Best Famous Coward Poems

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12
Written by David Lehman | Create an image from this poem

A Little History

 Some people find out they are Jews.
They can't believe it.
Thy had always hated Jews.
As children they had roamed in gangs on winter nights in the old neighborhood, looking for Jews.
They were not Jewish, they were Irish.
They brandished broken bottles, tough guys with blood on their lips, looking for Jews.
They intercepted Jewish boys walking alone and beat them up.
Sometimes they were content to chase a Jew and he could elude them by running away.
They were happy just to see him run away.
The coward! All Jews were yellow.
They spelled Jew with a small j jew.
And now they find out they are Jews themselves.
It happened at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
To escape persecution, they pretended to convert to Christianity.
They came to this country and settled in the Southwest.
At some point oral tradition failed the family, and their secret faith died.
No one would ever have known if not for the bones that turned up on the dig.
A disaster.
How could it have happened to them? They are in a state of panic--at first.
Then they realize that it is the answer to their prayers.
They hasten to the synagogue or build new ones.
They are Jews at last! They are free to marry other Jews, and divorce them, and intermarry with Gentiles, God forbid.
They are model citizens, clever and thrifty.
They debate the issues.
They fire off earnest letters to the editor.
They vote.
They are resented for being clever and thrifty.
They buy houses in the suburbs and agree not to talk so loud.
They look like everyone else, drive the same cars as everyone else, yet in their hearts they know they're different.
In every minyan there are always two or three, hated by the others, who give life to one ugly stereotype or another: The grasping Jew with the hooked nose or the Ivy League Bolshevik who thinks he is the agent of world history.
But most of them are neither ostentatiously pious nor excessively avaricious.
How I envy them! They believe.
How I envy them their annual family reunion on Passover, anniversary of the Exodus, when all the uncles and aunts and cousins get together.
They wonder about the heritage of Judaism they are passing along to their children.
Have they done as much as they could to keep the old embers burning? Others lead more dramatic lives.
A few go to Israel.
One of them calls Israel "the ultimate concentration camp.
" He tells Jewish jokes.
On the plane he gets tipsy, tries to seduce the stewardess.
People in the Midwest keep telling him reminds them of Woody Allen.
He wonders what that means.
I'm funny? A sort of nervous intellectual type from New York? A Jew? Around this time somebody accuses him of not being Jewish enough.
It is said by resentful colleagues that his parents changed their name from something that sounded more Jewish.
Everything he publishes is scrutinized with reference to "the Jewish question.
" It is no longer clear what is meant by that phrase.
He has already forgotten all the Yiddish he used to know, and the people of that era are dying out one after another.
The number of witnesses keeps diminishing.
Soon there will be no one left to remind the others and their children.
That is why he came to this dry place where the bones have come to life.
To live in a state of perpetual war puts a tremendous burden on the population.
As a visitor he felt he had to share that burden.
With his gift for codes and ciphers, he joined the counter- terrorism unit of army intelligence.
Contrary to what the spook novels say, he found it possible to avoid betraying either his country or his lover.
This was the life: strange bedrooms, the perfume of other men's wives.
As a spy he has a unique mission: to get his name on the front page of the nation's newspaper of record.
Only by doing that would he get the message through to his immediate superior.
If he goes to jail, he will do so proudly; if they're going to hang him anyway, he'll do something worth hanging for.
In time he may get used to being the center of attention, but this was incredible: To talk his way into being the chief suspect in the most flamboyant murder case in years! And he was innocent! He could prove it! And what a book he would write when they free him from this prison: A novel, obliquely autobiographical, set in Vienna in the twilight of the Hapsburg Empire, in the year that his mother was born.
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Suicide Note

 "You speak to me of narcissism but I reply that it is 
a matter of my life" - Artaud

"At this time let me somehow bequeath all the leftovers 
to my daughters and their daughters" - Anonymous

