Wang Wei |
When he was a youth of fifteen or twenty,
He chased a wild horse, he caught him and rode him,
He shot the white-browed mountain tiger,
He defied the yellow-bristled Horseman of Ye.
Fighting single- handed for a thousand miles,
With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
Granted that the troops of China were as swift as heaven's thunder
And that Tartar soldiers perished in pitfalls fanged with iron,
General Wei Qing's victory was only a thing of chance.
And General Li Guang's thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
Since this man's retirement he is looking old and worn:
Experience of the world has hastened his white hairs.
Though once his quick dart never missed the right eye of a bird,
Now knotted veins and tendons make his left arm like an osier.
He is sometimes at the road-side selling melons from his garden,
He is sometimes planting willows round his hermitage.
His lonely lane is shut away by a dense grove,
His vacant window looks upon the far cold mountains
But, if he prayed, the waters would come gushing for his men
And never would he wanton his cause away with wine.
War-clouds are spreading, under the Helan Range;
Back and forth, day and night, go feathered messages;
In the three River Provinces, the governors call young men --
And five imperial edicts have summoned the old general.
So he dusts his iron coat and shines it like snow-
Waves his dagger from its jade hilt in a dance of starry steel.
He is ready with his strong northern bow to smite the Tartar chieftain --
That never a foreign war-dress may affront the Emperor.
There once was an aged Prefect, forgotten and far away,
Who still could manage triumph with a single stroke.
Ralph Waldo Emerson |
EXULTING BEAUTY,phantom of an hour,
Whose magic spells enchain the heart,
Ah ! what avails thy fascinating pow'r,
Thy thrilling smile, thy witching art ?
Thy lip, where balmy nectar glows;
Thy cheek, where round the damask rose
A thousand nameless Graces move,
Thy mildly speaking azure eyes,
Thy golden hair, where cunning Love
In many a mazy ringlet lies?
Soon as thy radiant form is seen,
Thy native blush, thy timid mien,
Thy hour is past ! thy charms are vain!
ILL-NATURE haunts thee with her sallow train,
Mean JEALOUSY deceives thy list'ning ear,
And SLANDER stains thy cheek with many a bitter tear.
In calm retirement form'd to dwell,
NATURE, thy handmaid fair and kind,
For thee, a beauteous garland twin'd;
The vale-nurs'd Lily's downcast bell
Thy modest mien display'd,
The snow-drop, April's meekest child,
With myrtle blossoms undefil'd,
Thy mild and spotless mind pourtray'd;
Dear blushing maid, of cottage birth,
'Twas thine, o'er dewy meads to stray,
While sparkling health, and frolic mirth
Led on thy laughing Day.
Lur'd by the babbling tongue of FAME,
Too soon, insidious FLATT'RY came;
Flush'd VANITY her footsteps led,
To charm thee from thy blest repose,
While Fashion twin'd about thy head
A wreath of wounding woes;
See Dissipation smoothly glide,
Cold Apathy, and puny Pride,
Capricious Fortune, dull, and blind,
O'er splendid Folly throws her veil,
While Envy's meagre tribe assail
Thy gentle form, and spotless mind.
Their spells prevail! no more those eyes
Shoot undulating fires;
On thy wan cheek, the young rose dies,
Thy lip's deep tint expires;
Dark Melancholy chills thy mind;
Thy silent tear reveals thy woe;
TIME strews with thorns thy mazy way,
Where'er thy giddy footsteps stray,
Thy thoughtless heart is doom'd to find
An unrelenting foe.
'Tis thus, the infant Forest flow'r
Bespangled o'er with glitt'ring dew,
At breezy morn's refreshing hour,
Glows with pure tints of varying hue,
Beneath an aged oak's wide spreading shade,
Where no rude winds, or beating storms invade.
Transplanted from its lonely bed,
No more it scatters perfumes round,
No more it rears its gentle head,
Or brightly paints the mossy ground;
For ah! the beauteous bud, too soon,
Scorch'd by the burning eye of day;
Shrinks from the sultry glare of noon,
Droops its enamell'd brow, and blushing, dies away.
