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Best Famous History Poems

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

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Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise I rise I rise.
Written by William Shakespeare | Create an image from this poem

All the Worlds a Stage

 All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school.
And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow.
Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth.
And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part.
The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound.
Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

On the Pulse of Morning

(also referred to as The Rock Cries Out To Us Today)

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A river sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, Then forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of other seekers-- Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot.
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river, Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
Written by Sylvia Plath | Create an image from this poem

Letter In November

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

A Birthday Present

 What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?

I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking 'Is this the one I am too appear for, Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar? Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus, Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.
Is this the one for the annunciation? My god, what a laugh!' But it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.
I would not mind if it were bones, or a pearl button.
I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.
I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way.
Now there are these veils, shimmering like curtains, The diaphanous satins of a January window White as babies' bedding and glittering with dead breath.
O ivory! It must be a tusk there, a ghost column.
Can you not see I do not mind what it is.
Can you not give it to me? Do not be ashamed--I do not mind if it is small.
Do not be mean, I am ready for enormity.
Let us sit down to it, one on either side, admiring the gleam, The glaze, the mirrory variety of it.
Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate.
I know why you will not give it to me, You are terrified The world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it, Bossed, brazen, an antique shield, A marvel to your great-grandchildren.
Do not be afraid, it is not so.
I will only take it and go aside quietly.
You will not even hear me opening it, no paper crackle, No falling ribbons, no scream at the end.
I do not think you credit me with this discretion.
If you only knew how the veils were killing my days.
To you they are only transparencies, clear air.
But my god, the clouds are like cotton.
Armies of them.
They are carbon monoxide.
Sweetly, sweetly I breathe in, Filling my veins with invisibles, with the million Probable motes that tick the years off my life.
You are silver-suited for the occasion.
O adding machine----- Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole? Must you stamp each piece purple, Must you kill what you can? There is one thing I want today, and only you can give it to me.
It stands at my window, big as the sky.
It breathes from my sheets, the cold dead center Where split lives congeal and stiffen to history.
Let it not come by the mail, finger by finger.
Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixty By the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it.
Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.
If it were death I would admire the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes.
I would know you were serious.
There would be a nobility then, there would be a birthday.
And the knife not carve, but enter Pure and clean as the cry of a baby, And the universe slide from my side.
Written by Derek Walcott | Create an image from this poem

The Sea Is History

 The Sea Is History
Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

The Rock Cries Out to Us Today

 A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A river sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, Then forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of other seekers-- Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot.
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river, Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
Written by Charles Bukowski | Create an image from this poem

