William Wordsworth |
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Emily Dickinson |
I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I'm some accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though—
I thought if I could only live
Till that first Shout got by—
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me—
I dared not meet the Daffodils—
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own—
I wished the Grass would hurry—
So—when 'twas time to see—
He'd be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch—to look at me—
I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they'd stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?
They're here, though; not a creature failed—
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me—
The Queen of Calvary—
Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgement
Of their unthinking Drums—
John Keats |
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
Marge Piercy |
Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.
Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk.
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.
Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.
Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.
Yellow as a goat's wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.
Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.
Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.
Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga.
Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.
Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other's arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.
Sylvia Plath |
This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation.
Electrifyingly-colored sherbets, scooped from the freeze
By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands.
Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding?
I have two legs, and I move smilingly.
A sandy damper kills the vibrations;
It stretches for miles, the shrunk voices
Waving and crutchless, half their old size.
The lines of the eye, scalded by these bald surfaces,
Boomerang like anchored elastics, hurting the owner.
Is it any wonder he puts on dark glasses?
Is it any wonder he affects a black cassock?
Here he comes now, among the mackerel gatherers
Who wall up their backs against him.
They are handling the black and green lozenges like the parts of a body.
The sea, that crystallized these,
Creeps away, many-snaked, with a long hiss of distress.
This black boot has no mercy for anybody.
Why should it, it is the hearse of a dad foot,
The high, dead, toeless foot of this priest
Who plumbs the well of his book,
The bent print bulging before him like scenery.
Obscene bikinis hid in the dunes,
Breasts and hips a confectioner's sugar
Of little crystals, titillating the light,
While a green pool opens its eye,
Sick with what it has swallowed----
Limbs, images, shrieks.
Behind the concrete bunkers
Two lovers unstick themselves.
O white sea-crockery,
What cupped sighs, what salt in the throat.
And the onlooker, trembling,
Drawn like a long material
Through a still virulence,
And a weed, hairy as privates.
On the balconies of the hotel, things are glittering.
Tubular steel wheelchairs, aluminum crutches.
Why should I walk
Beyond the breakwater, spotty with barnacles?
I am not a nurse, white and attendant,
I am not a smile.
These children are after something, with hooks and cries,
And my heart too small to bandage their terrible faults.
This is the side of a man: his red ribs,
The nerves bursting like trees, and this is the surgeon:
One mirrory eye----
A facet of knowledge.
On a striped mattress in one room
An old man is vanishing.
There is no help in his weeping wife.
Where are the eye-stones, yellow and vvaluable,
And the tongue, sapphire of ash.
A wedding-cake face in a paper frill.
How superior he is now.
It is like possessing a saint.
The nurses in their wing-caps are no longer so beautiful;
They are browning, like touched gardenias.
The bed is rolled from the wall.
This is what it is to be complete.
It is horrible.
Is he wearing pajamas or an evening suit
Under the glued sheet from which his powdery beak
Rises so whitely unbuffeted?
They propped his jaw with a book until it stiffened
And folded his hands, that were shaking: goodbye, goodbye.
Now the washed sheets fly in the sun,
The pillow cases are sweetening.
It is a blessing, it is a blessing:
The long coffin of soap-colored oak,
The curious bearers and the raw date
Engraving itself in silver with marvelous calm.
The gray sky lowers, the hills like a green sea
Run fold upon fold far off, concealing their hollows,
The hollows in which rock the thoughts of the wife----
Blunt, practical boats
Full of dresses and hats and china and married daughters.
In the parlor of the stone house
One curtain is flickering from the open window,
Flickering and pouring, a pitiful candle.
This is the tongue of the dead man: remember, remember.
How far he is now, his actions
Around him like livingroom furniture, like a décor.
As the pallors gather----
The pallors of hands and neighborly faces,
The elate pallors of flying iris.
They are flying off into nothing: remember us.
