Little Jenny Wren fell sick,
Upon a time;
In came Robin Redbreast
And brought her cake and wine.
"Eat well of my cake, Jenny,
Drink well of my wine.
"Thank you, Robin, kindly,
You shall be mine.
Jenny she got well,
And stood upon her feet,
And told Robin plainly
She loved him not a bit.
Robin being angry,
Hopped upon a twig,
Saying, "Out upon you! Fie upon you!
Pussy-cat sits by the fire;
How can she be fair?
In walks the little dog;
Says: "Pussy, are you there?
How do you do, Mistress Pussy?
Mistress Pussy, how d'ye do?"
"I thank you kindly, little dog,
I fare as well as you!"
"Old woman, old woman, shall we go a-shearing?"
"Speak a little louder, sir, I am very thick of hearing.
"Old woman, old woman, shall I kiss you dearly?"
"Thank you, kind sir, I hear you very clearly.
More great poems below...
William Lisle Bowles | |
AS slowly wanders thy forsaken stream,
Wenbeck! the mossy-scatter'd rocks among,
In fancy's ear still making plaintive song
To the dark woods above: ah! sure I seem
To meet some friendly Genius in the gloom,
And in each breeze a pitying voice I hear
Like sorrow's sighs upon misfortune's tomb.
Ah! soothing are your quiet scenes -- the tear
Of him who passes weary on his way
Shall thank you, as he turns to bid adieu:
Onward a cheerless pilgrim he may stray,
Yet oft as musing memory shall review
The scenes that cheer'd his path with fairer ray,
Delightful haunts, he will remember you.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | |
[This fine poem is introduced in the second
book of Wilhelm Meister.
"WHAT tuneful strains salute mine ear
Without the castle walls?
Oh, let the song re-echo here,
Within our festal halls!"
Thus spake the king, the page out-hied;
The boy return'd; the monarch cried:
"Admit the old man yonder!"
"All hail, ye noble lords to-night!
All hail, ye beauteous dames!
Star placed by star! What heavenly sight!
Whoe'er can tell their names?
Within this glittering hall sublime,
Be closed, mine eyes! 'tis not the time
For me to feast my wonder.
The minstrel straightway closed his eyes,
And woke a thrilling tone;
The knights look'd on in knightly guise,
Fair looks tow'rd earth were thrown.
The monarch, ravish'd by the strain,
Bade them bring forth a golden chain,
To be his numbers' guerdon.
"The golden chain give not to me,
But give the chain to those
In whose bold face we shiver'd see
The lances of our foes.
Or give it to thy chancellor there;
With other burdens he may bear
This one more golden burden.
"I sing, like birds of blithesome note,
That in the branches dwell;
The song that rises from the throat
Repays the minstrel well.
One boon I'd crave, if not too bold--
One bumper in a cup of gold
Be as my guerdon given.
The bowl he raised, the bowl he quaff'd:
"Oh drink, with solace fraught!
Oh, house thrice-blest, where such a draught
A trifling gift is thought!
When Fortune smiles, remember me,
And as I thank you heartily,
As warmly thank ye Heaven!"
Walter de la Mare | |
Smith, “I really cannot
Tell you, Dr.
The most peculiar pain I’m in—
I think it’s in my bones.
Jones, “Oh, Mr.
We have a simple cure for that;
It is to take them out.
He laid forthwith poor Mr.
Close-clamped upon the table,
And, cold as stone, took out his bones
As fast as he was able.
Smith said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,”
And wished him a good-day;
And with his parcel ‘neath his arm
He slowly moved away.
Mark Van Doren | |
Whatever I have left unsaid
When I am dead
O'muse forgive me.
You were always there,
like light, like air.
Those great good things
of which the least bird sings,
So why not I?
Yet thank you even then,
Sweet muse, Amen.
Philip Larkin | |
Standing under the fobbed
Impendent belly of Time
Tell me the truth, I said,
Teach me the way things go.