Let It Enfold You

 either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you

when i was a young man
I felt these things were
dumb,unsophisticated.
I had bad blood,a twisted mind, a pecarious upbringing.
I was hard as granite,I leered at the sun.
I trusted no man and especially no woman.
I was living a hell in small rooms, I broke things, smashed things, walked through glass, cursed.
I challenged everything, was continually being evicted,jailed,in and out of fights,in and aout of my mind.
women were something to screw and rail at,i had no male freinds, I changed jobs and cities,I hated holidays, babies,history, newspapers, museums, grandmothers, marriage, movies, spiders, garbagemen, english accents,spain, france,italy,walnuts and the color orange.
algebra angred me, opera sickened me, charlie chaplin was a fake and flowers were for pansies.
peace an happiness to me were signs of inferiority, tenants of the weak an addled mind.
but as I went on with my alley fights, my suicidal years, my passage through any number of women-it gradually began to occur to me that I wasn't diffrent from the others, I was the same, they were all fulsome with hatred, glossed over with petty greivances, the men I fought in alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging, inching, cheating for some insignificant advantage, the lie was the weapon and the plot was emptey, darkness was the dictator.
cautiously, I allowed myself to feel good at times.
I found moments of peace in cheap rooms just staring at the knobs of some dresser or listening to the rain in the dark.
the less i needed the better i felt.
maybe the other life had worn me down.
I no longer found glamour in topping somebody in conversation.
or in mounting the body of some poor drunken female whose life had slipped away into sorrow.
I could never accept life as it was, i could never gobble down all its poisons but there were parts, tenous magic parts open for the asking.
I re formulated I don't know when, date,time,all that but the change occured.
something in me relaxed, smoothed out.
i no longer had to prove that i was a man, I did'nt have to prove anything.
I began to see things: coffe cups lined up behind a counter in a cafe.
or a dog walking along a sidewalk.
or the way the mouse on my dresser top stopped there with its body, its ears, its nose, it was fixed, a bit of life caught within itself and its eyes looked at me and they were beautiful.
then- it was gone.
I began to feel good, I began to feel good in the worst situations and there were plenty of those.
like say, the boss behind his desk, he is going to have to fire me.
I've missed too many days.
he is dressed in a suit, necktie, glasses, he says, "i am going to have to let you go" "it's all right" i tell him.
He must do what he must do, he has a wife, a house, children.
expenses, most probably a girlfreind.
I am sorry for him he is caught.
I walk onto the blazing sunshine.
the whole day is mine temporailiy, anyhow.
(the whole world is at the throat of the world, everybody feels angry, short-changed, cheated, everybody is despondent, dissillusioned) I welcomed shots of peace, tattered shards of happiness.
I embraced that stuff like the hottest number, like high heels,breasts, singing,the works.
(dont get me wrong, there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism that overlooks all basic problems justr for the sake of itself- this is a sheild and a sickness.
) The knife got near my throat again, I almost turned on the gas again but when the good moments arrived again I did'nt fight them off like an alley adversary.
I let them take me, i luxuriated in them, I bade them welcome home.
I even looked into the mirror once having thought myself to be ugly, I now liked what I saw,almost handsome,yes, a bit ripped and ragged, scares,lumps, odd turns, but all in all, not too bad, almost handsome, better at least than some of those movie star faces like the cheeks of a babys butt.
and finally I discovered real feelings fo others, unhearleded, like latley, like this morning, as I was leaving, for the track, i saw my wif in bed, just the shape of her head there (not forgetting centuries of the living and the dead and the dying, the pyarimids, Mozart dead but his music still there in the room, weeds growing, the earth turning, the toteboard waiting for me) I saw the shape of my wife's head, she so still, i ached for her life, just being there under the covers.
i kissed her in the, forehead, got down the stairway, got outside, got into my marvelous car, fixed the seatbelt, backed out the drive.
feeling warm to the fingertips, down to my foot on the gas pedal, I entered the world once more, drove down the hill past the houses full and emptey of people, i saw the mailman, honked, he waved back at me.
Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

Inaugural Poem

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing.
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot .
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
Written by Langston Hughes | Create an image from this poem

