubt in it, no fear:
``So sing old worlds, and so
``New worlds that from my footstool go.
``Clearer loves sound other ways:
``I miss my little human praise.
Then forth sprang Gabriel's wings, off fell
The flesh disguise, remained the cell.
'Twas Easter Day: he flew to Rome,
And paused above Saint Peter's dome.
In the tiring-room close by
The great outer gallery,
With his holy vestments dight,
Stood the new Pope, Theocrite:
And all his past career
Came back upon him clear,
Since when, a boy, he plied his trade,
Till on his life the sickness weighed;
And in his cell, when death drew near,
An angel in a dream brought cheer:
And rising from the sickness drear
He grew a priest, and now stood here.
To the East with praise he turned,
And on his sight the angel burned.
``I bore thee from thy craftsman's cell
``And set thee here; I did not well.
``Vainly I left my angel-sphere,
``Vain was thy dream of many a year.
``Thy voice's praise seemed weak; it dropped---
``Creation's chorus stopped!
``Go back and praise again
``The early way, while I remain.
``With that weak voice of our disdain,
``Take up creation's pausing strain.
``Back to the cell and poor employ:
``Resume the craftsman and the boy!''
Theocrite grew old at home;
A new Pope dwelt in Peter's dome.
One vanished as the other died:
They sought God side by side.
Claude McKay |
Far from this foreign Easter damp and chilly
My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground,
Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily
Soft-scented in the air for yards around;
Alone, without a hint of guardian leaf!
Just like a fragile bell of silver rime,
It burst the tomb for freedom sweet and brief
In the young pregnant year at Eastertime;
And many thought it was a sacred sign,
And some called it the resurrection flower;
And I, a pagan, worshiped at its shrine,
Yielding my heart unto its perfumed power.
Edmund Blunden |
I came to the churchyard where pretty Joy lies
On a morning in April, a rare sunny day;
Such bloom rose around, and so many birds' cries
That I sang for delight as I followed the way.
I sang for delight in the ripening of spring,
For dandelions even were suns come to earth;
Not a moment went by but a new lark took wing
To wait on the season with melody's mirth.
Love-making birds were my mates all the road,
And who would wish surer delight for the eye
Than to see pairing goldfinches gleaming abroad
Or yellowhammers sunning on paling and sty?
And stocks in the almswomen's garden were blown,
With rich Easter roses each side of the door;
The lazy white owls in the glade cool and lone
Paid calls on their cousins in the elm's chambered core.
This peace, then, and happiness thronged me around.
Nor could I go burdened with grief, but made merry
Till I came to the gate of that overgrown ground
Where scarce once a year sees the priest come to bury.
Over the mounds stood the nettles in pride,
And, where no fine flowers, there kind weeds dared to wave;
It seemed but as yesterday she lay by my side,
And now my dog ate of the grass on her grave.
He licked my hand wondering to see me muse so,
And wished I would lead on the journey or home,
As though not a moment of spring were to go
In brooding; but I stood, if her spirit might come
And tell me her life, since we left her that day
In the white lilied coffin, and rained down our tears;
But the grave held no answer, though long I should stay;
How strange that this clay should mingle with hers!
So I called my good dog, and went on my way;
Joy's spirit shone then in each flower I went by,
And clear as the noon, in coppice and ley,
Her sweet dawning smile and her violet eye!
Mary Elizabeth Coleridge |
GOOD FRIDAY in my heart! Fear and affright!
My thoughts are the Disciples when they fled,
My words the words that priest and soldier said,
My deed the spear to desecrate the dead.
And day, Thy death therein, is changed to night.
Then Easter in my heart sends up the sun.
My thoughts are Mary, when she turned to see.
My words are Peter, answering, ‘Lov’st thou Me?’
My deeds are all Thine own drawn close to Thee,
And night and day, since Thou dost rise, are one.
Ogden Nash |
Let's straighten this out, my little man,
And reach an agreement if we can.
I entered your door as an honored guest.
My shoes are shined and my trousers are pressed,
And I won't stretch out and read you the funnies
And I won't pretend that we're Easter bunnies.
If you must get somebody down on the floor,
What in the hell are your parents for?
I do not like the things that you say
And I hate the games that you want to play.
No matter how frightfully hard you try,
We've little in common, you and I.
The interest I take in my neighbor's nursery
Would have to grow, to be even cursory,
And I would that performing sons and nephews
Were carted away with the daily refuse,
And I hold that frolicsome daughters and nieces
Are ample excuse for breaking leases.
You may take a sock at your daddy's tummy
Or climb all over your doting mummy,
But keep your attentions to me in check,
Or, sonny boy, I will wring your neck.
A happier man today I'd be
Had someone wrung it ahead of me.
William Butler Yeats |
I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
A terrible beauty is born.
Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.