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Best Famous War Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous War poems. This is a select list of the best famous War poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous War poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of war poems.

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Written by George (Lord) Byron |

The Dream

 I

Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power— 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought, A slumbering thought, is capable of years, And curdles a long life into one hour.
II I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill Was crowned with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fixed, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing—the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him; he had looked Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words; she was his sight, For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers, Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased To live within himself: she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestowed on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why? Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved Another; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood Looking afar if yet her lover's steed Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
III A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparisoned: Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere With a convulsion—then rose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-entered there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved; she knew— For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came; He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
IV A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds Of fiery climes he made himself a home, And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt With strange and dusky aspects; he was not Himself like what he had been; on the sea And on the shore he was a wanderer; There was a mass of many images Crowded like waves upon me, but he was A part of all; and in the last he lay Reposing from the noontide sultriness, Couched among fallen columns, in the shade Of ruined walls that had survived the names Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds Were fastened near a fountain; and a man, Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while, While many of his tribe slumbered around: And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful, That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
V A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better: in her home, A thousand leagues from his,—her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold! Upon her face there was a tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which preyed Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
VI A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand Before an altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then— As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reeled around him; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall, And the remembered chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light; What business had they there at such a time? VII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth? Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedness, Making the cold reality too real! VIII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compassed round With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains; with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues: and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was opened wide, And voices from the deep abyss revealed A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
IX My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality—the one To end in madness—both in misery.

Written by Maya Angelou |

On the Pulse of Morning

(also referred to as The Rock Cries Out To Us Today)

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A river sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, Then forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of other seekers-- Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot.
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river, Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.

Written by John Donne |

Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow, 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell; And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Written by Walt Whitman |

Song at Sunset

 SPLENDOR of ended day, floating and filling me! 
Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past! 
Inflating my throat—you, divine average! 
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.
Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness, Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection, Natural life of me, faithfully praising things; Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnumber’d spirits; Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest insect; Illustrious the attribute of speech—the senses—the body; Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the new moon in the western sky! Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart; Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-color’d flesh; To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large; To be this incredible God I am; To have gone forth among other Gods—these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself! How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on! How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks—with branches and leaves! (Surely there is something more in each of the tree—some living Soul.
) O amazement of things! even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents—now reaching me and America! I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher’d, or at noon, or, as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the growths of the earth, I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I sail’d down the Mississippi, As I wander’d over the prairies, As I have lived—As I have look’d through my windows, my eyes, As I went forth in the morning—As I beheld the light breaking in the east; As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the Western Sea; As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago—whatever streets I have roam’d; Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war; Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities, modern or old, I sing the endless finales of things; I say Nature continues—Glory continues; I praise with electric voice; For I do not see one imperfection in the universe; And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.

Written by William Shakespeare |

Sonnet 55

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contènts
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn, And broils root out the work of masonry, Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room Even in the eyes of all posterity That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise, You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

Written by Maya Angelou |

The Rock Cries Out to Us Today

 A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A river sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, Then forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of other seekers-- Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot.
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river, Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.