The empty benches of memory look over stones,
Marble facades with blue veins, and jelly-glassfuls of daffodils.
It is so beautiful up here: it is a stopping place.
The natural fatness of these lime leaves!----
Pollarded green balls, the trees march to church.
The voice of the priest, in thin air,
Meets the corpse at the gate,
Addressing it, while the hills roll the notes of the dead bell;
A glittler of wheat and crude earth.
What is the name of that color?----
Old blood of caked walls the sun heals,
Old blood of limb stumps, burnt hearts.
The widow with her black pocketbook and three daughters,
Necessary among the flowers,
Enfolds her lace like fine linen,
Not to be spread again.
While a sky, wormy with put-by smiles,
Passes cloud after cloud.
And the bride flowers expend a fershness,
And the soul is a bride
In a still place, and the groom is red and forgetful, he is featureless.
Behind the glass of this car
The world purrs, shut-off and gentle.
And I am dark-suited and stil, a member of the party,
Gliding up in low gear behind the cart.
And the priest is a vessel,
A tarred fabric,sorry and dull,
Following the coffin on its flowery cart like a beautiful woman,
A crest of breasts, eyelids and lips
Storming the hilltop.
Then, from the barred yard, the children
Smell the melt of shoe-blacking,
Their faces turning, wordless and slow,
Their eyes opening
On a wonderful thing----
Six round black hats in the grass and a lozenge of wood,
And a naked mouth, red and awkward.
For a minute the sky pours into the hole like plasma.
There is no hope, it is given up.
Lascelles Abercrombie |
All round the knoll, on days of quietest air,
Secrets are being told; and if the trees
Speak out — let them make uproar loud as drums —
'Tis secrets still, shouted instead of whisper'd.
There must have been a warning given once:
No tree, on pain of withering and sawfly,
To reach the slimmest of his snaky toes
Into this mounded sward and rumple it;
All trees stand back: taboo is on this soil.
The trees have always scrupulously obeyed.
The grass, that elsewhere grows as best it may
Under the larches, countable long nesh blades,
Here in clear sky pads the ground thick and close
As wool upon a Southdown wether's back;
And as in Southdown wool, your hand must sink
Up to the wrist before it find the roots.
A bed for summer afternoons, this grass;
But in the Spring, not too softly entangling
For lively feet to dance on, when the green
Flashes with daffodils.
From Marcle way,
From Dymock, Kempley, Newent, Bromesberrow,
Redmarley, all the meadowland daffodils seem
Running in golden tides to Ryton Firs,
To make the knot of steep little wooded hills
Their brightest show: O bella età de l'oro!
Now I breathe you again, my woods of Ryton:
Not only golden with your daffodil-fires
Lying in pools on the loose dusky ground
Beneath the larches, tumbling in broad rivers
Down sloping grass under the cherry trees
And birches: but among your branches clinging
A mist of that Ferrara-gold I first
Loved in the easy hours then green with you;
And as I stroll about you now, I have
Accompanying me — like troops of lads and lasses
Chattering and dancing in a shining fortune —
Those mornings when your alleys of long light
And your brown rosin-scented shadows were
Enchanted with the laughter of my boys.
Lascelles Abercrombie |
Follow my heart, my dancing feet,
Dance as blithe as my heart can beat.
Only can dancing understand
What a heavenly way we pass
Treading the green and golden land,
Daffodillies and grass.
I had a song, too, on my road,
But mine was in my eyes;
For Malvern Hills were with me all the way,
Singing loveliest visible melodies
Blue as a south-sea bay;
And ruddy as wine of France
Breadths of new-turn'd ploughland under them glowed.
'Twas my heart then must dance
To dwell in my delight;
No need to sing when all in song my sight
Moved over hills so musically made
And with such colour played.
And only yesterday it was I saw
Veil'd in streamers of grey wavering smoke
My shapely Malvern Hills.
