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Best Famous Joyce Kilmer Poems

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by Joyce Kilmer |

Delicatessen

 Why is that wanton gossip Fame
So dumb about this man's affairs?
Why do we titter at his name
Who come to buy his curious wares?
Here is a shop of wonderment.
From every land has come a prize;
Rich spices from the Orient,
And fruit that knew Italian skies,
And figs that ripened by the sea
In Smyrna, nuts from hot Brazil,
Strange pungent meats from Germany,
And currants from a Grecian hill.
He is the lord of goodly things
That make the poor man's table gay,
Yet of his worth no minstrel sings
And on his tomb there is no bay.
Perhaps he lives and dies unpraised,
This trafficker in humble sweets,
Because his little shops are raised
By thousands in the city streets.
Yet stars in greater numbers shine,
And violets in millions grow,
And they in many a golden line
Are sung, as every child must know.
Perhaps Fame thinks his worried eyes,
His wrinkled, shrewd, pathetic face,
His shop, and all he sells and buys
Are desperately commonplace.
Well, it is true he has no sword
To dangle at his booted knees.
He leans across a slab of board,
And draws his knife and slices cheese.
He never heard of chivalry,
He longs for no heroic times;
He thinks of pickles, olives, tea,
And dollars, nickles, cents and dimes.
His world has narrow walls, it seems;
By counters is his soul confined;
His wares are all his hopes and dreams,
They are the fabric of his mind.
Yet -- in a room above the store
There is a woman -- and a child
Pattered just now across the floor;
The shopman looked at him and smiled.
For, once he thrilled with high romance
And tuned to love his eager voice.
Like any cavalier of France
He wooed the maiden of his choice.
And now deep in his weary heart
Are sacred flames that whitely burn.
He has of Heaven's grace a part
Who loves, who is beloved in turn.
And when the long day's work is done,
(How slow the leaden minutes ran!)
Home, with his wife and little son,
He is no huckster, but a man!
And there are those who grasp his hand,
Who drink with him and wish him well.
O in no drear and lonely land
Shall he who honors friendship dwell.
And in his little shop, who knows
What bitter games of war are played?
Why, daily on each corner grows
A foe to rob him of his trade.
He fights, and for his fireside's sake;
He fights for clothing and for bread:
The lances of his foemen make
A steely halo round his head.
He decks his window artfully,
He haggles over paltry sums.
In this strange field his war must be
And by such blows his triumph comes.
What if no trumpet sounds to call
His armed legions to his side?
What if, to no ancestral hall
He comes in all a victor's pride?
The scene shall never fit the deed.
Grotesquely wonders come to pass.
The fool shall mount an Arab steed
And Jesus ride upon an ass.
This man has home and child and wife
And battle set for every day.
This man has God and love and life;
These stand, all else shall pass away.
O Carpenter of Nazareth,
Whose mother was a village maid,
Shall we, Thy children, blow our breath
In scorn on any humble trade?
Have pity on our foolishness
And give us eyes, that we may see
Beneath the shopman's clumsy dress
The splendor of humanity!


by Joyce Kilmer |

St. Laurence

 Within the broken Vatican
The murdered Pope is lying dead.
The soldiers of Valerian
Their evil hands are wet and red.
Unarmed, unmoved, St. Laurence waits,
His cassock is his only mail.
The troops of Hell have burst the gates,
But Christ is Lord, He shall prevail.
They have encompassed him with steel,
They spit upon his gentle face,
He smiles and bleeds, nor will reveal
The Church's hidden treasure-place.
Ah, faithful steward, worthy knight,
Well hast thou done. Behold thy fee!
Since thou hast fought the goodly fight
A martyr's death is fixed for thee.
St. Laurence, pray for us to bear
The faith which glorifies thy name.
St. Laurence, pray for us to share
The wounds of Love's consuming flame.


by Joyce Kilmer |

To Certain Poets

 Now is the rhymer's honest trade
A thing for scornful laughter made.
The merchant's sneer, the clerk's disdain,
These are the burden of our pain.
Because of you did this befall,
You brought this shame upon us all.
You little poets mincing there
With women's hearts and women's hair!
How sick Dan Chaucer's ghost must be
To hear you lisp of "Poesie"!
A heavy-handed blow, I think,
Would make your veins drip scented ink.
You strut and smirk your little while
So mildly, delicately vile!