Written by Langston Hughes |

Freedoms Plow

 When a man starts out with nothing,
 When a man starts out with his hands
 Empty, but clean,
 When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.
First in the heart is the dream- Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world, On the great wooded world, On the rich soil of the world, On the rivers of the world.
The eyes see there materials for building, See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood, To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help, A community of hands to help- Thus the dream becomes not one man's dream alone, But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone, But your world and my world, Belonging to all the hands who build.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, Ships came from across the sea Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers, Adventurers and booty seekers, Free men and indentured servants, Slave men and slave masters, all new- To a new world, America! With billowing sails the galleons came Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together, Heart reaching out to heart, Hand reaching out to hand, They began to build our land.
Some were free hands Seeking a greater freedom, Some were indentured hands Hoping to find their freedom, Some were slave hands Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, But the word was there always: Freedom.
Down into the earth went the plow In the free hands and the slave hands, In indentured hands and adventurous hands, Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands That planted and harvested the food that fed And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands, Indentured hands, adventurous hands, White hands and black hands Held the plow handles, Ax handles, hammer handles, Launched the boats and whipped the horses That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor, All these hands made America.
Labor! Out of labor came villages And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats And the sailboats and the steamboats, Came the wagons, and the coaches, Covered wagons, stage coaches, Out of labor came the factories, Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores, Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured, Sold in shops, piled in warehouses, Shipped the wide world over: Out of labor-white hands and black hands- Came the dream, the strength, the will, And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it's Manhattan, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and El Paso- Now it's the U.
S.
A.
A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL-- ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS-- AMONG THESE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
His name was Jefferson.
There were slaves then, But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too, And silently too for granted That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago, But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said: NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT THAT OTHER'S CONSENT.
There were slaves then, too, But in their hearts the slaves knew What he said must be meant for every human being- Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said: BETTER TO DIE FREE THAN TO LIVE SLAVES He was a colored man who had been a slave But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew What Frederick Douglass said was true.
With John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark, And nobody knew for sure When freedom would triumph "Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery, Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom, The slaves made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! That song meant just what it said: Hold On! Freedom will come! Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! Out of war it came, bloody and terrible! But it came! Some there were, as always, Who doubted that the war would end right, That the slaves would be free, Or that the union would stand, But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation, We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land, And men united as a nation.
America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud, Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold Great thoughts in their deepest hearts And sometimes only blunderingly express them, Haltingly and stumblingly say them, And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there, Always the trying to understand, And the trying to say, "You are a man.
Together we are building our land.
" America! Land created in common, Dream nourished in common, Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on! If the house is not yet finished, Don't be discouraged, builder! If the fight is not yet won, Don't be weary, soldier! The plan and the pattern is here, Woven from the beginning Into the warp and woof of America: ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.
BETTER DIE FREE, THAN TO LIVE SLAVES.
Who said those things? Americans! Who owns those words? America! Who is America? You, me! We are America! To the enemy who would conquer us from without, We say, NO! To the enemy who would divide And conquer us from within, We say, NO! FREEDOM! BROTHERHOOD! DEMOCRACY! To all the enemies of these great words: We say, NO! A long time ago, An enslaved people heading toward freedom Made up a song: Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On! The plow plowed a new furrow Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody, For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow Until all races and all peoples know its shade.
KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!

Written by William Butler Yeats |

A Dialogue Of Self And Soul

 My Soul.
I summon to the winding ancient stair; Set all your mind upon the steep ascent, Upon the broken, crumbling battlement, Upon the breathless starlit air, "Upon the star that marks the hidden pole; Fix every wandering thought upon That quarter where all thought is done: Who can distinguish darkness from the soul My Self.
The consecretes blade upon my knees Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was, Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass Unspotted by the centuries; That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn From some court-lady's dress and round The wodden scabbard bound and wound Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn My Soul.
Why should the imagination of a man Long past his prime remember things that are Emblematical of love and war? Think of ancestral night that can, If but imagination scorn the earth And interllect is wandering To this and that and t'other thing, Deliver from the crime of death and birth.
My Self.
Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it Five hundred years ago, about it lie Flowers from I know not what embroidery - Heart's purple - and all these I set For emblems of the day against the tower Emblematical of the night, And claim as by a soldier's right A charter to commit the crime once more.
My Soul.
Such fullness in that quarter overflows And falls into the basin of the mind That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind, For intellect no longer knows Is from the Ought, or knower from the Known - That is to say, ascends to Heaven; Only the dead can be forgiven; But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.
II My Self.
A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure? What matter if I live it all once more? Endure that toil of growing up; The ignominy of boyhood; the distress Of boyhood changing into man; The unfinished man and his pain Brought face to face with his own clumsiness; The finished man among his enemies? - How in the name of Heaven can he escape That defiling and disfigured shape The mirror of malicious eyes Casts upon his eyes until at last He thinks that shape must be his shape? And what's the good of an escape If honour find him in the wintry blast? I am content to live it all again And yet again, if it be life to pitch Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch, A blind man battering blind men; Or into that most fecund ditch of all, The folly that man does Or must suffer, if he woos A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source Every event in action or in thought; Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot! When such as I cast out remorse So great a sweetness flows into the breast We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest.

Written by Maya Angelou |

Inaugural Poem

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing.
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot .
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.

