John Ashbery |
Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy
Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile
Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged
Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis
Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
He promised he'd get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit
Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call
But everything is getting choked to the point of
Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically--
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.
Suddenly all is
I don't want to go back inside any more.
Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no,
Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings,
The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of
Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little
White cardboard castle over the mill run.
The lazy river, how happy we could be?"
How will it end? That geranium glow
Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the
Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into
A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner
(Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts
The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis
Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight
On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little
Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie
Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes.
I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering,
Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles
And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore)
leads to Tophet, that
Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which
Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin
Of a borborygmic giant who even now
Is rolling over on us in his sleep.
The allegory comes unsnarled
Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is
About all there is to be noted between tornadoes.
Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live
Which is like thinking in another language.
Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me.
That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times"
Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in
Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should.
Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them
We live in one dimension, they in ours.
Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek
Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its
Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions
At each new parting of the ways.
Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals.
"It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing
What happened to creative evolution?"
Then to her Sélysette: "If his
Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others,
What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once?
I have to stay here while they sit in there,
Laugh, drink, have fine time.
In my day
One lay under the tough green leaves,
Pretending not to notice how they bled into
The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed
Not to concern us.
And so we too
Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance,
Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically
Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then
Grew taciturn by previous agreement.
We were spirited
Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark.
It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness
Of the finished product.
True, to ask less were folly, yet
If he is the result of himself, how much the better
For him we ought to be! And how little, finally,
We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin
Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our
Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this,
Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves
Has been applauded in London and St.
Ravens pray for us.
" The storm finished brewing.
She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none
She found who ever heard of Amadis,
Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love.
They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all
By definition is completeness (so
In utter darkness they reasoned), why not
Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when
Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal
A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps
The pattern that may carry the sense, but
Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination.
Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's
Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces
The change as we would greet the change itself.
All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny
Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the
Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage
Shrouds our sense of it.
Therefore bivouac we
On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by
Veiled scruples, worn conundrums.
Grab sex things, swing up
Over the horizon like a boy
On a fishing expedition.
No one really knows
Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts
Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's
The tradition more than the safekeeping of it.
This mulch for
Play keeps them interested and busy while the big,
Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what
Model cities, how much waste space.
Life anyway, is between.
We don't mind
Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot
One, but have our earnest where it chances on us,
Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more,
Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Therefore I dare reveal my private woe,
The secret blots of my imperfect heart,
Nor strive to shrink or swell mine own desert,
Nor beautify nor hide.
For this I know,
That even as I am, thou also art.
Thou past heroic forms unmoved shalt go,
To pause and bide with me, to whisper low:
"Not I alone am weak, not I apart
Must suffer, struggle, conquer day by day.
Here is my very cross by strangers borne,
Here is my bosom-sin wherefrom I pray
Hourly deliverance--this my rose, my thorn.
This woman my soul's need can understand,
Stretching o'er silent gulfs her sister hand.
Rudyard Kipling |
When the darkened Fifties dip to the North,
And frost and the fog divide the air,
And the day is dead at his breaking-forth,
Sirs, it is bitter beneath the Bear!
Far to Southward they wheel and glance,
The million molten spears of morn --
The spears of our deliverance
That shine on the house where we were born.
Flying-fish about our bows,
Flying sea-fires in our wake:
This is the road to our Father's House,
Whither we go for our souls' sake!
We have forfeited our birthright,
We have forsaken all things meet;
We have forgotten the look of light,
We have forgotten the scent of heart.
They that walk with shaded brows,
Year by year in a shining land,
They be men of our Father's House,
They shall receive us and understand.
We shall go back by the boltless doors,
To the life unaltered our childhood knew --
To the naked feet on the cool, dark floors,
And the high-ceiled rooms that the Trade blows through:
To the trumpet-flowers and the moon beyond,
And the tree-toad's chorus drowning all --
And the lisp of the split banana-frond
That talked us to sleep when we were small.
The wayside magic, the threshold spells,
Shall soon undo what the North has done --
Because of the sights and the sounds and the smells
That ran with our youth in the eye of the sun.
And Earth accepting shall ask no vows,
Nor the Sea our love, nor our lover the Sky.
When we return to our Father's House
Only the English shall wonder why!
Francesco Petrarch |
Vergine bella che di sol vestita.
TO THE VIRGIN MARY.
Beautiful Virgin! clothed with the sun,
Crown'd with the stars, who so the Eternal Sun
Well pleasedst that in thine his light he hid;
Love pricks me on to utter speech of thee,
And—feeble to commence without thy aid—
Of Him who on thy bosom rests in love.
