Anne Bradstreet | |
To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings,
Of cities founded, commonwealths begun,
For my mean pen, are too superior things,
And how they all, or each, their dates have run
Let poets, and historians set these forth,
My obscure verse shall not so dim their worth.
But when my wond'ring eyes, and envious heart,
Great Bartas' sugared lines do but read o'er,
Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part
'Twixt him and me that overfluent store;
A Bartas can do what a Bartas will,
But simple I, according to my skill.
From schoolboy's tongue, no rhetoric we expect,
Nor yet a sweet consort, from broken strings,
Nor perfect beauty, where's a main defect;
My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings;
And this to mend, alas, no art is able,
'Cause nature made it so irreparable.
Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek
Who lisped at first, speak afterwards more plain.
By art, he gladly found what he did seek,
A full requital of his striving pain:
Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure.
A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.
I am obnoxious to each carping tongue,
Who says my hand a needle better fits;
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong;
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance.
But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our sex, why feigned they those nine,
And poesy made Calliope's own child?
So 'mongst the rest they placed the arts divine:
But this weak knot they will full soon untie,
The Greeks did nought, but play the fool and lie.
Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are,
Men have precedency, and still excel;
It is but vain, unjustly to wage war;
Men can do best, and women know it well;
Preeminence in each and all is yours,
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.
And oh, ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
And ever with your prey, still catch your praise,
If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give wholesome parsley wreath, I ask no bays:
This mean and unrefinèd stuff of mine,
Will make your glistering gold but more to shine.
Anna Akhmatova | |
I don't like flowers - they do remind me often
Of funerals, of weddings and of balls;
Their presence on tables for a dinner calls.
But sub-eternal roses' ever simple charm
Which was my solace when I was a child,
Has stayed - my heritage - a set of years behind,
Like Mozart's ever-living music's hum.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | |
THE DAY is done and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village 5
Gleam through the rain and the mist
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing
That is not akin to pain 10
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come read to me some poem
Some simple and heartfelt lay
That shall soothe this restless feeling 15
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters
Not from the bards sublime
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For like strains of martial music
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life's endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet 25
Whose songs gushed from his heart
As showers from the clouds of summer
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who through long days of labor
And nights devoid of ease 30
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care
And come like the benediction 35
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
More great poems below...
Ralph Waldo Emerson | |
IN May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool, 5
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky, 10
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose 15
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson | |
TO clothe the fiery thought
In simple words succeeds
For still the craft of genius is
To mask a king in weeds.
FALSE world good night! since thou hast brought
That hour upon my morn of age;
Henceforth I quit thee from my thought
My part is ended on thy stage.
Yes threaten do.
Alas! I fear 5
As little as I hope from thee:
I know thou canst not show nor bear
More hatred than thou hast to me.
My tender first and simple years
Thou didst abuse and then betray; 10
Since stir'd'st up jealousies and fears
When all the causes were away.
Then in a soil hast planted me
Where breathe the basest of thy fools;
Where envious arts profess¨¨d be 15
And pride and ignorance the schools;
Where nothing is examined weigh'd
But as 'tis rumour'd so believed;
Where every freedom is betray'd
And every goodness tax'd or grieved.
But what we're born for we must bear:
Our frail condition it is such
That what to all may happen here
If 't chance to me I must not grutch.
Else I my state should much mistake 25
To harbour a divided thought
From all my kind¡ªthat for my sake
There should a miracle be wrought.
No I do know that I was born
To age misfortune sickness grief: 30
But I will bear these with that scorn
As shall not need thy false relief.
Nor for my peace will I go far
As wanderers do that still do roam;
But make my strengths such as they are 35
Here in my bosom and at home.
Wang Wei | |
In the slant of the sun on the country-side,
Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;
And a rugged old man in a thatch door
Leans on a staff and thinks of his son, the herdboy.
There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears,
Silk-worms asleep, pared mulberry-leaves.
And the farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,
Hail one another familiarly.
No wonder I long for the simple life
And am sighing the old song, Oh, to go Back Again!
A Part of an Ode to the Immortal Memory and Friendship of that noble pair Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H.
