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Best Famous Confucius Poems

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Written by Vachel Lindsay | Create an image from this poem

The Chinese Nightingale

 A Song in Chinese Tapestries

"How, how," he said.
"Friend Chang," I said, "San Francisco sleeps as the dead— Ended license, lust and play: Why do you iron the night away? Your big clock speaks with a deadly sound, With a tick and a wail till dawn comes round.
While the monster shadows glower and creep, What can be better for man than sleep?" "I will tell you a secret," Chang replied; "My breast with vision is satisfied, And I see green trees and fluttering wings, And my deathless bird from Shanghai sings.
" Then he lit five fire-crackers in a pan.
"Pop, pop," said the fire-crackers, "cra-cra-crack.
" He lit a joss stick long and black.
Then the proud gray joss in the corner stirred; On his wrist appeared a gray small bird, And this was the song of the gray small bird: "Where is the princess, loved forever, Who made Chang first of the kings of men?" And the joss in the corner stirred again; And the carved dog, curled in his arms, awoke, Barked forth a smoke-cloud that whirled and broke.
It piled in a maze round the ironing-place, And there on the snowy table wide Stood a Chinese lady of high degree, With a scornful, witching, tea-rose face.
Yet she put away all form and pride, And laid her glimmering veil aside With a childlike smile for Chang and for me.
The walls fell back, night was aflower, The table gleamed in a moonlit bower, While Chang, with a countenance carved of stone, Ironed and ironed, all alone.
And thus she sang to the busy man Chang: "Have you forgotten.
Deep in the ages, long, long ago, I was your sweetheart, there on the sand— Storm-worn beach of the Chinese land? We sold our grain in the peacock town Built on the edge of the sea-sands brown— Built on the edge of the sea-sands brown.
"When all the world was drinking blood From the skulls of men and bulls And all the world had swords and clubs of stone, We drank our tea in China beneath the sacred spice-trees, And heard the curled waves of the harbor moan.
And this gray bird, in Love's first spring, With a bright-bronze breast and a bronze-brown wing, Captured the world with his carolling.
Do you remember, ages after, At last the world we were born to own? You were the heir of the yellow throne— The world was the field of the Chinese man And we were the pride of the Sons of Han? We copied deep books and we carved in jade, And wove blue silks in the mulberry shade.
" "I remember, I remember That Spring came on forever, That Spring came on forever," Said the Chinese nightingale.
My heart was filled with marvel and dream, Though I saw the western street-lamps gleam, Though dawn was bringing the western day, Though Chang was a laundryman ironing away.
Mingled there with the streets and alleys, The railroad-yard and the clock-tower bright, Demon clouds crossed ancient valleys; Across wide lotus-ponds of light I marked a giant firefly's flight.
And the lady, rosy-red, Flourished her fan, her shimmering fan, Stretched her hand toward Chang, and said: "Do you remember, Ages after, Our palace of heart-red stone? Do you remember The little doll-faced children With their lanterns full of moon-fire, That came from all the empire Honoring the throne?— The loveliest fête and carnival Our world had ever known? The sages sat about us With their heads bowed in their beards, With proper meditation on the sight.
Confucius was not born; We lived in those great days Confucius later said were lived aright.
And this gray bird, on that day of spring, With a bright bronze breast, and a bronze-brown wing, Captured the world with his carolling.
Late at night his tune was spent.
Peasants, Sages, Children, Homeward went, And then the bronze bird sang for you and me.
We walked alone.
Our hearts were high and free.
I had a silvery name, I had a silvery name, I had a silvery name — do you remember The name you cried beside the tumbling sea?" Chang turned not to the lady slim— He bent to his work, ironing away; But she was arch, and knowing and glowing, And the bird on his shoulder spoke for him.
"Darling .
darling .
darling .
darling .
" Said the Chinese nightingale.
The great gray joss on a rustic shelf, Rakish and shrewd, with his collar awry, Sang impolitely, as though by himself, Drowning with his bellowing the nightingale's cry: "Back through a hundred, hundred years Hear the waves as they climb the piers, Hear the howl of the silver seas, Hear the thunder.