Better, 
despite the worms talking to 
the mare's hoof in the field; 
better, 
despite the season of young girls 
dropping their blood; 
better somehow 
to drop myself quickly 
into an old room.
Better (someone said) not to be born and far better not to be born twice at thirteen where the boardinghouse, each year a bedroom, caught fire.
Dear friend, I will have to sink with hundreds of others on a dumbwaiter into hell.
I will be a light thing.
I will enter death like someone's lost optical lens.
Life is half enlarged.
The fish and owls are fierce today.
Life tilts backward and forward.
Even the wasps cannot find my eyes.
Yes, eyes that were immediate once.
Eyes that have been truly awake, eyes that told the whole story— poor dumb animals.
Eyes that were pierced, little nail heads, light blue gunshots.
And once with a mouth like a cup, clay colored or blood colored, open like the breakwater for the lost ocean and open like the noose for the first head.
Once upon a time my hunger was for Jesus.
O my hunger! My hunger! Before he grew old he rode calmly into Jerusalem in search of death.
This time I certainly do not ask for understanding and yet I hope everyone else will turn their heads when an unrehearsed fish jumps on the surface of Echo Lake; when moonlight, its bass note turned up loud, hurts some building in Boston, when the truly beautiful lie together.
I think of this, surely, and would think of it far longer if I were not… if I were not at that old fire.
I could admit that I am only a coward crying me me me and not mention the little gnats, the moths, forced by circumstance to suck on the electric bulb.
But surely you know that everyone has a death, his own death, waiting for him.
So I will go now without old age or disease, wildly but accurately, knowing my best route, carried by that toy donkey I rode all these years, never asking, “Where are we going?” We were riding (if I'd only known) to this.
Dear friend, please do not think that I visualize guitars playing or my father arching his bone.
I do not even expect my mother's mouth.
I know that I have died before— once in November, once in June.
How strange to choose June again, so concrete with its green breasts and bellies.
Of course guitars will not play! The snakes will certainly not notice.
New York City will not mind.
At night the bats will beat on the trees, knowing it all, seeing what they sensed all day.
Written by Charlotte Bronte | Create an image from this poem

