Anne Kingsmill Finch |
In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl's delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand'rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav'ns' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb'ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temp'rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th' adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O'er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th' inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all's confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.
Randall Jarrell |
Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Are selves I overlook.
Wisdom, said William James,
Is learning what to overlook.
And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.
When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children.
Now that I'm old, my wish
That the boy putting groceries in my car
It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered.
How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile
Imaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life.
Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home.
Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind
Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water--
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know .
Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,
My husband away at work--I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them.
As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:
I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate.
Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old.
" That's all, I'm old.
And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling me
How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional,
No one has anything, I'm anybody,
I stand beside my grave
Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.
Maya Angelou |
I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.
Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.
Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.
Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.
Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.
More great poems below...
George Herbert |
My God, I heard this day
That none doth build a stately habitation,
But he that means to dwell therein.
What house more stately hath there been,
Or can be, than is Man? to whose creation
All things are in decay.
For Man is every thing,
And more: he is a tree, yet bears more fruit;
A beast, yet is or should be more:
Reason and speech we only bring.
Parrots may thank us, if they are not mute,
They go upon the score.
Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
And all to all the world besides:
Each part may call the furthest, brother;
For head with foot hath private amity,
And both with moons and tides.
Nothing hath got so far,
But man hath caught and kept it, as his prey.
His eyes dismount the highest star:
He is in little all the sphere.
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
Find their acquaintance there.
For us the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow.
Nothing we see but means our good,
As our delight or as our treasure:
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
Or cabinet of pleasure.
The stars have us to bed;
Night draws the curtain, which the sun withdraws;
Music and light attend our head.
All things unto our flesh are kind
In their descent and being; to our mind
In their ascent and cause.
Each thing is full of duty:
Waters united are our navigation;
Distinguishèd, our habitation;
Below, our drink; above, our meat;
Both are our cleanliness.
Hath one such beauty?
Then how are all things neat?
More servants wait on Man
Than he'll take notice of: in every path
He treads down that which doth befriend him
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him.
Since then, my God, thou hast
So brave a palace built, O dwell in it
That it may dwell with thee at last!
Till then, afford us so much wit,
That, as the world serves us, we may serve thee,
And both thy servants be.
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.
Edgar Allan Poe |
Lo! 't is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng bewinged bedight
In veils and drowned in tears
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes in the form of God on high
Mutter and mumble low
And hither and thither fly -
Mere puppets they who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama! - oh be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot
And much of Madness and more of Sin
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! - it writhes! - with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out - out are the lights - out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain a funeral pall
Comes down with the rush of a storm
And the angels all pallid and wan
Uprising unveiling affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
Rudyard Kipling |
(It is not for them to criticize too minutely
the methods the Irish followed, though they might deplore some of
During the past few years Ireland had been going
through what was tantamount to a revolution.
-- EARL SPENCER)
Red Earl, and will ye take for guide
The silly camel-birds,
That ye bury your head in an Irish thorn,
On a desert of drifting words?
Ye have followed a man for a God, Red Earl,
As the Lod o' Wrong and Right;
But the day is done with the setting sun
Will ye follow into the night?
He gave you your own old words, Red Earl,
For food on the wastrel way;
Will ye rise and eat in the night, Red Earl,
That fed so full in the day?
Ye have followed fast, ye have followed far,
And where did the wandering lead?
From the day that ye praised the spoken word
To the day ye must gloss the deed.
And as ye have given your hand for gain,
So must ye give in loss;
And as ye ha' come to the brink of the pit,
So must ye loup across.
For some be rogues in grain, Red Earl,
And some be rogues in fact,
And rogues direct and rogues elect;
But all be rogues in pact.
Ye have cast your lot with these, Red Earl;
Take heed to where ye stand.
Ye have tied a knot with your tongue, Red Earl,
That ye cannot loose with your hand.
Ye have travelled fast, ye have travelled far,
In the grip of a tightening tether,
Till ye find at the end ye must take for friend
The quick and their dead together.
Ye have played with the Law between your lips,
And mouthed it daintilee;
But the gist o' the speech is ill to teach,
For ye say: "Let wrong go free.