Written by Richard Aldington |

Childhood

 I 

The bitterness.
the misery, the wretchedness of childhood Put me out of love with God.
I can't believe in God's goodness; I can believe In many avenging gods.
Most of all I believe In gods of bitter dullness, Cruel local gods Who scared my childhood.
II I've seen people put A chrysalis in a match-box, "To see," they told me, "what sort of moth would come.
" But when it broke its shell It slipped and stumbled and fell about its prison And tried to climb to the light For space to dry its wings.
That's how I was.
Somebody found my chrysalis And shut it in a match-box.
My shrivelled wings were beaten, Shed their colours in dusty scales Before the box was opened For the moth to fly.
III I hate that town; I hate the town I lived in when I was little; I hate to think of it.
There wre always clouds, smoke, rain In that dingly little valley.
It rained; it always rained.
I think I never saw the sun until I was nine -- And then it was too late; Everything's too late after the first seven years.
The long street we lived in Was duller than a drain And nearly as dingy.
There were the big College And the pseudo-Gothic town-hall.
There were the sordid provincial shops -- The grocer's, and the shops for women, The shop where I bought transfers, And the piano and gramaphone shop Where I used to stand Staring at the huge shiny pianos and at the pictures Of a white dog looking into a gramaphone.
How dull and greasy and grey and sordid it was! On wet days -- it was always wet -- I used to kneel on a chair And look at it from the window.
The dirty yellow trams Dragged noisily along With a clatter of wheels and bells And a humming of wires overhead.
They threw up the filthy rain-water from the hollow lines And then the water ran back Full of brownish foam bubbles.
There was nothing else to see -- It was all so dull -- Except a few grey legs under shiny black umbrellas Running along the grey shiny pavements; Sometimes there was a waggon Whose horses made a strange loud hollow sound With their hoofs Through the silent rain.
And there was a grey museum Full of dead birds and dead insects and dead animals And a few relics of the Romans -- dead also.
There was a sea-front, A long asphalt walk with a bleak road beside it, Three piers, a row of houses, And a salt dirty smell from the little harbour.
I was like a moth -- Like one of those grey Emperor moths Which flutter through the vines at Capri.
And that damned little town was my match-box, Against whose sides I beat and beat Until my wings were torn and faded, and dingy As that damned little town.
IV At school it was just as dull as that dull High Street.
The front was dull; The High Street and the other street were dull -- And there was a public park, I remember, And that was damned dull, too, With its beds of geraniums no one was allowed to pick, And its clipped lawns you weren't allowed to walk on, And the gold-fish pond you mustn't paddle in, And the gate made out of a whale's jaw-bones, And the swings, which were for "Board-School children," And its gravel paths.
And on Sundays they rang the bells, From Baptist and Evangelical and Catholic churches.
They had a Salvation Army.
I was taken to a High Church; The parson's name was Mowbray, "Which is a good name but he thinks too much of it --" That's what I heard people say.
I took a little black book To that cold, grey, damp, smelling church, And I had to sit on a hard bench, Wriggle off it to kneel down when they sang psalms And wriggle off it to kneel down when they prayed, And then there was nothing to do Except to play trains with the hymn-books.
There was nothing to see, Nothing to do, Nothing to play with, Except that in an empty room upstairs There was a large tin box Containing reproductions of the Magna Charta, Of the Declaration of Independence And of a letter from Raleigh after the Armada.
There were also several packets of stamps, Yellow and blue Guatemala parrots, Blue stags and red baboons and birds from Sarawak, Indians and Men-of-war From the United States, And the green and red portraits Of King Francobello Of Italy.
V I don't believe in God.
I do believe in avenging gods Who plague us for sins we never sinned But who avenge us.
That's why I'll never have a child, Never shut up a chrysalis in a match-box For the moth to spoil and crush its brght colours, Beating its wings against the dingy prison-wall.

Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |

Paul Reveres Ride

Listen, my children, and you shall hear 
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: 
Hardly a man is now alive 
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,-- One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm.
" Then he said "Good night!" and with muffled oar Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore, Just as the moon rose over the bay, Where swinging wide at her moorings lay The Somerset, British man-of-war: A phantom ship, with each mast and spar Across the moon, like a prison-bar, And a huge black hulk, that was magnified By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street Wanders and watches with eager ears, Till in the silence around him he hears The muster of men at the barrack door, The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet, And the measured tread of the grenadiers Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed to the tower of the church, Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry-chamber overhead, And startled the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him made Masses and moving shapes of shade,-- By the trembling ladder, steep and tall, To the highest window in the wall, Where he paused to listen and look down A moment on the roofs of the town, And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead, In their night-encampment on the hill, Wrapped in silence so deep and still That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread, The watchful night-wind, as it went Creeping along from tent to tent, And seeming to whisper, "All is well!" A moment only he feels the spell Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread Of the lonely belfry and the dead; For suddenly all his thoughts are bent On a shadowy something far away, Where the river widens to meet the bay, -- A line of black, that bends and floats On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride, On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side, Now gazed on the landscape far and near, Then impetuous stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry-tower of the old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height, A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns! A hurry of hoofs in a village-street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet: That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep, And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep, Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; And under the alders, that skirt its edge, Now soft on the sand, now load on the ledge, Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock, And the barking of the farmer's dog, And felt the damp of the river-fog, That rises when the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock, When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare, Gaze at him with a spectral glare, As if they already stood aghast At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock, When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock, And the twitter of birds among the trees, And felt the breath of the morning breeze Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed Who at the bridge would be first to fall, Who that day would be lying dead, Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest.
In the books you have read, How the British Regulars fired and fled,-- How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard-wall, Chasing the red-coats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm,-- A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forevermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Written by Thomas Campbell |