Your tiny voices mock God's wrath,
You snails that crawl along His path!
Why, what has God or man to do
With wet, amorphous things like you?
This thing alone you have achieved:
Because of you, it is believed
That all who earn their bread by rhyme
Are like yourselves, exuding slime.
Oh, cease to write, for very shame,
Ere all men spit upon our name!
Take up your needles, drop your pen,
And leave the poet's craft to men!


by Joyce Kilmer |

Vision

 (For Aline)

Homer, they tell us, was blind and could not see the beautiful 
faces
Looking up into his own and reflecting the joy of his dream,
Yet did he seem
Gifted with eyes that could follow the gods to their holiest places.
I have no vision of gods, not of Eros with love-arrows laden,
Jupiter thundering death or of Juno his white-breasted queen,
Yet have I seen
All of the joy of the world in the innocent heart of a maiden.


by Joyce Kilmer |

Mount Houvenkopf

 Serene he stands, with mist serenely crowned,
And draws a cloak of trees about his breast.
The thunder roars but cannot break his rest
And from his rugged face the tempests bound.
He does not heed the angry lightning's wound,
The raging blizzard is his harmless guest,
And human life is but a passing jest
To him who sees Time spin the years around.
But fragile souls, in skyey reaches find
High vantage-points and view him from afar.
How low he seems to the ascended mind,
How brief he seems where all things endless are;
This little playmate of the mighty wind
This young companion of an ancient star.


by Joyce Kilmer |

In Memory of Rupert Brooke

 In alien earth, across a troubled sea,
His body lies that was so fair and young.
His mouth is stopped, with half his songs unsung;
His arm is still, that struck to make men free.
But let no cloud of lamentation be
Where, on a warrior's grave, a lyre is hung.
We keep the echoes of his golden tongue,
We keep the vision of his chivalry.
So Israel's joy, the loveliest of kings,
Smote now his harp, and now the hostile horde.
To-day the starry roof of Heaven rings
With psalms a soldier made to praise his Lord;
And David rests beneath Eternal wings,
Song on his lips, and in his hand a sword.


by Joyce Kilmer |

The Annunciation

 (For Helen Parry Eden)

"Hail Mary, full of grace," the Angel saith.
Our Lady bows her head, and is ashamed;
She has a Bridegroom Who may not be named,
Her mortal flesh bears Him Who conquers death.
Now in the dust her spirit grovelleth;
Too bright a Sun before her eyes has flamed,
Too fair a herald joy too high proclaimed,
And human lips have trembled in God's breath.
O Mother-Maid, thou art ashamed to cover
With thy white self, whereon no stain can be,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to be thy Lover,
Thy God, Who came from Heaven to dwell in thee.
About thy head celestial legions hover,
Chanting the praise of thy humility.


by Joyce Kilmer |

Citizen of the World

 No longer of Him be it said
"He hath no place to lay His head."
In every land a constant lamp
Flames by His small and mighty camp.
There is no strange and distant place
That is not gladdened by His face.
And every nation kneels to hail
The Splendour shining through Its veil.
Cloistered beside the shouting street,
Silent, He calls me to His feet.
Imprisoned for His love of me
He makes my spirit greatly free.
And through my lips that uttered sin
The King of Glory enters in.


by Joyce Kilmer |

The Singing Girl

 (For the Rev. Edward F. Garesche, S. J.)

There was a little maiden
In blue and silver drest,
She sang to God in Heaven
And God within her breast.
It flooded me with pleasure,
It pierced me like a sword,
When this young maiden sang: "My soul
Doth magnify the Lord."
The stars sing all together
And hear the angels sing,
But they said they had never heard
So beautiful a thing.
Saint Mary and Saint Joseph,
And Saint Elizabeth,
Pray for us poets now
And at the hour of death.


by Joyce Kilmer |

Madness

 (For Sara Teasdale)

The lonely farm, the crowded street,
The palace and the slum,
Give welcome to my silent feet
As, bearing gifts, I come.
Last night a beggar crouched alone,
A ragged helpless thing;
I set him on a moonbeam throne --
Today he is a king.
Last night a king in orb and crown
Held court with splendid cheer;
Today he tears his purple gown
And moans and shrieks in fear.
Not iron bars, nor flashing spears,
Not land, nor sky, nor sea,
Nor love's artillery of tears
Can keep mine own from me.
Serene, unchanging, ever fair,
I smile with secret mirth
And in a net of mine own hair
I swing the captive earth.