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Best Famous Helen Hunt Jackson Poems

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by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Danger

 With what a childish and short-sighted sense 
Fear seeks for safety; recons up the days 
Of danger and escape, the hours and ways 
Of death; it breathless flies the pestilence; 
It walls itself in towers of defence; 
By land, by sea, against the storm it lays 
Down barriers; then, comforted, it says: 
"This spot, this hour is safe.
" Oh, vain pretence! Man born of man knows nothing when he goes; The winds blow where they list, and will disclose To no man which brings safety, which brings risk.
The mighty are brought low by many a thing Too small to name.
Beneath the daisy's disk Lies hid the pebble for the fatal sling.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Freedom

 he drank wine all night of the 
28th, and he kept thinking of her: 
the way she walked and talked and loved 
the way she told him things that seemed true 
but were not, and he knew the color of each 
of her dresses 
and her shoes-he knew the stock and curve of 
each heel 
as well as the leg shaped by it.
and she was out again and whe he came home,and she'd come back with that special stink again, and she did she came in at 3 a.
m in the morning filthy like a dung eating swine and he took out a butchers knife and she screamed backing into the roominghouse wall still pretty somehow in spite of love's reek and he finished the glass of wine.
that yellow dress his favorite and she screamed again.
and he took up the knife and unhooked his belt and tore away the cloth before her and cut off his balls.
and carried them in his hands like apricots and flushed them down the toilet bowl and she kept screaming as the room became red GOD O GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? and he sat there holding 3 towels between his legs no caring now wether she lft or stayed wore yellow or green or anything at all.
and one hand holding and one hand lifting he poured another wine


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Doubt

 1 They bade me cast the thing away, 
2 They pointed to my hands all bleeding,
3 They listened not to all my pleading;
4 The thing I meant I could not say;
5 I knew that I should rue the day
6 If once I cast that thing away.
7 I grasped it firm, and bore the pain; 8 The thorny husks I stripped and scattered; 9 If I could reach its heart, what mattered 10 If other men saw not my gain, 11 Or even if I should be slain? 12 I knew the risks; I chose the pain.
13 O, had I cast that thing away, 14 I had not found what most I cherish, 15 A faith without which I should perish,-- 16 The faith which, like a kernel, lay 17 Hid in the husks which on that day 18 My instinct would not throw away!


More great poems below...

by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: January

 O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire, 
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn 
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn 
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire 
The streams than under ice.
June could not hire Her roses to forego the strength they learn In sleeping on thy breast.
No fires can burn The bridges thou dost lay where men desire In vain to build.
O Heart, when Love's sun goes To northward, and the sounds of singing cease, Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, The winter is the winter's own release.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: July

 Some flowers are withered and some joys have died; 
The garden reeks with an East Indian scent 
From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent; 
The white heat pales the skies from side to side; 
But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content, 
Like starry blooms on a new firmament, 
White lilies float and regally abide.
In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed; The lily does not feel their brazen glare.
In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share Their dews, the lily feels no thirst, no dread.
Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head; She drinks of living waters and keeps fair.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: September

 O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped! 
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung 
On wands; the chestnut's yellow pennons tongue 
To every wind its harvest challenge.
Steeped In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped; And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung Her utmost gold.
To highest boughs have leaped The purple grape,--last thing to ripen, late By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy's estate, Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: June

 O month whose promise and fulfilment blend, 
And burst in one! it seems the earth can store 
In all her roomy house no treasure more; 
Of all her wealth no farthing have to spend 
On fruit, when once this stintless flowering end.
And yet no tiniest flower shall fall before It hath made ready at its hidden core Its tithe of seed, which we may count and tend Till harvest.
Joy of blossomed love, for thee Seems it no fairer thing can yet have birth? No room is left for deeper ecstacy? Watch well if seeds grow strong, to scatter free Germs for thy future summers on the earth.
A joy which is but joy soon comes to dearth.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: March

 Month which the warring ancients strangely styled 
The month of war,--as if in their fierce ways 
Were any month of peace!--in thy rough days 
I find no war in Nature, though the wild 
Winds clash and clang, and broken boughs are piled 
As feet of writhing trees.
The violets raise Their heads without affright, without amaze, And sleep through all the din, as sleeps a child.
And he who watches well may well discern Sweet expectation in each living thing.
Like pregnant mother the sweet earth doth yearn; In secret joy makes ready for the spring; And hidden, sacred, in her breast doth bear Annunciation lilies for the year.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Freedom