Ode to Winter

 When first the fiery-mantled sun 
His heavenly race begun to run; 
Round the earth and ocean blue, 
His children four the Seasons flew.
First, in green apparel dancing, The young Spring smiled with angel grace; Rosy summer next advancing, Rushed into her sire's embrace:- Her blue-haired sire, who bade her keep For ever nearest to his smile, On Calpe's olive-shaded steep, On India's citron-covered isles: More remote and buxom-brown, The Queen of vintage bowed before his throne, A rich pomegranate gemmed her gown, A ripe sheaf bound her zone.
But howling Winter fled afar, To hills that prop the polar star, And lives on deer-borne car to ride With barren darkness at his side, Round the shore where loud Lofoden Whirls to death the roaring whale, Round the hall where runic Odin Howls his war-song to the gale; Save when adown the ravaged globe He travels on his native storm, Deflowering Nature's grassy robe, And trampling on her faded form:- Till light's returning lord assume The shaft the drives him to his polar field, Of power to pierce his raven plume And crystal-covered shield.
Oh, sire of storms! whose savage ear The Lapland drum delights to hear, When frenzy with her blood-shot eye Implores thy dreadful deity, Archangel! power of desolation! Fast descending as thou art, Say, hath mortal invocation Spells to touch thy stony heart? Then, sullen Winter, hear my prayer, And gently rule the ruined year; Nor chill the wanders bosom bare, Nor freeze the wretch's falling tear;- To shuddering Want's unmantled bed Thy horror-breathing agues cease to lead, And gently on the orphan head Of innocence descend.
- But chiefly spare, O king of clouds! The sailor on his airy shrouds; When wrecks and beacons strew the steep, And specters walk along the deep.
Milder yet thy snowy breezes Pour on yonder tented shores, Where the Rhine's broad billow freezes, Or the Dark-brown Danube roars.
Oh, winds of winter! List ye there To many a deep and dying groan; Or start, ye demons of the midnight air, At shrieks and thunders louder than your own.
Alas! Even unhallowed breath May spare the victim fallen low; But man will ask no truce of death,- No bounds to human woe.