Her I invoke who gracious still replies
To all who ask in faith,
Virgin! if ever yet
The misery of man and mortal things
To mercy moved thee, to my prayer incline;
Help me in this my strife,
Though I am but of dust, and thou heaven's radiant Queen!
Wise Virgin! of that lovely number one
Of Virgins blest and wise,
Even the first and with the brightest lamp:
O solid buckler of afflicted hearts!
'Neath which against the blows of Fate and Death,
Not mere deliverance but great victory is;
Relief from the blind ardour which consumes
Vain mortals here below!
Virgin! those lustrous eyes,
Which tearfully beheld the cruel prints
In the fair limbs of thy beloved Son,
Ah! turn on my sad doubt,
Who friendless, helpless thus, for counsel come to thee!
[Pg 319]O Virgin! pure and perfect in each part,
Maiden or Mother, from thy honour'd birth,
This life to lighten and the next adorn;
O bright and lofty gate of open'd heaven!
By thee, thy Son and His, the Almighty Sire,
In our worst need to save us came below:
And, from amid all other earthly seats,
Thou only wert elect,
Virgin supremely blest!
The tears of Eve who turnedst into joy;
Make me, thou canst, yet worthy of his grace,
O happy without end,
Who art in highest heaven a saint immortal shrined.
O holy Virgin! full of every good,
Who, in humility most deep and true,
To heaven art mounted, thence my prayers to hear,
That fountain thou of pity didst produce,
That sun of justice light, which calms and clears
Our age, else clogg'd with errors dark and foul.
Three sweet and precious names in thee combine,
Of mother, daughter, wife,
Virgin! with glory crown'd,
Queen of that King who has unloosed our bonds,
And free and happy made the world again,
By whose most sacred wounds,
I pray my heart to fix where true joys only are!
Virgin! of all unparallel'd, alone,
Who with thy beauties hast enamour'd Heaven,
Whose like has never been, nor e'er shall be;
For holy thoughts with chaste and pious acts
To the true God a sacred living shrine
In thy fecund virginity have made:
By thee, dear Mary, yet my life may be
Happy, if to thy prayers,
O Virgin meek and mild!
Where sin abounded grace shall more abound!
With bended knee and broken heart I pray
That thou my guide wouldst be,
And to such prosperous end direct my faltering way.
[Pg 320]Bright Virgin! and immutable as bright,
O'er life's tempestuous ocean the sure star
Each trusting mariner that truly guides,
Look down, and see amid this dreadful storm
How I am tost at random and alone,
And how already my last shriek is near,
Yet still in thee, sinful although and vile,
My soul keeps all her trust;
Virgin! I thee implore
Let not thy foe have triumph in my fall;
Remember that our sin made God himself,
To free us from its chain,
Within thy virgin womb our image on Him take!
Virgin! what tears already have I shed,
Cherish'd what dreams and breathed what prayers in vain
But for my own worse penance and sure loss;
Since first on Arno's shore I saw the light
Till now, whate'er I sought, wherever turn'd,
My life has pass'd in torment and in tears,
For mortal loveliness in air, act, speech,
Has seized and soil'd my soul:
O Virgin! pure and good,
Delay not till I reach my life's last year;
Swifter than shaft and shuttle are, my days
'Mid misery and sin
Have vanish'd all, and now Death only is behind!
Virgin! She now is dust, who, living, held
My heart in grief, and plunged it since in gloom;
She knew not of my many ills this one,
And had she known, what since befell me still
Had been the same, for every other wish
Was death to me and ill renown for her;
But, Queen of Heaven, our Goddess—if to thee
Such homage be not sin—
Virgin! of matchless mind,
Thou knowest now the whole; and that, which else
No other can, is nought to thy great power:
Deign then my grief to end,
Thus honour shall be thine, and safe my peace at last!
[Pg 321]Virgin! in whom I fix my every hope,
Who canst and will'st assist me in great need,
Forsake me not in this my worst extreme,
Regard not me but Him who made me thus;
Let his high image stamp'd on my poor worth
Towards one so low and lost thy pity move:
Medusa spells have made me as a rock
Distilling a vain flood;
Virgin! my harass'd heart
With pure and pious tears do thou fulfil,
That its last sigh at least may be devout,
And free from earthly taint,
As was my earliest vow ere madness fill'd my veins!
Virgin! benevolent, and foe of pride,
Ah! let the love of our one Author win,
Some mercy for a contrite humble heart:
For, if her poor frail mortal dust I loved
With loyalty so wonderful and long,
Much more my faith and gratitude for thee.
From this my present sad and sunken state
If by thy help I rise,
Virgin! to thy dear name
I consecrate and cleanse my thoughts, speech, pen,
My mind, and heart with all its tears and sighs;
Point then that better path,
And with complacence view my changed desires at last.
