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Best Famous Growth Poems

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Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

The Break Away

 Your daisies have come
on the day of my divorce:
the courtroom a cement box,
a gas chamber for the infectious Jew in me
and a perhaps land, a possibly promised land
for the Jew in me,
but still a betrayal room for the till-death-do-us—
and yet a death, as in the unlocking of scissors
that makes the now separate parts useless,
even to cut each other up as we did yearly
under the crayoned-in sun.
The courtroom keeps squashing our lives as they break into two cans ready for recycling, flattened tin humans and a tin law, even for my twenty-five years of hanging on by my teeth as I once saw at Ringling Brothers.
The gray room: Judge, lawyer, witness and me and invisible Skeezix, and all the other torn enduring the bewilderments of their division.
Your daisies have come on the day of my divorce.
They arrive like round yellow fish, sucking with love at the coral of our love.
Yet they wait, in their short time, like little utero half-borns, half killed, thin and bone soft.
They breathe the air that stands for twenty-five illicit days, the sun crawling inside the sheets, the moon spinning like a tornado in the washbowl, and we orchestrated them both, calling ourselves TWO CAMP DIRECTORS.
There was a song, our song on your cassette, that played over and over and baptised the prodigals.
It spoke the unspeakable, as the rain will on an attic roof, letting the animal join its soul as we kneeled before a miracle-- forgetting its knife.
The daisies confer in the old-married kitchen papered with blue and green chefs who call out pies, cookies, yummy, at the charcoal and cigarette smoke they wear like a yellowy salve.
The daisies absorb it all-- the twenty-five-year-old sanctioned love (If one could call such handfuls of fists and immobile arms that!) and on this day my world rips itself up while the country unfastens along with its perjuring king and his court.
It unfastens into an abortion of belief, as in me-- the legal rift-- as on might do with the daisies but does not for they stand for a love undergoihng open heart surgery that might take if one prayed tough enough.
And yet I demand, even in prayer, that I am not a thief, a mugger of need, and that your heart survive on its own, belonging only to itself, whole, entirely whole, and workable in its dark cavern under your ribs.
I pray it will know truth, if truth catches in its cup and yet I pray, as a child would, that the surgery take.
I dream it is taking.
Next I dream the love is swallowing itself.
Next I dream the love is made of glass, glass coming through the telephone that is breaking slowly, day by day, into my ear.
Next I dream that I put on the love like a lifejacket and we float, jacket and I, we bounce on that priest-blue.
We are as light as a cat's ear and it is safe, safe far too long! And I awaken quickly and go to the opposite window and peer down at the moon in the pond and know that beauty has walked over my head, into this bedroom and out, flowing out through the window screen, dropping deep into the water to hide.
I will observe the daisies fade and dry up wuntil they become flour, snowing themselves onto the table beside the drone of the refrigerator, beside the radio playing Frankie (as often as FM will allow) snowing lightly, a tremor sinking from the ceiling-- as twenty-five years split from my side like a growth that I sliced off like a melanoma.
It is six P.
M.
as I water these tiny weeds and their little half-life, their numbered days that raged like a secret radio, recalling love that I picked up innocently, yet guiltily, as my five-year-old daughter picked gum off the sidewalk and it became suddenly an elastic miracle.
For me it was love found like a diamond where carrots grow-- the glint of diamond on a plane wing, meaning: DANGER! THICK ICE! but the good crunch of that orange, the diamond, the carrot, both with four million years of resurrecting dirt, and the love, although Adam did not know the word, the love of Adam obeying his sudden gift.
You, who sought me for nine years, in stories made up in front of your naked mirror or walking through rooms of fog women, you trying to forget the mother who built guilt with the lumber of a locked door as she sobbed her soured mild and fed you loss through the keyhole, you who wrote out your own birth and built it with your own poems, your own lumber, your own keyhole, into the trunk and leaves of your manhood, you, who fell into my words, years before you fell into me (the other, both the Camp Director and the camper), you who baited your hook with wide-awake dreams, and calls and letters and once a luncheon, and twice a reading by me for you.
But I wouldn't! Yet this year, yanking off all past years, I took the bait and was pulled upward, upward, into the sky and was held by the sun-- the quick wonder of its yellow lap-- and became a woman who learned her own shin and dug into her soul and found it full, and you became a man who learned his won skin and dug into his manhood, his humanhood and found you were as real as a baker or a seer and we became a home, up into the elbows of each other's soul, without knowing-- an invisible purchase-- that inhabits our house forever.
We were blessed by the House-Die by the altar of the color T.
V.
and somehow managed to make a tiny marriage, a tiny marriage called belief, as in the child's belief in the tooth fairy, so close to absolute, so daft within a year or two.
The daisies have come for the last time.
And I who have, each year of my life, spoken to the tooth fairy, believing in her, even when I was her, am helpless to stop your daisies from dying, although your voice cries into the telephone: Marry me! Marry me! and my voice speaks onto these keys tonight: The love is in dark trouble! The love is starting to die, right now-- we are in the process of it.
The empty process of it.
I see two deaths, and the two men plod toward the mortuary of my heart, and though I willed one away in court today and I whisper dreams and birthdays into the other, they both die like waves breaking over me and I am drowning a little, but always swimming among the pillows and stones of the breakwater.
And though your daisies are an unwanted death, I wade through the smell of their cancer and recognize the prognosis, its cartful of loss-- I say now, you gave what you could.
It was quite a ferris wheel to spin on! and the dead city of my marriage seems less important than the fact that the daisies came weekly, over and over, likes kisses that can't stop themselves.
There sit two deaths on November 5th, 1973.
Let one be forgotten-- Bury it! Wall it up! But let me not forget the man of my child-like flowers though he sinks into the fog of Lake Superior, he remains, his fingers the marvel of fourth of July sparklers, his furious ice cream cones of licking, remains to cool my forehead with a washcloth when I sweat into the bathtub of his being.
For the rest that is left: name it gentle, as gentle as radishes inhabiting their short life in the earth, name it gentle, gentle as old friends waving so long at the window, or in the drive, name it gentle as maple wings singing themselves upon the pond outside, as sensuous as the mother-yellow in the pond, that night that it was ours, when our bodies floated and bumped in moon water and the cicadas called out like tongues.
Let such as this be resurrected in all men whenever they mold their days and nights as when for twenty-five days and nights you molded mine and planted the seed that dives into my God and will do so forever no matter how often I sweep the floor.
Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | Create an image from this poem

Human Life's Mystery

 We sow the glebe, we reap the corn, 
We build the house where we may rest, 
And then, at moments, suddenly, 
We look up to the great wide sky, 
Inquiring wherefore we were born… 
For earnest or for jest? 

