William Shakespeare |
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.
And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Elizabeth Bishop |
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there .
Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"
Coventry Patmore |
My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
I struck him, and dismiss'd
With hard words and unkiss'd,
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray'd
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
'I will be sorry for their childishness.
Thomas Blackburn |
'Of course,' I said, 'we cannot hope to find
What we are looking for in anyone;
They glitter, maybe, but are not the sun,
This pebble here, that bit of apple rind.
Still, it's the Alpine sun that makes them burn,
And what we're looking for, some indirect
Glint of itself each of us may reflect,
And so shed light about us as we turn.
Sideways she looked and said, 'How you go on!'
And was the stone and rind, their shinings gone.
'It is some hard dry scale we must break through,
A deadness round the life.
I cannot make
That pebble shine.
Its clarity must take
Sunlight unto itself and prove it true.
It is our childishness that clutters up
With scales out of the past a present speech,
So that the sun's white finger cannot reach
An adult prism.
'Will they never stop,
Your words?' she said and settled to the dark.
'But we use words, we cannot grunt or bark,
Use any surer means to make that first
Sharp glare of origin again appear
Through the marred glass,' I cried, 'but can you hear?'
'Quite well, you needn't shout.
' I felt the thirst
Coil back into my body till it shook,
And, 'Are you cold?' she said, then ceased to look
And picked a bit of cotton from her dress.
Out in the square a child began to cry,
What was not said buzzed round us like a fly.
I knew quite well that silence was my cue,
But jabbered out, 'This meeting place we need,
If we can't find it, still the desire may feed
And strengthen on the acts it cannot do.
By suffered depredations we may grow
To bear our energies just strong enough,
And at the last through perdurable stuff
A little of their radiance may show:
I f we keep still.
' Then she, 'It's getting late.
A waiter came and took away a plate.
Then from the darkness an accordion;
'These pauses, love, perhaps in them, made free,
Life slips out of its gross machinery,
And turns upon itself in unison.
It was quite dark now you must understand
And something of a red mouth on a wall
Joined with the music and the alcohol
And pushed me to the fingers of her hand.
Well, there it was, itself and quite complete,
Accountable, small bones there were and meat.
It did not press on mine or shrink away,
And, since no outgone need can long invest
Oblivion with a living interest,
I drew back and had no more words to say.
Outside the streets were like us and quite dead.
Yet anything more suited to my will,
I can't imagine, than our very still
Return to no place;
As the darkness shed
Increasing whiteness on the far icefall,
A growth of light there was; and that is all.