Maya Angelou |
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
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Sandra Cisneros |
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and
murmuring like a mouth.
You were the shadows of a cloud cross-
ing over a field of tulips.
You were the tears of a man who cried
into a plaid handkerchief.
You were the sky without a hat.
heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line.
And when you were a tree, you listened to the trees and the tree
things trees told you.
You were the wind in the wheels of a red
You were the spidery Mariatattooed on the hairless arm
of a boy in dowtown Houston.
You were the rain rolling off the
waxy leaves of a magnolia tree.
A lock of straw-colored hair
wedged between the mottled pages of a Victor Hugo novel.
crescent of soap.
A spider the color of a fingernail.
The black nets
beneath the sea of olive trees.
A skein of blue wool.
A tea saucer
wrapped in newspaper.
An empty cracker tin.
A bowl of blueber-
ries in heavy cream.
White wine in a green-stemmed glass.
And when you opened your wings to wind, across the punched-
tin sky above a prison courtyard, those condemned to death and
those condemned to life watched how smooth and sweet a white
Emily Dickinson |
A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.
And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad,--
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head
Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home
Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, splashless, as they swim.
More great poems below...
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
We sat within the farm-house old,
Whose windows, looking o'er the bay,
Gave to the sea-breeze damp and cold,
An easy entrance, night and day.
Not far away we saw the port,
The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
The lighthouse, the dismantled fort,
The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
We sat and talked until the night,
Descending, filled the little room;
Our faces faded from the sight,
Our voices only broke the gloom.
We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends,
When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again;
The first slight swerving of the heart,
That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part,
Or say it in too great excess.
The very tones in which we spake
Had something strange, I could but mark;
The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
Oft died the words upon our lips,
As suddenly, from out the fire
Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
The flames would leap and then expire.
And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
We thought of wrecks upon the main,
Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
And sent no answer back again.
The windows, rattling in their frames,
The ocean, roaring up the beach,
The gusty blast, the bickering flames,
All mingled vaguely in our speech;
Until they made themselves a part
Of fancies floating through the brain,
The long-lost ventures of the heart,
That send no answers back again.
O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned,
The thoughts that burned and glowed within.
George (Lord) Byron |
THERE'S not a joy the world can give like that it takes away
When the glow of early thought declines in feeling's dull decay;
'Tis not on youth's smooth cheek the blush alone which fades so fast
But the tender bloom of heart is gone ere youth itself be past.
Then the few whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness 5
Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt or ocean of excess:
The magnet of their course is gone or only points in vain
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never stretch again.
Then the mortal coldness of the soul like death itself comes down;
It cannot feel for others' woes it dare not dream its own; 10
That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears
And though the eye may sparkle still 'tis where the ice appears.
Though wit may flash from fluent lips and mirth distract the breast
Through midnight hours that yield no more their former hope of rest
'Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruin'd turret wreathe 15
All green and wildly fresh without but worn and gray beneath.
Oh could I feel as I have felt or be what I have been
Or weep as I could once have wept o'er many a vanish'd scene ¡ª
As springs in deserts found seem sweet all brackish though they be
So midst the wither'd waste of life those tears would flow to me! 20
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Percy Bysshe Shelley |
THE fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single 5
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle¡ª
Why not I with thine?
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another; 10
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea¡ª
What are all these kissings worth 15
If thou kiss not me?
Wystan Hugh (W H) Auden |
As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.
'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.
'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.
'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.
'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.
'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.
'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.
It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.
Percy Bysshe Shelley |
NOW the last day of many days,
All beautiful and bright as thou,
The loveliest and the last, is dead:
Rise, Memory, and write its praise!
Up¡ªto thy wonted work! come, trace 5
The epitaph of glory fled,
For now the earth has changed its face,
A frown is on the heaven's brow.
We wander'd to the Pine Forest
That skirts the ocean's foam.
The lightest wind was in its nest,
The tempest in its home;
The whispering waves were half asleep,
The clouds were gone to play,
And on the bosom of the deep 15
The smile of heaven lay:
It seem'd as if the hour were one
Sent from beyond the skies
Which scatter'd from above the sun
A light of Paradise! 20
We paused amid the pines that stood
The giants of the waste,
Tortured by storms to shapes as rude
As serpents interlaced,¡ª
And soothed by every azure breath 25
That under heaven is blown,
To harmonies and hues beneath,
As tender as its own.
Now all the tree-tops lay asleep
Like green waves on the sea, 30
As still as in the silent deep
The ocean-woods may be.
