Phillis Wheatley | |
Grim monarch! see, depriv'd of vital breath,
A young physician in the dust of death:
Dost thou go on incessant to destroy,
Our griefs to double, and lay waste our joy?
"Enough" thou never yet wast known to say,
Though millions die, the vassals of thy sway:
Nor youth, nor science, nor the ties of love,
Nor aught on earth thy flinty heart can move.
The friend, the spouse from his dire dart to save,
In vain we ask the sovereign of the grave.
Fair mourner, there see thy lov'd Leonard laid,
And o'er him spread the deep impervious shade;
Clos'd are his eyes, and heavy fetters keep
His senses bound in never-waking sleep,
Till time shall cease, till many a starry world
Shall fall from heav'n, in dire confusion hurl'd,
Till nature in her final wreck shall lie,
And her last groan shall rend the azure sky:
Not, not till then his active soul shall claim
His body, a divine immortal frame.
But see the softly-stealing tears apace
Pursue each other down the mourner's face;
But cease thy tears, bid ev'ry sigh depart,
And cast the load of anguish from thine heart:
From the cold shell of his great soul arise,
And look beyond, thou native of the skies;
There fix thy view, where fleeter than the wind
Thy Leonard mounts, and leaves the earth behind.
Thyself prepare to pass the vale of night
To join for ever on the hills of light:
To thine embrace his joyful sprit moves
To thee, the partner of his earthly loves;
He welcomes thee to pleasures more refin'd,
And better suited to th' immortal mind.
Conrad Aiken | |
Here on the pale beach, in the darkness;
With the full moon just to rise;
They sit alone, and look over the sea,
Or into each other's eyes.
She pokes her parasol into the sleepy sand,
Or sifts the lazy whiteness through her hand.
'A lovely night,' he says, 'the moon,
Comes up for you and me.
Just like a blind old spotlight there,
Fizzing across the sea!'
She pays no heed, nor even turns her head:
He slides his arm around her waist instead.
'Why don't we do a sketch together--
Those songs you sing are swell.
Where did you get them, anyway?
They suit you awfully well.
She will not turn to him--will not resist.
Impassive, she submits to being kissed.
'My husband wrote all four of them.
You know,--my husband drowned.
He was always sickly, soon depressed.
But still she hears the sound
Of a stateroom door shut hard, and footsteps going
Swiftly and steadily, and the dark sea flowing.
She hears the dark sea flowing, and sees his eyes
Hollow with disenchantment, sick surprise,--
And hate of her whom he had loved too well.
She lowers her eyes, demurely prods a shell.
We might do an act together.
That would be very nice.
He kisses her passionately, and thinks
She's carnal, but cold as ice.
Anna Akhmatova | |
Hail! Hail to thee, o, immovable pain!
The young grey-eyed king had been yesterday slain.
This autumnal evening was stuffy and red.
My husband, returning, had quietly said,
"He'd left for his hunting; they carried him home;
They'd found him under the old oak's dome.
I pity the queen.
He, so young, past away!.
During one night her black hair turned to grey.
He found his pipe on a warm fire-place,
And quietly left for his usual race.
Now my daughter will wake up and rise --
Mother will look in her dear grey eyes.
And poplars by windows rustle as sing,
"Never again will you see your young king.
More great poems below...
William Cullen Bryant | |
STAND here by my side and turn, I pray,
On the lake below thy gentle eyes;
The clouds hang over it, heavy and gray,
And dark and silent the water lies;
And out of that frozen mist the snow 5
In wavering flakes begins to flow;
Flake after flake
They sink in the dark and silent lake.
See how in a living swarm they come
From the chambers beyond that misty veil; 10
Some hover awhile in air, and some
Rush prone from the sky like summer hail.
All, dropping swiftly or settling slow,
Meet and are still in the depths below;
Flake after flake 15
Dissolved in the dark and silent lake.
Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud,
Come floating downward in airy play,
Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd
That whiten by night the milky-way; 20
There broader and burlier masses fall;
The sullen water buries them all¡ª
Flake after flake
All drowned in the dark and silent lake.
And some, as on tender wings they glide 25
From their chilly birth-cloud, dim and gray,
Are joined in their fall, and, side by side,
Come clinging along their unsteady way;
As friend with friend, or husband with wife,
Makes hand in hand the passage of life; 30
Each mated flake
Soon sinks in the dark and silent lake.
Lo! while we are gazing, in swifter haste
Stream down the snows, till the air is white,
As, myriads by myriads madly chased, 35
They fling themselves from their shadowy height.
The fair, frail creatures of middle sky,
What speed they make, with their grave so nigh;
Flake after flake,
To lie in the dark and silent lake! 40
I see in thy gentle eyes a tear;
They turn to me in sorrowful thought;
Thou thinkest of friends, the good and dear,
Who were for a time and now are not;
Like these fair children of cloud and frost, 45
That glisten a moment and then are lost,
Flake after flake¡ª
All lost in the dark and silent lake.