Freedoms Plow

 When a man starts out with nothing,
 When a man starts out with his hands
 Empty, but clean,
 When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.
First in the heart is the dream- Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world, On the great wooded world, On the rich soil of the world, On the rivers of the world.
The eyes see there materials for building, See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood, To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help, A community of hands to help- Thus the dream becomes not one man's dream alone, But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone, But your world and my world, Belonging to all the hands who build.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, Ships came from across the sea Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers, Adventurers and booty seekers, Free men and indentured servants, Slave men and slave masters, all new- To a new world, America! With billowing sails the galleons came Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together, Heart reaching out to heart, Hand reaching out to hand, They began to build our land.
Some were free hands Seeking a greater freedom, Some were indentured hands Hoping to find their freedom, Some were slave hands Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, But the word was there always: Freedom.
Down into the earth went the plow In the free hands and the slave hands, In indentured hands and adventurous hands, Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands That planted and harvested the food that fed And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands, Indentured hands, adventurous hands, White hands and black hands Held the plow handles, Ax handles, hammer handles, Launched the boats and whipped the horses That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor, All these hands made America.
Labor! Out of labor came villages And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats And the sailboats and the steamboats, Came the wagons, and the coaches, Covered wagons, stage coaches, Out of labor came the factories, Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores, Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured, Sold in shops, piled in warehouses, Shipped the wide world over: Out of labor-white hands and black hands- Came the dream, the strength, the will, And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it's Manhattan, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and El Paso- Now it's the U.
S.
A.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL-- ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS-- AMONG THESE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
His name was Jefferson.
There were slaves then, But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too, And silently too for granted That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago, But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said: NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT THAT OTHER'S CONSENT.
There were slaves then, too, But in their hearts the slaves knew What he said must be meant for every human being- Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said: BETTER TO DIE FREE THAN TO LIVE SLAVES He was a colored man who had been a slave But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew What Frederick Douglass said was true.
With John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark, And nobody knew for sure When freedom would triumph "Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery, Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, The slaves made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! That song meant just what it said: Hold On! Freedom will come! Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! Out of war it came, bloody and terrible! But it came! Some there were, as always, Who doubted that the war would end right, That the slaves would be free, Or that the union would stand, But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation, We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land, And men united as a nation.
America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud, Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold Great thoughts in their deepest hearts And sometimes only blunderingly express them, Haltingly and stumblingly say them, And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there, Always the trying to understand, And the trying to say, "You are a man.
Together we are building our land.
" America! Land created in common, Dream nourished in common, Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on! If the house is not yet finished, Don't be discouraged, builder! If the fight is not yet won, Don't be weary, soldier! The plan and the pattern is here, Woven from the beginning Into the warp and woof of America: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.
BETTER DIE FREE, THAN TO LIVE SLAVES.
Who said those things? Americans! Who owns those words? America! Who is America? You, me! We are America! To the enemy who would conquer us from without, We say, NO! To the enemy who would divide And conquer us from within, We say, NO! FREEDOM! BROTHERHOOD! DEMOCRACY! To all the enemies of these great words: We say, NO! A long time ago, An enslaved people heading toward freedom Made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! The plow plowed a new furrow Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody, For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow Until all races and all peoples know its shade.
KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!
Written by Sylvia Plath | Create an image from this poem

Winter Trees

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees Seem a botanical drawing-- Memories growning, ring on ring, A series of weddings.
Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery, Truer than women, They seed so effortlessly! Tasting the winds, that are footless, Waisting-deep in history-- Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness Who are these peitas? The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but easing nothing.
note: 12 Ledas: Leda, the maiden who was raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan.
Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | Create an image from this poem

Paul Reveres Ride

Listen, my children, and you shall hear 
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: 
Hardly a man is now alive 
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,-- One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm.
" Then he said "Good night!" and with muffled oar Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore, Just as the moon rose over the bay, Where swinging wide at her moorings lay The Somerset, British man-of-war: A phantom ship, with each mast and spar Across the moon, like a prison-bar, And a huge black hulk, that was magnified By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street Wanders and watches with eager ears, Till in the silence around him he hears The muster of men at the barrack door, The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet, And the measured tread of the grenadiers Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed to the tower of the church, Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry-chamber overhead, And startled the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him made Masses and moving shapes of shade,-- By the trembling ladder, steep and tall, To the highest window in the wall, Where he paused to listen and look down A moment on the roofs of the town, And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead, In their night-encampment on the hill, Wrapped in silence so deep and still That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread, The watchful night-wind, as it went Creeping along from tent to tent, And seeming to whisper, "All is well!" A moment only he feels the spell Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread Of the lonely belfry and the dead; For suddenly all his thoughts are bent On a shadowy something far away, Where the river widens to meet the bay, -- A line of black, that bends and floats On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride, On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side, Now gazed on the landscape far and near, Then impetuous stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry-tower of the old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height, A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns! A hurry of hoofs in a village-street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet: That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep, And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep, Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; And under the alders, that skirt its edge, Now soft on the sand, now load on the ledge, Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock, And the barking of the farmer's dog, And felt the damp of the river-fog, That rises when the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock, When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare, Gaze at him with a spectral glare, As if they already stood aghast At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock, When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock, And the twitter of birds among the trees, And felt the breath of the morning breeze Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed Who at the bridge would be first to fall, Who that day would be lying dead, Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest.
In the books you have read, How the British Regulars fired and fled,-- How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard-wall, Chasing the red-coats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm,-- A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forevermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