How calm it was!¡ªThe silence there
By such a chain was bound,
That even the busy woodpecker 35
Made stiller by her sound
The inviolable quietness;
The breath of peace we drew
With its soft motion made not less
The calm that round us grew.
There seem'd, from the remotest seat
Of the wide mountain waste
To the soft flower beneath our feet,
A magic circle traced,¡ª
A spirit interfused around 45
A thrilling silent life;
To momentary peace it bound
Our mortal nature's strife;¡ª
And still I felt the centre of
The magic circle there 50
Was one fair form that fill'd with love
The lifeless atmosphere.
We paused beside the pools that lie
Under the forest bough;
Each seem'd as 'twere a little sky 55
Gulf'd in a world below¡ª
A firmament of purple light
Which in the dark earth lay,
More boundless than the depth of night
And purer than the day¡ª 60
In which the lovely forests grew
As in the upper air,
More perfect both in shape and hue
Than any spreading there.
There lay the glade and neighbouring lawn, 65
And through the dark-green wood
The white sun twinkling like the dawn
Out of a speckled cloud.
Sweet views which in our world above
Can never well be seen 70
Were imaged in the water's love
Of that fair forest green;
And all was interfused beneath
With an Elysian glow,
An atmosphere without a breath, 75
A softer day below.
Like one beloved, the scene had lent
To the dark water's breast
Its every leaf and lineament
With more than truth exprest; 80
Until an envious wind crept by,
Like an unwelcome thought
Which from the mind's too faithful eye
Blots one dear image out.
¡ªThough thou art ever fair and kind, 85
The forests ever green,
Less oft is peace in Shelley's mind
Than calm in waters seen!
William Cowper |
Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he with whom he went,
Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
With warmer wishes sent.
He lov'd them both, but both in vain,
Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
Or courage die away;
But wag'd with death a lasting strife,
Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevail'd,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford;
And, such as storms allow,
The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he
Their haste himself condemn,
Aware that flight, in such a sea,
Alone could rescue them;
Yet bitter felt it still to die
Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour
In ocean, self-upheld;
And so long he, with unspent pow'r,
His destiny repell'd;
And ever, as the minutes flew,
Entreated help, or cried--Adieu!
At length, his transient respite past,
His comrades, who before
Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast,
Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank
The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page
Of narrative sincere;
That tells his name, his worth, his age,
Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed
Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
To give the melancholy theme
A more enduring date:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allay'd,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
We perish'd, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.
Friedrich von Schiller |
Friend!--the Great Ruler, easily content,
Needs not the laws it has laborious been
The task of small professors to invent;
A single wheel impels the whole machine
Matter and spirit;--yea, that simple law,
Pervading nature, which our Newton saw.
This taught the spheres, slaves to one golden rein,
Their radiant labyrinths to weave around
Creation's mighty hearts: this made the chain,
Which into interwoven systems bound
All spirits streaming to the spiritual sun
As brooks that ever into ocean run!
Did not the same strong mainspring urge and guide
Our hearts to meet in love's eternal bond?
Linked to thine arm, O Raphael, by thy side
Might I aspire to reach to souls beyond
Our earth, and bid the bright ambition go
To that perfection which the angels know!
Happy, O happy--I have found thee--I
Have out of millions found thee, and embraced;
Thou, out of millions, mine!--Let earth and sky
Return to darkness, and the antique waste--
To chaos shocked, let warring atoms be,
Still shall each heart unto the other flee!
Do I not find within thy radiant eyes
Fairer reflections of all joys most fair?
In thee I marvel at myself--the dyes
Of lovely earth seem lovelier painted there,
And in the bright looks of the friend is given
A heavenlier mirror even of the heaven!
Sadness casts off its load, and gayly goes
From the intolerant storm to rest awhile,
In love's true heart, sure haven of repose;
Does not pain's veriest transports learn to smile
From that bright eloquence affection gave
To friendly looks?--there, finds not pain a grave?
In all creation did I stand alone,
Still to the rocks my dreams a soul should find,
Mine arms should wreathe themselves around the stone,
My griefs should feel a listener in the wind;
My joy--its echo in the caves should be!
Fool, if ye will--Fool, for sweet sympathy!
We are dead groups of matter when we hate;
But when we love we are as gods!--Unto
The gentle fetters yearning, through each state
And shade of being multiform, and through
All countless spirits (save of all the sire)--
Moves, breathes, and blends, the one divine desire.