Yet look again, for the clouds divide;
A gleam of blue on the water lies; 50
And far away, on the mountain-side,
A sunbeam falls from the opening skies.
But the hurrying host that flew between
The cloud and the water, no more is seen;
Flake after flake, 55
At rest in the dark and silent lake.
I send nor balms nor cor'sives to your wound:
Your fate hath found
A gentler and more agile hand to tend
The cure of that which is but corporal; 5
And doubtful days which were named critical
Have made their fairest flight
And now are out of sight.
Yet doth some wholesome physic for the mind
Wrapp'd in this paper lie 10
Which in the taking if you misapply
You are unkind.
Your covetous hand
Happy in that fair honour it hath gain'd
Must now be rein'd.
True valour doth her own renown command
In one full action; nor have you now more
To do than be a husband of that store.
Think but how dear you bought
This fame which you have caught: 20
Such thoughts will make you more in love with truth.
'Tis wisdom and that high
For men to use their fortune reverently
Even in youth.
Sappho | |
Some an army of horsemen some an army on foot
and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight
on this dark earth; but I say it is what-
ever you desire:
and it it possible to make this perfectly clear
to all; for the woman who far surpassed all others
in her beauty Helen left her husband --
the best of all men --
behind and sailed far away to Troy; she did not spare
a single thought for her child nor for her dear parents
but [the goddess of love] led her astray
reminds me now of Anactoria
although far away
--Translated by Josephine Balmer
Oliver Wendell Holmes | |
OH for one hour of youthful joy!
Give back my twentieth spring!
I'd rather laugh, a bright-haired boy,
Than reign, a gray-beard king.
Off with the spoils of wrinkled age!
Away with Learning's crown!
Tear out life's Wisdom-written page,
And dash its trophies down!
One moment let my life-blood stream
From boyhood's fount of flame!
Give me one giddy, reeling dream
Of life all love and fame!
My listening angel heard the prayer,
And, calmly smiling, said,
"If I but touch thy silvered hair
Thy hasty wish hath sped.
"But is there nothing in thy track,
To bid thee fondly stay,
While the swift seasons hurry back
To find the wished-for day?"
"Ah, truest soul of womankind!
Without thee what were life ?
One bliss I cannot leave behind:
I'll take-- my-- precious-- wife!"
The angel took a sapphire pen
And wrote in rainbow dew,
The man would be a boy again,
And be a husband too!
"And is there nothing yet unsaid,
Before the change appears?
Remember, all their gifts have fled
With those dissolving years.
"Why, yes;" for memory would recall
My fond paternal joys;
"I could not bear to leave them all--
I'll take-- my-- girl-- and-- boys.
The smiling angel dropped his pen,--
"Why, this will never do;
The man would be a boy again,
And be a father too!"
And so I laughed,-- my laughter woke
The household with its noise,--
And wrote my dream, when morning broke,
To please the gray-haired boys.
John Crowe Ransom | |
Captain Carpenter rose up in his prime
Put on his pistols and went riding out
But had got wellnigh nowhere at that time
Till he fell in with ladies in a rout.
It was a pretty lady and all her train
That played with him so sweetly but before
An hour she'd taken a sword with all her main
And twined him of his nose for evermore.
Captain Carpenter mounted up one day
And rode straightway into a stranger rogue
That looked unchristian but be that as may
The Captain did not wait upon prologue.
But drew upon him out of his great heart
The other swung against him with a club
And cracked his two legs at the shinny part
And let him roll and stick like any tub.
Captain Carpenter rode many a time
From male and female took he sundry harms
He met the wife of Satan crying "I'm
The she-wolf bids you shall bear no more arms.
Their strokes and counters whistled in the wind
I wish he had delivered half his blows
But where she should have made off like a hind
The bitch bit off his arms at the elbows.
And Captain Carpenter parted with his ears
To a black devil that used him in this wise
O Jesus ere his threescore and ten years
Another had plucked out his sweet blue eyes.
Captain Carpenter got up on his roan
And sallied from the gate in hell's despite
I heard him asking in the grimmest tone
If any enemy yet there was to fight?
"To any adversary it is fame
If he risk to be wounded by my tongue
Or burnt in two beneath my red heart's flame
Such are the perils he is cast among.
"But if he can he has a pretty choice
From an anatomy with little to lose
Whether he cut my tongue and take my voice
Or whether it be my round red heart he choose.
It was the neatest knave that ever was seen
Stepping in perfume from his lady's bower
Who at this word put in his merry mien
And fell on Captain Carpenter like a tower.
I would not knock old fellows in the dust
But there lay Captain Carpenter on his back
His weapons were the old heart in his bust
And a blade shook between rotten teeth alack.
The rogue in scarlet and grey soon knew his mind.
He wished to get his trophy and depart
With gentle apology and touch refined
He pierced him and produced the Captain's heart.