Hear the gongs of holy China How the waves and tunes combine In a rhythmic clashing wonder, Incantation old and fine: `Dragons, dragons, Chinese dragons, Red fire-crackers, and green fire-crackers, And dragons, dragons, Chinese dragons.
'" Then the lady, rosy-red, Turned to her lover Chang and said: "Dare you forget that turquoise dawn When we stood in our mist-hung velvet lawn, And worked a spell this great joss taught Till a God of the Dragons was charmed and caught? From the flag high over our palace home He flew to our feet in rainbow-foam — A king of beauty and tempest and thunder Panting to tear our sorrows asunder.
A dragon of fair adventure and wonder.
We mounted the back of that royal slave With thoughts of desire that were noble and grave.
We swam down the shore to the dragon-mountains, We whirled to the peaks and the fiery fountains.
To our secret ivory house we were bourne.
We looked down the wonderful wing-filled regions Where the dragons darted in glimmering legions.
Right by my breast the nightingale sang; The old rhymes rang in the sunlit mist That we this hour regain — Song-fire for the brain.
When my hands and my hair and my feet you kissed, When you cried for your heart's new pain, What was my name in the dragon-mist, In the rings of rainbowed rain?" "Sorrow and love, glory and love," Said the Chinese nightingale.
"Sorrow and love, glory and love," Said the Chinese nightingale.
And now the joss broke in with his song: "Dying ember, bird of Chang, Soul of Chang, do you remember? — Ere you returned to the shining harbor There were pirates by ten thousand Descended on the town In vessels mountain-high and red and brown, Moon-ships that climbed the storms and cut the skies.
On their prows were painted terrible bright eyes.
But I was then a wizard and a scholar and a priest; I stood upon the sand; With lifted hand I looked upon them And sunk their vessels with my wizard eyes, And the stately lacquer-gate made safe again.
Deep, deep below the bay, the sea-weed and the spray, Embalmed in amber every pirate lies, Embalmed in amber every pirate lies.
" Then this did the noble lady say: "Bird, do you dream of our home-coming day When you flew like a courier on before From the dragon-peak to our palace-door, And we drove the steed in your singing path— The ramping dragon of laughter and wrath: And found our city all aglow, And knighted this joss that decked it so? There were golden fishes in the purple river And silver fishes and rainbow fishes.
There were golden junks in the laughing river, And silver junks and rainbow junks: There were golden lilies by the bay and river, And silver lilies and tiger-lilies, And tinkling wind-bells in the gardens of the town By the black-lacquer gate Where walked in state The kind king Chang And his sweet-heart mate.
With his flag-born dragon And his crown of pearl.
jade, And his nightingale reigning in the mulberry shade, And sailors and soldiers on the sea-sands brown, And priests who bowed them down to your song— By the city called Han, the peacock town, By the city called Han, the nightingale town, The nightingale town.
" Then sang the bird, so strangely gay, Fluttering, fluttering, ghostly and gray, A vague, unravelling, final tune, Like a long unwinding silk cocoon; Sang as though for the soul of him Who ironed away in that bower dim: — "I have forgotten Your dragons great, Merry and mad and friendly and bold.
Dim is your proud lost palace-gate.
I vaguely know There were heroes of old, Troubles more than the heart could hold, There were wolves in the woods Yet lambs in the fold, Nests in the top of the almond tree.
The evergreen tree.
and the mulberry tree.
Life and hurry and joy forgotten, Years on years I but half-remember.
Man is a torch, then ashes soon, May and June, then dead December, Dead December, then again June.
Who shall end my dream's confusion? Life is a loom, weaving illusion.
I remember, I remember There were ghostly veils and laces.
In the shadowy bowery places.
With lovers' ardent faces Bending to one another, Speaking each his part.
They infinitely echo In the red cave of my heart.
`Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart.
' They said to one another.
They spoke, I think, of perils past.
They spoke, I think, of peace at last.
One thing I remember: Spring came on forever, Spring came on forever," Said the Chinese nightingale.

