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Best Famous John Davidson Poems

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by John Davidson |

The Last Rose

 'O WHICH is the last rose?' 
A blossom of no name. 
At midnight the snow came; 
At daybreak a vast rose, 
In darkness unfurl'd, 
O'er-petall'd the world. 

Its odourless pallor 
Blossom'd forlorn, 
Till radiant valour 
Establish'd the morn-- 
Till the night 
Was undone 
In her fight 
With the sun. 

The brave orb in state rose, 
And crimson he shone first; 
While from the high vine 
Of heaven the dawn burst, 
Staining the great rose 
From sky-line to sky-line. 

The red rose of morn 
A white rose at noon turn'd; 
But at sunset reborn 
All red again soon burn'd. 
Then the pale rose of noonday 
Rebloom'd in the night, 
And spectrally white 
 In the light 
Of the moon lay. 

But the vast rose 
 Was scentless, 
And this is the reason: 
When the blast rose 
And brought in due season 
The snow rose, the last rose 
Congeal'd in its breath, 
Then came with it treason; 
The traitor was Death. 

In lee-valleys crowded, 
The sheep and the birds 
Were frozen and shrouded 
In flights and in herds. 
In highways 
And byways 
The young and the old 
Were tortured and madden'd 
And kill'd by the cold. 
But many were gladden'd 
By the beautiful last rose, 
The blossom of no name 
That came when the snow came, 
In darkness unfurl'd-- 
The wonderful vast rose 
That fill'd all the world.

by John Davidson |

Song of a Train

 A monster taught 
To come to hand 
As swift as thought 
Across the land 
The train. 

The song it sings 
Has an iron sound; 
Its iron wings 
Like wheels go round. 

Crash under bridges, 
Flash over ridges, 
And vault the downs; 
The road is straight -- 
Nor stile, nor gate; 
For milestones -- towns! 

Voluminous, vanishing, white, 
The steam plume trails; 
Parallel streaks of light, 
THe polished rails. 

Oh, who can follow? 
The little swallow, 
The trout of the sky: 
But the sun 
Is outrun, 
And Time passed by. 

O'er bosky dens, 
By marsh and mead, 
Forest and fens 
Embodied speed 
Is clanked and hurled; 
O'er rivers and runnels; 
And into the earth 
And out again 
In death and birth 
That know no pain, 
For the whole round world 
Is a warren of railway tunnels. 

Hark! hark! hark! 
It screams and cleaves the dark; 
And the subterranean night 
Is gilt with smoky light. 
Then out again apace 
It runs its thundering race, 
The monster taught 
To come to hand 
That swift as thought 
Speeds through the land 
The train.

by John Davidson |

A Loafer

 I hang about the streets all day,
At night I hang about;
I sleep a little when I may,
But rise betimes the morning's scout;
For through the year I always hear
Afar, aloft, a ghostly shout.

My clothes are worn to threads and loops;
My skin shows here and there ;
About my face like seaweed droops
My tangled beard, my tangled hair;
From cavernous and shaggy brows
My stony eyes untroubled stare.

I move from eastern wretchedness
Through Fleet Street and the Strand;
And as the pleasant people press
I touch them softly with my hand,
Perhaps I know that still I go
Alive about a living land.

For far in front the clouds are riven
I hear the ghostly cry,
As if a still voice fell from heaven
To where sea-whelmed the drowned folk lie
In sepulchres no tempest stirs
And only eyeless things pass by.

In Piccadilly spirits pass:
Oh, eyes and cheeks that glow!
Oh, strength and comeliness! Alas,
The lustrous health is earth I know
From shrinking eyes that recognise
No brother in my rags and woe.

I know no handicraft, no art,
But I have conquered fate;
For I have chosen the better part,
And neither hope, nor fear, nor hate.
With placid breath on pain and death,
My certain alms, alone I wait.

And daily, nightly comes the call,
The pale unechoing note,
The faint "Aha!" sent from the wall
Of heaven, but from no ruddy throat
Of human breed or seraph's seed,
A phantom voice that cries by rote.

by John Davidson |

A Ballad of Hell

 'A letter from my love to-day!
Oh, unexpected, dear appeal!'
She struck a happy tear away,
And broke the crimson seal.

'My love, there is no help on earth,
No help in heaven; the dead-man's bell
Must toll our wedding; our first hearth
Must be the well-paved floor of hell.'

The colour died from out her face,
Her eyes like ghostly candles shone;
She cast dread looks about the place,
Then clenched her teeth and read right on.

'I may not pass the prison door;
Here must I rot from day to day,
Unless I wed whom I abhor,
My cousin, Blanche of Valencay.

'At midnight with my dagger keen,
I'll take my life; it must be so.
Meet me in hell to-night, my queen,
For weal and woe.'

She laughed although her face was wan,
She girded on her golden belt,
She took her jewelled ivory fan,
And at her glowing missal knelt.

Then rose, 'And am I mad?' she said:
She broke her fan, her belt untied;
With leather girt herself instead,
And stuck a dagger at her side.

She waited, shuddering in her room,
Till sleep had fallen on all the house.
She never flinched; she faced her doom:
They two must sin to keep their vows.

Then out into the night she went,
And, stooping, crept by hedge and tree;
Her rose-bush flung a snare of scent,
And caught a happy memory.

She fell, and lay a minute's space;
She tore the sward in her distress;
The dewy grass refreshed her face;
She rose and ran with lifted dress.