Written by Robinson Jeffers |

The Broken Balance

 I.
Reference to a Passage in Plutarch's Life of Sulla The people buying and selling, consuming pleasures, talking in the archways, Were all suddenly struck quiet And ran from under stone to look up at the sky: so shrill and mournful, So fierce and final, a brazen Pealing of trumpets high up in the air, in the summer blue over Tuscany.
They marvelled; the soothsayers answered: "Although the Gods are little troubled toward men, at the end of each period A sign is declared in heaven Indicating new times, new customs, a changed people; the Romans Rule, and Etruria is finished; A wise mariner will trim the sails to the wind.
" I heard yesterday So shrill and mournful a trumpet-blast, It was hard to be wise.
.
.
.
You must eat change and endure; not be much troubled For the people; they will have their happiness.
When the republic grows too heavy to endure, then Caesar will carry It; When life grows hateful, there's power .
.
.
II.
To the Children Power's good; life is not always good but power's good.
So you must think when abundance Makes pawns of people and all the loaves are one dough.
The steep singleness of passion Dies; they will say, "What was that?" but the power triumphs.
Loveliness will live under glass And beauty will go savage in the secret mountains.
There is beauty in power also.
You children must widen your minds' eyes to take mountains Instead of faces, and millions Instead of persons; not to hate life; and massed power After the lone hawk's dead.
III That light blood-loving weasel, a tongue of yellow Fire licking the sides of the gray stones, Has a more passionate and more pure heart In the snake-slender flanks than man can imagine; But he is betrayed by his own courage, The man who kills him is like a cloud hiding a star.
Then praise the jewel-eyed hawk and the tall blue heron; The black cormorants that fatten their sea-rock With shining slime; even that ruiner of anthills The red-shafted woodpecker flying, A white star between blood-color wing-clouds, Across the glades of the wood and the green lakes of shade.
These live their felt natures; they know their norm And live it to the brim; they understand life.
While men moulding themselves to the anthill have choked Their natures until the souls the in them; They have sold themselves for toys and protection: No, but consider awhile: what else? Men sold for toys.
Uneasy and fractional people, having no center But in the eyes and mouths that surround them, Having no function but to serve and support Civilization, the enemy of man, No wonder they live insanely, and desire With their tongues, progress; with their eyes, pleasure; with their hearts, death.
Their ancestors were good hunters, good herdsmen and swordsman, But now the world is turned upside down; The good do evil, the hope's in criminals; in vice That dissolves the cities and war to destroy them.
Through wars and corruptions the house will fall.
Mourn whom it falls on.
Be glad: the house is mined, it will fall.
IV Rain, hail and brutal sun, the plow in the roots, The pitiless pruning-iron in the branches, Strengthen the vines, they are all feeding friends Or powerless foes until the grapes purple.
But when you have ripened your berries it is time to begin to perish.
The world sickens with change, rain becomes poison, The earth is a pit, it Is time to perish.
The vines are fey, the very kindness of nature Corrupts what her cruelty before strengthened.
When you stand on the peak of time it is time to begin to perish.
Reach down the long morbid roots that forget the plow, Discover the depths; let the long pale tendrils Spend all to discover the sky, now nothing is good But only the steel mirrors of discovery .
.
.
And the beautiful enormous dawns of time, after we perish.
V Mourning the broken balance, the hopeless prostration of the earth Under men's hands and their minds, The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city, The spreading fungus, the slime-threads And spores; my own coast's obscene future: I remember the farther Future, and the last man dying Without succession under the confident eyes of the stars.
It was only a moment's accident, The race that plagued us; the world resumes the old lonely immortal Splendor; from here I can even Perceive that that snuffed candle had something .
.
.
a fantastic virtue, A faint and unshapely pathos .
.
.
So death will flatter them at last: what, even the bald ape's by-shot Was moderately admirable? VI.
Palinode All summer neither rain nor wave washes the cormorants' Perch, and their droppings have painted it shining white.
If the excrement of fish-eaters makes the brown rock a snow-mountain At noon, a rose in the morning, a beacon at moonrise On the black water: it is barely possible that even men's present Lives are something; their arts and sciences (by moonlight) Not wholly ridiculous, nor their cities merely an offense.
VII Under my windows, between the road and the sea-cliff, bitter wild grass Stands narrowed between the people and the storm.
The ocean winter after winter gnaws at its earth, the wheels and the feet Summer after summer encroach and destroy.
Stubborn green life, for the cliff-eater I cannot comfort you, ignorant which color, Gray-blue or pale-green, will please the late stars; But laugh at the other, your seed shall enjoy wonderful vengeances and suck The arteries and walk in triumph on the faces.