That was the last hail-storm to trouble spring:
He came in gloomy haste,
Pusht in front of the white clouds quietly basking,
In such a hurry he tript against the hills
And stumbling forward spilt over his shoulders
All his black baggage held,
Streaking downpour of hail.
Then fled dismayed, and the sun in golden glee
And the high white clouds laught down his dusky ghost.
For all that's left of winter
Is moisture in the ground.
When I came down the valley last, the sun
Just thawed the grass and made me gentle turf,
But still the frost was bony underneath.
Now moles take burrowing jaunts abroad, and ply
Their shovelling hands in earth
As nimbly as the strokes
Of a swimmer in a long dive under water.
The meadows in the sun are twice as green
For all the scatter of fresh red mounded earth,
The mischief of the moles:
No dullish red, Glostershire earth new-delved
In April! And I think shows fairest where
These rummaging small rogues have been at work.
If you will look the way the sunlight slants
Making the grass one great green gem of light,
Bright earth, crimson and even
Scarlet, everywhere tracks
The rambling underground affairs of moles:
Though 'tis but kestrel-bay
Looking against the sun.
But here's the happiest light can lie on ground,
Grass sloping under trees
Alive with yellow shine of daffodils!
If quicksilver were gold,
And troubled pools of it shaking in the sun
It were not such a fancy of bickering gleam
As Ryton daffodils when the air but stirs.
And all the miles and miles of meadowland
The spring makes golden ways,
Lead here, for here the gold
Grows brightest for our eyes,
And for our hearts lovelier even than love.
So here, each spring, our daffodil festival.
How smooth and quick the year
Spins me the seasons round!
How many days have slid across my mind
Since we had snow pitying the frozen ground!
Then winter sunshine cheered
The bitter skies; the snow,
Reluctantly obeying lofty winds,
Drew off in shining clouds,
Wishing it still might love
With its white mercy the cold earth beneath.
But when the beautiful ground
Lights upward all the air,
Noon thaws the frozen eaves,
And makes the rime on post and paling steam
Silvery blue smoke in the golden day.
And soon from loaded trees in noiseless woods
The snows slip thudding down,
Scattering in their trail
Bright icy sparkles through the glittering air;
And the fir-branches, patiently bent so long,
Sigh as they lift themselves to rights again.
Then warm moist hours steal in,
Such as can draw the year's
First fragrance from the sap of cherry wood
Or from the leaves of budless violets;
And travellers in lanes
Catch the hot tawny smell
Reynard's damp fur left as he sneakt marauding
Across from gap to gap:
And in the larch woods on the highest boughs
The long-eared owls like grey cats sitting still
Peer down to quiz the passengers below.
Light has killed the winter and all dark dreams.
Now winds live all in light,
Light has come down to earth and blossoms here,
And we have golden minds.
From out the long shade of a road high-bankt,
I came on shelving fields;
And from my feet cascading,
Streaming down the land,
Flickering lavish of daffodils flowed and fell;
Like sunlight on a water thrill'd with haste,
Such clear pale quivering flame,
But a flame even more marvellously yellow.
And all the way to Ryton here I walkt
Ankle-deep in light.
It was as if the world had just begun;
And in a mind new-made
Of shadowless delight
My spirit drank my flashing senses in,
And gloried to be made
Of young mortality.
No darker joy than this
Golden amazement now
Shall dare intrude into our dazzling lives:
Stain were it now to know
Mists of sweet warmth and deep delicious colour,
Those lovable accomplices that come
Befriending languid hours.
Barry Tebb |
It was Karl Shapiro who wrote in his ‘Defence of Ignorance’ how many poets
Go mad or seem to be so and the majority think we should all be in jail
Or mental hospital and you have ended up in both places - fragile as bone china,
Your pale skin taut, your fingers clasped tight round a cup, sitting in a pool
Of midnight light, your cats stretched flat on your desk top’s scatter
Under the laughing eyes of Sexton and Lowell beneath Rollie McKenna’s seamless shutter.
