Robert Frost |
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Ben Jonson |
Let it not your wonder move,
Less your laughter, that I love.
Though I now write fifty years,
I have had, and have, my peers.
Poets, though divine, are men;
Some have loved as old again.
And it is not always face,
Clothes, or fortune gives the grace,
Or the feature, or the youth;
But the language and the truth,
With the ardor and the passion,
Gives the lover weight and fashion.
If you then would hear the story,
First, prepare you to be sorry
That you never knew till now
Either whom to love or how;
But be glad as soon with me
When you hear that this is she
Of whose beauty it was sung,
She shall make the old man young,
Keep the middle age at stay,
And let nothing hide decay,
Till she be the reason why
All the world for love may die.
Robert Burns |
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promised joy!
Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho I canna see,
I guess an' fear!
More great poems below...
Sara Teasdale |
I am not sorry for my soul
That it must go unsatisfied,
For it can live a thousand times,
Eternity is deep and wide.
I am not sorry for my soul,
But oh, my body that must go
Back to a little drift of dust
Without the joy it longed to know.
Barry Tebb |
(or ‘Huddersfield the Second Poetry Capital of England Re-visited’)
What was it Janice Simmons said to me as James lay dying in Ireland?
“Phone Peter Pegnall in Leeds, an ex-pupil of Jimmy’s.
A benefit reading, he’d love to hear from you and have your help.
‘Like hell he would’ I thought but I phoned him all the same
At his converted farmhouse at Barswill, a Lecturer in Creative Writing
At the uni.
But what’s he written, I wondered, apart from his CV?
“Well I am organising a reading but only for the big people, you understand,
Hardman, Harrison, Doughty, Duhig, Basher O’Brien, you know the kind,
The ones that count, the ones I owe my job to.
We nattered on and on until by way of adieu I read the final couplet
Of my Goodbye poem, the lines about ‘One Leeds Jimmy who could fix the world’s.
Duhigs once and for all/Write them into the ground and still have a hundred
Lyrics in his quiver.
Pete Stifled a cough which dipped into a gurgle and sank into a mire
Of strangulated affect which almost became a convulsion until finally
He shrieked, “I have to go, the cat’s under the Christmas tree, ripping
Open all the presents, the central heating boiler’s on the blink,
The house is on fucking fire!”
So I was left with the offer of being raffle-ticket tout as a special favour,
Some recompense for giving over two entire newsletters to Jimmy’s work:
The words of the letter before his stroke still burned.
“I don’t know why
They omitted me, Armitage and Harrison were my best mates once.
You and I
A whole year’s silence until the card with its cryptic message
‘Jimmy’s recovering slowly but better than expected’.
I never heard from Pegnall about the reading, the pamphlets he asked for
Whalebone, the fellow-tutor he commended, also stayed silent.
Had the event been cancelled? Happening to be in Huddersfield on Good Friday
I staggered up three flights of stone steps in the Byram Arcade to the Poetry Business
Where, next to the ‘closed’ sign an out-of-date poster announced the reading in Leeds
At a date long gone.
I peered through the slats at empty desks, at brimming racks of books,
At overflowing bin-bags and the yellowing poster.
Desperately I tried to remember
What Janice had said.
“We were sat up in bed, planning to take the children
For a walk when Jimmy stopped looking at me, the pupils of his eyes rolled sideways,
His head lolled and he keeled over.
The title of the reading was from Jimmy’s best collection
‘With Energy To Burn’
with energy to burn.
Sylvia Plath |
In the rectory garden on his evening walk
Paced brisk Father Shawn.
A cold day, a sodden one it was
In black November.
After a sliding rain
Dew stood in chill sweat on each stalk,
Each thorn; spiring from wet earth, a blue haze
Hung caught in dark-webbed branches like a fabulous heron.
Hauled sudden from solitude,
Hair prickling on his head,
Father Shawn perceived a ghost
Shaping itself from that mist.
'How now,' Father Shawn crisply addressed the ghost
Wavering there, gauze-edged, smelling of woodsmoke,
'What manner of business are you on?
From your blue pallor, I'd say you inhabited the frozen waste
Of hell, and not the fiery part.
Yet to judge by that dazzled look,
That noble mien, perhaps you've late quitted heaven?'
In voice furred with frost,
Ghost said to priest:
'Neither of those countries do I frequent:
Earth is my haunt.