All the other lads there
Were itching to have a bash,
But I thought wanting unfair:
It and finding out clash.
So he patted my head, booming Boy,
There's no green in your eye:
Sit here and watch the hail
Of occurence clobber life out
To a shape no one sees -
Dare you look at that straight?
Oh thank you, I said, Oh yes please,
And sat down to wait.
Half life is over now,
And I meet full face on dark mornings
The bestial visor, bent in
By the blows of what happened to happen.
What does it prove? Sod all.
In this way I spent youth,
Tracing the trite untransferable
Katherine Mansfield | |
After all the rain, the sun
Shines on hill and grassy mead;
Fly into the garden, child,
You are very glad indeed.
For the days have been so dull,
Oh, so special dark and drear,
That you told me, "Mr.
Has forgotten we live here.
Dew upon the lily lawn,
Dew upon the garden beds;
Daintly from all the leaves
Pop the little primrose heads.
And the violets in the copse
With their parasols of green
Take a little peek at you;
They're the bluest you have seen.
On the lilac tree a bird
Singing first a little not,
Then a burst of happy song
Bubbles in his lifted throat.
O the sun, the comfy sun!
This the song that you must sing,
"Thank you for the birds, the flowers,
Thank you, sun, for everything.
Christina Rossetti | |
I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows, and snows,
And you're too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell.
Or, after all, perhaps there's none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today's a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to every one who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro' my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro' my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave that truth untested still.
Spring's and expansive time: yet I don't trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro' the sunless hours.
Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there's not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.
Christina Rossetti | |
I never said I loved you, John:
Why will you tease me day by day,
And wax a weariness to think upon
With always "do" and "pray"?
You Know I never loved you, John;
No fault of mine made me your toast:
Why will you haunt me with a face as wan
As shows an hour-old ghost?
I dare say Meg or Moll would take
Pity upon you, if you'd ask:
And pray don't remain single for my sake
Who can't perform the task.
I have no heart?-Perhaps I have not;
But then you're mad to take offence
That don't give you what I have not got:
Use your common sense.
Let bygones be bygones:
Don't call me false, who owed not to be true:
I'd rather answer "No" to fifty Johns
Than answer "Yes" to you.
Let's mar our plesant days no more,
Song-birds of passage, days of youth:
Catch at today, forget the days before:
I'll wink at your untruth.
Let us strike hands as hearty friends;
No more, no less; and friendship's good:
Only don't keep in veiw ulterior ends, And points not understood
In open treaty.
Quibbles and shuffling off and on:
Here's friendship for you if you like; but love,-
No, thank you, John.
Alfonsina Storni | |
Teeth of flowers, hairnet of dew,
hands of herbs, you, perfect wet nurse,
prepare the earthly sheets for me
and the down quilt of weeded moss.
I am going to sleep, my nurse, put me to bed.
Set a lamp at my headboard;
a constellation; whatever you like;
all are good: lower it a bit.
Leave me alone: you hear the buds breaking through .
a celestial foot rocks you from above
and a bird traces a pattern for you
so you'll forget .
Oh, one request:
if he telephones again
tell him not to keep trying for I have left .
Robert William Service | |
The porter in the Pullman car
Was charming, as they sometimes are.
He scanned my baggage tags: "Are you
The man who wrote of Lady Lou?"
When I said "yes" he made a fuss -
Oh, he was most assiduous;
And I was pleased to think that he
Enjoyed my brand of poetry.
He was forever at my call,
So when we got to Montreal
And he had brushed me off, I said:
"I'm glad my poems you have read.
I feel quite flattered, I confess,
And if you give me your address
I'll send you (autographed, of course)
One of my little books of verse.
He smiled - his teeth were white as milk;
He spoke - his voice was soft as silk.
I recognized, depite his skin,
The perfect gentleman within.
Then courteously he made reply:
"I thank you kindly, Sir, but I
With many other cherished tome
Have all your books of verse at home.