The senses folding thick and dark 
About the stifled soul within, 
We guess diviner things beyond, 
And yearn to them with yearning fond; 
We strike out blindly to a mark 
Believed in, but not seen.
We vibrate to the pant and thrill Wherewith Eternity has curled In serpent-twine about God’s seat; While, freshening upward to His feet, In gradual growth His full-leaved will Expands from world to world.
And, in the tumult and excess Of act and passion under sun, We sometimes hear—oh, soft and far, As silver star did touch with star, The kiss of Peace and Righteousness Through all things that are done.
God keeps His holy mysteries Just on the outside of man’s dream; In diapason slow, we think To hear their pinions rise and sink, While they float pure beneath His eyes, Like swans adown a stream.
Abstractions, are they, from the forms Of His great beauty?—exaltations From His great glory?—strong previsions Of what we shall be?—intuitions Of what we are—in calms and storms, Beyond our peace and passions? Things nameless! which, in passing so, Do stroke us with a subtle grace.
We say, ‘Who passes?’—they are dumb.
We cannot see them go or come: Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow Upon a blind man’s face.
Yet, touching so, they draw above Our common thoughts to Heaven’s unknown, Our daily joy and pain advance To a divine significance, Our human love—O mortal love, That light is not its own! And sometimes horror chills our blood To be so near such mystic Things, And we wrap round us for defence Our purple manners, moods of sense— As angels from the face of God Stand hidden in their wings.
And sometimes through life’s heavy swound We grope for them!—with strangled breath We stretch our hands abroad and try To reach them in our agony,— And widen, so, the broad life-wound Which soon is large enough for death.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

So Long

 1
TO conclude—I announce what comes after me; 
I announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the present, depart.
I remember I said, before my leaves sprang at all, I would raise my voice jocund and strong, with reference to consummations.
When America does what was promis’d, When there are plentiful athletic bards, inland and seaboard, When through These States walk a hundred millions of superb persons, When the rest part away for superb persons, and contribute to them, When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America, Then to me and mine our due fruition.
I have press’d through in my own right, I have sung the Body and the Soul—War and Peace have I sung, And the songs of Life and of Birth—and shown that there are many births: I have offer’d my style to everyone—I have journey’d with confident step; While my pleasure is yet at the full, I whisper, So long! And take the young woman’s hand, and the young man’s hand, for the last time.
2 I announce natural persons to arise; I announce justice triumphant; I announce uncompromising liberty and equality; I announce the justification of candor, and the justification of pride.
I announce that the identity of These States is a single identity only; I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble; I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics of the earth insignificant.
I announce adhesiveness—I say it shall be limitless, unloosen’d; I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.
I announce a man or woman coming—perhaps you are the one, (So long!) I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affectionate, compassionate, fully armed.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold; I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its translation; I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded; I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.
3 O thicker and faster! (So long!) O crowding too close upon me; I foresee too much—it means more than I thought; It appears to me I am dying.
Hasten throat, and sound your last! Salute me—salute the days once more.
Peal the old cry once more.
Screaming electric, the atmosphere using, At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, Curious envelop’d messages delivering, Sparkles hot, seed ethereal, down in the dirt dropping, Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never daring, To ages, and ages yet, the growth of the seed leaving, To troops out of me, out of the army, the war arising—they the tasks I have set promulging, To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing—their affection me more clearly explaining, To young men my problems offering—no dallier I—I the muscle of their brains trying, So I pass—a little time vocal, visible, contrary; Afterward, a melodious echo, passionately bent for—(death making me really undying;) The best of me then when no longer visible—for toward that I have been incessantly preparing.
What is there more, that I lag and pause, and crouch extended with unshut mouth? Is there a single final farewell? 4 My songs cease—I abandon them; From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally, solely to you.
Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man; (Is it night? Are we here alone?) It is I you hold, and who holds you; I spring from the pages into your arms—decease calls me forth.
O how your fingers drowse me! Your breath falls around me like dew—your pulse lulls the tympans of my ears; I feel immerged from head to foot; Delicious—enough.
Enough, O deed impromptu and secret! Enough, O gliding present! Enough, O summ’d-up past! 5 Dear friend, whoever you are, take this kiss, I give it especially to you—Do not forget me; I feel like one who has done work for the day, to retire awhile; I receive now again of my many translations—from my avataras ascending—while others doubtless await me; An unknown sphere, more real than I dream’d, more direct, darts awakening rays about me—So long! Remember my words—I may again return, I love you—I depart from materials; I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.
Written by Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

Christmas Trees

 (A Christmas Circular Letter)


THE CITY had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; My woods—the young fir balsams like a place Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment To sell them off their feet to go in cars And leave the slope behind the house all bare, Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except As others hold theirs or refuse for them, Beyond the time of profitable growth, The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.
” “I could soon tell how many they would cut, You let me look them over.
” “You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.
” Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close That lop each other of boughs, but not a few Quite solitary and having equal boughs All round and round.
The latter he nodded “Yes” to, Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.
” I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.
” “A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?” He felt some need of softening that to me: “A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.
” Then I was certain I had never meant To let him have them.
Never show surprise! But thirty dollars seemed so small beside The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents (For that was all they figured out apiece), Three cents so small beside the dollar friends I should be writing to within the hour Would pay in cities for good trees like those, Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had! Worth three cents more to give away than sell, As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one, In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
Written by Charlotte Bronte | Create an image from this poem

Mementos

 ARRANGING long-locked drawers and shelves 
Of cabinets, shut up for years, 
What a strange task we've set ourselves ! 
How still the lonely room appears ! 
How strange this mass of ancient treasures, 
Mementos of past pains and pleasures; 
These volumes, clasped with costly stone, 
With print all faded, gilding gone; 