'Come, come,' Father Shawn gave an impatient shrug,
'I don't ask you to spin some ridiculous fable
Of gilded harps or gnawing fire: simply tell
After your life's end, what just epilogue
God ordained to follow up your days.
Is it such trouble
To satisfy the questions of a curious old fool?'
'In life, love gnawed my skin
To this white bone;
What love did then, love does now:
Gnaws me through.
'What love,' asked Father Shawn, 'but too great love
Of flawed earth-flesh could cause this sorry pass?
Some damned condition you are in:
Thinking never to have left the world, you grieve
As though alive, shriveling in torment thus
To atone as shade for sin that lured blind man.
'The day of doom
Is not yest come.
Until that time
A crock of dust is my dear hom.
'Fond phantom,' cried shocked Father Shawn,
'Can there be such stubbornness--
A soul grown feverish, clutching its dead body-tree
Like a last storm-crossed leaf? Best get you gone
To judgment in a higher court of grace.
Repent, depart, before God's trump-crack splits the sky.
From that pale mist
Ghost swore to priest:
'There sits no higher court
Than man's red heart.
Cornelius Eady |
Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in love with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don't want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That's how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it's the only leverage
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man's kisses
A E Housman |
Be still, my soul, be still; the arms you bear are brittle,
Earth and high heaven are fixt of old and founded strong.
Think rather,-- call to thought, if now you grieve a little,
The days when we had rest, O soul, for they were long.
Men loved unkindness then, but lightless in the quarry
I slept and saw not; tears fell down, I did not mourn;
Sweat ran and blood sprang out and I was never sorry:
Then it was well with me, in days ere I was born.
Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.
Ay, look: high heaven and earth ail from the prime foundation;
All thoughts to rive the heart are here, and all are vain:
Horror and scorn and hate and fear and indignation--
Oh why did I awake? when shall I sleep again?
Robert William Service |
My folks think I'm a serving maid
Each time I visit home;
They do not dream I ply a trade
As old as Greece or Rome;
For if they found I'd fouled their name
And was not white as snow,
I'm sure that they would die of shame .
Please, God, they'll never know.
I clean the paint from off my face,
In sober black I dress;
Of coquetry I leave no trace
To give them vague distress;
And though it causes me a pang
To play such sorry tricks,
About my neck I meekly hang
A silver crufix.
And so with humble step I go
Just like a child again,
To greet their Christmas candle-glow,
A soul without a stain;
So well I play my contrite part
I make myself believe
There's not a stain within my heart
On Holy Christmas Eve.
With double natures we are vext,
And what we feel, we are;
A saint one day, a sinner next,
A red light or a star;
A prostitute or proselyte,
And in each part sincere:
So I become a vestal white
One week in every year.
For this I say without demur
From out life's lurid lore,
Each righteous women has in her
A tincture of the whore;
While every harpy of the night,
As I have learned too well;
Holds in her heart a heaven-light
To ransom her from hell.
So I'll go home and sweep and dust;
I'll make the kitchen fire,
And be a model of daughters just
The best they could desire;
I'll fondle them and cook their food,
And Mother dear will say:
"Thank God! my darling is as good
As when she went away.
But after New Year's Day I'll fill
My bag and though they grieve,
I'll bid them both good-bye until
Another Christmas Eve;
And then .
a knock upon the door:
I'll find them waiting there,
And angel-like I'll come once more
In answer to their prayer.
Then Lo! one night when candle-light
Gleams mystic on the snow,
And music swells of Christmas bells,
I'll come, no more to go:
The old folks need my love and care,
Their gold shall gild my dross,
And evermore my breast shall bear
My little silver cross.
Andrei Voznesensky |
My life, like a rocket, makes a parabola
flying in darkness, -- no rainbow for traveler.
There once lived an artist, red-haired Gauguin,
he was a bohemian, a former tradesman.
To get to the Louvre
from the lanes of Montmartre
he circled around
as far as Sumatra!
He had to abandon the madness of money,
the filth of the scholars, the snarl of his honey.
The man overcame the terrestrial gravity,
The priests, drinking beer, would laugh at his "vanity":
"A straight line is short, but it is much too simple,
He'd better depict beds of roses for people.
And yet, like a rocket, he flew off with ease
through winds penetrating his coat and his ears.
He didn't fetch up to the Louvre through the door
but, like a parabola,
pierced the floor!
Each gets to the truth with his own parameter
a worm finds a crack, man makes a parabola.
There once lived a girl in the neighboring house.