Robert Lowell |
What was is.
The boys in my old gang
are senior partners.
They start up
bald like baby birds
to embrace retirement.
At the altar of surrender
I met you
in the hour of credulity.
How your misfortune came our clearly
to us at twenty.
At the gingerbread casino
how innocent the nights we made it.
on our Vesuvio martinis
with no vermouth but vodka
to sweeten the dry gin-
the lash across my face
that night we adored.
soon every night and all
when your sweet amorous
More great poems below...
William Cowper |
Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.
The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree;
And seem, by Thy sweet bounty made,
For those who follow Thee.
There if Thy Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her mean abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!
There like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,
Nor thirsts for human praise.
Author and Guardian of my life,
Sweet source of light Divine,
And, -- all harmonious names in one, --
My Saviour! Thou art mine.
What thanks I owe Thee, and what love,
A boundless, endless store,
Shall echo through the realms above,
When time shall be no more.
Anne Bronte |
O, let me be alone a while,
No human form is nigh.
And may I sing and muse aloud,
No mortal ear is by.
Away! ye dreams of earthly bliss,
Ye earthly cares begone:
Depart! ye restless wandering thoughts,
And let me be alone!
One hour, my spirit, stretch thy wings,
And quit this joyless sod,
Bask in the sunshine of the sky,
And be alone with God!
Barry Tebb |
What ghosts haunt
These streets of perpetual night?
Riverbanks fractured with splinters of glass condominiums
For nouveam riche merchant bankers
Black-tied bouncers man clubland glitz casinos
Novotel, Valley Park Motel, the Hilton:
Hot tubs, saunas, swim spas, en suite
Satellite TV, conference rooms, disco dinners.
I knew Len, the tubby taxi man
With his retirement dreams of visiting
The world’s great galleries:
‘Titian, Leonardo, Goya,
I’ve lived all my life in the house I was born in
All my life I’ve saved for this trip’
The same house he was done to death in
Tortured by three fourteen year olds,
Made headlines for one night, another
Murder to add to Beeston’s five this year.
Yorkshire Forward advertises nation-wide
The north’s attractions for business expansion
Nothing fits together any more
Addicts in doorways trying to score
The new Porsches and the new poor
Air-conditioned thirty-foot limos, fibre-optic lit,
Uniformed chauffeurs fully trained in close protection
And anti-hijack techniques, simply the best –
See for yourself in mirrored ceilings.
See for yourself the screaming youth
Soaring psychotic one Sunday afternoon
Staggering round the new coach station
"I’ll beat him to death the day I see him next"
Fifty yards away Millgarth police station’s
Fifty foot banner proclaims ‘Let’s fight crime together’
I am no poet for this age
I cannot drain nostalgia from my blood
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
Good Heav'n, I thank thee, since it was design'd
I shou'd be fram'd, but of the weaker kinde,
That yet, my Soul, is rescu'd from the Love
Of all those Trifles, which their Passions move.
Pleasures, and Praise, and Plenty haue with me
But their just value.
If allow'd they be,
Freely, and thankfully as much I tast,
As will not reason, or Religion wast.
If they're deny'd, I on my selfe can Liue,
And slight those aids, unequal chance does give.
When in the Sun, my wings can be display'd,
And in retirement, I can bless the shade.
Philip Freneau |
A HERMIT'S house beside a stream
With forests planted round,
Whatever it to you may seem
More real happiness I deem
Than if I were a monarch crowned.
A cottage I could call my own
Remote from domes of care;
A little garden, walled with stone,
The wall with ivy overgrown,
A limpid fountain near,
Would more substantial joys afford,
More real bliss impart
Than all the wealth that misers hoard,
Than vanquished worlds, or worlds restored--
Mere cankers of the heart!
Vain, foolish man! how vast thy pride,
How little can your wants supply!--
'Tis surely wrong to grasp so wide--
You act as if you only had
To triumph--not to die!