These fans of leaves, from Indian trees­ 
These crimson shells, from Indian seas­ 
These tiny portraits, set in rings­ 
Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things; 
Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith, 
And worn till the receiver's death, 
Now stored with cameos, china, shells, 
In this old closet's dusty cells.
I scarcely think, for ten long years, A hand has touched these relics old; And, coating each, slow-formed, appears, The growth of green and antique mould.
All in this house is mossing over; All is unused, and dim, and damp; Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover­ Bereft for years of fire and lamp.
The sun, sometimes in summer, enters The casements, with reviving ray; But the long rains of many winters Moulder the very walls away.
And outside all is ivy, clinging To chimney, lattice, gable grey; Scarcely one little red rose springing Through the green moss can force its way.
Unscared, the daw, and starling nestle, Where the tall turret rises high, And winds alone come near to rustle The thick leaves where their cradles lie.
I sometimes think, when late at even I climb the stair reluctantly, Some shape that should be well in heaven, Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.
I fear to see the very faces, Familiar thirty years ago, Even in the old accustomed places Which look so cold and gloomy now.
I've come, to close the window, hither, At twilight, when the sun was down, And Fear, my very soul would wither, Lest something should be dimly shown.
Too much the buried form resembling, Of her who once was mistress here; Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling, Might take her aspect, once so dear.
Hers was this chamber; in her time It seemed to me a pleasant room, For then no cloud of grief or crime Had cursed it with a settled gloom; I had not seen death's image laid In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed.
Before she married, she was blest­ Blest in her youth, blest in her worth; Her mind was calm, its sunny rest Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.
And when attired in rich array, Light, lustrous hair about her brow, She yonder sat­a kind of day Lit up­what seems so gloomy now.
These grim oak walls, even then were grim; That old carved chair, was then antique; But what around looked dusk and dim Served as a foil to her fresh cheek; Her neck, and arms, of hue so fair, Eyes of unclouded, smiling, light; Her soft, and curled, and floating hair, Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.
Reclined in yonder deep recess, Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie Watching the sun; she seemed to bless With happy glance the glorious sky.
She loved such scenes, and as she gazed, Her face evinced her spirit's mood; Beauty or grandeur ever raised In her, a deep-felt gratitude.
But of all lovely things, she loved A cloudless moon, on summer night; Full oft have I impatience proved To see how long, her still delight Would find a theme in reverie.
Out on the lawn, or where the trees Let in the lustre fitfully, As their boughs parted momently, To the soft, languid, summer breeze.
Alas ! that she should e'er have flung Those pure, though lonely joys away­ Deceived by false and guileful tongue, She gave her hand, then suffered wrong; Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young, And died of grief by slow decay.
Open that casket­look how bright Those jewels flash upon the sight; The brilliants have not lost a ray Of lustre, since her wedding day.
But see­upon that pearly chain­ How dim lies time's discolouring stain ! I've seen that by her daughter worn: For, e'er she died, a child was born; A child that ne'er its mother knew, That lone, and almost friendless grew; For, ever, when its step drew nigh, Averted was the father's eye; And then, a life impure and wild Made him a stranger to his child; Absorbed in vice, he little cared On what she did, or how she fared.
The love withheld, she never sought, She grew uncherished­learnt untaught; To her the inward life of thought Full soon was open laid.
I know not if her friendlessness Did sometimes on her spirit press, But plaint she never made.
The book-shelves were her darling treasure, She rarely seemed the time to measure While she could read alone.
And she too loved the twilight wood, And often, in her mother's mood, Away to yonder hill would hie, Like her, to watch the setting sun, Or see the stars born, one by one, Out of the darkening sky.
Nor would she leave that hill till night Trembled from pole to pole with light; Even then, upon her homeward way, Long­long her wandering steps delayed To quit the sombre forest shade, Through which her eerie pathway lay.
You ask if she had beauty's grace ? I know not­but a nobler face My eyes have seldom seen; A keen and fine intelligence, And, better still, the truest sense Were in her speaking mien.
But bloom or lustre was there none, Only at moments, fitful shone An ardour in her eye, That kindled on her cheek a flush, Warm as a red sky's passing blush And quick with energy.
Her speech, too, was not common speech, No wish to shine, or aim to teach, Was in her words displayed: She still began with quiet sense, But oft the force of eloquence Came to her lips in aid; Language and voice unconscious changed, And thoughts, in other words arranged, Her fervid soul transfused Into the hearts of those who heard, And transient strength and ardour stirred, In minds to strength unused.
Yet in gay crowd or festal glare, Grave and retiring was her air; 'Twas seldom, save with me alone, That fire of feeling freely shone; She loved not awe's nor wonder's gaze, Nor even exaggerated praise, Nor even notice, if too keen The curious gazer searched her mien.
Nature's own green expanse revealed The world, the pleasures, she could prize; On free hill-side, in sunny field, In quiet spots by woods concealed, Grew wild and fresh her chosen joys, Yet Nature's feelings deeply lay In that endowed and youthful frame; Shrined in her heart and hid from day, They burned unseen with silent flame; In youth's first search for mental light, She lived but to reflect and learn, But soon her mind's maturer might For stronger task did pant and yearn; And stronger task did fate assign, Task that a giant's strength might strain; To suffer long and ne'er repine, Be calm in frenzy, smile at pain.
Pale with the secret war of feeling, Sustained with courage, mute, yet high; The wounds at which she bled, revealing Only by altered cheek and eye; She bore in silence­but when passion Surged in her soul with ceaseless foam, The storm at last brought desolation, And drove her exiled from her home.
And silent still, she straight assembled The wrecks of strength her soul retained; For though the wasted body trembled, The unconquered mind, to quail, disdained.
She crossed the sea­now lone she wanders By Seine's, or Rhine's, or Arno's flow; Fain would I know if distance renders Relief or comfort to her woe.
Fain would I know if, henceforth, ever, These eyes shall read in hers again, That light of love which faded never, Though dimmed so long with secret pain.
She will return, but cold and altered, Like all whose hopes too soon depart; Like all on whom have beat, unsheltered, The bitter blasts that blight the heart.
No more shall I behold her lying Calm on a pillow, smoothed by me; No more that spirit, worn with sighing, Will know the rest of infancy.
If still the paths of lore she follow, 'Twill be with tired and goaded will; She'll only toil, the aching hollow, The joyless blank of life to fill.
And oh ! full oft, quite spent and weary, Her hand will pause, her head decline; That labour seems so hard and dreary, On which no ray of hope may shine.
Thus the pale blight of time and sorrow Will shade with grey her soft, dark hair Then comes the day that knows no morrow, And death succeeds to long despair.
So speaks experience, sage and hoary; I see it plainly, know it well, Like one who, having read a story, Each incident therein can tell.
Touch not that ring, 'twas his, the sire Of that forsaken child; And nought his relics can inspire Save memories, sin-defiled.
I, who sat by his wife's death-bed, I, who his daughter loved, Could almost curse the guilty dead, For woes, the guiltless proved.
And heaven did curse­they found him laid, When crime for wrath was rife, Cold­with the suicidal blade Clutched in his desperate gripe.
'Twas near that long deserted hut, Which in the wood decays, Death's axe, self-wielded, struck his root, And lopped his desperate days.
You know the spot, where three black trees, Lift up their branches fell, And moaning, ceaseless as the seas, Still seem, in every passing breeze, The deed of blood to tell.
They named him mad, and laid his bones Where holier ashes lie; Yet doubt not that his spirit groans, In hell's eternity.
But, lo ! night, closing o'er the earth, Infects our thoughts with gloom; Come, let us strive to rally mirth, Where glows a clear and tranquil hearth In some more cheerful room.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Thoughts