Lo! arm in arm, through every upward grade,
From the rude mongrel to the starry Greek,
Who the fine link between the mortal made,
And heaven's last seraph--everywhere we seek
Union and bond--till in one sea sublime
Of love be merged all measure and all time!
Friendless ruled God His solitary sky;
He felt the want, and therefore souls were made,
The blessed mirrors of his bliss!--His eye
No equal in His loftiest works surveyed;
And from the source whence souls are quickened, He
Called His companion forth--ETERNITY!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
THERE is no flock however watched and tended
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside howsoe'er defended
But has one vacant chair!
The air is full of farewells to the dying 5
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel for her children crying
Will not be comforted!
Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise 10
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.
We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad funereal tapers 15
May be heaven's distant lamps.
There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian
Whose portal we call Death.
She is not dead ¡ªthe child of our affection ¡ª
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection
And Christ himself doth rule.
In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion 25
By guardian angels led
Safe from temptation safe from sin's pollution
She lives whom we call dead
Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air; 30
Year after year her tender steps pursuing
Behold her grown more fair.
Thus do we walk with her and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives
Thinking that our remembrance though unspoken 35
May reach her where she lives.
Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her
She will not be a child; 40
But a fair maiden in her Father's mansion
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul's expansion
Shall we behold her face.
And though at times impetuous with emotion 45
And anguish long suppressed
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean
That cannot be at rest ¡ª
We will be patient and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay; 50
By silence sanctifying not concealing
The grief that must have way.
William Cullen Bryant |
OH mother of a mighty race
Yet lovely in thy youthful grace!
The elder dames thy haughty peers
Admire and hate thy blooming years.
With words of shame 5
And taunts of scorn they join thy name.
For on thy cheeks the glow is spread
That tints thy morning hills with red;
Thy step¡ªthe wild deer's rustling feet
Within thy woods are not more fleet; 10
Thy hopeful eye
Is bright as thine own sunny sky.
Ay let them rail¡ªthose haughty ones
While safe thou dwellest with thy sons.
They do not know how loved thou art 15
How many a fond and fearless heart
Would rise to throw
Its life between thee and the foe.
They know not in their hate and pride
What virtues with thy children bide; 20
How true how good thy graceful maids
Make bright like flowers the valley-shades;
What generous men
Spring like thine oaks by hill and glen.
What cordial welcomes greet the guest 25
By thy lone rivers of the West;
How faith is kept and truth revered
And man is loved and God is feared
In woodland homes
And where the ocean-border foams.
There 's freedom at thy gates and rest
For Earth's down-trodden and opprest
A shelter for the hunted head
For the starved laborer toil and bread.
Power at thy bounds 35
Stops and calls back his baffled hounds.
Oh fair young mother! on thy brow
Shall sit a nobler grace than now.
Deep in the brightness of the skies
The thronging years in glory rise 40
And as they fleet
Drop strength and riches at thy feet.
Thine eye with every coming hour
Shall brighten and thy form shall tower;
And when thy sisters elder born 45
Would brand thy name with words of scorn
Before thine eye
Upon their lips the taunt shall die.
Percy Bysshe Shelley |
AWAY! the moor is dark beneath the moon
Rapid clouds have drunk the last pale beam of even:
Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon
And profoundest midnight shroud the serene lights of heaven.
Pause not! the time is past! Every voice cries 'Away!' 5
Tempt not with one last tear thy friend's ungentle mood:
Thy lover's eye so glazed and cold dares not entreat thy stay:
Duty and dereliction guide thee back to solitude.
Away away! to thy sad and silent home;
Pour bitter tears on its desolated hearth; 10
Watch the dim shades as like ghosts they go and come
And complicate strange webs of melancholy mirth.
The leaves of wasted autumn woods shall float around thine head
The blooms of dewy Spring shall gleam beneath thy feet:
But thy soul or this world must fade in the frost that binds the dead 15
Ere midnight's frown and morning's smile ere thou and peace may meet.
The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose
For the weary winds are silent or the moon is in the deep;
Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows;
Whatever moves or toils or grieves hath its appointed sleep.
Thou in the grave shalt rest:¡ªyet till the phantoms flee
Which that house and heath and garden made dear to thee erewhile
Thy remembrance and repentance and deep musings are not free
From the music of two voices and the light of one sweet smile.
Wallace Stevens |
She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.
The sea was not a mask.
No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard.
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.
For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.
If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone.
But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang.
And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker.
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.
Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.