"When I was quite a little boy
I used to savour them with joy;
And now my daughter, aged three,
Can tell the tale of Sam McGee;
While Tom, my son, that's only two
Has heard the yarn of Dan McGrew.
Don't think your stuff I'm not applaudin' -
My taste is Eliot and Auden.
So we gravely bade adieu
I felt quite snubbed - and so would you,
And yet I shook him by the hand,
Impressed that he could understand
The works of those two tops I mention,
So far beyond my comprehension -
A humble bard of boys and barmen,
Disdained, alas! by Pullman carmen.
Robert William Service | |
The songs I made from joy of earth
In wanton wandering,
Are rapturous with Maytime mirth
And ectasy of Spring.
But all the songs I sing today
Take tediously the ear:
Novemberishly dark are they
With mortuary fear.
For half a century has gone
Since first I rang a rhyme;
And that is long to linger on
The tolerance of Time.
This blue-veined hand with which I write
Yet answers to my will;
Though four-score years I count to-night
I am unsilent still.
"Senile old fool!" I hear you say;
"Beside the dying fire
You huddle and stiff-fingered play
Your tired and tinny lyre.
Well, though your patience I may try,
Bear with me yet awhile,
And though you scorn my singing I
Will thank you with a smile.
For I such soul-delighting joy
Have found in simple rhyme,
Since first a happy-hearted boy
I coaxed a word to chime,
That ere I tryst with Mother Earth
Let from my heart arise
A song of youth and starry mirth .
Then close my eyes.
Robert William Service | |
That boy I took in the car last night,
With the body that awfully sagged away,
And the lips blood-crisped, and the eyes flame-bright,
And the poor hands folded and cold as clay --
Oh, I've thought and I've thought of him all the day.
For the weary old doctor says to me:
"He'll only last for an hour or so.
Both of his legs below the knee
Blown off by a bomb.
So, lad, go slow,
And please remember, he doesn't know.
So I tried to drive with never a jar;
And there was I cursing the road like mad,
When I hears a ghost of a voice from the car:
"Tell me, old chap, have I `copped it' bad?"
So I answers "No," and he says, "I'm glad.
"Glad," says he, "for at twenty-two
Life's so splendid, I hate to go.
There's so much good that a chap might do,
And I've fought from the start and I've suffered so.
'Twould be hard to get knocked out now, you know.
"Forget it," says I; then I drove awhile,
And I passed him a cheery word or two;
But he didn't answer for many a mile,
So just as the hospital hove in view,
Says I: "Is there nothing that I can do?"
Then he opens his eyes and he smiles at me;
And he takes my hand in his trembling hold;
"Thank you -- you're far too kind," says he:
"I'm awfully comfy -- stay .
I fancy my blanket's come unrolled --
My feet, please wrap 'em -- they're cold .
Barry Tebb | |
Empty chocolate boxes, a pillowcase with an orange at the bottom,
Nuts and tinsel with its idiosyncratic rustle and brilliant sheen
And the reflection in it of paper-chains hand-made and stuck with
Flour-paste stretching from the light-bowl to every corner of the room.
Father Christmas himself was plastic and his vast stomach painted red
With a bulging sack behind his back and he was stuck in the middle
Of a very large cake.
The icing was royal and you could see the
Whites of many eggs in the glister of its surface and on the
Upright piano the music of Jingle Bells lay open.
With aching hands I wrote thank you notes for socks to sainted aunts
And played on Nutwood Common with Rupert until Tiger Lily’s father,
The Great Conjuror, waved his wand and brought me home to the last
Coal fire in Leeds, suddenly dying.
I got through a whole packet of sweet cigarettes with pink tips
Dipped in cochineal and a whole quarter of sherbet lemons at a sitting
And there was a full bottle of Portello to go at, the colour
Of violet ink and tasting of night air and threepenny bits
Which lasted until the last gas-lamp in Leeds went out.