IT is not growing like a tree
In bulk doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak three hundred year
To fall a log at last dry bald and sere:
A lily of a day 5
Is fairer far in May
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.
Call noble Lucius then for wine
And let thy looks with gladness shine:
Accept this garland plant it on thy head
And think¡ªnay know¡ªthy Morison 's not dead.
He leap'd the present age 15
Possest with holy rage
To see that bright eternal Day
Of which we Priests and Poets say
Such truths as we expect for happy men;
And there he lives with memory¡ªand Ben 20
Jonson: who sung this of him ere he went
Himself to rest
Or tast a part of that full joy he meant
To have exprest
In this bright Asterism 25
Where it were friendship's schism¡ª
Were not his Lucius long with us to tarry¡ª
To separate these twy
Lights the Dioscuri
And keep the one half from his Harry.
But fate doth so alternate the design
Whilst that in Heav'n this light on earth must shine.
And shine as you exalted are!
Two names of friendship but one star:
Of hearts the union: and those not by chance 35
Made or indenture or leased out to advance
The profits for a time.
No pleasures vain did chime
Of rimes or riots at your feasts
Orgies of drink or feign'd protests; 40
But simple love of greatness and of good
That knits brave minds and manners more than blood.
This made you first to know the Why
You liked then after to apply
That liking and approach so one the t'other 45
Till either grew a portion of the other:
Each styl¨¨d by his end
The copy of his friend.
You lived to be the great surnames
And titles by which all made claims 50
Unto the Virtue¡ªnothing perfect done
But as a CARY or a MORISON.
And such the force the fair example had
As they that saw
The good and durst not practise it were glad 55
That such a law
Was left yet to mankind
Where they might read and find
FRIENDSHIP indeed was written not in words
And with the heart not pen 60
Of two so early men
Whose lines her rules were and records:
Who ere the first down bloom¨¨d on the chin
Had sow'd these fruits and got the harvest in.
Sir Thomas Wyatt | |
My lute awake! perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And end that I have now begun;
For when this song is sung and past,
My lute be still, for I have done.
As to be heard where ear is none,
As lead to grave in marble stone,
My song may pierce her heart as soon;
Should we then sigh or sing or moan?
No, no, my lute, for I have done.
The rocks do not so cruelly
Repulse the waves continually,
As she my suit and affection;
So that I am past remedy,
Whereby my lute and I have done.
Proud of the spoil that thou hast got
Of simple hearts thorough Love's shot,
By whom, unkind, thou hast them won,
Think not he hath his bow forgot,
Although my lute and I have done.
Vengeance shall fall on thy disdain
That makest but game on earnest pain.
Think not alone under the sun
Unquit to cause thy lovers plain,
Although my lute and I have done.
Perchance thee lie wethered and old
The winter nights that are so cold,
Plaining in vain unto the moon;
Thy wishes then dare not be told;
Care then who list, for I have done.
And then may chance thee to repent
The time that thou hast lost and spent
To cause thy lovers sigh and swoon;
Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
And wish and want as I have done.
Now cease, my lute; this is the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And ended is that we begun.
Now is this song both sung and past:
My lute be still, for I have done.
Oliver Wendell Holmes | |
"Man wants but little here below.
LITTLE I ask; my wants are few;
I only wish a hut of stone,
(A very plain brown stone will do,)
That I may call my own;
And close at hand is such a one,
In yonder street that fronts the sun.
Plain food is quite enough for me;
Three courses are as good as ten;--
If Nature can subsist on three,
Thank Heaven for three.
I always thought cold victual nice;--
My choice would be vanilla-ice.
I care not much for gold or land;--
Give me a mortgage here and there,--
Some good bank-stock, some note of hand,
Or trifling railroad share,--
I only ask that Fortune send
A little more than I shall spend.
Honors are silly toys, I know,
And titles are but empty names;
I would, perhaps, be Plenipo,--
But only near St.
I'm very sure I should not care
To fill our Gubernator's chair.
Jewels are baubles; 't is a sin
To care for such unfruitful things;--
One good-sized diamond in a pin,--
Some, not so large, in rings,--
A ruby, and a pearl, or so,
Will do for me;--I laugh at show.