She started like a morn-caught ghost
Once when the moon came out and stood
To watch; the naked road she crossed,
And dived into the murmuring wood.

The branches snatched her streaming cloak;
A live thing shrieked; she made no stay!
She hurried to the trysting-oak—
Right well she knew the way.

Without a pause she bared her breast,
And drove her dagger home and fell,
And lay like one that takes her rest,
And died and wakened up in hell.

She bathed her spirit in the flame,
And near the centre took her post;
From all sides to her ears there came
The dreary anguish of the lost.

The devil started at her side,
Comely, and tall, and black as jet.
'I am young Malespina's bride;
Has he come hither yet?'

'My poppet, welcome to your bed.'
'Is Malespina here?'
'Not he! To-morrow he must wed
His cousin Blanche, my dear!'

'You lie, he died with me to-night.'
'Not he! it was a plot' ... 'You lie.'
'My dear, I never lie outright.'
'We died at midnight, he and I.'

The devil went. Without a groan
She, gathered up in one fierce prayer,
Took root in hell's midst all alone,
And waited for him there.

She dared to make herself at home
Amidst the wail, the uneasy stir.
The blood-stained flame that filled the dome,
Scentless and silent, shrouded her.

How long she stayed I cannot tell;
But when she felt his perfidy,
She marched across the floor of hell;
And all the damned stood up to see.

The devil stopped her at the brink:
She shook him off; she cried, 'Away!'
'My dear, you have gone mad, I think.'
'I was betrayed: I will not stay.'

Across the weltering deep she ran;
A stranger thing was never seen:
The damned stood silent to a man;
They saw the great gulf set between.

To her it seemed a meadow fair;
And flowers sprang up about her feet
She entered heaven; she climbed the stair
And knelt down at the mercy-seat.

Seraphs and saints with one great voice
Welcomed that soul that knew not fear.
Amazed to find it could rejoice,
Hell raised a hoarse, half-human cheer.

by John Davidson |


 Late December: my father and I
are going to New York, to the circus.
He holds me
on his shoulders in the bitter wind:
scraps of white paper
blow over the railroad ties.

My father liked
to stand like this, to hold me
so he couldn't see me.
I remember
staring straight ahead
into the world my father saw;
I was learning
to absorb its emptiness,
the heavy snow
not falling, whirling around us.

by John Davidson |


 There is a dish to hold the sea, 
A brazier to contain the sun, 
A compass for the galaxy, 
A voice to wake the dead and done! 

That minister of ministers, 
Imagination, gathers up 
The undiscovered Universe, 
Like jewels in a jasper cup. 

Its flame can mingle north and south; 
Its accent with the thunder strive; 
The ruddy sentence of its mouth 
Can make the ancient dead alive. 

The mart of power, the fount of will, 
The form and mould of every star, 
The source and bound of good and ill, 
The key of all the things that are, 

Imagination, new and strange 
In every age, can turn the year; 
Can shift the poles and lightly change 
The mood of men, the world's career.

by John Davidson |


 The war of words is done;
The red-lipped cannon speak;
The battle has begun.

The web your speeches spun
Tears and blood shall streak;
The war of words is done.

Smoke enshrouds the sun;
Earth staggers at the shriek
Of battle new begun.

Poltroons and braggarts run:
Woe to the poor, the meek!
The war of words is done.

"And hope not now to shun
The doom that dogs the weak,"
Thunders every gun;

"Victory must be won."
When the red-lipped cannon speak,
The war of words is done,
The slaughter has begun.

by John Davidson |


 No breath of wind,
No gleam of sun – 
Still the white snow
Whirls softly down
Twig and bough
And blade and thorn
All in an icy
Quiet, forlorn.
Whispering, rustling,
Through the air
On still and stone,
Roof, - everywhere,
It heaps its powdery
Crystal flakes,
Of every tree
A mountain makes;
‘Til pale and faint
At shut of day
Stoops from the West
One wint’ry ray,
And, feathered in fire
Where ghosts the moon,
A robin shrills
His lonely tune.

by John Davidson |

War Song

 Remember the Glories of Brien the Brave

Remember the glories of Brien the brave, 
Though the days of the hero are o'er, 
Though lost to Mononia and cold to the grave, 
He returns to Kinkora no more. 
That star of the field, which so often hath pour'd 
Its beam on the battle, is set; 
But enough of its glory remains on each sword, 
To light us to victory yet. 

Mononia! when Nature embellish'd the tint 
Of thy fields, and thy mountains so fair, 
Did she ever intend that a tyrant should print 
The footstep of slavery there? 
No! Freedom, whose smile we shall never resign, 
Go, tell our invaders, the Danes, 
That 'tis sweeter to bleed for an age at thy shrine, 
Than to sleep but a moment in chains. 

Forget not our wounded companions who stoood
In the day of distress by our side; 
While the moss of the valley grew red with their blood, 
They stirr'd not, but conquer'd and died. 
That sun which now blesses our arms with his light, 
Saw them fall upon Ossory's plain; -- 
Oh! let him not blush, when he leaves us to-night, 
To find that they fell there in vain.

by John Davidson |


 In the gloom of whiteness, 
In the great silence of snow, 
A child was sighing 
And bitterly saying: "Oh, 
They have killed a white bird up there on her nest, 
The down is fluttering from her breast!" 
And still it fell through that dusky brightness 
On the child crying for the bird of the snow.