I had collected enough cardboard milk-tops to make a set of
Matchstick spinners and with my box of Rainbow Chalks drew circles
On my top, red, white and Festival of Britain blue and made it spin
All the way to the last bin-yard in Leeds while they pulled it down.
I was a very small teddy-bear crouched on a huge and broken chair
Ready to be put out into the wide world and my mother was there
To see me off.
The light in her eyes was out, there was no fire
In her heart and the binyard where I played was empty space.
Alice Walker | |
I said to Poetry: "I'm finished
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
Im out for good times--
at the very least,
some painless convention.
Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said: "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you.
Poetry said: "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one--and how suprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with
Think of that!"
"I'll join the church!" I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"
"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
Poetry had me.
"There's no paper
in this room," I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise.
"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
Rhodes' slave! Selling shoes and gingham,
Flour and bacon, overalls, clothing, all day long
For fourteen hours a day for three hundred and thirteen days
For more than twenty years.
Saying "Yes'm" and "Yes, sir", and "Thank you"
A thousand times a day, and all for fifty dollars a month.
Living in this stinking room in the rattle-trap "Commercial.
And compelled to go to Sunday School, and to listen
To the Rev.
Abner Peet one hundred and four times a year
For more than an hour at a time,
Because Thomas Rhodes ran the church
As well as the store and the bank.
So while I was tying my neck-tie that morning
I suddenly saw myself in the glass:
My hair all gray, my face like a sodden pie.
So I cursed and cursed: You damned old thing
You cowardly dog! You rotten pauper!
You Rhodes' slave! Till Roger Baughman
Thought I was having a fight with some one,
And looked through the transom just in time
To see me fall on the floor in a heap
From a broken vein in my head.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
I would I had thrust my hands of flesh
Into the disk-flowers bee-infested,
Into the mirror-like core of fire
Of the light of life, the sun of delight.
For what are anthers worth or petals
Or halo-rays? Mockeries, shadows
Of the heart of the flower, the central flame!
All is yours, young passer-by;
Enter the banquet room with the thought;
Don't sidle in as if you were doubtful
Whether you're welcome -- the feast is yours!
Nor take but a little, refusing more
With a bashful "Thank you," when you're hungry.
Is your soul alive? Then let it feed!
Leave no balconies where you can climb;
Nor milk-white bosoms where you can rest;
Nor golden heads with pillows to share;
Nor wine cups while the wine is sweet;
Nor ecstasies of body or soul,
You will die, no doubt, but die while living
In depths of azure, rapt and mated,
Kissing the queen-bee, Life!
Edgar Lee Masters | |
You never understood, O unknown one,
Why it was I repaid
Your devoted friendship and delicate ministrations
First with diminished thanks,
Afterward by gradually withdrawing my presence from you,
So that I might not be compelled to thank you,
And then with silence which followed upon
Our final Separation.
You had cured my diseased soul.
But to cure it
You saw my disease, you knew my secret,
And that is why I fled from you.
For though when our bodies rise from pain
We kiss forever the watchful hands
That gave us wormwood, while we shudder
For thinking of the wormwood,
A soul that's cured is a different matter,
For there we'd blot from memory
The soft-toned words, the searching eyes,
And stand forever oblivious,
Not so much of the sorrow itself
As of the hand that healed it.
Robert Louis Stevenson | |
Thank you, pretty cow, that made
Pleasant milk to soak my bread,
Every day and every night,
Warm, and fresh, and sweet, and white.
Do not chew the hemlock rank,
Growing on the weedy bank;
But the yellow cowslips eat;
They perhaps will make it sweet.
Where the purple violet grows,
Where the bubbling water flows,
Where the grass is fresh and fine,
Pretty cow, go there to dine.
Kenneth Koch | |
You have helped hold me together.
I'd like you to be still.
Stop talking or doing anything else for a minute.
For three minutes, maybe five minutes.
