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Best Famous Earth Poems

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12
Written by George (Lord) Byron | Create an image from this poem

The Dream

 I

Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power— 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought, A slumbering thought, is capable of years, And curdles a long life into one hour.
II I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill Was crowned with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fixed, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing—the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him; he had looked Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words; she was his sight, For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers, Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased To live within himself: she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestowed on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why? Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved Another; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood Looking afar if yet her lover's steed Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
III A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparisoned: Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere With a convulsion—then rose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-entered there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved; she knew— For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came; He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
IV A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds Of fiery climes he made himself a home, And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt With strange and dusky aspects; he was not Himself like what he had been; on the sea And on the shore he was a wanderer; There was a mass of many images Crowded like waves upon me, but he was A part of all; and in the last he lay Reposing from the noontide sultriness, Couched among fallen columns, in the shade Of ruined walls that had survived the names Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds Were fastened near a fountain; and a man, Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while, While many of his tribe slumbered around: And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful, That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
V A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better: in her home, A thousand leagues from his,—her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold! Upon her face there was a tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which preyed Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
VI A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand Before an altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then— As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reeled around him; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall, And the remembered chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light; What business had they there at such a time? VII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth? Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedness, Making the cold reality too real! VIII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compassed round With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains; with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues: and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was opened wide, And voices from the deep abyss revealed A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
IX My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality—the one To end in madness—both in misery.
Written by William Shakespeare | Create an image from this poem

Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
   For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
   That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

If

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too: 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or being hated don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim, 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss: If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much: If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Written by Edna St Vincent Millay | Create an image from this poem

Ode To Silence

 Aye, but she?
Your other sister and my other soul
Grave Silence, lovelier
Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
Clio, not you,
Not you, Calliope,
Nor all your wanton line,
Not Beauty's perfect self shall comfort me
For Silence once departed,
For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
Whom evermore I follow wistfully,
Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
Thalia, not you,
Not you, Melpomene,
Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore, I seek in this great hall,
But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
I seek her from afar, I come from temples where her altars are, From groves that bear her name, Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame, And cymbals struck on high and strident faces Obstreperous in her praise They neither love nor know, A goddess of gone days, Departed long ago, Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes Of her old sanctuary, A deity obscure and legendary, Of whom there now remains, For sages to decipher and priests to garble, Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble, Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases, And the inarticulate snow, Leaving at last of her least signs and traces None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.
"She will love well," I said, "If love be of that heart inhabiter, The flowers of the dead; The red anemone that with no sound Moves in the wind, and from another wound That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth, That blossoms underground, And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
And will not Silence know In the black shade of what obsidian steep Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep? (Seed which Demeter's daughter bore from home, Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago, Reluctant even as she, Undone Persephone, And even as she set out again to grow In twilight, in perdition's lean and inauspicious loam).
She will love well," I said, "The flowers of the dead; Where dark Persephone the winter round, Uncomforted for home, uncomforted, Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily, With sullen pupils focussed on a dream, Stares on the stagnant stream That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell, There, there will she be found, She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound.
" "I long for Silence as they long for breath Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea; What thing can be So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death What fury, what considerable rage, if only she, Upon whose icy breast, Unquestioned, uncaressed, One time I lay, And whom always I lack, Even to this day, Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away, If only she therewith be given me back?" I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth, Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell, And in among the bloodless everywhere I sought her, but the air, Breathed many times and spent, Was fretful with a whispering discontent, And questioning me, importuning me to tell Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more, Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
I paused at every grievous door, And harked a moment, holding up my hand,—and for a space A hush was on them, while they watched my face; And then they fell a-whispering as before; So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
I sought her, too, Among the upper gods, although I knew She was not like to be where feasting is, Nor near to Heaven's lord, Being a thing abhorred And shunned of him, although a child of his, (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath, Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
Fearing to pass unvisited some place And later learn, too late, how all the while, With her still face, She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile, I sought her even to the sagging board whereat The stout immortals sat; But such a laughter shook the mighty hall No one could hear me say: Had she been seen upon the Hill that day? And no one knew at all How long I stood, or when at last I sighed and went away.
There is a garden lying in a lull Between the mountains and the mountainous sea, I know not where, but which a dream diurnal Paints on my lids a moment till the hull Be lifted from the kernel And Slumber fed to me.
Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene, Though it would seem a ruined place and after Your lichenous heart, being full Of broken columns, caryatides Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees, And urns funereal altered into dust Minuter than the ashes of the dead, And Psyche's lamp out of the earth up-thrust, Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.
There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall, And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds; There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds; But never an echo of your daughters' laughter Is there, nor any sign of you at all Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria! Only her shadow once upon a stone I saw,—and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.
I tell you you have done her body an ill, You chatterers, you noisy crew! She is not anywhere! I sought her in deep Hell; And through the world as well; I thought of Heaven and I sought her there; Above nor under ground Is Silence to be found, That was the very warp and woof of you, Lovely before your songs began and after they were through! Oh, say if on this hill Somewhere your sister's body lies in death, So I may follow there, and make a wreath Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast Shall lie till age has withered them! (Ah, sweetly from the rest I see Turn and consider me Compassionate Euterpe!) "There is a gate beyond the gate of Death, Beyond the gate of everlasting Life, Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell," she saith, "Whereon but to believe is horror! Whereon to meditate engendereth Even in deathless spirits such as I A tumult in the breath, A chilling of the inexhaustible blood Even in my veins that never will be dry, And in the austere, divine monotony That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.
This is her province whom you lack and seek; And seek her not elsewhere.
Hell is a thoroughfare For pilgrims,—Herakles, And he that loved Euridice too well, Have walked therein; and many more than these; And witnessed the desire and the despair Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air; You, too, have entered Hell, And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak None has returned;—for thither fury brings Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there.
" Oh, radiant Song! Oh, gracious Memory! Be long upon this height I shall not climb again! I know the way you mean,—the little night, And the long empty day,—never to see Again the angry light, Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain! Ah, but she, Your other sister and my other soul, She shall again be mine; And I shall drink her from a silver bowl, A chilly thin green wine, Not bitter to the taste, Not sweet, Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,— To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth— But savoring faintly of the acid earth, And trod by pensive feet From perfect clusters ripened without haste Out of the urgent heat In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine .
Lift up your lyres! Sing on! But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.
Written by Pablo Neruda | Create an image from this poem