We studied together, through books we would browse.
Why did I leave,
moved by devilish powers
amidst the equivocal
I'm sorry for making that silly parabola,
The shivering shoulders in darkness, why trouble her?.
Your rings in the dark Universe were dramatic,
and like an antenna, straight and elastic.
Meanwhile I'm flying
to land here because
I hear your earthly and shivering calls.
It doesn't come easy with a parabola!.
For wiping prediction, tradition, preamble off
Art, History, Love and ?esthetics
to take parabolical paths, as it were!
He leaves for Siberia now, on a visit.
It isn't so long as parabola, is it?
© Copyright Alec Vagapov's translation
Denise Duhamel |
According to Culture Shock:
A Guide to Customs and Etiquette
of Filipinos, when my husband says yes,
he could also mean one of the following:
) I don't know.
) If you say so.
) If it will please you.
) I hope I have said yes unenthusiastically enough
for you to realize I mean no.
You can imagine the confusion
surrounding our movie dates, the laundry,
who will take out the garbage
I remind him
I'm an American, that all has yeses sound alike to me.
I tell him here in America we have shrinks
who can help him to be less of a people-pleaser.
We have two-year-olds who love to scream "No!"
when they don't get their way.
I tell him,
in America we have a popular book,
When I Say No I Feel Guilty.
"Should I get you a copy?" I ask.
He says yes, but I think he means
"If it will please you," i.
"I won't read it.
"I'm trying," I tell him, "but you have to try too.
"Yes," he says, then makes tampo,
a sulking that the book Culture Shock describes as
"subliminal hostility .
withdrawal of customary cheerfulness
in the presence of the one who has displeased" him.
The book says it's up to me to make things all right,
"to restore goodwill, not by talking the problem out,
but by showing concern about the wounded person's
" Forget it, I think, even though I know
if I'm not nice, tampo can quickly escalate into nagdadabog--
foot stomping, grumbling, the slamming
Instead of talking to my husband, I storm off
to talk to my porcelain Kwan Yin,
the Chinese goddess of mercy
that I bought on Canal Street years before
my husband and I started dating.
"The real Kwan Yin is in Manila,"
he tells me.
"She's called Nuestra Señora de Guia.
Her Asian features prove Christianity
was in the Philippines before the Spanish arrived.
My husband's telling me this
tells me he's sorry.
Kwan Yin seems to wink,
congratulating me--my short prayer worked.
"Will you love me forever?" I ask,
then study his lips, wondering if I'll be able to decipher
what he means by his yes.
Raymond Carver |
He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong
William Shakespeare |
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Jane Taylor |
In tears to her mother poor Harriet came,
Let us listen to hear what she says:
"O see, dear mamma, it is pouring with rain,
We cannot go out in the chaise.
"All the week I have long'd for this holiday so,
And fancied the minutes were hours;
And now that I'm dress'd and all ready to go,
Do look at those terrible showers! "
"I'm sorry, my dear, " her kind mother replied,
The rain disappoints us to-day;
But sorrow still more that you fret for a ride,
In such an extravagant way.
"These slight disappointments are sent to prepare
For what may hereafter befall;
For seasons of real disappointment and care,
Which commonly happen to all.
"For just like to-day with its holiday lost,
Is life and its comforts at best:
Our pleasures are blighted, our purposes cross'd,
To teach us it is not our rest.
"And when those distresses and crosses appear,
With which you may shortly be tried,
You'll wonder that ever you wasted a tear
On merely the loss of a ride.
"But though the world's pleasures are fleeting and vain,
Religion is lasting and true;
Real pleasure and peace in her paths you may gain,
Nor will disappointment ensue.
John Betjeman |
The clock is frozen in the tower,
The thickening fog with sooty smell
Has blanketed the motor power
Which turns the London streets to hell;
And footsteps with their lonely sound
Intensify the silence round.
I haven't hope.
I haven't faith.
I live two lives and sometimes three.
The lives I live make life a death
For those who have to live with me.
Knowing the virtues that I lack,
I pat myself upon the back.
With breastplate of self-righteousness
And shoes of smugness on my feet,
Before the urge in me grows less
I hurry off to make retreat.
For somewhere, somewhere, burns a light
To lead me out into the night.
It glitters icy, thin and plain,
And leads me down to Waterloo-
Into a warm electric train
Which travels sorry Surrey through
And crystal-hung, the clumps of pine
Stand deadly still beside the line.