The Missionary

 Lough, vessel, plough the British main,
Seek the free ocean's wider plain; 
Leave English scenes and English skies,
Unbind, dissever English ties; 
Bear me to climes remote and strange, 
Where altered life, fast-following change,
Hot action, never-ceasing toil, 
Shall stir, turn, dig, the spirit's soil; 
Fresh roots shall plant, fresh seed shall sow, 
Till a new garden there shall grow, 
Cleared of the weeds that fill it now,­ 
Mere human love, mere selfish yearning, 
Which, cherished, would arrest me yet.
I grasp the plough, there's no returning, Let me, then, struggle to forget.
But England's shores are yet in view, And England's skies of tender blue Are arched above her guardian sea.
I cannot yet Remembrance flee; I must again, then, firmly face That task of anguish, to retrace.
Wedded to home­I home forsake, Fearful of change­I changes make; Too fond of ease­I plunge in toil; Lover of calm­I seek turmoil: Nature and hostile Destiny Stir in my heart a conflict wild; And long and fierce the war will be Ere duty both has reconciled.
What other tie yet holds me fast To the divorced, abandoned past? Smouldering, on my heart's altar lies The fire of some great sacrifice, Not yet half quenched.
The sacred steel But lately struck my carnal will, My life-long hope, first joy and last, What I loved well, and clung to fast; What I wished wildly to retain, What I renounced with soul-felt pain; What­when I saw it, axe-struck, perish­ Left me no joy on earth to cherish; A man bereft­yet sternly now I do confirm that Jephtha vow: Shall I retract, or fear, or flee ? Did Christ, when rose the fatal tree Before him, on Mount Calvary ? 'Twas a long fight, hard fought, but won, And what I did was justly done.
Yet, Helen ! from thy love I turned, When my heart most for thy heart burned; I dared thy tears, I dared thy scorn­ Easier the death-pang had been borne.
Helen ! thou mightst not go with me, I could not­dared not stay for thee ! I heard, afar, in bonds complain The savage from beyond the main; And that wild sound rose o'er the cry Wrung out by passion's agony; And even when, with the bitterest tear I ever shed, mine eyes were dim, Still, with the spirit's vision clear, I saw Hell's empire, vast and grim, Spread on each Indian river's shore, Each realm of Asia covering o'er.
There the weak, trampled by the strong, Live but to suffer­hopeless die; There pagan-priests, whose creed is Wrong, Extortion, Lust, and Cruelty, Crush our lost race­and brimming fill The bitter cup of human ill; And I­who have the healing creed, The faith benign of Mary's Son; Shall I behold my brother's need And selfishly to aid him shun ? I­who upon my mother's knees, In childhood, read Christ's written word, Received his legacy of peace, His holy rule of action heard; I­in whose heart the sacred sense Of Jesus' love was early felt; Of his pure full benevolence, His pitying tenderness for guilt; His shepherd-care for wandering sheep, For all weak, sorrowing, trembling things, His mercy vast, his passion deep Of anguish for man's sufferings; I­schooled from childhood in such lore­ Dared I draw back or hesitate, When called to heal the sickness sore Of those far off and desolate ? Dark, in the realm and shades of Death, Nations and tribes and empires lie, But even to them the light of Faith Is breaking on their sombre sky: And be it mine to bid them raise Their drooped heads to the kindling scene, And know and hail the sunrise blaze Which heralds Christ the Nazarene.
I know how Hell the veil will spread Over their brows and filmy eyes, And earthward crush the lifted head That would look up and seek the skies; I know what war the fiend will wage Against that soldier of the cross, Who comes to dare his demon-rage, And work his kingdom shame and loss.
Yes, hard and terrible the toil Of him who steps on foreign soil, Resolved to plant the gospel vine, Where tyrants rule and slaves repine; Eager to lift Religion's light Where thickest shades of mental night Screen the false god and fiendish rite; Reckless that missionary blood, Shed in wild wilderness and wood, Has left, upon the unblest air, The man's deep moan­the martyr's prayer.
I know my lot­I only ask Power to fulfil the glorious task; Willing the spirit, may the flesh Strength for the day receive afresh.
May burning sun or deadly wind Prevail not o'er an earnest mind; May torments strange or direst death Nor trample truth, nor baffle faith.
Though such blood-drops should fall from me As fell in old Gethsemane, Welcome the anguish, so it gave More strength to work­more skill to save.
And, oh ! if brief must be my time, If hostile hand or fatal clime Cut short my course­still o'er my grave, Lord, may thy harvest whitening wave.
So I the culture may begin, Let others thrust the sickle in; If but the seed will faster grow, May my blood water what I sow ! What ! have I ever trembling stood, And feared to give to God that blood ? What ! has the coward love of life Made me shrink from the righteous strife ? Have human passions, human fears Severed me from those Pioneers, Whose task is to march first, and trace Paths for the progress of our race ? It has been so; but grant me, Lord, Now to stand steadfast by thy word ! Protected by salvation's helm, Shielded by faith­with truth begirt, To smile when trials seek to whelm And stand 'mid testing fires unhurt ! Hurling hell's strongest bulwarks down, Even when the last pang thrills my breast, When Death bestows the Martyr's crown, And calls me into Jesus' rest.
Then for my ultimate reward­ Then for the world-rejoicing word­ The voice from Father­Spirit­Son: " Servant of God, well hast thou done !"
Written by Countee Cullen | Create an image from this poem