Other nights you hunch in your rocking chair, spilling rhythms
Silently as a bat weaves through midnight’s jade waves
Your sibylline tongue tapping every twist or the syllable count
Deftly as Whistler mixed tints for Nocturnes’ nuances or shade
Or Hokusai tipped every wave crest.
You pause when down the hall a cat snatches at a forbidden plant,
“Schubert, Schubert”, you whisper urgently for it is night and there are neighbours.
The whistle of the forgotten kettle shrills: you turn down the gas
And scurry back to your poem as you would to a sick child
And ease the pain of disordered lines.
The face of your mother smiles like a Madonna bereft
And the faces of our children are always somewhere
As you focus your midnight eyes soft with tears.
You create to survive, a Balzac writing against the clock
A Baudelaire writing against the bailiff’s knock
A Val?ry in the throes of ‘Narcisse Parle’.
When a far clock chimes you sigh and set aside the page:
There is no telephone to ring or call: I am distant and sick,
Frail as an old stick
Our spirits rise and fall like the barometer’s needle
Jerk at a finger tapping on glass
Flashbacks or inspiration cry out at memory loss.
You peer through a magnifying glass at the typeface
Your knuckles white with pain as the sonnet starts to strain
Like a child coming to birth, the third you never bore.
All births, all babies, all poems are the same in coming
The spark of inspiration or spurt of semen,
The silent months of gestation, the waiting and worrying
Until the final agony of creation: for our first son’s
Birth at Oakes we had only a drawer for a crib.
Memories blur: all I know is that it was night
And at home as you always insisted, against all advice
I remember feebly holding the mask in place
As the Indian woman doctor brutally stitched you without an anaesthetic
And the silence like no other when even the midwives
Had left: the child slept and we crept round his make-shift cradle.
At Brudenell Road again it was night in the cold house
With bare walls and plug-in fires: Bob, the real father
Paced the front, deep in symphonic thought:
Isaiah slept: I waited and watched - an undiagnosed breech
The doctor’s last minute discovery - made us rush
And scatter to have you admitted.
I fell asleep in the silent house and woke to a chaos
Of blood and towels and discarded dressings and a bemused five year old.
We brought you armsful of daffodils, Easter’s remainders.
“Happy Easter, are the father?” Staff beamed
As we sat by the bedside, Bob, myself and John MacKendrick,
Brecht and Rilke’s best translator
Soon to die by his own hand.
Poetry is born in the breech position
Poems beget poems.
Charles Baudelaire |
I HAVE seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.
I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
But the loveliest thing of beauty God ever has shown to me,
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.
Stephen Dunn |
The sky in the trees, the trees mixed up
with what's left of heaven, nearby a patch
of daffodils rooted down
where dirt and stones comprise a kind
of night, unmetaphysical, cool as a skeptic's
What this scene needs
is a nude absentmindedly sunning herself
on a large rock, thinks the man fed up
with nature, or perhaps a lost tiger,
the maximum amount of wildness a landscape
can bear, but the man knows and fears
his history of tampering with everything,
and besides to anyone who might see him
he's just a figure in a clearing
in a forest in a universe
that is as random as desire itself,
his desire in particular, so much going on
with and without him, moles humping up
the ground near the daffodils, a mockingbird
publishing its cacaphonous anthology,
and those little Calvinists, the ants,
making it all the more difficult
for a person in America
to close his office, skip to the beach.
But what this scene needs are wisteria
and persimmons, thinks the woman
sunning herself absentmindedly on the rock,
a few magnificent words that one
might want to eat if one were a lover
of words, the hell with first principles,
the noon sun on my body, tempered
by a breeze that cannot be doubted.
And as she thinks, she who exists
only in the man's mind, a deer grazes
beyond their knowing, a deer tick riding
its back, and in the gifted air
mosquitos, dragonflies, and tattered
mute angels no one has called upon in years.