 1
OF these years I sing, 
How they pass and have pass’d, through convuls’d pains as through parturitions; 
How America illustrates birth, muscular youth, the promise, the sure fulfillment, the
 Absolute
 Success, despite of people—Illustrates evil as well as good; 
How many hold despairingly yet to the models departed, caste, myths, obedience,
 compulsion, and
 to infidelity; 
How few see the arrived models, the Athletes, the Western States—or see freedom or
 spirituality—or hold any faith in results,
(But I see the Athletes—and I see the results of the war glorious and
 inevitable—and
 they again leading to other results;) 
How the great cities appear—How the Democratic masses, turbulent, wilful, as I love
 them; 
How the whirl, the contest, the wrestle of evil with good, the sounding and resounding,
 keep on
 and on; 
How society waits unform’d, and is for awhile between things ended and things begun; 
How America is the continent of glories, and of the triumph of freedom, and of the
 Democracies,
 and of the fruits of society, and of all that is begun;
And how The States are complete in themselves—And how all triumphs and glories are
 complete in themselves, to lead onward, 
And how these of mine, and of The States, will in their turn be convuls’d, and serve
 other
 parturitions and transitions, 
And how all people, sights, combinations, the Democratic masses, too, serve—and how
 every
 fact, and war itself, with all its horrors, serves, 
And how now, or at any time, each serves the exquisite transition of death.
2 OF seeds dropping into the ground—of birth, Of the steady concentration of America, inland, upward, to impregnable and swarming places, Of what Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and the rest, are to be, Of what a few years will show there in Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, and the rest; (Or afar, mounting the Northern Pacific to Sitka or Aliaska;) Of what the feuillage of America is the preparation for—and of what all sights, North, South, East and West, are; Of This Union, soak’d, welded in blood—of the solemn price paid—of the unnamed lost, ever present in my mind; —Of the temporary use of materials, for identity’s sake, Of the present, passing, departing—of the growth of completer men than any yet, Of myself, soon, perhaps, closing up my songs by these shores, Of California, of Oregon—and of me journeying to live and sing there; Of the Western Sea—of the spread inland between it and the spinal river, Of the great pastoral area, athletic and feminine, of all sloping down there where the fresh free giver, the mother, the Mississippi flows, Of future women there—of happiness in those high plateaus, ranging three thousand miles, warm and cold; Of mighty inland cities yet unsurvey’d and unsuspected, (as I am also, and as it must be;) Of the new and good names—of the modern developments—of inalienable homesteads; Of a free and original life there—of simple diet and clean and sweet blood; Of litheness, majestic faces, clear eyes, and perfect physique there; Of immense spiritual results, future years, far west, each side of the Anahuacs; Of these leaves, well understood there, (being made for that area;) Of the native scorn of grossness and gain there; (O it lurks in me night and day—What is gain, after all, to savageness and freedom?)
Written by Robert Seymour Bridges | Create an image from this poem

From The Testament of Beauty

 'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell; for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me; for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling, and I remember wondring the while I told it how I told it so tellingly.
And yet now 'twould seem that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings; as once when she took thought to adjust theology, peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM, yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end I play the tedious orator who maundereth on for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest, here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.
For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love; which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace, an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's inescapable infinity of radiant gaze, that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight: and this direct contact is 't with eternities, this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream; which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride, saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
' So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood the child of very simplicity, and in the grace and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder, is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity, and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food may build immortal life; but ever with the growth of understanding, as the sensible images are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought, or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh in puberty of body and adolescence of mind that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love'; for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart, as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God, flushing all avenues of life, and unawares by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood with divination of the secret contacts of Love,-- of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm, like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy tenderness delicat as the shifting hues that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams, whose evanescence is the seal of their glory, consumed in self-becoming of eternity; til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize! Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.
' 'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal in fullest devotion the full reconcilement betwixt his animal and spiritual desires, such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd, which is its mutual benediction and recompense; and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd, it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself; what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth, and loving self best, loveth better than himself, is his own better self, his live lovable idea, flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found even in the brutes) and since our politick is based on actual association of living men, 'twil come that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away in observation of the usual habits of men; as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith, Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ; for his humanity is God's Personality, and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought harden'd by language they became symbols of faith) Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape, wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews, chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth, and talketh still as with those two disciples once on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad; whose vision of him then was his victory over death, thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share, who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness; whereby they too should come where he was ascended to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount their humanity in some superhumanity and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ, Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd of all their human friendships; and each lover of him and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine and hav participation in him; for Goddes love is unescapable as nature's environment, which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which 'except a man believe he cannot be saved.
' This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love, 'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.
' Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving where it hath won it.
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and God so loveth the world.
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and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ God is seen as the very self-essence of love, Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all, self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child, 'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.
Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson | Create an image from this poem