The Shroud of Color

 "Lord, being dark," I said, "I cannot bear
The further touch of earth, the scented air;
Lord, being dark, forewilled to that despair
My color shrouds me in, I am as dirt
Beneath my brother's heel; there is a hurt
In all the simple joys which to a child
Are sweet; they are contaminate, defiled
By truths of wrongs the childish vision fails
To see; too great a cost this birth entails.
I strangle in this yoke drawn tighter than The worth of bearing it, just to be man.
I am not brave enough to pay the price In full; I lack the strength to sacrifice I who have burned my hands upon a star, And climbed high hills at dawn to view the far Illimitable wonderments of earth, For whom all cups have dripped the wine of mirth, For whom the sea has strained her honeyed throat Till all the world was sea, and I a boat Unmoored, on what strange quest I willed to float; Who wore a many-colored coat of dreams, Thy gift, O Lord--I whom sun-dabbled streams Have washed, whose bare brown thighs have held the sun Incarcerate until his course was run, I who considered man a high-perfected Glass where loveliness could lie reflected, Now that I sway athwart Truth's deep abyss, Denuding man for what he was and is, Shall breath and being so inveigle me That I can damn my dreams to hell, and be Content, each new-born day, anew to see The steaming crimson vintage of my youth Incarnadine the altar-slab of Truth? Or hast Thou, Lord, somewhere I cannot see, A lamb imprisoned in a bush for me? Not so?Then let me render one by one Thy gifts, while still they shine; some little sun Yet gilds these thighs; my coat, albeit worn, Still hold its colors fast; albeit torn.
My heart will laugh a little yet, if I May win of Thee this grace, Lord:on this high And sacrificial hill 'twixt earth and sky, To dream still pure all that I loved, and die.
There is no other way to keep secure My wild chimeras, grave-locked against the lure Of Truth, the small hard teeth of worms, yet less Envenomed than the mouth of Truth, will bless Them into dust and happy nothingness.
Lord, Thou art God; and I, Lord, what am I But dust?With dust my place.
Lord, let me die.
" Across earth's warm, palpitating crust I flung my body in embrace; I thrust My mouth into the grass and sucked the dew, Then gave it back in tears my anguish drew; So hard I pressed against the ground, I felt The smallest sandgrain like a knife, and smelt The next year's flowering; all this to speed My body's dissolution, fain to feed The worms.
And so I groaned, and spent my strength Until, all passion spent, I lay full length And quivered like a flayed and bleeding thing.
So lay till lifted on a great black wing That had no mate nor flesh-apparent trunk To hamper it; with me all time had sunk Into oblivion; when I awoke The wing hung poised above two cliffs that broke The bowels of the earth in twain, and cleft The seas apart.
Below, above, to left, To right, I saw what no man saw before: Earth, hell, and heaven; sinew, vein, and core.
All things that swim or walk or creep or fly, All things that live and hunger, faint and die, Were made majestic then and magnified By sight so clearly purged and deified.
The smallest bug that crawls was taller than A tree, the mustard seed loomed like a man.
The earth that writhes eternally with pain Of birth, and woe of taking back her slain, Laid bare her teeming bosom to my sight, And all was struggle, gasping breath, and fight.
A blind worm here dug tunnels to the light, And there a seed, racked with heroic pain, Thrust eager tentacles to sun and rain: It climbed; it died; the old love conquered me To weep the blossom it would never be.
But here a bud won light; it burst and flowered Into a rose whose beauty challenged, "Coward!" There was no thing alive save only I That held life in contempt and longed to die.
And still I writhed and moaned, "The curse, the curse, Than animated death, can death be worse?" "Dark child of sorrow, mine no less, what art Of mine can make thee see and play thy part? The key to all strange things is in thy heart.
" What voice was this that coursed like liquid fire Along my flesh, and turned my hair to wire? I raised my burning eyes, beheld a field All multitudinous with carnal yield, A grim ensanguined mead whereon I saw Evolve the ancient fundamental law Of tooth and talon, fist and nail and claw.
