Amy Clampitt |
Crossing, on this longest day,
the low-tide-uncovered isthmus, scrambling up
the scree-slope of what at high tide
will be again an island,
to where, a decade since well-being staked
the slender, unpremeditated claim that brings us
back, year after year, lugging the
makings of another picnic—
the cucumber sandwiches, the sea-air-sanctified
fig newtons—there's no knowing what the slamming
seas, the gales of yet another winter
may have done.
the gust-beleaguered single spruce tree,
the ant-thronged, root-snelled moss, grass
and clover tuffet underneath it,
edges frazzled raw
but, like our own prolonged attachment, holding.
Whatever moral lesson might commend itself,
there's no use drawing one,
there's nothing here
to seize on as exemplifying any so-called virtue
(holding on despite adversity, perhaps) or
any no-more-than-human tendency—
stubborn adherence, say,
to a wholly wrongheaded tenet.
hold on in any case means taking less and less
for granted, some few things seem nearly
certain, as that the longest day
will come again, will seem to hold its breath,
the months-long exhalation of diminishment
Last night you woke me
for a look at Jupiter,
that vast cinder wheeled unblinking
in a bath of galaxies.
Watching, we traveled
toward an apprehension all but impossible
to be held onto—
that no point is fixed, that there's no foothold
but roams untethered save by such snells,
such sailor's knots, such stays
and guy wires as are
mainly of our own devising.
From such an
empyrean, aloof seraphic mentors urge us
to look down on all attachment,
on any bonding, as
in the end untenable.
Base as it is, from
year to year the earth's sore surface
mends and rebinds itself, however
and as best it can, with
thread of cinquefoil, tendril of the magenta
beach pea, trammel of bramble; with easings,
mulchings, fragrances, the gray-green
bayberry's cool poultice—
and what can't finally be mended, the salt air
proceeds to buff and rarefy: the lopped carnage
of the seaward spruce clump weathers
lustrous, to wood-silver.
Little is certain, other than the tide that
circumscribes us that still sets its term
to every picnic—today we stayed too long
again, and got our feet wet—
and all attachment may prove at best, perhaps,
a broken, a much-mended thing.
the longest day take cover under
a monk's-cowl overcast,
with thunder, rain and wind, then waiting,
we drop everything to listen as a
hermit thrush distills its fragmentary,
hesitant, in the end
From what source (beyond us, or
the wells within?) such links perceived arrive—
diminished sequences so uninsistingly
not even human—there's
hardly a vocabulary left to wonder, uncertain
as we are of so much in this existence, this
botched, cumbersome, much-mended,
not unsatisfactory thing.
Walt Whitman |
IN paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish’d—from the pleasures, profits,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul;
Clear to me, now, standards not yet publish’d—clear to me that my Soul,
That the Soul of the man I speak for, feeds, rejoices most in comrades;
Here, by myself, away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash’d—for in this secluded spot I can respond as I would not dare
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet contains all the rest,
Resolv’d to sing no songs to-day but those of manly attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing, hence, types of athletic love,
Afternoon, this delicious Ninth-month, in my forty-first year,
I proceed, for all who are, or have been, young men,
To tell the secret of my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.
Walt Whitman |
YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d;
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your
unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
—I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some from
isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward comes would I welcome give;
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you pass’d with your cortege of
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you.
(and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded,
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget not to sing;
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven;
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would I gleam and
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of forebodings! year of the youth
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo! even here, one equally
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?
Thomas Moore |
Though dark are our sorrows, today we'll forget them,
And smile through our tears, like a sunbeam in showers:
There never were hearts, if our rulers would let them,
More form'd to be grateful and blest than ours.
But just when the chain,
Has ceased to pain,
And hope has enwreathed it round with flowers,
There comes a new link,
Our spirits to sink --
Oh! the joy that we taste, like the light of the poles,
Is a flash amid darkness, too brilliant to stay;
But, though 'twere the last little spark in our souls,
We must light it up now, on our Prince's Day.
Contempt on the minion who calls you disloyal!
Though fierce to your foe, to your friends you are true;
And the tribute most high to a head that is royal,
Is love from a heart that loves liberty too.
While cowards, who blight
Your fame, your right,
Would shrink from the blaze of the battle array,
The Standard of Green
In front would be seen --
Oh, my life on your faith! were you summon'd this minute,
You'd cast every bitter remembrance away,
And show what the arm of old Erin has in it,
When roused by the foe, on her Prince's Day.