The day must come, nor distant far its date,
Time flies so swift and sure,
O peerless and alone!
When death my heart, now conscience struck, shall seize:
Commend me, Virgin! then to thy dear Son,
True God and Very Man,
That my last sigh in peace may, in his arms, be breathed!
PETRARCH'S HOUSE AT ARQUA.
First worship the Immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law.
Reverence the Oath, and next the Heroes, full of goodness and light.
Honour likewise the Terrestrial Daemons by rendering them the worship lawfully due to them.
Honour likewise your parents, and those most nearly related to you.
Of all the rest of mankind, make him your friend who distinguishes himself by his virtue.
Always give ear to his mild exhortations, and take example from his virtuous and useful actions.
Avoid as much as possible hating your friend for a slight fault.
Power is a near neighbour to necessity.
Know that all these things are just as what I have told you; and accustom yourself to overcome and vanquish these passions:--
First gluttony, sloth, sensuality, and anger.
Do nothing evil, neither in the presence of others, nor privately;
But above all things respect yourself.
In the next place, observe justice in your actions and in your words.
And do not accustom yourself to behave yourself in any thing without rule, and without reason.
But always make this reflection, that it is ordained by destiny that all men shall die.
And that the goods of fortune are uncertain; and that just as they may be acquired, they may likewise be lost.
Concerning all the calamities that men suffer by divine fortune,
Support your lot with patience, it is what it may be, and never complain at it.
But endeavour what you can to remedy it.
And consider that fate does not send the greatest portion of these misfortunes to good men.
There are many sorts of reasonings among men, good and bad;
Do not admire them too easily, nor reject them.
But if falsehoods are advanced, hear them with mildness, and arm yourself with patience.
Observe well, on every occasion, what I am going to tell you:--
Do not let any man either by his words, or by his deeds, ever seduce you.
Nor lure you to say or to do what is not profitable for yourself.
Consult and deliberate before you act, that you may not commit foolish actions.
For it is the part of a miserable man to speak and to act without reflection.
But do the thing which will not afflict you afterwards, nor oblige you to repentance.
Never do anything which you do not understand.
But learn all you ought to know, and by that means you will lead a very pleasant life.
in no way neglect the health of your body;
But give it drink and meat in due measure, and also the exercise of which it needs.
Now by measure I mean what will not discomfort you.
Accustom yourself to a way of living that is neat and decent without luxury.
Avoid all things that will occasion envy.
And do not be prodigal out of season, like someone who does not know what is decent and honourable.
Neither be covetous nor stingy; a due measure is excellent in these things.
Only do the things that cannot hurt you, and deliberate before you do them.
Never allow sleep to close your eyelids, after you went to bed,
Until you have examined all your actions of the day by your reason.
In what have I done wrong? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?
If in this examination you find that you have done wrong, reprove yourself severely for it;
And if you have done any good, rejoice.
Practise thoroughly all these things; meditate on them well; you ought to love them with all your heart.
It is those that will put you in the way of divine virtue.
I swear it by he who has transmitted into our souls the Sacred Quaternion, the source of nature, whose cause is eternal.
But never begin to set your hand to any work, until you have first prayed the gods to accomplish what you are going to begin.
When you have made this habit familiar to you,
You will know the constitution of the Immortal Gods and of men.
Even how far the different beings extend, and what contains and binds them together.
You shall likewise know that according to Law, the nature of this universe is in all things alike,
So that you shall not hope what you ought not to hope; and nothing in this world shall be hidden from you.
You will likewise know, that men draw upon themselves their own misfortunes voluntarily, and of their own free choice.
Unhappy they are! They neither see nor understand that their good is near them.
Few know how to deliver themselves out of their misfortunes.
Such is the fate that blinds humankind, and takes away his senses.
Like huge cylinders they roll back and forth, and always oppressed with innumerable ills.
For fatal strife, natural, pursues them everywhere, tossing them up and down; nor do they perceive it.
Instead of provoking and stirring it up, they ought to avoid it by yielding.
Oh! Jupiter, our Father! If you would deliver men from all the evils that oppress them,
Show them of what daemon they make use.
But take courage; the race of humans is divine.
Sacred nature reveals to them the most hidden mysteries.
If she impart to you her secrets, you will easily perform all the things which I have ordained thee.
And by the healing of your soul, you wilt deliver it from all evils, from all afflictions.
But you should abstain from the meats, which we have forbidden in the purifications and in the deliverance of the soul;
Make a just distinction of them, and examine all things well.