Marriott Edgar |
Sam Small had retired from the Army,
In the old Duke of Wellington's time,
So when present unpleasantness started,
He were what you might call.
past his prime.
He'd lived for some years in retirement,
And knew nowt of war, if you please,
Till they blasted and bombed his allotment,
And shelled the best part of his peas.
'T were as if bugles called Sam to duty,
For his musket he started to search,
He found it at last in the Hen house,
Buff Orpingtons had it for perch.
Straight off to the Fusilliers' depot,
He went to rejoin his old troop.
Where he found as they couldn't recruit Him,
Until his age group was called up.
Now Sam wasn't getting no younger,
Past the three score and ten years was he,
And he reckoned by time they reached his age group,
He'd be very near ten score and three.
So he took up the matter with Churchill,
Who said, "I don't know what to do,
Never was there a time when so many,
Came asking so much from so few.
"I don't want no favours" Sam answered,
"Don't think as I'm one of that mob,
All I'm asking is give me the tools, lad,
And let me help finish the job.
"I'll fit you in somewhere," said Winnie,
"Old soldiers we must not discard.
Then seeing he'd got his own musket,
He sent him to join the Home Guard.
They gave Sam a coat with no stripes on,
In spite of the service he'd seen,
Which considering he'd been a King's sergeant,
Kind of rankled.
you know what I mean.
He said "I come back to the Army,
Expecting my country's thanks,
And the first thing I find when I get here,
Is that I've been reduced to the ranks.
He found all the lads sympathetic,
They agreed that 'twere a disgrace,
Except one old chap in the corner,
With a nutcracker kind of a face.
Said the old fella, "Who do you think you are?
The last to appear on the scene,
And you start off by wanting promotion,
Last come, last served.
see what I mean?"
Said Sam, "Wasn't I at Corunna,
And when company commander got shot,
Didn't I lead battalion to victory?"
Said the old fella, "No.
you did not.
"I didn't?" said Sam quite indignent,
"Why, in every fight Wellington fought,
Wasn't I at his right hand to guard him?"
Said old chap, "You were nowt of the sort.
"What do you know of Duke and his battles?"
Said Sam, with a whithering look,
Said the old man, "I ought to know something,
Between you and me.
I'm the Duke.
And if you should look in any evening,
You'll find them both in the canteen,
Ex Commander-in-Chief and ex Sergeant,
Both just Home Guards.
you know what I mean?
Andrew Marvell |
To the Lord Fairfax.
See how the arched Earth does here
Rise in a perfect Hemisphere!
The stiffest Compass could not strike
A line more circular and like;
Nor softest Pensel draw a Brow.
So equal as this Hill does bow.
It seems as for a Model laid,
And that the World by it was made.
Here learn ye Mountains more unjust,
Which to abrupter greatness thrust,
That do with your hook-shoulder'd height
The Earth deform and Heaven frght.
For whose excrescence ill design'd,
Nature must a new Center find,
Learn here those humble steps to tread,
Which to securer Glory lead.
See what a soft access and wide
Lyes open to its grassy side;
Nor with the rugged path deterrs
The feet of breathless Travellers.
See then how courteous it ascends,
And all the way ir rises bends;
Nor for it self the height does gain,
But only strives to raise the Plain.
Yet thus it all the field commands,
And in unenvy'd Greatness stands,
Discerning furthe then the Cliff
Of Heaven-daring Teneriff.
How glad the weary Seamen hast
When they salute it from the Mast!
By Night the Northern Star their way
Directs, and this no less by Day.
Upon its crest this Mountain grave
A Plum of aged Trees does wave.
No hostile hand durst ere invade
With impious Steel the sacred Shade.
For something alwaies did appear
Of the Great Masters terrour there:
And Men could hear his Armour still
Ratling through all the Grove and Hill.
Fear of the Master, and respect
Of the great Nymph did it protect;
Vera the Nymph that him inspir'd,
To whom he often here retir'd,
And on these Okes ingrav'd her Name;
Such Wounds alone these Woods became:
But ere he well the Barks could part
'Twas writ already in their Heart.