 What freeman knoweth freedom? Never he 
Whose father's father through long lives have reigned 
O'er kingdoms which mere heritage attained.
Though from his youth to age he roam as free As winds, he dreams not freedom's ecstacy.
But he whose birth was in a nation chained For centuries; where every breath was drained From breasts of slaves which knew not there could be Such thing as freedom,--he beholds the light Burst, dazzling; though the glory blind his sight He knows the joy.
Fools laugh because he reels And weilds confusedly his infant will; The wise man watching with a heart that feels Says: "Cure for freedom's harms is freedom still.
"


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Freedom

 I WILL not follow you, my bird,
 I will not follow you.
I would not breathe a word, my bird, To bring thee here anew.
I love the free in thee, my bird, The lure of freedom drew; The light you fly toward, my bird, I fly with thee unto.
And there we yet will meet, my bird, Though far I go from you Where in the light outpoured, my bird, Are love and freedom too.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: May

 O Month when they who love must love and wed! 
Were one to go to worlds where May is naught, 
And seek to tell the memories he had brought 
From earth of thee, what were most fitly said? 
I know not if the rosy showers shed 
From apple-boughs, or if the soft green wrought 
In fields, or if the robin's call be fraught 
The most with thy delight.
Perhaps they read Thee best who in the ancient time did say Thou wert the sacred month unto the old: No blossom blooms upon thy brightest day So subtly sweet as memories which unfold In aged hearts which in thy sunshine lie, To sun themselves once more before they die.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: November

 This is the treacherous month when autumn days 
With summer's voice come bearing summer's gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts Her head and blooms again.
The soft, warm haze Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways, And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts, The violet returns.
Snow noiseless sifts Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning's rays Willidly shine upon and slowly melt, Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain; Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt? What profit from the violet's day of pain?


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Tryst

 Somewhere thou awaitest, 
And I, with lips unkissed, 
Weep that thus to latest 
Thou puttest off our tryst!

The golden bowls are broken, 
The silver cords untwine; 
Almond flowers in token 
Have bloomed,---that I am thine!

Others who would fly thee 
In cowardly alarms, 
Who hate thee and deny thee, 
Thou foldest in thine arms!

How shall I entreat thee 
No longer to withhold? 
I dare not go to meet thee, 
O lover, far and cold!

O lover, whose lips chilling 
So many lips have kissed, 
Come, even if unwilling, 
And keep thy solemn tryst!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Gods Light-Houses

 1 When night falls on the earth, the sea 
2 From east to west lies twinkling bright
3 With shining beams from beacons high
4 Which flash afar a friendly light.
5 The sailor's eyes, like eyes in prayer, 6 Turn unto them for guiding ray: 7 If storms obscure their radiance, 8 The great ships helpless grope their way.
9 When night falls on the earth, the sky 10 Looks like a wide, a boundless main.
11 Who knows what voyagers sail there? 12 Who names the ports they seek and gain? 13 Are not the stars like beacons set 14 To guide the argosies that go 15 From universe to universe, 16 Our little world above, below?-- 17 On their great errands solemn bent, 18 In their vast journeys unaware 19 Of our small planet's name or place 20 Revolving in the lower air.
21 O thought too vast! O thought too glad! 22 An awe most rapturous it stirs.
23 From world to world God's beacons shine: 24 God means to save his mariners!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

My Bees: An Allegory

 "O bees, sweet bees!" I said, "that nearest field 
Is shining white with fragrant immortelles.
Fly swiftly there and drain those honey wells.
" Then, spicy pines the sunny hive to shield, I set, and patient for the autumn's yield Of sweet I waited.
When the village bells Rang frosty clear, and from their satin cells The chestnuts leaped, rejoicing, I unsealed My hive.
Alas! no snowy honey there Was stored.
My wicked bees had borne away Their queen and left no trace.
That very day, An idle drone who sauntered through the air I tracked and followed, and he led me where My truant bees and stolen honey lay.
Twice faithless bees! They had sought out to eat Rank, bitter herbs.
The honey was not sweet.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