Leave yourself always to be guided and directed by the understanding that comes from above, and that ought to hold the reins.
And when, after having deprived yourself of your mortal body, you arrived at the most pure Aither,
You shall be a God, immortal, incorruptible, and Death shall have no more dominion over you.
Isaac Watts |
Deliverance from oppression and falsehood.
O Thou whose justice reigns on high,
And makes th' oppressor cease,
Behold how envious sinners try
To vex and break my peace.
The sons of violence and lies
Join to devour me, Lord;
But as my hourly dangers rise,
My refuge is thy word.
In God most holy, just, and true,
I have reposed my trust;
Nor will I fear what flesh can do,
The offspring of the dust.
They wrest my words to mischief still,
Charge me with unknown faults;
Mischief doth all their counsels fill,
And malice all their thoughts.
Shall they escape without thy frown?
Must their devices stand?
O cast the haughty sinner down,
And let him know thy hand.
God counts the sorrows of his saints,
Their groans affect his ears;
Thou hast a book for my complaints,
A bottle for my tears.
When to thy throne I raise my cry,
The wicked fear and flee;
So swift is prayer to reach the sky,
So near is God to me.
In thee, most holy, just, and true,
I have reposed my trust;
Nor will I fear what man can do,
The offspring of the dust.
Thy solemn vows are on me, Lord,
Thou shalt receive my praise;
I'll sing, "How faithful is thy word,
How righteous all thy ways!"
Thou hast secured my soul from death,
O set thy pris'ner free!
That heart and hand, and life and breath,
May be employ'd for thee.
Rudyard Kipling |
Be well assured that on our side
The abiding oceans fight,
Though headlong wind and heaping tide
Make us their sport to-night.
By force of weather, not of war,
In jeopardy we steer.
Then welcome Fate's discourtesy
Whereby it shall appear
How in all time of our distress,
And our deliverance too,
The game is more than the player of the game,
And the ship is more than the crew!
Out of the mist into the mirk
The glimmering combers roll.
Almost these mindless waters work
As though they had a soul --
Almost as though they leagued to whelm
Our flag beneath their green:
Then welcome Fate's discourtesy
Whereby it shall be seen, etc.
Be well assured, though wave and wind
Have mightier blows in store,
That we who keep the watch assigned
Must stand to it the more;
And as our streaming bows rebuke
Each billow's baulked career,
Sing, welcome Fate's discourtesy
Whereby it is made clear, etc.
No matter though our decks be swept
And mast and timber crack --
We can make good all loss except
The loss of turning back.
So, 'twixt these Devils and our deep
Let courteous trumpets sound,
To welcome Fate's discourtesy
Whereby it will be found, etc.
Be well assured, though in our power
Is nothing left to give
But chance and place to meet the hour,
And leave to strive to live.
Till these dissolve our Order holds,
Our Service binds us here.
Then welcome Fate's discourtesy
Whereby it is made clear
How in all time of our distress,
As in our triumph too,
The game is more than the player of the game
And the ship is more than the crew!
George Herbert |
Immortal love, authour of this great frame,
Sprung from that beautie which can never fade;
How hath man parcel’d out thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which thou hast made,
While mortall love doth all the title gain!
Which siding with invention, they together
Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain,
(Thy workmanship) and give thee share in neither.
Wit fancies beautie, beautie raiseth wit:
The world is theirs; they two play out the game,
Thou standing by: and though thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th’ infernall pit,
Who sings thy praise? onely a skarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.
Rabindranath Tagore |
Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground
and where the pathmaker is breaking stones.
He is with them in sun and in shower,
and his garment is covered with dust.
Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!
Where is this deliverance to be found?
Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation;
he is bound with us all for ever.
Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense!
What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained?
Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.
Hermann Hesse |
Is this everything now, the quick delusions of flowers,
And the down colors of the bright summer meadow,
The soft blue spread of heaven, the bees' song,
Is this everything only a god's
The cry of unconscious powers for deliverance?
The distant line of the mountain,
That beautifully and courageously rests in the blue,
Is this too only a convulsion,
Only the wild strain of fermenting nature,
Only grief, only agony, only meaningless fumbling,
Never resting, never a blessed movement?
No! Leave me alone, you impure dream
Of the world in suffering!
The dance of tiny insects cradles you in an evening radiance,
The bird's cry cradles you,
A breath of wind cools my forehead
Leave me alone, you unendurably old human grief!
Let it all be pain.
Let it all be suffering, let it be wretched-
But not this one sweet hour in the summer,
And not the fragrance of the red clover,
And not the deep tender pleasure
In my soul.