Always

 I am not jealous
of what came before me.
Come with a man on your shoulders, come with a hundred men in your hair, come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet, come like a river full of drowned men which flows down to the wild sea, to the eternal surf, to Time! Bring them all to where I am waiting for you; we shall always be alone, we shall always be you and I alone on earth to start our life!
Written by John Keats | Create an image from this poem

Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 5 
But being too happy in thine happiness, 
That thou, light-wing¨¨d Dryad of the trees, 
In some melodious plot 
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
10 O for a draught of vintage! that hath been Cool'd a long age in the deep-delv¨¨d earth, Tasting of Flora and the country-green, Dance, and Proven?al song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South! 15 Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple-stain¨¨d mouth; That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20 Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25 Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
30 Away! away! for I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: Already with thee! tender is the night, 35 And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
40 I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalm¨¨d darkness, guess each sweet Wherewith the seasonable month endows The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45 White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves; And mid-May's eldest child, The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
50 Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call'd him soft names in many a mus¨¨d rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 55 To cease upon the midnight with no pain, While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain¡ª To thy high requiem become a sod.
60 Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65 Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that ofttimes hath Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
70 Forlorn! the very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75 Past the near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:¡ªdo I wake or sleep? 80
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

Song at Sunset

 SPLENDOR of ended day, floating and filling me! 
Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past! 
Inflating my throat—you, divine average! 
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.
Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness, Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection, Natural life of me, faithfully praising things; Corroborating forever the triumph of things.
Illustrious every one! Illustrious what we name space—sphere of unnumber’d spirits; Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest insect; Illustrious the attribute of speech—the senses—the body; Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the new moon in the western sky! Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.
Good in all, In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals, In the annual return of the seasons, In the hilarity of youth, In the strength and flush of manhood, In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age, In the superb vistas of Death.
Wonderful to depart; Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed—to look on my rose-color’d flesh; To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large; To be this incredible God I am; To have gone forth among other Gods—these men and women I love.
Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself! How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around! How the clouds pass silently overhead! How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on and on! How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!) How the trees rise and stand up—with strong trunks—with branches and leaves! (Surely there is something more in each of the tree—some living Soul.
) O amazement of things! even the least particle! O spirituality of things! O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents—now reaching me and America! I take your strong chords—I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
I too carol the sun, usher’d, or at noon, or, as now, setting, I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the growths of the earth, I too have felt the resistless call of myself.
As I sail’d down the Mississippi, As I wander’d over the prairies, As I have lived—As I have look’d through my windows, my eyes, As I went forth in the morning—As I beheld the light breaking in the east; As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach of the Western Sea; As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago—whatever streets I have roam’d; Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war; Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
I sing the Equalities, modern or old, I sing the endless finales of things; I say Nature continues—Glory continues; I praise with electric voice; For I do not see one imperfection in the universe; And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe.
O setting sun! though the time has come, I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration.
Written by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams | Create an image from this poem