My Strawberry

 O marvel, fruit of fruits, I pause 
To reckon thee.
I ask what cause Set free so much of red from heats At core of earth, and mixed such sweets With sour and spice: what was that strength Which out of darkness, length by length, Spun all thy shining thread of vine, Netting the fields in bond as thine.
I see thy tendrils drink by sips From grass and clover's smiling lips; I hear thy roots dig down for wells, Tapping the meadow's hidden cells.
Whole generations of green things, Descended from long lines of springs, I see make room for thee to bide A quiet comrade by their side; I see the creeping peoples go Mysterious journeys to and fro, Treading to right and left of thee, Doing thee homage wonderingly.
I see the wild bees as they fare, Thy cups of honey drink, but spare.
I mark thee bathe and bathe again In sweet unclaendared spring rain.
I watch how all May has of sun Makes haste to have thy ripeness done, While all her nights let dews escape To set and cool thy perfect shape.
Ah, fruit of fruits, no more I pause To dream and seek thy hidden laws! I stretch my hand and dare to taste, In instant of delicious waste On single feast, all things that went To make the empire thou hast spent.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Two Truths

 Darling,' he said, 'I never meant
To hurt you;' and his eyes were wet.
'I would not hurt you for the world: Am I to blame if I forget?' 'Forgive my selfish tears!' she cried, 'Forgive! I knew that it was not Because you meant to hurt me, sweet- I knew it was that you forgot!' But all the same, deep in her heart Rankled this thought, and rankles yet,- 'When love is at its best, one loves So much that he cannot forget.
'


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

My Tenants

 I never had a title-deed 
To my estate.
But little heed Eyes give to me, when I walk by My fields, to see who occupy.
Some clumsy men who lease and hire And cut my trees to feed their fire, Own all the land that I possess, And tax my tenants to distress.
And if I say I had been first, And, reaping, left for them the worst, That they were beggars at the hands Of dwellers on my royal lands, With idle laugh of passing scorn As unto words of madness born, They would reply I do not care; They cannot crowd the charméd air; They cannot touch the bonds I hold On all that they have bought and sold.
They can waylay my faithful bees, Who, lulled to sleep, with fatal ease, Are robbe.
Is one day's honey sweet Thus snatched? All summer round my feet In golden drifts from plumy wings, In shining drops on fragrant things Free gift, it came to me.
My corn, With burnished banners, morn by morn, Comes out to meet and honor me; The glittering ranks spread royally Far as I walk.
When hasty greed Tramples it down for food and seed, I, with a certain veiled delight, Hear half the crop is lost by blight.
Letter of the law these may fulfil, Plant where they like, slay what they will, Count up their gains and make them great; Nevertheless, the whole estate Always belongs to me and mine.
We are the only royal line.
And though I have no title-deed My tenants pay me royal heed When our sweet fields I wander by To see what strangers occupy.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

New Years Morning

 Only a night from old to new! 
Only a night, and so much wrought! 
The Old Year's heart all weary grew, 
But said: The New Year rest has brought.
" The Old Year's hopes its heart laid down, As in a grave; but trusting, said: "The blossoms of the New Year's crown Bloom from the ashes of the dead.
" The Old Year's heart was full of greed; With selfishness it longed and ached, And cried: "I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year's generous hand All gifts in plenty shall return; True love it shall understand; By all y failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free, And find sweet pace where I leave strife.
" Only a night from old to new! Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do; No New Year miracles are wrought.
Always a night from old to new! Night and the healing balm of sleep! Each morn is New Year's morn come true, Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make Confession and resolve and prayer; All days are sacred days to wake New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new; Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old coem true; Each sunrise sees a new year born.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Octobers Bright Blue Weather

 O suns and skies and clouds of June, 
And flowers of June together, 
Ye cannot rival for one hour 
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste, 
Belated, thriftless vagrant, 
And goldenrod is dying fast, 
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight 
To save them for the morning, 
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs 
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie 
In piles like jewels shining, 
And redder still on old stone walls 
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things 
Their white-winged seeds are sowing, 
And in the fields still green and fair, 
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks, 
In idle golden freighting, 
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush 
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts, 
By twos and twos together, 
And count like misers, hour by hour, 
October's bright blue weather.
O sun and skies and flowers of June, Count all your boasts together, Love loveth best of all the year October's bright blue weather.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Poppies on the Wheat

 Along Ancona's hills the shimmering heat, 
A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow 
Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow 
Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat 
Around the vines.
The poppies lithe and fleet Seem running, fiery torchmen, to and fro To mark the shore.
The farmer does not know That they are there.
He walks with heavy feet, Counting the bread and wine by autumn's gain, But I,--I smile to think that days remain Perhaps to me in which, through bread be sweet No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain, I shall be glad remembering how the fleet, Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Refrain