For they ('tis credible) have sense,
As we, of Love and Reverence,
And underneath the Courser Rind
The Genius of the house do bind.
Hence they successes seem to know,
And in their Lord's advancement grow;
But in no Memory were seen
As under this so streight and green.
Yet now no further strive to shoot,
Contented if they fix their Root.
Nor to the winds uncertain gust,
Their prudent Heads too far intrust.
Onely sometimes a flutt'ring Breez
Discourses with the breathing Trees;
Which in their modest Whispers name
Those Acts that swell'd the Cheek of Fame.
Much other Groves, say they, then these
And other Hills him once did please.
Through Groves of Pikes he thunder'd then,
And Mountains rais'd of dying Men.
For all the Civick Garlands due
To him our Branches are but few.
Nor are our Trunks enow to bear
The Trophees of one fertile Year.
'Tis true, the Trees nor ever spoke
More certain Oracles in Oak.
But Peace (if you his favour prize)
That Courage its own Praises flies.
Therefore to your obscurer Seats
From his own Brightness he retreats:
Nor he the Hills without the Groves,
Nor Height but with Retirement loves.
William Cowper |
Fresh fields and woods! the Earth's fair face,
God's foot-stool, and man's dwelling-place.
I ask not why the first Believer
Did love to be a country liver?
Who to secure pious content
Did pitch by groves and wells his tent;
Where he might view the boundless sky,
And all those glorious lights on high;
With flying meteors, mists and show'rs,
Subjected hills, trees, meads and flow'rs;
And ev'ry minute bless the King
And wise Creator of each thing.
I ask not why he did remove
To happy Mamre's holy grove,
Leaving the cities of the plain
To Lot and his successless train?
All various lusts in cities still
Are found; they are the thrones of ill;
The dismal sinks, where blood is spill'd,
Cages with much uncleanness fill'd.
But rural shades are the sweet fense
Of piety and innocence.
They are the Meek's calm region, where
Angels descend and rule the sphere,
Where heaven lies leiger, and the dove
Duly as dew, comes from above.
If Eden be on Earth at all,
'Tis that, which we the country call.
Du Fu |
Boy draw water well shining
Agile container rise hand
Wet sprinkle not soak earth
Sweep surpass like without broom
Bright rosy clouds shining again pavilion
Clear mist lift high window
Lean fill cover path flower
Dance end steps willow
Difficulty world affair compel
Hide away right time after
Meet talk agree deep heart
How can all restrain mouth
Offer goodbye return cane riding crop
Temporary part end turn head
Vast expanse mud defile person
Listen country many dogs
Although not free yoke
Sometimes come rest rush about
Near you like white snow
Grasp hot upset how be
The boy draws shining water from the well,
He nimbly lifts the bucket to his hand.
He sprinkles water without soaking the earth,
And sweeps so well as if no broom had passed.
The rosy dawn again lights the pagoda,
The clearing mist lifts from the higher windows.
Leaning blossoms cover over the path,
Dancing willow leaves reach down to the steps.
I'm driven by these troublesome affairs,
Retirement from the world must be put off.
We've met and talked, our deepest hearts agreeing,
How can our mouths be forced completely shut?
I say goodbye and fetch my riding crop,
Parting for now, I turn my head at the last.
There's so much mud that can defile a man,
Just listen to all the dogs throughout the land.
Although I cannot get free from this yoke,
I'll sometimes come to rest from all the bustle.
Your presence, Abbot, acts just like white snow,
How can I be upset to grasp what's hot?
Barry Tebb |
Memories bursting like tears or waves
On some lonely Adriatic shore
Beating again and again
Threshings of green sea foam
Flecked like the marble Leonardo
Chipped for his ‘Moses’.
And my tears came as suddenly
In that dream, criss-crossed
With memory and desire.
Grandad Nicky had worked
Down the pits for a pittance
To bring up his six children
But nothing left over for more
Than a few nuts and an orange
For six Christmas stockings
So hopefully hung, weighted by pennies,
Stretched across the black mantle.