The Talking Oak

 Once more the gate behind me falls; 
Once more before my face 
I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls, 
That stand within the chace.
Beyond the lodge the city lies, Beneath its drift of smoke; And ah! with what delighted eyes I turn to yonder oak.
For when my passion first began, Ere that, which in me burn'd, The love, that makes me thrice a man, Could hope itself return'd; To yonder oak within the field I spoke without restraint, And with a larger faith appeal'd Than Papist unto Saint.
For oft I talk'd with him apart And told him of my choice, Until he plagiarized a heart, And answer'd with a voice.
Tho' what he whisper'd under Heaven None else could understand; I found him garrulously given, A babbler in the land.
But since I heard him make reply Is many a weary hour; 'Twere well to question him, and try If yet he keeps the power.
Hail, hidden to the knees in fern, Broad Oak of Sumner-chace, Whose topmost branches can discern The roofs of Sumner-place! Say thou, whereon I carved her name, If ever maid or spouse, As fair as my Olivia, came To rest beneath thy boughs.
--- "O Walter, I have shelter'd here Whatever maiden grace The good old Summers, year by year Made ripe in Sumner-chace: "Old Summers, when the monk was fat, And, issuing shorn and sleek, Would twist his girdle tight, and pat The girls upon the cheek, "Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence, And number'd bead, and shrift, Bluff Harry broke into the spence And turn'd the cowls adrift: "And I have seen some score of those Fresh faces that would thrive When his man-minded offset rose To chase the deer at five; "And all that from the town would stroll, Till that wild wind made work In which the gloomy brewer's soul Went by me, like a stork: "The slight she-slips of royal blood, And others, passing praise, Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud For puritanic stays: "And I have shadow'd many a group Of beauties, that were born In teacup-times of hood and hoop, Or while the patch was worn; "And, leg and arm with love-knots gay About me leap'd and laugh'd The modish Cupid of the day, And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.
"I swear (and else may insects prick Each leaf into a gall) This girl, for whom your heart is sick, Is three times worth them all.
"For those and theirs, by Nature's law, Have faded long ago; But in these latter springs I saw Your own Olivia blow, "From when she gamboll'd on the greens A baby-germ, to when The maiden blossoms of her teens Could number five from ten.
"I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain, (And hear me with thine ears,) That, tho' I circle in the grain Five hundred rings of years--- "Yet, since I first could cast a shade, Did never creature pass So slightly, musically made, So light upon the grass: "For as to fairies, that will flit To make the greensward fresh, I hold them exquisitely knit, But far too spare of flesh.
" Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern, And overlook the chace; And from thy topmost branch discern The roofs of Sumner-place.
But thou, whereon I carved her name, That oft hast heard my vows, Declare when last Olivia came To sport beneath thy boughs.
"O yesterday, you know, the fair Was holden at the town; Her father left his good arm-chair, And rode his hunter down.
"And with him Albert came on his.
I look'd at him with joy: As cowslip unto oxlip is, So seems she to the boy.
"An hour had past---and, sitting straight Within the low-wheel'd chaise, Her mother trundled to the gate Behind the dappled grays.
"But as for her, she stay'd at home, And on the roof she went, And down the way you use to come, She look'd with discontent.
"She left the novel half-uncut Upon the rosewood shelf; She left the new piano shut: She could not please herseif "Then ran she, gamesome as the colt, And livelier than a lark She sent her voice thro' all the holt Before her, and the park.
"A light wind chased her on the wing, And in the chase grew wild, As close as might be would he cling About the darling child: "But light as any wind that blows So fleetly did she stir, The flower, she touch'd on, dipt and rose, And turn'd to look at her.
"And here she came, and round me play'd, And sang to me the whole Of those three stanzas that you made About my Ôgiant bole;' "And in a fit of frolic mirth She strove to span my waist: Alas, I was so broad of girth, I could not be embraced.
"I wish'd myself the fair young beech That here beside me stands, That round me, clasping each in each, She might have lock'd her hands.
"Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet As woodbine's fragile hold, Or when I feel about my feet The berried briony fold.
" O muffle round thy knees with fern, And shadow Sumner-chace! Long may thy topmost branch discern The roofs of Sumner-place! But tell me, did she read the name I carved with many vows When last with throbbing heart I came To rest beneath thy boughs? "O yes, she wander'd round and round These knotted knees of mine, And found, and kiss'd the name she found, And sweetly murmur'd thine.
"A teardrop trembled from its source, And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse, But I believe she wept.
"Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light, She glanced across the plain; But not a creature was in sight: She kiss'd me once again.
"Her kisses were so close and kind, That, trust me on my word, Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind, But yet my sap was stirr'd: "And even into my inmost ring A pleasure I discern'd, Like those blind motions of the Spring, That show the year is turn'd.
"Thrice-happy he that may caress The ringlet's waving balm--- The cushions of whose touch may press The maiden's tender palm.
"I, rooted here among the groves But languidly adjust My vapid vegetable loves With anthers and with dust: "For ah! my friend, the days were brief Whereof the poets talk, When that, which breathes within the leaf, Could slip its bark and walk.
"But could I, as in times foregone, From spray, and branch, and stem, Have suck'd and gather'd into one The life that spreads in them, "She had not found me so remiss; But lightly issuing thro', I would have paid her kiss for kiss, With usury thereto.
" O flourish high, with leafy towers, And overlook the lea, Pursue thy loves among the bowers But leave thou mine to me.
O flourish, hidden deep in fern, Old oak, I love thee well; A thousand thanks for what I learn And what remains to tell.
" ÔTis little more: the day was warm; At last, tired out with play, She sank her head upon her arm And at my feet she lay.
"Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves I breathed upon her eyes Thro' all the summer of my leaves A welcome mix'd with sighs.
"I took the swarming sound of life--- The music from the town--- The murmurs of the drum and fife And lull'd them in my own.
"Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip, To light her shaded eye; A second flutter'd round her lip Like a golden butterfly; "A third would glimmer on her neck To make the necklace shine; Another slid, a sunny fleck, From head to ankle fine, "Then close and dark my arms I spread, And shadow'd all her rest--- Dropt dews upon her golden head, An acorn in her breast.
"But in a pet she started up, And pluck'd it out, and drew My little oakling from the cup, And flung him in the dew.
"And yet it was a graceful gift--- I felt a pang within As when I see the woodman lift His axe to slay my kin.
"I shook him down because he was The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.
"O kiss him twice and thrice for me, That have no lips to kiss, For never yet was oak on lea Shall grow so fair as this.
' Step deeper yet in herb and fern, Look further thro' the chace, Spread upward till thy boughs discern The front of Sumner-place.
This fruit of thine by Love is blest, That but a moment lay Where fairer fruit of Love may rest Some happy future day.
I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice, The warmth it thence shall win To riper life may magnetise The baby-oak within.
But thou, while kingdoms overset, Or lapse from hand to hand, Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet Thine acorn in the land.
May never saw dismember thee, Nor wielded axe disjoint, That art the fairest-spoken tree From here to Lizard-point.
O rock upon thy towery-top All throats that gurgle sweet! All starry culmination drop Balm-dews to bathe thy feet! All grass of silky feather grow--- And while he sinks or swells The full south-breeze around thee blow The sound of minster bells.
The fat earth feed thy branchy root, That under deeply strikes! The northern morning o'er thee shoot, High up, in silver spikes! Nor ever lightning char thy grain, But, rolling as in sleep, Low thunders bring the mellow rain, That makes thee broad and deep! And hear me swear a solemn oath, That only by thy side Will I to Olive plight my troth, And gain her for my bride.
And when my marriage morn may fall, She, Dryad-like, shall wear Alternate leaf and acorn-ball In wreath about her hair.
And I will work in prose and rhyme, And praise thee more in both Than bard has honour'd beech or lime, Or that Thessalian growth, In which the swarthy ringdove sat, And mystic sentence spoke; And more than England honours that, Thy famous brother-oak, Wherein the younger Charles abode Till all the paths were dim, And far below the Roundhead rode, And humm'd a surly hymn.
Written by Isaac Watts | Create an image from this poem

Psalm 129

 Persecutors punished.
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.
]
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free