Red Earl, ye wear the Garter fair,
And gat your place from a King:
Do ye make Rebellion of no account,
And Treason a little thing?
And have ye weighed your words, Red Earl,
That stand and speak so high?
And is it good that the guilt o' blood,
Be cleared at the cost of a sigh?
And is it well for the sake of peace,
Our tattered Honour to sell,
And higgle anew with a tainted crew --
Red Earl, and is it well?
Ye have followed fast, ye have followed far,
On a dark and doubtful way,
And the road is hard, is hard, Red Earl,
And the price is yet to pay.
Ye shall pay that price as ye reap reward
For the toil of your tongue and pen --
In the praise of the blamed and the thanks of the shamed,
And the honour o' knavish men.
They scarce shall veil their scorn, Red Earl,
And the worst at the last shall be,
When you tell your heart that it does not know
And your eye that it does not see.
Joyce Kilmer |
(For Eleanor Rogers Cox)
For blows on the fort of evil
That never shows a breach,
For terrible life-long races
To a goal no foot can reach,
For reckless leaps into darkness
With hands outstretched to a star,
There is jubilation in Heaven
Where the great dead poets are.
There is joy over disappointment
And delight in hopes that were vain.
Each poet is glad there was no cure
To stop his lonely pain.
For nothing keeps a poet
In his high singing mood
Like unappeasable hunger
For unattainable food.
So fools are glad of the folly
That made them weep and sing,
And Keats is thankful for Fanny Brawne
And Drummond for his king.
They know that on flinty sorrow
And failure and desire
The steel of their souls was hammered
To bring forth the lyric fire.
Lord Byron and Shelley and Plunkett,
McDonough and Hunt and Pearse
See now why their hatred of tyrants
Was so insistently fierce.
Is Freedom only a Will-o'-the-wisp
To cheat a poet's eye?
Be it phantom or fact, it's a noble cause
In which to sing and to die!
So not for the Rainbow taken
And the magical White Bird snared
The poets sing grateful carols
In the place to which they have fared;
But for their lifetime's passion,
The quest that was fruitless and long,
They chorus their loud thanksgiving
To the thorn-crowned Master of Song.
Eavan Boland |
After the wolves and before the elms
the bardic order ended in Ireland.
Only a few remained to continue
a dead art in a dying land:
This is a man
on the road from Youghal to Cahirmoyle.
He has no comfort, no food and no future.
He has no fire to recite his friendless measures by.
His riddles and flatteries will have no reward.
His patrons sheath their swords in Flanders and Madrid.
Reader of poems, lover of poetry—
in case you thought this was a gentle art
follow this man on a moonless night
to the wretched bed he will have to make:
The Gaelic world stretches out under a hawthorn tree
and burns in the rain.
This is its home,
its last frail shelter.
All of it—
Limerick, the Wild Geese and what went before—
falters into cadence before he sleeps:
He shuts his eyes.
Darkness falls on it.
A E Housman |
On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.
East and west on fields forgotten
Bleach the bones of comrades slain,
Lovely lads and dead and rotten;
None that go return again.
Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise.
Robert William Service |
My folks think I'm a serving maid
Each time I visit home;
They do not dream I ply a trade
As old as Greece or Rome;
For if they found I'd fouled their name
And was not white as snow,
I'm sure that they would die of shame .
Please, God, they'll never know.
I clean the paint from off my face,
In sober black I dress;
Of coquetry I leave no trace
To give them vague distress;
And though it causes me a pang
To play such sorry tricks,
About my neck I meekly hang
A silver crufix.
And so with humble step I go
Just like a child again,
To greet their Christmas candle-glow,
A soul without a stain;
So well I play my contrite part
I make myself believe
There's not a stain within my heart
On Holy Christmas Eve.
With double natures we are vext,
And what we feel, we are;
A saint one day, a sinner next,
A red light or a star;
A prostitute or proselyte,
And in each part sincere:
So I become a vestal white
One week in every year.
For this I say without demur
From out life's lurid lore,
Each righteous women has in her
A tincture of the whore;
While every harpy of the night,
As I have learned too well;
Holds in her heart a heaven-light
To ransom her from hell.