There with the force of living, hostile hills Whose clash the hemmed-in vale with clamor fills, With greater din contended fierce majestic wills Of beast with beast, of man with man, in strife For love of what my heart despised, for life That unto me at dawn was now a prayer For night, at night a bloody heart-wrung tear For day again; for this, these groans From tangled flesh and interlocked bones.
And no thing died that did not give A testimony that it longed to live.
Man, strange composite blend of brute and god, Pushed on, nor backward glanced where last he trod: He seemed to mount a misty ladder flung Pendant from a cloud, yet never gained a rung But at his feet another tugged and clung.
My heart was still a pool of bitterness, Would yield nought else, nought else confess.
I spoke (although no form was there To see, I knew an ear was there to hear), "Well, let them fight; they can whose flesh is fair.
" Crisp lightning flashed; a wave of thunder shook My wing; a pause, and then a speaking, "Look.
" I scarce dared trust my ears or eyes for awe Of what they heard, and dread of what they saw; For, privileged beyond degree, this flesh Beheld God and His heaven in the mesh Of Lucifer's revolt, saw Lucifer Glow like the sun, and like a dulcimer I heard his sin-sweet voice break on the yell Of God's great warriors:Gabriel, Saint Clair and Michael, Israfel and Raphael.
And strange it was to see God with His back Against a wall, to see Christ hew and hack Till Lucifer, pressed by the mighty pair, And losing inch by inch, clawed at the air With fevered wings; then, lost beyond repair, He tricked a mass of stars into his hair; He filled his hands with stars, crying as he fell, "A star's a star although it burns in hell.
" So God was left to His divinity, Omnipotent at that most costly fee.
There was a lesson here, but still the clod In me was sycophant unto the rod, And cried, "Why mock me thus?Am I a god?" "One trial more:this failing, then I give You leave to die; no further need to live.
" Now suddenly a strange wild music smote A chord long impotent in me; a note Of jungles, primitive and subtle, throbbed Against my echoing breast, and tom-toms sobbed In every pulse-beat of my frame.
The din A hollow log bound with a python's skin Can make wrought every nerve to ecstasy, And I was wind and sky again, and sea, And all sweet things that flourish, being free.
Till all at once the music changed its key.
And now it was of bitterness and death, The cry the lash extorts, the broken breath Of liberty enchained; and yet there ran Through all a harmony of faith in man, A knowledge all would end as it began.
All sights and sounds and aspects of my race Accompanied this melody, kept pace With it; with music all their hopes and hates Were charged, not to be downed by all the fates.
And somehow it was borne upon my brain How being dark, and living through the pain Of it, is courage more than angels have.
I knew What storms and tumults lashed the tree that grew This body that I was, this cringing I That feared to contemplate a changing sky, This that I grovelled, whining, "Let me die," While others struggled in Life's abattoir.
The cries of all dark people near or far Were billowed over me, a mighty surge Of suffering in which my puny grief must merge And lose itself; I had no further claim to urge For death; in shame I raised my dust-grimed head, And though my lips moved not, God knew I said, "Lord, not for what I saw in flesh or bone Of fairer men; not raised on faith alone; Lord, I will live persuaded by mine own.
I cannot play the recreant to these; My spirit has come home, that sailed the doubtful seas.
" With the whiz of a sword that severs space, The wing dropped down at a dizzy pace, And flung me on my hill flat on my face; Flat on my face I lay defying pain, Glad of the blood in my smallest vein, And in my hands I clutched a loyal dream, Still spitting fire, bright twist and coil and gleam, And chiseled like a hound's white tooth.
"Oh, I will match you yet," I cried, "to truth.
" Right glad I was to stoop to what I once had spurned.
Glad even unto tears; I laughed aloud; I turned Upon my back, and though the tears for joy would run, My sight was clear; I looked and saw the rising sun.
Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson | Create an image from this poem