My dame should dress in cheap attire;
(Good, heavy silks are never dear;) -
I own perhaps I might desire
Some shawls of true Cashmere,--
Some marrowy crapes of China silk,
Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk.
I would not have the horse I drive
So fast that folks must stop and stare;
An easy gait--two forty-five--
Suits me; I do not care;--
Perhaps, for just a single spurt,
Some seconds less would do no hurt.
Of pictures, I should like to own
Titians aud Raphaels three or four,--
I love so much their style and tone,
One Turner, and no more,
(A landscape,--foreground golden dirt,--
The sunshine painted with a squirt.
Of books but few,--some fifty score
For daily use, and bound for wear;
The rest upon an upper floor;--
Some little luxury there
Of red morocco's gilded gleam
And vellum rich as country cream.
Busts, cameos, gems,--such things as these,
Which others often show for pride,
I value for their power to please,
And selfish churls deride;--
One Stradivarius, I confess,
Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess.
Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn,
Nor ape the glittering upstart fool;--
Shall not carved tables serve my turn,
But all must be of buhl?
Give grasping pomp its double share,--
I ask but one recumbent chair.
Thus humble let me live and die,
Nor long for Midas' golden touch;
If Heaven more generous gifts deny,
I shall not miss them much,--
Too grateful for the blessing lent
Of simple tastes and mind content!
Oliver Wendell Holmes | |
DEVOUTEST of my Sunday friends,
The patient Organ-blower bends;
I see his figure sink and rise,
(Forgive me, Heaven, my wandering eyes!)
A moment lost, the next half seen,
His head above the scanty screen,
Still measuring out his deep salaams
Through quavering hymns and panting psalms.
No priest that prays in gilded stole,
To save a rich man's mortgaged soul;
No sister, fresh from holy vows,
So humbly stoops, so meekly bows;
His large obeisance puts to shame
The proudest genuflecting dame,
Whose Easter bonnet low descends
With all the grace devotion lends.
O brother with the supple spine,
How much we owe those bows of thine!
Without thine arm to lend the breeze,
How vain the finger on the keys!
Though all unmatched the player's skill,
Those thousand throats were dumb and still:
Another's art may shape the tone,
The breath that fills it is thine own.
Six days the silent Memnon waits
Behind his temple's folded gates;
But when the seventh day's sunshine falls
Through rainbowed windows on the walls,
He breathes, he sings, he shouts, he fills
The quivering air with rapturous thrills;
The roof resounds, the pillars shake,
And all the slumbering echoes wake!
The Preacher from the Bible-text
With weary words my soul has vexed
(Some stranger, fumbling far astray
To find the lesson for the day);
He tells us truths too plainly true,
And reads the service all askew,--
Why, why the-- mischief-- can't he look
Beforehand in the service-book?
But thou, with decent mien and face,
Art always ready in thy place;
Thy strenuous blast, whate'er the tune,
As steady as the strong monsoon;
Thy only dread a leathery creak,
Or small residual extra squeak,
To send along the shadowy aisles
A sunlit wave of dimpled smiles.
Not all the preaching, O my friend,
Comes from the church's pulpit end!
Not all that bend the knee and bow
Yield service half so true as thou!
One simple task performed aright,
With slender skill, but all thy might,
Where honest labor does its best,
And leaves the player all the rest.
This many-diapasoned maze,
Through which the breath of being strays,
Whose music makes our earth divine,
Has work for mortal hands like mine.
My duty lies before me.
The lever there! Take hold and blow!
And He whose hand is on the keys
Will play the tune as He shall please.
Stephen Vincent Benet | |
(A Pharaoh Speaks.
I said, "Why should a pyramid
Stand always dully on its base?
I'll change it! Let the top be hid,
The bottom take the apex-place!"
And as I bade they did.
The people flocked in, scores on scores,
To see it balance on its tip.
They praised me with the praise that bores,
My godlike mind on every lip.
-- Until it fell, of course.
And then they took my body out
From my crushed palace, mad with rage,
-- Well, half the town WAS wrecked, no doubt --
Their crazy anger to assuage
By dragging it about.
The end? Foul birds defile my skull.
The new king's praises fill the land.