So Lawrence-like and yet not, grandad
A strict Methodist who read only a vast Bible
Hunched in his fireside chair insisting
On chapel three times on Sundays.
Only in retirement did joy and wisdom
Enter him, abandoning chapel he took
To the Friends or Quakers as they called them then
And somehow at seventy the inner light
Gruff but kind was my impression:
He would take me for walks
Along abandoned railways to the shutdown
Pipeworks where my three uncles
Worked their early manhood through.
It would have delighted Auden and perhaps
That was the bridge between us
Though we were of different generations
And by the time I began to write he had died.
All are gone except some few who may live still
But in their dotage.
After my mother’s funeral
None wanted contact: I had been judged in my absence
And found wanting.
Durham was not my county,
Hardly my country, memories from childhood
Of Hunwick Village with its single cobbled street
Of squat stone cottages and paved yards
With earth closets and stacks of sawn logs
Perfuming the air with their sap
In a way only French poets could say
And that is why we have no word but clich?
‘Reflect’ or ‘make come alive’ or other earthbound
Anglicanisms; yet it is there in Valery Larbaud
‘J’ai senti pour la premiere fois toute la douceur de vivre’-
I experienced for the first time all the joy of living.
I quote of their plenitude to mock the absurdity
Of English poets who have no time for Francophiles
Better the ‘O altitudo’ of earlier generations –
Wallace Stevens’ "French and English
Are one language indivisible.
That scent of sawdust, the milkcart the pony pulled
Each morning over the cobbles, the earthenware jug
I carried to be filled, ladle by shining ladle,
From the great churns and there were birds singing
In the still blue over the fields beyond the village
But because I was city-bred I could not name them.
I write to please myself: ‘Only other poets read poems’
Henry Vaughan |
Hail sacred shades! cool, leavy House!
Chaste treasurer of all my vows,
And wealth! on whose soft bosom laid
My love's fair steps I first betrayed:
Henceforth no melancholy flight,
No sad wing, or hoarse bird of night,
Disturb this air, no fatal throat
Of raven, or owl, awake the note
Of our laid echo, no voice dwell
Within these leaves, but Philomel.
The poisonous ivy here no more
His false twists on the oak shall score,
Only the woodbine here may twine
As th'emblem of her love and mine;
Th'amorous sun shall here convey
His best beams, in thy shades to play;
The active air, the gentlest showers
Shall from his wings rain on thy flowers;
And the moon from her dewy locks
Shall deck thee with her brightest drops:
What ever can a fancy move,
Or feed the eye; be on this Grove;
And when at last the winds and tears
Of Heaven, with the consuming years,
Shall these green curls bring to decay,
And clothe thee in an aged gray:
(If ought a lover can foresee;
Or if we poets, prophets be)
From hence transplant'd, thou shalt stand
A fresh Grove in th'Elysian land;
Where (most blest pair!) as here on earth
Thou first didst eye our growth and birth;
So there again, thou'lt see us move
In our first innocence, and love:
And in thy shades, as now, so then,
We'll kiss, and smile, and walk again.
John Lindley |
Wheeling them in,
the yard gate at half-mast
with its ticking hinge,
the tin bucket with a hairnet of webs,
the privy door ajar,
the path gloved with moss
ploughed by metal
through a scalped tyre -
in the shadows of the hood,
in the ripped silk
of the rocking, buckled pram,
none of the dead clocks moving.
And carrying them in
to a kitchen table,
a near-lifetime’s Woodies
coating each cough,
he will tickle them awake;
will hold like primitive headphones
the tinkling shells to each ear,
select and apply unfailingly
the right tool to the right cog
and with movements
as unpredictable as the pram’s
will wind and counter-wind
the scrap to metronomic life.
And at the pub,
at the Grey Horse or Houldsworth,
furtive as unpaid tax,
Rolex and Timex
and brands beneath naming
will change hands for the price of a bevy,
a fish supper
or a down payment
on early retirement
on a horse called Clockwork
running in the three-thirty at Aintree.