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AS a strong bird on pinions free, 
Joyous, the amplest spaces heavenward cleaving, 
Such be the thought I’d think to-day of thee, America, 
Such be the recitative I’d bring to-day for thee.
The conceits of the poets of other lands I bring thee not, Nor the compliments that have served their turn so long, Nor rhyme—nor the classics—nor perfume of foreign court, or indoor library; But an odor I’d bring to-day as from forests of pine in the north, in Maine—or breath of an Illinois prairie, With open airs of Virginia, or Georgia, or Tennessee—or from Texas uplands, or Florida’s glades, With presentment of Yellowstone’s scenes, or Yosemite; And murmuring under, pervading all, I’d bring the rustling sea-sound, That endlessly sounds from the two great seas of the world.
And for thy subtler sense, subtler refrains, O Union! Preludes of intellect tallying these and thee—mind-formulas fitted for thee—real, and sane, and large as these and thee; Thou, mounting higher, diving deeper than we knew—thou transcendental Union! By thee Fact to be justified—blended with Thought; Thought of Man justified—blended with God: Through thy Idea—lo! the immortal Reality! Through thy Reality—lo! the immortal Idea! 2 Brain of the New World! what a task is thine! To formulate the Modern.
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Out of the peerless grandeur of the modern, Out of Thyself—comprising Science—to recast Poems, Churches, Art, (Recast—may-be discard them, end them—May-be their work is done—who knows?) By vision, hand, conception, on the background of the mighty past, the dead, To limn, with absolute faith, the mighty living present.
(And yet, thou living, present brain! heir of the dead, the Old World brain! Thou that lay folded, like an unborn babe, within its folds so long! Thou carefully prepared by it so long!—haply thou but unfoldest it—only maturest it; It to eventuate in thee—the essence of the by-gone time contain’d in thee; Its poems, churches, arts, unwitting to themselves, destined with reference to thee, The fruit of all the Old, ripening to-day in thee.
) 3 Sail—sail thy best, ship of Democracy! Of value is thy freight—’tis not the Present only, The Past is also stored in thee! Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone—not of thy western continent alone; Earth’s résumé entire floats on thy keel, O ship—is steadied by thy spars; With thee Time voyages in trust—the antecedent nations sink or swim with thee; With all their ancient struggles, martyrs, heroes, epics, wars, thou bear’st the other continents; Theirs, theirs as much as thine, the destination-port triumphant: —Steer, steer with good strong hand and wary eye, O helmsman—thou carryest great companions, Venerable, priestly Asia sails this day with thee, And royal, feudal Europe sails with thee.
4 Beautiful World of new, superber Birth, that rises to my eyes, Like a limitless golden cloud, filling the western sky; Emblem of general Maternity, lifted above all; Sacred shape of the bearer of daughters and sons; Out of thy teeming womb, thy giant babes in ceaseless procession issuing, Acceding from such gestation, taking and giving continual strength and life; World of the Real! world of the twain in one! World of the Soul—born by the world of the real alone—led to identity, body, by it alone; Yet in beginning only—incalculable masses of composite, precious materials, By history’s cycles forwarded—by every nation, language, hither sent, Ready, collected here—a freer, vast, electric World, to be constructed here, (The true New World—the world of orbic Science, Morals, Literatures to come,) Thou Wonder World, yet undefined, unform’d—neither do I define thee; How can I pierce the impenetrable blank of the future? I feel thy ominous greatness, evil as well as good; I watch thee, advancing, absorbing the present, transcending the past; I see thy light lighting and thy shadow shadowing, as if the entire globe; But I do not undertake to define thee—hardly to comprehend thee; I but thee name—thee prophecy—as now! I merely thee ejaculate! Thee in thy future; Thee in thy only permanent life, career—thy own unloosen’d mind—thy soaring spirit; Thee as another equally needed sun, America—radiant, ablaze, swift-moving, fructifying all; Thee! risen in thy potent cheerfulness and joy—thy endless, great hilarity! (Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long—that weigh’d so long upon the mind of man, The doubt, suspicion, dread, of gradual, certain decadence of man;) Thee in thy larger, saner breeds of Female, Male—thee in thy athletes, moral, spiritual, South, North, West, East, (To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son, endear’d alike, forever equal;) Thee in thy own musicians, singers, artists, unborn yet, but certain; Thee in thy moral wealth and civilization (until which thy proudest material wealth and civilization must remain in vain;) Thee in thy all-supplying, all-enclosing Worship—thee in no single bible, saviour, merely, Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself—thy bibles incessant, within thyself, equal to any, divine as any; Thee in an education grown of thee—in teachers, studies, students, born of thee; Thee in thy democratic fetes, en masse—thy high original festivals, operas, lecturers, preachers; Thee in thy ultimata, (the preparations only now completed—the edifice on sure foundations tied,) Thee in thy pinnacles, intellect, thought—thy topmost rational joys—thy love, and godlike aspiration, In thy resplendent coming literati—thy full-lung’d orators—thy sacerdotal bards—kosmic savans, These! these in thee, (certain to come,) to-day I prophecy.
5 Land tolerating all—accepting all—not for the good alone—all good for thee; Land in the realms of God to be a realm unto thyself; Under the rule of God to be a rule unto thyself.
(Lo! where arise three peerless stars, To be thy natal stars, my country—Ensemble—Evolution—Freedom, Set in the sky of Law.
) Land of unprecedented faith—God’s faith! Thy soil, thy very subsoil, all upheav’d; The general inner earth, so long, so sedulously draped over, now and hence for what it is, boldly laid bare, Open’d by thee to heaven’s light, for benefit or bale.
Not for success alone; Not to fair-sail unintermitted always; The storm shall dash thy face—the murk of war, and worse than war, shall cover thee all over; (Wert capable of war—its tug and trials? Be capable of peace, its trials; For the tug and mortal strain of nations come at last in peace—not war;) In many a smiling mask death shall approach, beguiling thee—thou in disease shalt swelter; The livid cancer spread its hideous claws, clinging upon thy breasts, seeking to strike thee deep within; Consumption of the worst—moral consumption—shall rouge thy face with hectic: But thou shalt face thy fortunes, thy diseases, and surmount them all, Whatever they are to-day, and whatever through time they may be, They each and all shall lift, and pass away, and cease from thee; While thou, Time’s spirals rounding—out of thyself, thyself still extricating, fusing, Equable, natural, mystical Union thou—(the mortal with immortal blent,) Shalt soar toward the fulfilment of the future—the spirit of the body and the mind, The Soul—its destinies.
The Soul, its destinies—the real real, (Purport of all these apparitions of the real;) In thee, America, the Soul, its destinies; Thou globe of globes! thou wonder nebulous! By many a throe of heat and cold convuls’d—(by these thyself solidifying;) Thou mental, moral orb! thou New, indeed new, Spiritual World! The Present holds thee not—for such vast growth as thine—for such unparallel’d flight as thine, The Future only holds thee, and can hold thee.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