So I'll go home and sweep and dust;
I'll make the kitchen fire,
And be a model of daughters just
The best they could desire;
I'll fondle them and cook their food,
And Mother dear will say:
"Thank God! my darling is as good
As when she went away.
But after New Year's Day I'll fill
My bag and though they grieve,
I'll bid them both good-bye until
Another Christmas Eve;
And then .
a knock upon the door:
I'll find them waiting there,
And angel-like I'll come once more
In answer to their prayer.
Then Lo! one night when candle-light
Gleams mystic on the snow,
And music swells of Christmas bells,
I'll come, no more to go:
The old folks need my love and care,
Their gold shall gild my dross,
And evermore my breast shall bear
My little silver cross.
John Ashbery |
What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them.
Just walking around,
An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive, as you realize once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that the end is near
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
William Shakespeare |
Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
Who doth ambition shun,
And loves to live i' the sun,
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleas'd with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
Marge Piercy |
The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh
of bone and sinew
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned
Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel,
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed
in the dark red lipstick of desire.
She visited in '68 still wearing skirts
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick,
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt,
lipstick pale as apricot milk,
hair loose as a horse's mane.
I thought in my superiority of the moment,
whatever has happened to poor Cecile?
She was out of fashion, out of the game,
disqualified, disdained, dis-
membered from the club of desire.
Look at pictures in French fashion
magazines of the 18th century:
century of the ultimate lady
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet
each way, while the waist is pinched
and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out
offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache:
hair like a museum piece, daily
ornamented with ribbons, vases,
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes
that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
a woman made of pain.
How superior we are now: see the modern woman
thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning,
fits herself into machines of weights
and pulleys to heave and grunt,
an image in her mind she can never
approximate, a body of rosy
glass that never wrinkles,
never grows, never fades.
sits at the table closing her eyes to food
hungry, always hungry:
a woman made of pain.
A cat or dog approaches another,
they sniff noses.
They sniff asses.
They bristle or lick.
in love as often as we do,
But they fall
in love or lust with furry flesh,
not hoop skirts or push up bras
rib removal or liposuction.
It is not for male or female dogs
that poodles are clipped
to topiary hedges.
If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?
When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?
Andrew Barton Paterson |
Awake, of Muse, the echoes of a day
Long past, the ghosts of mem'ries manifold --
Youth's memories that once were green and gold
But now, alas, are grim and ashen grey.
The drowsy schoolboy wakened up from sleep,
First stays his system with substantial food,
Then off for school with tasks half understood,
Alas, alas, that cribs should be so cheap!
The journey down to town -- 'twere long to tell
The storm and riot of the rabble rout;
The wild Walpurgis revel in and out
That made the ferry boat a floating hell.
What time the captive locusts fairly roared:
And bulldog ants, made stingless with a knife,
Climbed up the seats and scared the very life
From timid folk, who near jumped overboard.
The hours of lessons -- hours with feet of clay
Each hour a day, each day more like a week:
While hapless urchins heard with blanched cheek
The words of doom "Come in on Saturday".
The master gowned and spectacled, precise,
Trying to rule by methods firm and kind
But always just a little bit behind
The latest villainy, the last device,
Born of some smoothfaced urchin's fertile brain
To irritate the hapless pedagogue,
And first involve him in a mental fog
Then "have" him with the same old tale again.
The "bogus" fight that brought the sergeant down
To that dark corner by the old brick wall,
Where mimic combat and theatric brawl
Made noise enough to terrify the town.
But on wet days the fray was genuine,
When small boys pushed each other in the mud
And fought in silence till thin streams of blood
Their dirty faces would incarnadine.
The football match or practice in the park
With rampant hoodlums joining in the game
Till on one famous holiday there came
A gang that seized the football for a lark.
Then raged the combat without rest or pause,
Till one, a hero, Hawkins unafraid
Regained the ball, and later on displayed
His nose knocked sideways in his country's cause.
Before the mind quaint visions rise and fall,
Old jokes, old students dead and gone:
And some that lead us still, while some toil on
As rank and file, but "Grammar" children all.
And he, the pilot, who has laid the course
For all to steer by, honest, unafraid --
Truth is his beacon light, so he has made
The name of the old School a living force.