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Best Famous James Henry Leigh Hunt Poems


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by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

A Thought of the Nile

 It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands,
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream,
And times and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands,--
Caves, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands
That roamed through the young world, the glory extreme
Of high Sesostris, and that southern beam,
The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands.

Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong,
As of a world left empty of its throng,
And the void weighs on us; and then we wake,
And hear the fruitful stream lapsing along
Twixt villages, and think how we shall take
Our own calm journey on for human sake.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

Robin Hoods Flight

 Robin Hood's mother, these twelve years now,
Has been gone from her earthly home;
And Robin has paid, he scarce knew how,
A sum for a noble tomb.

The church-yard lies on a woody hill,
But open to sun and air:
It seems as if the heaven still
Were looking and smiling there.

Often when Robin looked that way,
He looked through a sweet thin tear;
But he looked in a different manner, they say,
Towards the Abbey of Vere.

He cared not for its ill-got wealth,
He felt not for his pride;
He had youth, and strength, and health,
And enough for one beside.

But he thought of his gentle mother's cheek
How it sunk away, 
And how she used to grow more weak
And weary every day;

And how, when trying a hymn, her voice
At evening would expire,
How unlike it was the arrogant noise
Of the hard throats in the quire:

And Robin thought too of the poor,
How they toiled without their share,
And how the alms at the abbey-door
But kept them as they were:

And he thought him then of the friars again,
Who rode jingling up and down
With their trappings and things as fine as the king's,
Though they wore but a shaven crown.

And then bold Robin he thought of the king,
How he got all his forests and deer,
And how he made the hungry swing
If they killed but one in a year.

And thinking thus, as Robin stood,
Digging his bow in the ground,
He was aware in Gamelyn Wood,
Of one who looked around.

"And what is Will doing," said Robin then,
"That he looks so fearful and wan?"
"Oh my dear master that should have been,
I am a weary man."

"A weary man," said Will Scarlet, "am I;
For unless I pilfer this wood
To sell to the fletchers, for want I shall die
Here in this forest so good.

"Here in this forest where I have been
So happy and so stout,
And like a palfrey on the green
Have carried you about."

"And why, Will Scarlet, not come to me?
Why not to Robin, Will?
For I remember thy love and thy glee,
And the scar that marks thee still;

"And not a soul of my uncle's men
To such a pass should come,
While Robin can find in his pocket or bin
A penny or a crumb.

"Stay thee, Will Scarlet, man, stay awhile;
And kindle a fire for me."
And into the wood for half a mile,
He has vanished instantly.

Robin Hood, with his cheek on fire,
Has drawn his bow so stern,
And a leaping deer, with one leap higher,
Lies motionless in the fern.

Robin, like a proper knight
As he should have been,
Carved a part of the shoulder right,
And bore off a portion clean.

"Oh, what hast thou done, dear master mine!
What hast thou done for me?"
"Roast it, Will, for excepting wine,
Thou shalt feast thee royally."

And Scarlet took and half roasted it,
Blubbering with blinding tears,
And ere he had eaten a second bit,
A trampling came to their ears.

They heard the tramp of a horse's feet,
And they listened and kept still,
For Will was feeble and knelt by the meat;
And Robin he stood by Will.

"Seize him, seize him!" the Abbot cried
With his fat voice through the trees;
Robin a smooth arrow felt and eyed,
And Will jumped stout with his knees.

"Seize him, seize him!" and now they appear
The Abbot and foresters three.
"'Twas I," cried Will Scarlet, "that killed the deer."
Says Robin, "Now let not a man come near,
Or he's dead as dead can be."

But on they came, and with an embrace
The first one the arrow met;
And he came pitching forward and fell on his face,
Like a stumbler in the street.

The others turned to that Abbot vain,
But "seize him!" still he cried,
And as the second turned again,
An arrow was in his side.

"Seize him, seize him still, I say,"
Cried the Abbot in furious chafe,
"Or these dogs will grow so bold some day,
Even priests will not be safe."

A fatal word! for as he sat
Urging the sword to cut,
An arrow stuck in his paunch so fat,
As in a leathern butt,

As in a leathern butt of wine;
Or dough, a household lump;
Or a pumpkin; or a good beef chine,
Stuck that arrow with a dump.

"Truly," said Robin without fear,
Smiling there as he stood,
"Never was slain so fat a deer
In good old Gamelyn wood."

"Pardon, pardon, Sir Robin stout,"
Said he that stood apart,
"As soon as I knew thee, I wished thee out,
Of the forest with all my heart.

"And I pray thee let me follow thee
Any where under the sky,
For thou wilt never stay here with me,
Nor without thee can I."

Robin smiled, and suddenly fell
Into a little thought;
And then into a leafy dell,
The three slain men they brought.

Ancle deep in leaves so red,
Which autumn there had cast,
When going to her winter-bed
She had undrest her last.

And there in a hollow, side by side,
They buried them under the treen;
The Abbot's belly, for all it's pride,
Made not the grave be seen.