Late Light

 Rain filled the streets 
once a year, rising almost 
to door and window sills, 
battering walls and roofs 
until it cleaned away the mess 
we'd made.
My father told me this, he told me it ran downtown and spilled into the river, which in turn emptied finally into the sea.
He said this only once while I sat on the arm of his chair and stared out at the banks of gray snow melting as the March rain streaked past.
All the rest of that day passed on into childhood, into nothing, or perhaps some portion hung on in a tiny corner of thought.
Perhaps a clot of cinders that peppered the front yard clung to a spar of old weed or the concrete lip of the curb and worked its way back under the new growth spring brought and is a part of that yard still.
Perhaps light falling on distant houses becomes those houses, hunching them down at dusk like sheep browsing on a far hillside, or at daybreak gilds the roofs until they groan under the new weight, or after rain lifts haloes of steam from the rinsed, white aluminum siding, and those houses and all they contain live that day in the sight of heaven.
II In the blue, winking light of the International Institute of Social Revolution I fell asleep one afternoon over a book of memoirs of a Spanish priest who'd served his own private faith in a long forgotten war.
An Anarchist and a Catholic, his remembrances moved inexplicably from Castilian to Catalan, a language I couldn't follow.
That dust, fine and gray, peculiar to libraries, slipped between the glossy pages and my sight, a slow darkness calmed me, and I forgot the agony of those men I'd come to love, forgot the battles lost and won, forgot the final trek over hopeless mountain roads, defeat, surrender, the vows to live on.
I slept until the lights came on and off.
A girl was prodding my arm, for the place was closing.
A slender Indonesian girl in sweater and American jeans, her black hair falling almost to my eyes, she told me in perfect English that I could come back, and she swept up into a folder the yellowing newspaper stories and photos spilled out before me on the desk, the little chronicles of death themselves curling and blurring into death, and took away the book still unfinished of a man more confused even than I, and switched off the light, and left me alone.
III In June of 1975 I wakened one late afternoon in Amsterdam in a dim corner of a library.
I had fallen asleep over a book and was roused by a young girl whose hand lay on my hand.
I turned my head up and stared into her brown eyes, deep and gleaming.
She was crying.
For a second I was confused and started to speak, to offer some comfort or aid, but I kept still, for she was crying for me, for the knowledge that I had wakened to a life in which loss was final.
I closed my eyes a moment.
When I opened them she'd gone, the place was dark.
I went out into the golden sunlight; the cobbled streets gleamed as after rain, the street cafes crowded and alive.
Not far off the great bell of the Westerkirk tolled in the early evening.
I thought of my oldest son, who years before had sailed from here into an unknown life in Sweden, a life which failed, of how he'd gone alone to Copenhagen, Bremen, where he'd loaded trains, Hamburg, Munich, and finally -- sick and weary -- he'd returned to us.
He slept in a corner of the living room for days, and woke gaunt and quiet, still only seventeen, his face in its own shadows.
I thought of my father on the run from an older war, and wondered had he passed through Amsterdam, had he stood, as I did now, gazing up at the pale sky, distant and opaque, for the sign that never comes.
Had he drifted in the same winds of doubt and change to another continent, another life, a family, some years of peace, an early death.
I walked on by myself for miles and still the light hung on as though the day would never end.
The gray canals darkened slowly, the sky above the high, narrow houses deepened into blue, and one by one the stars began their singular voyages.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Carol of Words

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EARTH, round, rolling, compact—suns, moons, animals—all these are words to be
 said; 
Watery, vegetable, sauroid advances—beings, premonitions, lispings of the future, 
Behold! these are vast words to be said.
Were you thinking that those were the words—those upright lines? those curves, angles, dots? No, those are not the words—the substantial words are in the ground and sea, They are in the air—they are in you.
Were you thinking that those were the words—those delicious sounds out of your friends’ mouths? No, the real words are more delicious than they.
Human bodies are words, myriads of words; In the best poems re-appears the body, man’s or woman’s, well-shaped, natural, gay, Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of shame.
2 Air, soil, water, fire—these are words; I myself am a word with them—my qualities interpenetrate with theirs—my name is nothing to them; Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would air, soil, water, fire, know of my name? A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words, sayings, meanings; The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women, are sayings and meanings also.
3 The workmanship of souls is by the inaudible words of the earth; The great masters know the earth’s words, and use them more than the audible words.
Amelioration is one of the earth’s words; The earth neither lags nor hastens; It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the jump; It is not half beautiful only—defects and excrescences show just as much as perfections show.
The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough; The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either; They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print; They are imbued through all things, conveying themselves willingly, Conveying a sentiment and invitation of the earth—I utter and utter, I speak not, yet if you hear me not, of what avail am I to you? To bear—to better—lacking these, of what avail am I? 4 Accouche! Accouchez! Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there? Will you squat and stifle there? The earth does not argue, Is not pathetic, has no arrangements, Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise, Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures, Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out, Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out.
5 The earth does not exhibit itself, nor refuse to exhibit itself—possesses still underneath; Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the wail of slaves, Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young people, accents of bargainers, Underneath these, possessing the words that never fail.
To her children, the words of the eloquent dumb great mother never fail; The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail, and reflection does not fail; Also the day and night do not fail, and the voyage we pursue does not fail.
6 Of the interminable sisters, Of the ceaseless cotillions of sisters, Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger sisters, The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest.
With her ample back towards every beholder, With the fascinations of youth, and the equal fascinations of age, Sits she whom I too love like the rest—sits undisturb’d, Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her eyes glance back from it, Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none, Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.
7 Seen at hand, or seen at a distance, Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day, Duly approach and pass with their companions, or a companion, Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the countenances of those who are with them, From the countenances of children or women, or the manly countenance, From the open countenances of animals, or from inanimate things, From the landscape or waters, or from the exquisite apparition of the sky, From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them, Every day in public appearing without fail, but never twice with the same companions.
8 Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and sixty-five resistlessly round the sun; Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred and sixty-five offsets of the first, sure and necessary as they.
9 Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading, Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying, The Soul’s realization and determination still inheriting, The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing, No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking, Swift, glad, content, unbereav’d, nothing losing, Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account, The divine ship sails the divine sea.
10 Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you; The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.
Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid, You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky, For none more than you are the present and the past, For none more than you is immortality.
11 Each man to himself, and each woman to herself, such is the word of the past and present, and the word of immortality; No one can acquire for another—not one! Not one can grow for another—not one! The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him; The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him; The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him; The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him; The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him; The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail; The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress, not to the audience; And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the indication of his own.
12 I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete! I swear the earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken! I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth! I swear there can be no theory of any account, unless it corroborate the theory of the earth! No politics, art, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account, unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth, Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the earth.
13 I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which responds love! It is that which contains itself—which never invites, and never refuses.
I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words! I swear I think all merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the earth! Toward him who sings the songs of the Body, and of the truths of the earth; Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot touch.
14 I swear I see what is better than to tell the best; It is always to leave the best untold.
When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot, My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots, My breath will not be obedient to its organs, I become a dumb man.
The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow—all or any is best; It is not what you anticipated—it is cheaper, easier, nearer; Things are not dismiss’d from the places they held before; The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before; Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before; But the Soul is also real,—it too is positive and direct; No reasoning, no proof has establish’d it, Undeniable growth has establish’d it.
15 This is a poem—a carol of words—these are hints of meanings, These are to echo the tones of Souls, and the phrases of Souls; If they did not echo the phrases of Souls, what were they then? If they had not reference to you in especial, what were they then? I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the best! I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.
16 Say on, sayers! Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth! Work on—(it is materials you must bring, not breaths;) Work on, age after age! nothing is to be lost; It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use; When the materials are all prepared, the architects shall appear.
I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail! I announce them and lead them; I swear to you they will understand you, and justify you; I swear to you the greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all, and is faithful to all; I swear to you, he and the rest shall not forget you—they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they; I swear to you, you shall be glorified in them.
Written by William Strode | Create an image from this poem