Written by Confucius | Create an image from this poem


The sun is ever full and bright,
The pale moon waneth night by night.
Why should this be? My heart that once was full of light Is but a dying moon to-night.
But when I dream of thee apart, I would the dawn might lift my heart, O sun, to thee.
Written by Robinson Jeffers | Create an image from this poem

Meditation On Saviors

When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an element
 and smelt it like water,
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a
 little troublesome, a little terrible.
I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death nor in a walled garden, In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that easily lock the world out of doors.
Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam-wet granite sea-fang it is easy to praise Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the herds of the people that one should love them? If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's delight in the herds of the future.
Not yours.
Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy.
Leave the joys of government to Caesar.
Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of the world falls on decay in the flesh increasing Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient blindness, and clemency for love.
This is the breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world waiting, stalled between storms, decaying a little, Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw the savior Caesar but out of the blood-bath.
The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but wisdom without love is the present savior, Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladed machine subduing the world with deep indifference.
The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known; words and the little envies will hardly Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they have never dared to confront.
II Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale swimming to shoal; Point Lobos Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it; the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary.
Out of incestuous love power and then ruin.
A man forcing the imaginations of men, Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his own household with impious desire.
King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red tears pouring from the torn pits Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill in the earthquake, against the eclipse Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the people: -that root was so sweet O dreadful agonist? - I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to its expiation; I heard the same cry.
A bad mountain to build your world on.
Am I another keeper of the people, that on my own shore, On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the sicknesses I left behind me concern me? Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid west, over the deeps Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns flower and burn through color to quietness; Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I have found my rock, let them find theirs.
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his time reap their daggers of gratitude.
III Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that easily locks the world out of doors.
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from whom I desire not to be fugitive.
I see them: they are always crying.
The shored Pacific makes perpetual music, and the stone mountains Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light: the people are always crying in their hearts.
One need not pity; certainly one must not love.
But who has seen peace, if he should tell them where peace Lives in the world.
they would be powerless to understand; and he is not willing to be reinvolved.
IV How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell the people anything but relative to that? But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once, of man and woman, of civilized And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, of living and dead, of human and not Human, and dimly all the human future: -what should persuade him to speak? And what could his words change? The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed.
But the man's words would be fixed also, Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same present compulsion in the iron consistency.
And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred centuries quieted, some desert Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the mud- walled village and the mountain sepulchres.
V Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the open farms, and the people are fed.
They import and they consume reality.
Before sunrise a hawk in the desert made them their thoughts.
VI Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed bloodthirstiness.
Among the mild and unwarlike Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed but live greatly and be heard: This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe on the high cross to catch at their memories; The price is known.
I have quieted love; for love of the people I would not do it.
For power I would do it.
--But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man, dead under torture? --What is power to a man Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root, neither of act nor desire.
For power living I would never do it; they'are not delightful to touch, one wants to be separate.
For power After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the abstract unborn children toward peace.
A man might have paid anguish indeed.
Except he had found the standing sea-rock that even this last Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace that quiets the desire even of praising it.
VII Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they would be pitiable: But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; they are able then to be still and not cry.
And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of the beauty of things, magically grow Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial themselves into the beauty they admired, Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep unconsciousness they used to mimic Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard stumbled homeward down the dark street.
They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no savior, salvation comes and takes them by force, It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the blown storms, the stream's-end ocean.
With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having realized the petulant human consciousness Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, to love the coast opposite humanity And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it is worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest.
Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's, the mote in the eye that makes its object Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the inhuman God than the hunter's own image.
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