Robin Hood, and the forester,
And Scarlet the good Will,
Struck off among the green trees there
Up a pathless hill;

And Robin caught a sudden sight,
Of merry sweet Locksley town,
Reddening in the sun-set bright;
And the gentle tears came down.

Robin looked at the town and land
And the church-yard where it lay;
And poor Will Scarlet kissed his hand,
And turned his head away.

Then Robin turned with a grasp of Will's,
And clapped him on the shoulder,
And said with one of his pleasant smiles,
"Now shew us three men bolder."

And so they took their march away
As firm as if to fiddle,
To journey that night and all next day
With Robin Hood in the middle.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

Robin Hood A Child.

 It was the pleasant season yet,
When the stones at cottage doors
Dry quickly, while the roads are wet,
After the silver showers.

The green leaves they looked greener still,
And the thrush, renewing his tune,
Shook a loud note from his gladsome bill
Into the bright blue noon.

Robin Hood's mother looked out, and said
"It were a shame and a sin
For fear of getting a wet head
To keep such a day within,
Nor welcome up from his sick bed
Your uncle Gamelyn."

And Robin leaped, and thought so too;
And so he has grasped her gown,
And now looking back, they have lost the view
Of merry sweet Locksley town.

Robin was a gentle boy,
And therewithal as bold;
To say he was his mother's joy,
It were a phrase too cold.

His hair upon his thoughtful brow
Came smoothly clipped, and sleek,
But ran into a curl somehow
Beside his merrier cheek.

Great love to him his uncle too
The noble Gamelyn bare,
And often said, as his mother knew,
That he should be his heir.

Gamelyn's eyes, now getting dim,
Would twinkle at his sight,
And his ruddy wrinkles laugh at him
Between his locks so white:

For Robin already let him see
He should beat his playmates all
At wrestling, running, and archery,
Yet he cared not for a fall.

Merriest he was of merry boys,
And would set the old helmets bobbing;
If his uncle asked about the noise,
'Twas "If you please, Sir, Robin."

And yet if the old man wished no noise,
He'd come and sit at his knee,
And be the gravest of grave-eyed boys;
And not a word spoke he.

So whenever he and his mother came
To brave old Gamelyn Hall,
'Twas nothing there but sport and game,
And holiday folks all:
The servants never were to blame,
Though they let the physic fall.

And now the travellers turn the road,
And now they hear the rooks;
And there it is, — the old abode,
With all its hearty looks.

Robin laughed, and the lady too,
And they looked at one another;
Says Robin, "I'll knock, as I'm used to do,
At uncle's window, mother."

And so he pick'd up some pebbles and ran,
And jumping higher and higher,
He reach'd the windows with tan a ran tan,
And instead of the kind old white-haired man,
There looked out a fat friar.

"How now," said the fat friar angrily,
"What is this knocking so wild?"
But when he saw young Robin's eye,
He said "Go round, my child.

"Go round to the hall, and I'll tell you all."
"He'll tell us all!" thought Robin;
And his mother and he went quietly,
Though her heart was set a throbbing.

The friar stood in the inner door,
And tenderly said, "I fear
You know not the good squire's no more,
Even Gamelyn de Vere.

"Gamelyn de Vere is dead,
He changed but yesternight:"
"Now make us way," the lady said,
"To see that doleful sight."

"Good Gamelyn de Vere is dead,
And has made us his holy heirs:"
The lady stayed not for all he said,
But went weeping up the stairs.

Robin and she went hand in hand,
Weeping all the way,
Until they came where the lord of that land
Dumb in his cold bed lay.

His hand she took, and saw his dead look,
With the lids over each eye-ball;
And Robin and she wept as plenteously,
As though he had left them all.

"I will return, Sir Abbot of Vere,
I will return as is meet,
And see my honoured brother dear
Laid in his winding sheet.

And I will stay, for to go were a sin,
For all a woman's tears,
And see the noble Gamelyn
Laid low with the De Veres."

The lady went with a sick heart out
Into the kind fresh air,
And told her Robin all about
The abbot whom he saw there:

And how his uncle must have been
Disturbed in his failing sense,
To leave his wealth to these artful men,
At her's and Robin's expense.

Sad was the stately day for all
But the Vere Abbey friars,
When the coffin was stript of its hiding pall,
Amidst the hushing choirs.

Sad was the earth-dropping "dust to dust,"
And "our brother here departed;"
The lady shook at them, as shake we must,
And Robin he felt strange-hearted.

That self-same evening, nevertheless,
They returned to Locksley town,
The lady in a dumb distress,
And Robin looking down.

They went, and went, and Robin took
Long steps by his mother's side,
Till she asked him with a sad sweet look
What made him so thoughtful-eyed.

"I was thinking, mother," said little Robin,
And with his own voice so true
He spoke right out, "That if I was a king,
I'd see what those friars do."

His mother stooped with a tear of joy,
And she kissed him again and again,
And said, "My own little Robin boy,
Thou wilt be a King of Men!"