Of Death and Resurrection

 Like to the rowling of an eye,
Or like a starre shott from the skye,
Or like a hand upon a clock,
Or like a wave upon a rock,
Or like a winde, or like a flame,
Or like false newes which people frame,
Even such is man, of equall stay,
Whose very growth leades to decay.
The eye is turn'd, the starre down bendeth The hand doth steale, the wave descendeth, The winde is spent, the flame unfir'd, The newes disprov'd, man's life expir'd.
Like to an eye which sleepe doth chayne, Or like a starre whose fall we fayne, Or like the shade on Ahaz watch, Or like a wave which gulfes doe snatch Or like a winde or flame that's past, Or smother'd newes confirm'd at last; Even so man's life, pawn'd in the grave, Wayts for a riseing it must have.
The eye still sees, the starre still blazeth, The shade goes back, the wave escapeth, The winde is turn'd, the flame reviv'd, The newes renew'd, and man new liv'd.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Apostroph

 O MATER! O fils! 
O brood continental! 
O flowers of the prairies! 
O space boundless! O hum of mighty products! 
O you teeming cities! O so invincible, turbulent, proud!
O race of the future! O women! 
O fathers! O you men of passion and the storm! 
O native power only! O beauty! 
O yourself! O God! O divine average! 
O you bearded roughs! O bards! O all those slumberers!
O arouse! the dawn bird’s throat sounds shrill! Do you not hear the cock crowing? 
O, as I walk’d the beach, I heard the mournful notes foreboding a tempest—the
 low,
 oft-repeated shriek of the diver, the long-lived loon; 
O I heard, and yet hear, angry thunder;—O you sailors! O ships! make quick
 preparation! 
O from his masterful sweep, the warning cry of the eagle! 
(Give way there, all! It is useless! Give up your spoils;)
O sarcasms! Propositions! (O if the whole world should prove indeed a sham, a sell!) 
O I believe there is nothing real but America and freedom! 
O to sternly reject all except Democracy! 
O imperator! O who dare confront you and me? 
O to promulgate our own! O to build for that which builds for mankind!
O feuillage! O North! O the slope drained by the Mexican sea! 
O all, all inseparable—ages, ages, ages! 
O a curse on him that would dissever this Union for any reason whatever! 
O climates, labors! O good and evil! O death! 
O you strong with iron and wood! O Personality!
O the village or place which has the greatest man or woman! even if it be only a few
 ragged
 huts; 
O the city where women walk in public processions in the streets, the same as the men; 
O a wan and terrible emblem, by me adopted! 
O shapes arising! shapes of the future centuries! 
O muscle and pluck forever for me!
O workmen and workwomen forever for me! 
O farmers and sailors! O drivers of horses forever for me! 
O I will make the new bardic list of trades and tools! 
O you coarse and wilful! I love you! 
O South! O longings for my dear home! O soft and sunny airs!
O pensive! O I must return where the palm grows and the mocking-bird sings, or else I die!

O equality! O organic compacts! I am come to be your born poet! 
O whirl, contest, sounding and resounding! I am your poet, because I am part of you; 
O days by-gone! Enthusiasts! Antecedents! 
O vast preparations for These States! O years!
O what is now being sent forward thousands of years to come! 
O mediums! O to teach! to convey the invisible faith! 
To promulge real things! to journey through all The States! 
O creation! O to-day! O laws! O unmitigated adoration! 
O for mightier broods of orators, artists, and singers!
O for native songs! carpenter’s, boatman’s, ploughman’s songs!
 shoemaker’s
 songs! 
O haughtiest growth of time! O free and extatic! 
O what I, here, preparing, warble for! 
O you hastening light! O the sun of the world will ascend, dazzling, and take his
 height—and you too will ascend; 
O so amazing and so broad! up there resplendent, darting and burning;
O prophetic! O vision staggered with weight of light! with pouring glories! 
O copious! O hitherto unequalled! 
O Libertad! O compact! O union impossible to dissever! 
O my Soul! O lips becoming tremulous, powerless! 
O centuries, centuries yet ahead!
O voices of greater orators! I pause—I listen for you 
O you States! Cities! defiant of all outside authority! I spring at once into your arms!
 you I
 most love! 
O you grand Presidentiads! I wait for you! 
New history! New heroes! I project you! 
Visions of poets! only you really last! O sweep on! sweep on!
O Death! O you striding there! O I cannot yet! 
O heights! O infinitely too swift and dizzy yet! 
O purged lumine! you threaten me more than I can stand! 
O present! I return while yet I may to you! 
O poets to come, I depend upon you!
Written by Syl Cheney-Coker | Create an image from this poem

Blood Money

Along the route of this river,
with a little luck, we shall chance upon
our brothers' fortune, hidden with that cold smile
reserved for discreet bankers unmindful of the hydra
growing fiery mornings from our discontent
Wealth was always fashionable, telluric,
not honor pristine and profound.
In blasphemous glee, they raise to God's lips those cups filled with ethnic offerings that saps the blood of all human good.
Having no other country to call my own except for this one full of pine needles on which we nail our children's lives, I have put off examining this skull, savage harvest, the swollen earth, until that day when, all God's children, we shall plant a eureka supported by a blood knot.
And remorse not being theirs to feel, I offer an inventory of abuse by these men, with this wretched earth on my palms, so as to remind them of our stilted growth the length of a cutlass, or if you prefer the size of our burnt-out brotherhood.