The Revenge - A Ballad of the Fleet

 At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay, 
And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came flying from far away: 
'Spanish ships of war at sea! we have sighted' 
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: ''Fore God I am no coward; 
But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear, 
And the half my men are sick.
I must fly, but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with ?' Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: 'I know you are no coward; You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.
But I've ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.
I should count myself the coward if I left them, my Lord Howard, To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.
' So Lord Howard passed away with five ships of war that day, Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven; But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from the land Very carefully and slow, Men of Bideford in Devon, And we laid them on the ballast down below; For we brought them all aboard, And they blest him in their pain, that they were not left to Spain, To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of the Lord.
He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and to fight, And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight, With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
'Shall we fight or shall we fly? Good Sir Richard, tell us now, For to fight is but to die! There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.
' And Sir Richard said again: 'We be all good English men.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil, For I never turned my back upon Don or devil yet.
' Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a hurrah, and so The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe, With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below; For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen, And the little Revenge ran on through the long sea-lane between.
Thousands of their soldiers looked down from their decks and laughed, Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad little craft Running on and on, till delayed By their mountain-like
Written by William Shakespeare | Create an image from this poem

Venus and Adonis

 Lo, here the gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
The sun ariseth in his majesty;
Who doth the world so gloriously behold
That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold.
Venus salutes him with this fair good-morrow; "O thou clear god, and patron of all light, From whom each lamp and shining star doth borrow The beauteous influence that makes him bright, There lives a son that suck'd an earthly mother, May lend thee light, as thou dost lend to other.
" This said, she hasteth to a myrtle grove, Musing the morning is so much o'erworn, And yet she hears no tidings of her love: She hearkens for his hounds and for his horn: Anon she hears them chant it lustily, And all in haste she coasteth to the cry.
And as she runs, the bushes in the way Some catch her by the neck, some kiss her face, Some twine about her thigh to make her stay: She wildly breaketh from their strict embrace, Like a milch doe, whose swelling dugs do ache, Hasting to feed her fawn, hid in some brake.
By this she hears the hounds are at a bay; Whereat she starts, like one that spies an adder Wreath'd up in fatal folds just in his way, The fear whereof doth make him shake and shudder; Even so the timorous yelping of the hounds Appals her senses and her spirit confounds.
For now she knows it is no gentle chase, But the blunt boar, rough bear, or lion proud, Because the cry remaineth in one place, Where fearfully the dogs exclaim aloud: Finding their enemy to be so curst, They all strain court'sy who shall cope him first.
This dismal cry rings sadly in her ear, Through which it enters to surprise her heart; Who, overcome by doubt and bloodless fear, With cold-pale weakness numbs each feeling part: Like soldiers, when their captain once doth yield, They basely fly and dare not stay the field.
Thus stands she in a trembling ecstasy; Till, cheering up her senses all dismay'd, She tells them 'tis a causeless fantasy, And childish error, that they are afraid; Bids them leave quaking, bids them fear no more:-- And with that word she spied the hunted boar; Whose frothy mouth, bepainted all with red, Like milk and blood being mingled both together, A second fear through all her sinews spread, Which madly hurries her she knows not whither: This way she runs, and now she will no further, But back retires to rate the boar for murther.
A thousand spleens bear her a thousand ways; She treads the path that she untreads again; Her more than haste is mated with delays, Like the proceedings of a drunken brain, Full of respects, yet nought at all respecting; In hand with all things, nought at all effecting.
Here kennell'd in a brake she finds a hound, And asks the weary caitiff for his master, And there another licking of his wound, 'Gainst venom'd sores the only sovereign plaster; And here she meets another sadly scowling, To whom she speaks, and he replies with howling.
When he hath ceas'd his ill-resounding noise, Another flap-mouth'd mourner, black and grim, Against the welkin volleys out his voice; Another, and another, answer him, Clapping their proud tails to the ground below, Shaking their scratch'd ears, bleeding as they go.
Look, how the world's poor people are amazed At apparitions, signs, and prodigies, Whereon with fearful eyes they long have gazed, Infusing them with dreadful prophecies; So she at these sad signs draws up her breath And sighing it again, exclaims on Death.