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

May and the Poets

 There is May in books forever; 
May will part from Spenser never; 
May's in Milton, May's in Prior, 
May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer; 
May's in all the Italian books:-- 
She has old and modern nooks, 
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves, 
In happy places they call shelves, 
And will rise and dress your rooms 
With a drapery thick with blooms. 
Come, ye rains, then if ye will, 
May's at home, and with me still; 
But come rather, thou, good weather, 
And find us in the fields together.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

An Angel in the House

 How sweet it were, if without feeble fright, 
Or dying of the dreadful beauteous sight, 
An angel came to us, and we could bear 
To see him issue from the silent air 
At evening in our room, and bend on ours 
His divine eyes, and bring us from his bowers 
News of dear friends, and children who have never 
Been dead indeed,--as we shall know forever. 
Alas! we think not what we daily see 
About our hearths,--angels that are to be, 
Or may be if they will, and we prepare 
Their souls and ours to meet in happy air;-- 
A child, a friend, a wife whose soft heart sings 
In unison with ours, breeding its future wings.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

Death

 Come thou, thou last one, whom I recognize,
unbearable pain throughout this body's fabric:
as I in my spirit burned, see, I now burn in thee:
the wood that long resisted the advancing flames
which thou kept flaring, I now am nourishinig
and burn in thee.

My gentle and mild being through thy ruthless fury
has turned into a raging hell that is not from here.
Quite pure, quite free of future planning, I mounted
the tangled funeral pyre built for my suffering,
so sure of nothing more to buy for future needs,
while in my heart the stored reserves kept silent.

Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn?
Memories I do not seize and bring inside.
O life! O living! O to be outside!
And I in flames. And no one here who knows me. 



[Written in December 1926, this poem was the last
entry in Rilke's notebook, less than two weeks before his
death at age 51.]


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

Death

 My body, eh? Friend Death, how now? 
Why all this tedious pomp of writ? 
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow 
For half a century bit by bit.

In faith thou knowest more to-day 
Than I do, where it can be found! 
This shrivelled lump of suffering clay, 
To which I am now chained and bound,

Has not of kith or kin a trace 
To the good body once I bore; 
Look at this shrunken, ghastly face: 
Didst ever see that face before?

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art; 
Thy only fault thy lagging gait, 
Mistaken pity in thy heart 
For timorous ones that bid thee wait.

Do quickly all thou hast to do, 
Nor I nor mine will hindrance make; 
I shall be free when thou art through; 
I grudge thee nought that thou must take!

Stay! I have lied; I grudge thee one, 
Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,-- 
Two members which have faithful done 
My will and bidding in the past.

I grudge thee this right hand of mine; 
I grudge thee this quick-beating heart; 
They never gave me coward sign, 
Nor played me once the traitor's part.

I see now why in olden days 
Men in barbaric love or hate 
Nailed enemies' hands at wild crossways, 
Shrined leaders' hearts in costly state:

The symbol, sign and instrument 
Of each soul's purpose, passion, strife, 
Of fires in which are poured and spent 
Their all of love, their all of life.

O feeble, mighty human hand! 
O fragile, dauntless human heart! 
The universe holds nothing planned 
With such sublime, transcendent art!

Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine 
Poor little hand, so feeble now; 
Its wrinkled palm, its altered line, 
Its veins so pallid and so slow --

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art; 
I shall be free when thou art through. 
Take all there is -- take hand and heart; 
There must be somewhere work to do.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

A Fish Answers

 Amazing monster! that, for aught I know, 
With the first sight of thee didst make our race 
For ever stare! O flat and shocking face, 
Grimly divided from the breast below! 
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go 
With a split body and most ridiculous pace, 
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace, 
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow! 

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air, 
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry 
And dreary sloth? WHat particle canst share 
Of the only blessed life, the watery? 
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair 
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

The Negro Boy

 Paupertas onus visa est grave.


Cold blows the wind, and while the tear
Bursts trembling from my swollen eyes,
The rain's big drop, quick meets it there,
And on my naked bosom flies!
O pity, all ye sons of Joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy.

These tatter'd clothes, this ice-cold breast
By Winter harden'd into steel,
These eyes, that know not soothing rest,
But speak the half of what I feel!
Long, long, I never new one joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!

Cannot the sigh of early grief
Move but one charitable mind?
Cannot one hand afford relief?
One Christian pity, and be kind?
Weep, weep, for thine was never joy,
O little wand'ring Negro-boy!

Is there a good which men call Pleasure?
O Ozmyn, would that it were thine!
Give me this only precious treasure;
How it would soften grief like mine!
Then Ozmyn might be call'd, with joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!

My limbs these twelve long years have borne
The rage of ev'ry angry wind:
Yet still does Ozmyn weep and mourn,
Yet still no ease, no rest can find!
Then death, alas, must soon destroy
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!

No sorrow e'er disturbs the rest,
That dwells within the lonely grave;
Thou best resource, the wo-wrung breast
E'er ask'd of Heav'n, or Heav'n e'er gave!
Ah then, farewell, vain world, with joy
I die the happy Negro-boy!


by James Henry Leigh Hunt |

Rondeau

 Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and welth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.