He loves the Green Isle, and his love is recorded
In hearts which have suffer'd too much to forget;
And hope shall be crown'd, and attachment rewarded,
And Erin's gay jubileee shine out yet.
The gem may be broke
By many a stroke,
But nothing can cloud its native ray;
Each fragment will cast
A light to the last --
And thus, Erin, my country, though broken thou art,
There's lustre wiithin thee, that ne'er will decay;
A spirit which beams through each suffering part,
And now smiles at all pain on the Prince's Day.
Francesco Petrarch |
S' onesto amor può meritar mercede.
HE PRAYS THAT, IN REWARD FOR HIS LONG AND VIRTUOUS ATTACHMENT, SHE WILL VISIT HIM IN DEATH.
If Mercy e'er rewardeth virtuous love,
If Pity still can do, as she has done,
I shall have rest, for clearer than the sun
My lady and the world my faith approve.
Who fear'd me once, now knows, yet scarce believes
I am the same who wont her love to seek,
Who seek it still; where she but heard me speak,
Or saw my face, she now my soul perceives.
[Pg 292]Wherefore I hope that e'en in heaven she mourns
My heavy anguish, and on me the while
Her sweet face eloquent of pity turns,
And that when shuffled off this mortal coil,
Her way to me with that fair band she'll wend,
True follower of Christ and virtue's friend.
If virtuous love doth merit recompense—
If pity still maintain its wonted sway—
I that reward shall win, for bright as day
To earth and Laura breathes my faith's incense.
She fear'd me once—now heavenly confidence
Reveals my heart's first hope's unchanging stay;
A word, a look, could this alone convey,
My heart she reads now, stripp'd of earth's defence.
And thus I hope, she for my heavy sighs
To heaven complains, to me she pity shows
By sympathetic visits in my dream:
And when this mortal temple breathless lies,
Oh! may she greet my soul, enclosed by those
Whom heaven and virtue love—our friends supreme.
David Lehman |
What is it about the Abyss
that tempts the young poet to kiss
the air and head for the nearest cliff? This
unreasonable attachment to the bliss
of falling -- what accounts for it? Unlike the hiss
announcing a reptilian presence, the word Abyss
creates the object of our dread: it exists, it is,
widening like the gulf between whis-
key and wine, and we, drunk on neither, miss
the days when we, too, tumbled headlong out of heaven, pissed
Francesco Petrarch |
Voglia mi sprona; Amor mi guida e scorge.
HE DESCRIBES HIS STATE, SPECIFYING THE DATE OF HIS ATTACHMENT.
Passion impels me, Love escorts and leads,
Pleasure attracts me, habits old enchain,
Hope with its flatteries comforts me again,
And, at my harass'd heart, with fond touch pleads.
Poor wretch! it trusts her still, and little heeds
The blind and faithless leader of our train;
Reason is dead, the senses only reign:
One fond desire another still succeeds.
Virtue and honour, beauty, courtesy,
With winning words and many a graceful way,
My heart entangled in that laurel sweet.
In thirteen hundred seven and twenty, I
—'Twas April, the first hour, on its sixth day—
Enter'd Love's labyrinth, whence is no retreat.
By will impell'd, Love o'er my path presides;
By Pleasure led, o'ercome by Habit's reign,
Sweet Hope deludes, and comforts me again;
At her bright touch, my heart's despair subsides.
It takes her proffer'd hand, and there confides.
To doubt its blind disloyal guide were vain;
Each sense usurps poor Reason's broken rein;
On each desire, another wilder rides!
Grace, virtue, honour, beauty, words so dear,
Have twined me with that laurell'd bough, whose power
[Pg 192]My heart hath tangled in its lab'rinth sweet:
The thirteen hundred twenty-seventh year,
The sixth of April's suns—in that first hour,
My entrance mark'd, whence I see no retreat.
Subhash Misra |
I too have a dark side
I am like the moon
With a side that never lights up
Then there is the lighter me
Naked without delusions
She looks through me
Like I was a sheet of glass
Her gaze slicing through proximity
As if there were a distant me
She scarps with the dark side
Dense like a dejected piece of lead
Tries to reach out to me
But I am not there behind the doors
Of my own making
I leave her struggling
On the edge of attachment
Pick up a piece of chalk
To draw my outline on the tired pavement