"Hard-favour'd tyrant, ugly, meagre, lean, Hateful divorce of love,"--thus chides she Death,-- "Grim-grinning ghost, earth's worm, what dost thou mean To stifle beauty and to steal his breath, Who when he liv'd, his breath and beauty set Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet? "If he be dead,--O no, it cannot be, Seeing his beauty, thou shouldst strike at it:-- O yes, it may; thou hast no eyes to see, But hatefully at random dost thou hit.
Thy mark is feeble age, but thy false dart Mistakes that aim and cleaves an infant's heart.
"Hadst thou but bid beware, then he had spoke, And, hearing him, thy power had lost his power.
The Destinies will curse thee for this stroke; They bid thee crop a weed, thou pluck'st a flower: Love's golden arrow at him should have fled, And not Death's ebon dart, to strike him dead.
"Dost thou drink tears, that thou provok'st such weeping? What may a heavy groan advantage thee? Why hast thou cast into eternal sleeping Those eyes that taught all other eyes to see? Now nature cares not for thy mortal vigour, Since her best work is ruin'd with thy rigour.
" Here overcome, as one full of despair, She vail'd her eyelids, who, like sluices, stopt The crystal tide that from her two cheeks fair In the sweet channel of her bosom dropt; But through the flood-gates breaks the silver rain, And with his strong course opens them again.
O, how her eyes and tears did lend and borrow! Her eyes seen in the tears, tears in her eye; Both crystals, where they view'd each other's sorrow, Sorrow that friendly sighs sought still to dry; But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain, Sighs dry her cheeks, tears make them wet again.
Variable passions throng her constant woe, As striving who should best become her grief; All entertain'd, each passion labours so, That every present sorrow seemeth chief, But none is best: then join they all together, Like many clouds consulting for foul weather.
By this, far off she hears some huntsman hollo; A nurse's song ne'er pleased her babe so well: The dire imagination she did follow This sound of hope doth labour to expel; For now reviving joy bids her rejoice, And flatters her it is Adonis' voice.
Whereat her tears began to turn their tide, Being prison'd in her eye like pearls in glass; Yet sometimes falls an orient drop beside, Which her cheek melts, as scorning it should pass, To wash the foul face of the sluttish ground, Who is but drunken when she seemeth drown'd.
O hard-believing love, how strange it seems Not to believe, and yet too credulous! Thy weal and woe are both of them extremes; Despair and hope make thee ridiculous: The one doth flatter thee in thoughts unlikely, In likely thoughts the other kills thee quickly.
Now she unweaves the web that she hath wrought; Adonis lives, and Death is not to blame; It was not she that call'd him all to naught: Now she adds honours to his hateful name; She clepes him king of graves and grave for kings, Imperious supreme of all mortal things.
"No, no," quoth she, "sweet Death, I did but jest; Yet pardon me I felt a kind of fear When as I met the boar, that bloody beast, Which knows no pity, but is still severe; Then, gentle shadow,--truth I must confess,-- I rail'd on thee, fearing my love's decease.
"'Tis not my fault: the boar provok'd my tongue; Be wreak'd on him, invisible commander; 'Tis he, foul creature, that hath done thee wrong; I did but act, he's author of thy slander: Grief hath two tongues, and never woman yet Could rule them both without ten women's wit.
" Thus hoping that Adonis is alive, Her rash suspect she doth extenuate; And that his beauty may the better thrive, With Death she humbly doth insinuate; Tells him of trophies, statues, tombs, and stories His victories, his triumphs and his glories.
"O Jove," quoth she, "how much a fool was I To be of such a weak and silly mind To wail his death who lives and must not die Till mutual overthrow of mortal kind; For he being dead, with him is beauty slain, And, beauty dead, black chaos comes again.
"Fie, fie, fond love, thou art so full of fear As one with treasure laden, hemm'd with thieves; Trifles, unwitnessed with eye or ear, Thy coward heart with false bethinking grieves.
" Even at this word she hears a merry horn, Whereat she leaps that was but late forlorn.
As falcon to the lure, away she flies; The grass stoops not, she treads on it so light; And in her haste unfortunately spies The foul boar's conquest on her fair delight; Which seen, her eyes, as murder'd with the view, Like stars asham'd of day, themselves withdrew; Or, as the snail, whose tender horns being hit, Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain, And there, all smother'd up, in shade doth sit, Long after fearing to creep forth again; So, at his bloody view, her eyes are fled Into the deep dark cabins of her head: Where they resign their office and their light To the disposing of her troubled brain; Who bids them still consort with ugly night, And never wound the heart with looks again; Who, like a king perplexed in his throne, By their suggestion gives a deadly groan, Whereat each tributary subject quakes; As when the wind, imprison'd in the ground, Struggling for passage, earth's foundation shakes, Which with cold terror doth men's minds confound.
This mutiny each part doth so surprise That from their dark beds once more leap her eyes; And, being open'd, threw unwilling light Upon the wide wound that the boar had trench'd In his soft flank; whose wonted lily white With purple tears, that his wound wept, was drench'd: No flower was nigh, no grass, herb, leaf, or weed, But stole his blood and seem'd with him to bleed.
This solemn sympathy poor Venus noteth; Over one shoulder doth she hang her head; Dumbly she passions, franticly she doteth; She thinks he could not die, he is not dead: Her voice is stopt, her joints forget to bow; Her eyes are mad that they have wept till now.
Written by Emily Dickinson | Create an image from this poem