A Broadway Pageant

OVER the western sea, hither from Niphon come, 
Courteous, the swart-cheek’d two-sworded envoys, 
Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive, 
Ride to-day through Manhattan.
Libertad! I do not know whether others behold what I behold, In the procession, along with the nobles of Asia, the errand-bearers, Bringing up the rear, hovering above, around, or in the ranks marching; But I will sing you a song of what I behold, Libertad.
2 When million-footed Manhattan, unpent, descends to her pavements; When the thunder-cracking guns arouse me with the proud roar I love; When the round-mouth’d guns, out of the smoke and smell I love, spit their salutes; When the fire-flashing guns have fully alerted me—when heaven-clouds canopy my city with a delicate thin haze; When, gorgeous, the countless straight stems, the forests at the wharves, thicken with colors; When every ship, richly drest, carries her flag at the peak; When pennants trail, and street-festoons hang from the windows; When Broadway is entirely given up to foot-passengers and foot-standers—when the mass is densest; When the façades of the houses are alive with people—when eyes gaze, riveted, tens of thousands at a time; When the guests from the islands advance—when the pageant moves forward, visible; When the summons is made—when the answer that waited thousands of years, answers; I too, arising, answering, descend to the pavements, merge with the crowd, and gaze with them.
3 Superb-faced Manhattan! Comrade Americanos!—to us, then, at last, the Orient comes.
To us, my city, Where our tall-topt marble and iron beauties range on opposite sides—to walk in the space between, To-day our Antipodes comes.
The Originatress comes, The nest of languages, the bequeather of poems, the race of eld, Florid with blood, pensive, rapt with musings, hot with passion, Sultry with perfume, with ample and flowing garments, With sunburnt visage, with intense soul and glittering eyes, The race of Brahma comes! 4 See, my cantabile! these, and more, are flashing to us from the procession; As it moves, changing, a kaleidoscope divine it moves, changing, before us.
For not the envoys, nor the tann’d Japanee from his island only; Lithe and silent, the Hindoo appears—the Asiatic continent itself appears—the Past, the dead, The murky night morning of wonder and fable, inscrutable, The envelop’d mysteries, the old and unknown hive-bees, The North—the sweltering South—eastern Assyria—the Hebrews—the Ancient of Ancients, Vast desolated cities—the gliding Present—all of these, and more, are in the pageant-procession.
Geography, the world, is in it; The Great Sea, the brood of islands, Polynesia, the coast beyond; The coast you, henceforth, are facing—you Libertad! from your Western golden shores The countries there, with their populations—the millions en-masse, are curiously here; The swarming market places—the temples, with idols ranged along the sides, or at the end—bonze, brahmin, and lama; The mandarin, farmer, merchant, mechanic, and fisherman; The singing-girl and the dancing-girl—the ecstatic person—the secluded Emperors, Confucius himself—the great poets and heroes—the warriors, the castes, all, Trooping up, crowding from all directions—from the Altay mountains, From Thibet—from the four winding and far-flowing rivers of China, From the Southern peninsulas, and the demi-continental islands—from Malaysia; These, and whatever belongs to them, palpable, show forth to me, and are seiz’d by me, And I am seiz’d by them, and friendlily held by them, Till, as here, them all I chant, Libertad! for themselves and for you.
5 For I too, raising my voice, join the ranks of this pageant; I am the chanter—I chant aloud over the pageant; I chant the world on my Western Sea; I chant, copious, the islands beyond, thick as stars in the sky; I chant the new empire, grander than any before—As in a vision it comes to me; I chant America, the Mistress—I chant a greater supremacy; I chant, projected, a thousand blooming cities yet, in time, on those groups of sea-islands; I chant my sail-ships and steam-ships threading the archipelagoes; I chant my stars and stripes fluttering in the wind; I chant commerce opening, the sleep of ages having done its work—races, reborn, refresh’d; Lives, works, resumed—The object I know not—but the old, the Asiatic, renew’d, as it must be, Commencing from this day, surrounded by the world.
6 And you, Libertad of the world! You shall sit in the middle, well-pois’d, thousands of years; As to-day, from one side, the nobles of Asia come to you; As to-morrow, from the other side, the Queen of England sends her eldest son to you.
7 The sign is reversing, the orb is enclosed, The ring is circled, the journey is done; The box-lid is but perceptibly open’d—nevertheless the perfume pours copiously out of the whole box.
8 Young Libertad! With the venerable Asia, the all-mother, Be considerate with her, now and ever, hot Libertad—for you are all; Bend your proud neck to the long-off mother, now sending messages over the archipelagoes to you; Bend your proud neck low for once, young Libertad.
9 Were the children straying westward so long? so wide the tramping? Were the precedent dim ages debouching westward from Paradise so long? Were the centuries steadily footing it that way, all the while unknown, for you, for reasons? They are justified—they are accomplish’d—they shall now be turn’d the other way also, to travel toward you thence; They shall now also march obediently eastward, for your sake, Libertad.
Written by Confucius | Create an image from this poem

The Soldier

I climbed the barren mountain,
 And my gaze swept far and wide
For the red-lit eaves of my father's home,
 And I fancied that he sighed:
    My son has gone for a soldier,
     For a soldier night and day;
    But my son is wise, and may yet return,
     When the drums have died away.
I climbed the grass-clad mountain, And my gaze swept far and wide For the rosy lights of a little room, Where I thought my mother sighed: My boy has gone for a soldier, He sleeps not day and night; But my boy is wise, and may yet return, Though the dead lie far from sight.
I climbed the topmost summit, And my gaze swept far and wide For the garden roof where my brother stood, And I fancied that he sighed: My brother serves as a soldier With his comrades night and day; But my brother is wise, and may yet return, Though the dead lie far away.