Marriage

 This institution,
perhaps one should say enterprise
out of respect for which
one says one need not change one's mind
about a thing one has believed in,
requiring public promises
of one's intention
to fulfill a private obligation:
I wonder what Adam and Eve
think of it by this time,
this firegilt steel
alive with goldenness;
how bright it shows --
"of circular traditions and impostures,
committing many spoils,"
requiring all one's criminal ingenuity
to avoid!
Psychology which explains everything
explains nothing
and we are still in doubt.
Eve: beautiful woman -- I have seen her when she was so handsome she gave me a start, able to write simultaneously in three languages -- English, German and French and talk in the meantime; equally positive in demanding a commotion and in stipulating quiet: "I should like to be alone;" to which the visitor replies, "I should like to be alone; why not be alone together?" Below the incandescent stars below the incandescent fruit, the strange experience of beauty; its existence is too much; it tears one to pieces and each fresh wave of consciousness is poison.
"See her, see her in this common world," the central flaw in that first crystal-fine experiment, this amalgamation which can never be more than an interesting possibility, describing it as "that strange paradise unlike flesh, gold, or stately buildings, the choicest piece of my life: the heart rising in its estate of peace as a boat rises with the rising of the water;" constrained in speaking of the serpent -- that shed snakeskin in the history of politeness not to be returned to again -- that invaluable accident exonerating Adam.
And he has beauty also; it's distressing -- the O thou to whom, from whom, without whom nothing -- Adam; "something feline, something colubrine" -- how true! a crouching mythological monster in that Persian miniature of emerald mines, raw silk -- ivory white, snow white, oyster white and six others -- that paddock full of leopards and giraffes -- long lemonyellow bodies sown with trapezoids of blue.
Alive with words, vibrating like a cymbal touched before it has been struck, he has prophesied correctly -- the industrious waterfall, "the speedy stream which violently bears all before it, at one time silent as the air and now as powerful as the wind.
" "Treading chasms on the uncertain footing of a spear," forgetting that there is in woman a quality of mind which is an instinctive manifestation is unsafe, he goes on speaking in a formal, customary strain of "past states," the present state, seals, promises, the evil one suffered, the good one enjoys, hell, heaven, everything convenient to promote one's joy.
" There is in him a state of mind by force of which, perceiving what it was not intended that he should, "he experiences a solemn joy in seeing that he has become an idol.
" Plagued by the nightingale in the new leaves, with its silence -- not its silence but its silences, he says of it: "It clothes me with a shirt of fire.
" "He dares not clap his hands to make it go on lest it should fly off; if he does nothing, it will sleep; if he cries out, it will not understand.
" Unnerved by the nightingale and dazzled by the apple, impelled by "the illusion of a fire effectual to extinguish fire," compared with which the shining of the earth is but deformity -- a fire "as high as deep as bright as broad as long as life itself," he stumbles over marriage, "a very trivial object indeed" to have destroyed the attitude in which he stood -- the ease of the philosopher unfathered by a woman.
Unhelpful Hymen! "a kind of overgrown cupid" reduced to insignificance by the mechanical advertising parading as involuntary comment, by that experiment of Adam's with ways out but no way in -- the ritual of marriage, augmenting all its lavishness; its fiddle-head ferns, lotus flowers, opuntias, white dromedaries, its hippopotamus -- nose and mouth combined in one magnificent hopper, "the crested screamer -- that huge bird almost a lizard," its snake and the potent apple.