Sic transit gloria mundi

 "Sic transit gloria mundi,"
"How doth the busy bee,"
"Dum vivimus vivamus,"
I stay mine enemy!

Oh "veni, vidi, vici!"
Oh caput cap-a-pie!
And oh "memento mori"
When I am far from thee!

Hurrah for Peter Parley!
Hurrah for Daniel Boone!
Three cheers, sir, for the gentleman
Who first observed the moon!

Peter, put up the sunshine;
Patti, arrange the stars;
Tell Luna, tea is waiting,
And call your brother Mars!

Put down the apple, Adam,
And come away with me,
So shalt thou have a pippin
From off my father's tree!

I climb the "Hill of Science,"
I "view the landscape o'er;"
Such transcendental prospect,
I ne'er beheld before!

Unto the Legislature
My country bids me go;
I'll take my india rubbers,
In case the wind should blow!

During my education,
It was announced to me
That gravitation, stumbling,
Fell from an apple tree!

The earth upon an axis
Was once supposed to turn,
By way of a gymnastic
In honor of the sun!

It was the brave Columbus,
A sailing o'er the tide,
Who notified the nations
Of where I would reside!

Mortality is fatal --
Gentility is fine,
Rascality, heroic,
Insolvency, sublime!

Our Fathers being weary,
Laid down on Bunker Hill;
And tho' full many a morning,
Yet they are sleeping still, --

The trumpet, sir, shall wake them,
In dreams I see them rise,
Each with a solemn musket
A marching to the skies!

A coward will remain, Sir,
Until the fight is done;
But an immortal hero
Will take his hat, and run!

Good bye, Sir, I am going;
My country calleth me;
Allow me, Sir, at parting,
To wipe my weeping e'e.
In token of our friendship Accept this "Bonnie Doon," And when the hand that plucked it Hath passed beyond the moon, The memory of my ashes Will consolation be; Then, farewell, Tuscarora, And farewell, Sir, to thee!
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

The Female of the Species

 1911

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man, He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws, They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say, For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away; But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale -- The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man, a bear in most relations-worm and savage otherwise, -- Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low, To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger --- Doubt and Pity oft perplex Him in dealing with an issue -- to the scandal of The Sex! But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same, And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail, The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast May not deal in doubt or pity -- must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions -- not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unchained to claim Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.
She is wedded to convictions -- in default of grosser ties; Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies! -- He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild, Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
Unprovoked and awful charges -- even so the she-bear fights, Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons -- even so the cobra bites, Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw And the victim writhes in anguish -- like the Jesuit with the squaw! So it cames that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer With his fellow-braves in council, dare nat leave a place for her Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands To some God of Abstract Justice -- which no woman understands.
And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him Must command but may not govern -- shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail, That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

My Son

 I must not let my boy Dick down,
 Knight of the air.
With wings of light he won renown Then crashed somewhere.
To fly to France from London town I do not dare.
Oh he was such a simple lad Who loved the sky; A modern day Sir Galahad, No need to die: Earthbound he might have been so glad, Yet chose to fly.
I ask from where his courage stemmed? I've never flown; Air-travel I have oft condemned,-- Now I'm alone, Yet somehow hold the bright belief God gave his brief.
So now I must live up to him Who won on high A lustre time will never dim; Though coward I, Let me revere till life be done My hero son.
Written by Emily Bronte | Create an image from this poem

The Philosopher

 "Enough of thought, philosopher!
Too long hast thou been dreaming
Unlightened, in this chamber drear,
While summer's sun is beaming!
Space - sweeping soul, what sad refrain
Concludes thy musings once again? 

"Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
Without identity,
And never care how rain may steep,
Or snow may cover me!
No promised heaven, these wild desires,
Could all, or half fulfil;
No threathened hell, with quenchless fires,
Subdue this quenchless will!" 

"So said I, and still say the same;
Still, to my death, will say -
Three gods, within this little frame,
Are warring night and day;
Heaven could not hold them all, and yet 
They all are held in me;
And must be mine till I forget
My present entity!
Oh, for the time, when in my breast
Their struggles will be o'er!
Oh, for the day, when I shall rest,
And never suffer more!" 

"I saw a spirit, standing, man,
Where thou dost stand - an hour ago, 
And round his feet three rivers ran,
Of equal depth, and equal flow -
"A golden stream - and one like blood;
And one like sapphire, seemed to be;
But, where they joined their triple flood
It tumbled in an inky sea.
The spirit sent his dazzling gaze Down through that ocean's gloomy night Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze, The glad deep sparkled wide and bright - White as the sun, far, far more fair Than its divided sources were!" "And even for that spirit, seer, I've watched and sought my life - time long; Sought him in heaven, hell, earth and air - An endless search, and always wrong! Had I but seen his glorious eye Once light the clouds that wilder me, I ne'er had raised this coward cry To cease to think and cease to be; I ne'er had called oblivion blest, Nor, stretching eager hands to death, Implored to change for senseless rest This sentient soul, this living breath - Oh, let me die - that power and will Their cruel strife may close; And conquered good, and conquering ill Be lost in one repose!"
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