Written by Confucius | Create an image from this poem

Trysting Time


A pretty girl at time o' gloaming
Hath whispered me to go and meet her
    Without the city gate.
I love her, but she tarries coming.
Shall I return, or stay and greet her? I burn, and wait.
II Truly she charmeth all beholders, 'Tis she hath given me this jewel, The jade of my delight; But this red jewel-jade that smoulders, To my desire doth add more fuel, New charms to-night.
III She has gathered with her lily fingers A lily fair and rare to see.
Oh! sweeter still the fragrance lingers From the warm hand that gave it me.
Written by Kahlil Gibran | Create an image from this poem

Song of Man XXV

 I was here from the moment of the 
Beginning, and here I am still.
And I shall remain here until the end Of the world, for there is no Ending to my grief-stricken being.
I roamed the infinite sky, and Soared in the ideal world, and Floated through the firmament.
But Here I am, prisoner of measurement.
I heard the teachings of Confucius; I listened to Brahma's wisdom; I sat by Buddha under the Tree of Knowledge.
Yet here I am, existing with ignorance And heresy.
I was on Sinai when Jehovah approached Moses; I saw the Nazarene's miracles at the Jordan; I was in Medina when Mohammed visited.
Yet I here I am, prisoner of bewilderment.
Then I witnessed the might of Babylon; I learned of the glory of Egypt; I viewed the warring greatness of Rome.
Yet my earlier teachings showed the Weakness and sorrow of those achievements.
I conversed with the magicians of Ain Dour; I debated with the priests of Assyria; I gleaned depth from the prophets of Palestine.
Yet, I am still seeking truth.
I gathered wisdom from quiet India; I probed the antiquity of Arabia; I heard all that can be heard.
Yet, my heart is deaf and blind.
I suffered at the hands of despotic rulers; I suffered slavery under insane invaders; I suffered hunger imposed by tyranny; Yet, I still possess some inner power With which I struggle to great each day.
My mind is filled, but my heart is empty; My body is old, but my heart is an infant.
Perhaps in youth my heart will grow, but I Pray to grow old and reach the moment of My return to God.
Only then will my heart fill! I was here from the moment of the Beginning, and here I am still.
And I shall remain here until the end Of of world, for there is no Ending to my grief-stricken being.
Written by Edgar Lee Masters | Create an image from this poem

Yee Bow

 They got me into the Sunday-school
In Spoon River
And tried to get me to drop Confucius for Jesus.
I could have been no worse off If I had tried to get them to drop Jesus for Confucius.
For, without any warning, as if it were a prank, And sneaking up behind me, Harry Wiley, The minister's son, caved my ribs into my lungs, With a blow of his fist.
Now I shall never sleep with my ancestors in Pekin, And no children shall worship at my grave.
Written by Carolyn Kizer | Create an image from this poem

Cultural Evolution

 When from his cave, young Mao in his youthful mind
A work to renew old China first designed,
Then he alone interpreted the law,
and from tradtional fountains scorned to draw:
But when to examine every part he came,
Marx and Confucius turned out much the same.
Written by Friedrich von Schiller | Create an image from this poem

The Proverbs Of Confucius

 Threefold is the march of time
While the future slow advances,
Like a dart the present glances,
Silent stands the past sublime.
No impatience e'er can speed him On his course if he delay; No alarm, no doubts impede him If he keep his onward way; No regrets, no magic numbers Wake the tranced one from his slumbers.
Wouldst thou wisely and with pleasure, Pass the days of life's short measure, From the slow one counsel take, But a tool of him ne'er make; Ne'er as friend the swift one know, Nor the constant one as foe! II.
Threefold is the form of space: Length, with ever restless motion, Seeks eternity's wide ocean; Breadth with boundless sway extends; Depth to unknown realms descends.
All as types to thee are given; Thou must onward strive for heaven, Never still or weary be Would'st thou perfect glory see; Far must thy researches go.
Wouldst thou learn the world to know; Thou must tempt the dark abyss Wouldst thou prove what Being is.
Naught but firmness gains the prize,-- Naught but fulness makes us wise,-- Buried deep, truth ever lies!