He clings to precept, simple, dull;
HIS pyramids on bases stand.
But -- Lord, how usual!
William Cullen Bryant | |
Come, take our boy, and we will go
Before our cabin door;
The winds shall bring us, as they blow,
The murmurs of the shore;
And we will kiss his young blue eyes,
And I will sing him, as he lies,
Songs that were made of yore:
I'll sing, in his delighted ear,
The island lays thou lov'st to hear.
And thou, while stammering I repeat,
Thy country's tongue shalt teach;
'Tis not so soft, but far more sweet,
Than my own native speech:
For thou no other tongue didst know,
When, scarcely twenty moons ago,
Upon Tahete's beach,
Thou cam'st to woo me to be thine,
With many a speaking look and sign.
I knew thy meaning--thou didst praise
My eyes, my locks of jet;
Ah! well for me they won thy gaze,--
But thine were fairer yet!
I'm glad to see my infant wear
Thy soft blue eyes and sunny hair,
And when my sight is met
By his white brow and blooming cheek,
I feel a joy I cannot speak.
Come talk of Europe's maids with me,
Whose necks and cheeks, they tell,
Outshine the beauty of the sea,
White foam and crimson shell.
I'll shape like theirs my simple dress,
And bind like them each jetty tress.
A sight to please thee well:
And for my dusky brow will braid
A bonnet like an English maid.
Come, for the soft low sunlight calls,
We lose the pleasant hours;
'Tis lovelier than these cottage walls,--
That seat among the flowers.
And I will learn of thee a prayer,
To Him, who gave a home so fair,
A lot so blessed as ours--
The God who made, for thee and me,
This sweet lone isle amid the sea.
Henry David Thoreau | |
Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it.
I love an earnest soul,
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;
A conscience worth keeping;
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And forever ready;
Not changing with events,
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one may doubt.
I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,
If not good god, good devil.
Goodness! you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is song
To cheer God along.
Alec Derwent (A D) Hope | |
To be put on the train and kissed and given my ticket,
Then the station slid backward, the shops and the neon lighting,
Reeling off in a drunken blur, with a whole pound note in my pocket
And the holiday packed with Perhaps.
It used to be very exciting.
The present and past were enough.
I did not mind having my back
To the engine.
I sat like a spider and spun
Time backward out of my guts - or rather my eyes - and the track
Was a Now dwindling off to oblivion.
I thought it was fun:
The telegraph poles slithered up in a sudden crescendo
As we sliced the hill and scattered its grazing sheep;
The days were a wheeling delirium that led without end to
Nights when we plunged into roaring tunnels of sleep.
But now I am tired of the train.
I have learned that one tree
Is much like another, one hill the dead spit of the next
I have seen tailing off behind all the various types of country
Like a clock running down.
I am bored and a little perplexed;
And weak with the effort of endless evacuation
Of the long monotonous Now, the repetitive, tidy
Officialdom of each siding, of each little station
Labelled Monday, Tuesday - and goodness ! what happened to - Friday ?
And the maddening way the other passengers alter:
The schoolgirl who goes to the Ladies' comes back to her seat
A lollipop blonde who leads you on to assault her,
And you've just got her skirts round her waist and her pants round her feet
When you find yourself fumbling about the nightmare knees
Of a pink hippopotamus with a permanent wave
Who sends you for sandwiches and a couple of teas,
But by then she has whiskers, no teeth and one foot in the grave.
I have lost my faith that the ticket tells where we are going.
There are rumours the driver is mad - we are all being trucked
To the abattoirs somewhere - the signals are jammed and unknowing
We aim through the night full speed at a wrecked viaduct.
But I do not believe them.
The future is rumour and drivel;
Only the past is assured.
From the observation car
I stand looking back and watching the landscape shrivel,
Wondering where we are going and just where the hell we are,
Remembering how I planned to break the journey, to drive
My own car one day, to have choice in my hands and my foot upon power,
To see through the trumpet throat of vertiginous perspective
My urgent Now explode continually into flower,
To be the Eater of Time, a poet and not that sly
Anus of mind the historian.
It was so simple and plain
To live by the sole, insatiable influx of the eye.
But something went wrong with the plan: I am still on the train.