God's mercy rest on Captain Carpenter now (a,
I thought him Sirs an honest gentleman
Citizen husband soldier and scholar enow
Let jangling kites eat of him if they can.
But God's deep curses follow after those
That shore him of his goodly nose and ears
His legs and strong arms at the two elbows
And eyes that had not watered seventy years.
The curse of hell upon the sleek upstart
That got the Captain finally on his back
And took the red red vitals of his heart
And made the kites to whet their beaks clack clack.
James Lee Jobe | |
Charlie, sunrise is a three-legged mongrel dog,
going deaf, already blind in one eye,
answering to the unlikely name, 'Lucky.
The sky, at gray-blue dawn, is a football field painted
by smiling artists.
Each artist has 3 arms, 3 hands, 3 legs.
One leg drags behind, leaving a trail, leaving a mark.
The future resembles a cloudy dream
where the ghosts of all your life
try to tell you something, but what?
Noon is a plate of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Midnight is an ugly chipped plate
that you only use when you are alone.
Sunset is a wise cat who ignores you
even when you are offering food; her conception
of what life is, or isn't, far exceeds our own.
This moment is a desert at midnight,
the hunting moon is full, and owls
fly through a cloudless sky.
The past is a winding, green river valley
deep between pine covered ridges;
what can you make of that?
Night is a secret plant growing inky black against the sky.
When this plant's life is over, then day returns
like a drunken husband who stayed out until breakfast.
A smile is a quick glimpse at the pretty face of hope.
Hope's face is framed by the beautiful night sky.
Hope's face is framed by the gray-blue dawn.
This is your life, these seconds and years
are the music for your only dance.
This is the eternity that you get to know.
Edna St Vincent Millay | |
I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.
And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope.
Penelope, who really cried.
Ben Jonson | |
? ON SIR VOLUPTUOUS BEAST.
While BEAST instructs his fair and innocent wife,
In the past pleasures of his sensual life,
Telling the motions of each petticoat,
And how his Ganymede mov'd, and how his goat,
And now her hourly her own cucquean makes,
In varied shapes, which for his lust she takes :
What doth he else, but say, Leave to be chaste,
Just wife, and, to change me, make woman's haste.
Ganymede, in Greek mythology, a beautiful shepherd boy
with whom Zeus fell in love.
[Cuckold + queen], a woman whose
husband is unfaithful to her.
Erin Belieu | |
Ferdinand was systematic when
he drove his daughter mad.
With a Casanova's careful art,
he moved slowly,
stole only one child at a time
through tunnels specially dug
behind the walls of her royal
chamber, then paid the Duenna
well to remember nothing
but his appreciation.
Imagine how quietly
the servants must have worked,
loosening the dirt, the muffled
ring of pick-ends against
the castle stone.
one eye gauging the drugged girl's
sleep, each night handing over
another light parcel, another
small body vanished
through the mouth of a hole.
Once you were a daughter, too,
then a wife and now the mother
of a baby with a Spanish name.
Paloma, you call her, little dove;
she sleeps in a room beyond you.
Your husband, too, works late,
drinks too much at night, comes
home lit, wanting sex and dinner.
You feign sleep, shrunk
in the corner of the queen-sized bed.
You've confessed, you can't feel things
when they touch you;
take Prozac for depression, Ativan
for the buzz.
Drunk, you call your father
who doesn't want to claim
He says he never loved your mother.
No one remembers Juana; almost
everything's forgotten in time,
and if I tell her story,
it's only when guessing
what she loved, what she dreamed
about, the lost details of a life
that barely survives history.
God and Latin, I suppose, what she loved.
And dreams of mice pouring out
from a hole.
The Duenna, in spite
of her black, widow's veil, leaning
to kiss her, saying Juana, don't listen.
I had a little husband no bigger than my thumb,
I put him in a pint pot, and there I bid him drum,
I bought a little handkerchief to wipe his little nose,
And a pair of little garters to tie his little hose.
There was an old woman in Surrey,
Who was morn, noon, and night in a hurry;
Called her husband a fool,
Drove the children to school,
The worrying old woman of Surrey.
Julie Hill Alger | |
In the red-roofed stucco house
of my childhood, the dining room
was screened off by folding doors
with small glass panes.
the Bertins, who barely escaped Hitler,
often joined us at table.
their daughter said, In Vienna
our dining room had doors like these.
For a moment, we all sat quite still.
And when Nath Nong, who has to live
in Massachusetts now, saw a picture
of green Cambodian fields she said,
My father have animal like this,
name krebey English? I told her,
She said, Very very
She put her finger
on the picture of the water buffalo
and spoke its Khmer name once more.
So today, when someone (my ex-
husband) sends me a shiny picture
of a church in Santa Cruz that lost
its steeple in the recent earthquake
there's no reason at all
for my throat to ache at the sight
of a Pacific-blue sky and an old church
three thousand miles away, because
if I can only save enough money
I can go back there any time
and stay as long as I want.