Tell me which walk to take over the hill.
Is there a bridge there? Will I want company?
Tell me about the old people who built the bridge.
What is "the Japanese economy"?
Where did you hide the doctor's bills?
How much I admire you!
Can you help me to take this off?
May I help you to take that off?
Are you finished with this item?
Who is the car salesman?
The canopy we had made for the dog.
I need some endless embracing.
The ocean's not really very far.
Did you come west in this weather?
I've been sitting at home with my shoes off.
You're wearing a cross!
That bench, look! Under it are some puppies!
Could I have just one little shot of Scotch?
I suppose I wanted to impress you.
The Revlon Man has come from across the sea.
This racket is annoying.
We didn't want the baby to come here because of the hawk.
What are you reading?
In what style would you like the humidity to explain?
I care, but not much.
You can smoke a cigar.
Genuineness isn't a word I'd ever use.
Say, what a short skirt! Do you have a camera?
The moon is a shellfish.
I can't talk to most people.
They eat me alive.
Who are you, anyway?
I want to look at you all day long, because you are mine.
Might you crave a little visit to the Pizza Hut?
Thank you for telling me your sign.
I'm filled with joy by this sun!
The turtle is advancing but the lobster stays behind.
Silence has won the game!
Well, just damn you and the thermometer!
I don't want to ask the doctor.
I didn't know what you meant when you said that to me.
It's getting cold, but I am feeling awfully lazy.
If you want to we can go over there
Where there's a little more light.
Steve Kowit | |
Now that I've unplugged the phone,
no one can reach me--
At least for this one afternoon
they will have to get by without my advice
Now nobody else is going to call
& ask in a tentative voice
if I haven't yet heard that she's dead,
that woman I once loved--
nothing but ashes scattered over a city
that barely itself any longer exists.
Yes, thank you, I've heard.
It had been too lovely a morning.
That in itself should have warned me.
The sun lit up the tangerines
& the blazing poinsettias
like so many candles.
For one afternoon they will have to forgive me.
I am busy watching things happen again
that happened a long time ago.
as I lean back in Josephine's lawnchair
under a sky of incredible blue,
broken--if that is the word for it--
by a few billowing clouds,
all white & unspeakably lovely,
drifting out of one nothingness into another.
John Matthew | |
When she smiles she sends happiness
A million pleasant thrills of the heart
To parched souls thirsting for love
In the vast desert of human affairs.
Oh, is there in this world such a heart?
So pure in its expression of joy, smiles
I know not how to thank you dear God
For this wonderful creation of yours.
What makes Muskan’s smile so beautiful?
Is it the deep pain and hurt she is hiding?
Wringing the joys from the sadness of life
Throwing away the bland fiber and rinds.
John Matthew | |
You will realize this wisdom,
When you are my age, and experience,
Gained from being in vexing situations,
Yet, being out of it.
You do the same,
There is a joy in detachment,
Forsaking instant pleasures, pains,
For things deeper and enduring.
Don’t be a slave to the work,
Of smart slave-drivers in cubicles,
Instead explore the works of men,
Who have experienced the truths,
And distilled in their words, wisdoms,
Which may grate your ears now.
Like me, don’t be prey to sudden,
Rushes of anger that comes over cables,
And with emails and posts demolish,
Without thinking of consequences -
I have done that and am living to regret.
Don’t drink bottled and sealed lifestyles,
Its sugar, water and carbon dioxide,
Will dither you, disorient you, and sap you,
And don’t eat fast food with loose change,
They will suck you into their assembly line.
Lastly do not try to see with closed eyes,
And hear with deaf ears, keep them open.
The music and rhythm can corrupt,
And make sinning seem so tempting.
The age of innocence, son, is gone,
Every man is a mercenary army.
If you follow this advise, son,
When you are mature and wise as me,
You will say, one day, “Thank you Papa,
For your words of advice, wisdom,
To my children, too, I will pass this wisdom.