Written by Philip Levine |

The Negatives

 On March 1, 1958, four deserters from the French Army of North Africa, 
August Rein, Henri Bruette, Jack Dauville, & Thomas Delain, robbed a 
government pay station at Orleansville.
Because of the subsequent confession of Dauville the other three were captured or shot.
Dauville was given his freedom and returned to the land of his birth, the U.
S.
A.
AUGUST REIN: from a last camp near St.
Remy I dig in the soft earth all afternoon, spacing the holes a foot or so from the wall.
Tonight we eat potatoes, tomorrow rice and carrots.
The earth here is like the earth nowhere, ancient with wood rot.
How can anything come forth, I wonder; and the days are all alike, if there is more than one day.
If there is more of this I will not endure.
I have grown so used to being watched I can no longer sleep without my watcher.
The thing I fought against, the dark cape, crimsoned with terror that I so hated comforts me now.
Thomas is dead; insanity, prison, cowardice, or slow inner capitulation has found us all, and all men turn from us, knowing our pain is not theirs or caused by them.
HENRI BRUETTE: from a hospital in Algiers Dear Suzanne: this letter will not reach you because I can't write it; I have no pencil, no paper, only the blunt end of my anger.
My dear, if I had words how could I report the imperfect failure for which I began to die? I might begin by saying that it was for clarity, though I did not find it in terror: dubiously entered each act, unsure of who I was and what I did, touching my face for fear I was another inside my head I played back pictures of my childhood, of my wife even, for it was in her I found myself beaten, safe, and furthest from the present.
It is her face I see now though all I say is meant for you, her face in the slow agony of sexual release.
I cannot see you.
The dark wall ribbed with spittle on which I play my childhood brings me to this bed, mastered by what I was, betrayed by those I trusted.
The one word my mouth must open to is why.
JACK DAUVILLE: from a hotel in Tampa, Florida From Orleansville we drove south until we reached the hills, then east until the road stopped.
I was nervous and couldn't eat.
Thomas took over, told us when to think and when to shit.
We turned north and reached Blida by first dawn and the City by morning, having dumped our weapons beside an empty road.
We were free.
We parted, and to this hour I haven't seen them, except in photographs: the black hair and torn features of Thomas Delain captured a moment before his death on the pages of the world, smeared in the act.
I tortured myself with their betrayal: alone I hurled them into freedom, inner freedom which I can't find nor ever will until they are dead.
In my mind Delain stands against the wall precise in detail, steadied for the betrayal.
"La France C'Est Moi," he cried, but the irony was lost.
Since I returned to the U.
S.
nothing goes well.
I stay up too late, don't sleep, and am losing weight.
Thomas, I say, is dead, but what use telling myself what I won't believe.
The hotel quiets early at night, the aged brace themselves for another sleep, and offshore the sea quickens its pace.
I am suddenly old, caught in a strange country for which no man would die.
THOMAS DELAIN: from a journal found on his person At night wakened by the freight trains boring through the suburbs of Lyon, I watched first light corrode the darkness, disturb what little wildlife was left in the alleys: birds moved from branch to branch, and the dogs leapt at the garbage.
Winter numbed even the hearts of the young who had only their hearts.
We heard the war coming; the long wait was over, and we moved along the crowded roads south not looking for what lost loves fell by the roadsides.
To flee at all cost, that was my youth.
Here in the African night wakened by what I do not know and shivering in the heat, listen as the men fight with sleep.
Loosed from their weapons they cry out, frightened and young, who have never been children.
Once merely to be strong, to live, was moral.
Within these uniforms we accept the evil we were chosen to deliver, and no act human or benign can free us from ourselves.
Wait, sleep, blind soldiers of a blind will, and listen for that old command dreaming of authority.

Written by Nazim Hikmet |

Things I Didnt Know I Loved

 it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it 
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I've loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
 and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before 
 and will be said after me

I didn't know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves.
.
.
they call me The Knife.
.
.
lover like a young tree.
.
.
I blow stately mansions sky-high" in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief to a pine bough for luck I never knew I loved roads even the asphalt kind Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea Koktebele formerly "Goktepé ili" in Turkish the two of us inside a closed box the world flows past on both sides distant and mute I was never so close to anyone in my life bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé when I was eighteen apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take and at eighteen our lives are what we value least I've written this somewhere before wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play Ramazan night a paper lantern leading the way maybe nothing like this ever happened maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy going to the shadow play Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat with a sable collar over his robe and there's a lantern in the servant's hand and I can't contain myself for joy flowers come to mind for some reason poppies cactuses jonquils in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika fresh almonds on her breath I was seventeen my heart on a swing touched the sky I didn't know I loved flowers friends sent me three red carnations in prison I just remembered the stars I love them too whether I'm floored watching them from below or whether I'm flying at their side I have some questions for the cosmonauts were the stars much bigger did they look like huge jewels on black velvet or apricots on orange did you feel proud to get closer to the stars I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to say they were terribly figurative and concrete my heart was in my mouth looking at them they are our endless desire to grasp things seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad I never knew I loved the cosmos snow flashes in front of my eyes both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind I didn't know I liked snow I never knew I loved the sun even when setting cherry-red as now in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors but you aren't about to paint it that way I didn't know I loved the sea except the Sea of Azov or how much I didn't know I loved clouds whether I'm under or up above them whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois strikes me I like it I didn't know I liked rain whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train is it because I lit my sixth cigarette one alone could kill me is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue the train plunges on through the pitch-black night I never knew I liked the night pitch-black sparks fly from the engine I didn't know I loved sparks I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return 19 April 1962 Moscow