He tells us that "for love that will gaze an eagle blind, that is like a Hercules climbing the trees in the garden of the Hesperides, from forty-five to seventy is the best age," commending it as a fine art, as an experiment, a duty or as merely recreation.
One must not call him ruffian nor friction a calamity -- the fight to be affectionate: "no truth can be fully known until it has been tried by the tooth of disputation.
" The blue panther with black eyes, the basalt panther with blue eyes, entirely graceful -- one must give them the path -- the black obsidian Diana who "darkeneth her countenance as a bear doth, causing her husband to sigh," the spiked hand that has an affection for one and proves it to the bone, impatient to assure you that impatience is the mark of independence not of bondage.
"Married people often look that way" -- "seldom and cold, up and down, mixed and malarial with a good day and bad.
" "When do we feed?" We occidentals are so unemotional, we quarrel as we feed; one's self is quite lost, the irony preserved in "the Ahasuerus t?te ? t?te banquet" with its "good monster, lead the way," with little laughter and munificence of humor in that quixotic atmosphere of frankness in which "Four o'clock does not exist but at five o'clock the ladies in their imperious humility are ready to receive you"; in which experience attests that men have power and sometimes one is made to feel it.
He says, "what monarch would not blush to have a wife with hair like a shaving-brush? The fact of woman is not `the sound of the flute but every poison.
'" She says, "`Men are monopolists of stars, garters, buttons and other shining baubles' -- unfit to be the guardians of another person's happiness.
" He says, "These mummies must be handled carefully -- `the crumbs from a lion's meal, a couple of shins and the bit of an ear'; turn to the letter M and you will find that `a wife is a coffin,' that severe object with the pleasing geometry stipulating space and not people, refusing to be buried and uniquely disappointing, revengefully wrought in the attitude of an adoring child to a distinguished parent.
" She says, "This butterfly, this waterfly, this nomad that has `proposed to settle on my hand for life.
' -- What can one do with it? There must have been more time in Shakespeare's day to sit and watch a play.
You know so many artists are fools.
" He says, "You know so many fools who are not artists.
" The fact forgot that "some have merely rights while some have obligations," he loves himself so much, he can permit himself no rival in that love.
She loves herself so much, she cannot see herself enough -- a statuette of ivory on ivory, the logical last touch to an expansive splendor earned as wages for work done: one is not rich but poor when one can always seem so right.
What can one do for them -- these savages condemned to disaffect all those who are not visionaries alert to undertake the silly task of making people noble? This model of petrine fidelity who "leaves her peaceful husband only because she has seen enough of him" -- that orator reminding you, "I am yours to command.
" "Everything to do with love is mystery; it is more than a day's work to investigate this science.
" One sees that it is rare -- that striking grasp of opposites opposed each to the other, not to unity, which in cycloid inclusiveness has dwarfed the demonstration of Columbus with the egg -- a triumph of simplicity -- that charitive Euroclydon of frightening disinterestedness which the world hates, admitting: "I am such a cow, if I had a sorrow, I should feel it a long time; I am not one of those who have a great sorrow in the morning and a great joy at noon;" which says: "I have encountered it among those unpretentious proteg?s of wisdom, where seeming to parade as the debater and the Roman, the statesmanship of an archaic Daniel Webster persists to their simplicity of temper as the essence of the matter: `Liberty and union now and forever;' the book on the writing-table; the hand in the breast-pocket.
"
Written by Mark Doty | Create an image from this poem