 Of all the songs which poets sing 
The ones which are most sweet 
Are those which at close intervals 
A low refrain repeat; 
Some tender word, some syllable, 
Over and over, ever and ever, 
While the song lasts, 
Altering never, 
Music if sung, music if said, 
Subtle like some golden thread 
A shuttle casts, 
In and out on a fabric red, 
Till it glows all through 
With the golden hue.
Oh! of all the songs sung, No songs are so sweet As the songs with refrains, Which repeat and repeat.
Of all the lives lived, No life is so sweet, As the life where one thought, In refrain doth repeat, Over and over, ever and ever, Till the life ends, Altering never, Joy which is felt, but is not said, Subtler than any golden thread Which the shuttle sends In and out in a fabric red, Till it glows all through With a golden hue.
Oh! of all the lives lived, Can be no life so sweet, As the life where one thought In refrain doth repeat, "Now name for me a thought To make life so sweet, A thought of such joy Its refrain to repeat.
" Oh! foolish to ask me.
Ever, ever Who loveth believes, But telleth never.
It might be a name, just a name not said, But in every thought; like a golden thread Which the shuttle weaves In and out on a fabric red, Till it glows all through With a golden hue.
Oh! of all sweet lives, Who can tell how sweet Is the life which one name In refrain doth repeat?


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Songs of Battle

 Old as the world--no other things so old; 
Nay, older than the world, else, how had sprung 
Such lusty strength in them when earth was young?-- 
Stand valor and its passion hot and bold, 
Insatiate of battle.
How, else, told Blind men, born blind, that red was fitting tongue Mute, eloquent, to show how trumpets rung When armies charged adn battle-flags unfurled? Who sings of valor speaks for life, for death, Beyond all death, and long as life is life, in rippled waves the eternal air hs breath Eternal bears to stir all noble strife.
Dead Homer from his lost and vanished grave Keeps battle glorious still and soldiers brave.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

The Fir-Tree and the Brook

 The Fir-Tree looked on stars, but loved the Brook! 
"O silver-voiced! if thou wouldst wait, 
My love can bravely woo.
" All smiles forsook The brook's white face.
"Too late! Too late! I go to wed the sea.
I know not if my love would curse or bless thee.
I may not, dare not, tarry to caress thee, Oh, do not follow me! The Fir-Tree moaned and moaned till spring; Then laughed in manic joy to feel Early one day, the woodsmen of the King Sign him with a sign of burning steel, The first to fall.
"Now flee Thy swiftest, Brook! Thy love may curse or bless me, I care not, if but once thou dost caress me, O Brook, I follow thee! All torn and bruised with mark of adze and chain, Hurled down the dizzy slide of sand, Tossed by great waves in ecstsy of pain, And rudely thrown at last to land, The Fir-Tree heard: "Oh, see With what fierce love it is I must caress thee! I warned thee I might curse, and never bless thee, Why didst thou follow me? All stately set with spar and brace and rope, The Fir-Tree stood and sailed and sailed.
In wildest storm when all the ship lost hope, The Fir-Tree never shook nor quailed, Nor ceased from saying, "Free Art thou, O Brook! But once thou hast caressed me; For life, for death, thy love has cursed or blessed me; Behold, I follow thee!" Lost in a night, and no man left to tell, Crushed in the giant iceberg's play, The ship went down without a song, a knell.
Still drifts the Fir-Tree night and day, Still moans along the sea A voice: "O Fir-Tree! thus must I possess thee; Eternally, brave love, will I caress thee, Dead for the love of me!"


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

The Poets Forge

 He lies on his back, the idling smith, 
A lazy, dreaming fellow is he; 
The sky is blue, or the sky is gray, 
He lies on his back the livelong day, 
Not a tool in sight, say what they may, 
A curious sort of smith is he.
The powers of the air are in league with him; The country around believes it well; The wondering folk draw spying near; Never sight nor sound do they see or hear; No wonder they feel a little fear; When is it his work is done so well? Never sight nor sound to see or hear; The powers of the air are in league with him; High over his head his metals swing, Fine gold and silver to shame the king; We might distinguish their glittering, If once we could get in league with him.
High over his head his metals swing; He hammers them idly year by year, Hammers and chuckles a low refrain: "A bench and a book are a ball and a chain, The adze is a better tool than the plane; What's the odds between now and next year?" Hammers and chuckles his low refrain, A lazy, dreaming fellow is he: When sudden, some day, his bells peal out, And men, at the sound, for gladness shout; He laughs and asks what it's all about; Oh, a curious sort of smith is he.