The Ancient World

 Today the Masons are auctioning 
their discarded pomp: a trunk of turbans, 
gemmed and ostrich-plumed, and operetta costumes 
labeled inside the collar "Potentate" 
and "Vizier.
" Here their chairs, blazoned with the Masons' sign, huddled like convalescents, lean against one another on the grass.
In a casket are rhinestoned poles the hierophants carried in parades; here's a splendid golden staff some ranking officer waved, topped with a golden pyramid and a tiny, inquisitive sphinx.
No one's worn this stuff for years, and it doesn't seem worth buying; where would we put it? Still, I want that staff.
I used to love to go to the library -- the smalltown brick refuge of those with nothing to do, really, 'Carnegie' chiseled on the pediment above columns that dwarfed an inconsequential street.
Embarrassed to carry the same book past the water fountain's plaster centaurs up to the desk again, I'd take The Wonders of the World to the Reading Room where Art and Industry met in the mural on the dome.
The room smelled like two decades before I was born, when the name carved over the door meant something.
I never read the second section, "Wonders of the Modern World"; I loved the promise of my father's blueprints, the unfulfilled turquoise schemes, but in the real structures you could hardly imagine a future.
I wanted the density of history, which I confused with the smell of the book: Babylon's ziggurat tropical with ferns, engraved watercourses rippling; the Colossus of Rhodes balanced over the harbormouth on his immense ankles.
Athena filled one end of the Parthenon, in an "artist's reconstruction", like an adult in a dollhouse.
At Halicarnassus, Mausolus remembered himself immensely, though in the book there wasn't even a sketch, only a picture of huge fragments.
In the pyramid's deep clockworks, did the narrow tunnels mount toward the eye of God? That was the year photos were beamed back from space; falling asleep I used to repeat a new word to myself, telemetry, liking the way it seemed to allude to something storied.
The earth was whorled marble, at that distance.
Even the stuck-on porticoes and collonades downtown were narrative, somehow, but the buildings my father engineered were without stories.
All I wanted was something larger than our ordinary sadness -- greater not in scale but in context, memorable, true to a proportioned, subtle form.
Last year I knew a student, a half mad boy who finally opened his arms with a razor, not because he wanted to die but because he wanted to design something grand on his own body.
Once he said, When a child realizes his parents aren't enough, he turns to architecture.
I think I know what he meant.
Imagine the Masons parading, one of them, in his splendid get-up, striding forward with the golden staff, above his head Cheops' beautiful shape -- a form we cannot separate from the stories about the form, even if we hardly know them, even if it no longer signifies, if it only shines.
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

The Land

 When Julius Fabricius, Sub-Prefect of the Weald,
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field,
He called to him Hobdenius-a Briton of the Clay,
Saying: "What about that River-piece for layin'' in to hay?"

And the aged Hobden answered: "I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin' bad.
An' the more that you neeglect her the less you'll get her clean.
Have it jest as you've a mind to, but, if I was you, I'd dreen.
" So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style-- Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile, And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show, We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.
Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do, And after certain centuries, Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.
Well could Ogier work his war-boat --well could Ogier wield his brand-- Much he knew of foaming waters--not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood, Saying: "What about that River-piece; she doesn't look no good?" And that aged Hobden answered "'Tain't for me not interfere.
But I've known that bit o' meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you've a mind to, but I've proved it time on ' time, If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!" Ogier sent his wains to Lewes, twenty hours' solemn walk, And drew back great abundance of the cool, grey, healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast, never heeding what was in't.
-- Which is why in cleaning ditches, now and then we find a flint.
Ogier died.
His sons grew English-Anglo-Saxon was their name-- Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came; For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men, And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.
But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So, said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds: "Hob, what about that River-bit--the Brook's got up no bounds? " And that aged Hobden answered: "'Tain't my business to advise, But ye might ha' known 'twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can't hold back the water you must try and save the sile.
Hev it jest as you've a mind to, but, if I was you, I'd spile!" They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willow-trees, And planks of elms behind 'em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away You can see their faithful fragments, iron-hard in iron clay.
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Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto, I, who own the River-field, Am fortified with title-deeds, attested, signed and sealed, Guaranteeing me, my assigns, my executors and heirs All sorts of powers and profits which-are neither mine nor theirs, I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish-but Hobden tickles--I can shoot--but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege, Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.
Shall I dog his morning progress o'er the track-betraying dew? Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew? Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran, And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan.
His dead are in the churchyard--thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made; And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.
Not for any beast that burrows, not for any bird that flies, Would I lose his large sound council, miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field-surveyor, engineer, And if flagrantly a poacher--'tain't for me to interfere.
"Hob, what about that River-bit?" I turn to him again, With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
"Hev it jest as you've a mind to, but"-and here he takes com- mand.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus' Hobden owns the land.