Love

O Love! thou makest all things even 
In earth or heaven; 
Finding thy way through prison-bars 
Up to the stars; 
Or, true to the Almighty plan, 
That out of dust created man, 
Thou lookest in a grave,--to see 
Thine immortality! 
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Ghosts

 Smith, great writer of stories, drank; found it immortalized his pen;
Fused in his brain-pan, else a blank, heavens of glory now and then;
Gave him the magical genius touch; God-given power to gouge out, fling
Flat in your face a soul-thought -- Bing!
Twiddle your heart-strings in his clutch.
"Bah!" said Smith, "let my body lie stripped to the buff in swinish shame, If I can blaze in the radiant sky out of adoring stars my name.
Sober am I nonentitized; drunk am I more than half a god.
Well, let the flesh be sacrificed; spirit shall speak and shame the clod.
Who would not gladly, gladly give Life to do one thing that will live?" Smith had a friend, we'll call him Brown; dearer than brothers were those two.
When in the wassail Smith would drown, Brown would rescue and pull him through.
When Brown was needful Smith would lend; so it fell as the years went by, Each on the other would depend: then at the last Smith came to die.
There Brown sat in the sick man's room, still as a stone in his despair; Smith bent on him his eyes of doom, shook back his lion mane of hair; Said: "Is there one in my chosen line, writer of forthright tales my peer? Look in that little desk of mine; there is a package, bring it here.
Story of stories, gem of all; essence and triumph, key and clue; Tale of a loving woman's fall; soul swept hell-ward, and God! it's true.
I was the man -- Oh, yes, I've paid, paid with mighty and mordant pain.
Look! here's the masterpiece I've made out of my sin, my manhood slain.
Art supreme! yet the world would stare, know my mistress and blaze my shame.
I have a wife and daughter -- there! take it and thrust it in the flame.
" Brown answered: "Master, you have dipped pen in your heart, your phrases sear.
Ruthless, unflinching, you have stripped naked your soul and set it here.
Have I not loved you well and true? See! between us the shadows drift; This bit of blood and tears means You -- oh, let me have it, a parting gift.
Sacred I'll hold it, a trust divine; sacred your honour, her dark despair; Never shall it see printed line: here, by the living God I swear.
" Brown on a Bible laid his hand; Smith, great writer of stories, sighed: "Comrade, I trust you, and understand.
Keep my secret!" And so he died.
Smith was buried -- up soared his sales; lured you his books in every store; Exquisite, whimsy, heart-wrung tales; men devoured them and craved for more.
So when it slyly got about Brown had a posthumous manuscript, Jones, the publisher, sought him out, into his pocket deep he dipped.
"A thousand dollars?" Brown shook his head.
"The story is not for sale, " he said.
Jones went away, then others came.
Tempted and taunted, Brown was true.
Guarded at friendship's shrine the fame of the unpublished story grew and grew.
It's a long, long lane that has no end, but some lanes end in the Potter's field; Smith to Brown had been more than friend: patron, protector, spur and shield.
Poor, loving-wistful, dreamy Brown, long and lean, with a smile askew, Friendless he wandered up and down, gaunt as a wolf, as hungry too.
Brown with his lilt of saucy rhyme, Brown with his tilt of tender mirth Garretless in the gloom and grime, singing his glad, mad songs of earth: So at last with a faith divine, down and down to the Hunger-line.
There as he stood in a woeful plight, tears a-freeze on his sharp cheek-bones, Who should chance to behold his plight, but the publisher, the plethoric Jones; Peered at him for a little while, held out a bill: "NOW, will you sell?" Brown scanned it with his twisted smile: "A thousand dollars! you go to hell!" Brown enrolled in the homeless host, sleeping anywhere, anywhen; Suffered, strove, became a ghost, slave of the lamp for other men; For What's-his-name and So-and-so in the abyss his soul he stripped, Yet in his want, his worst of woe, held he fast to the manuscript.
Then one day as he chewed his pen, half in hunger and half despair, Creaked the door of his garret den; Dick, his brother, was standing there.
Down on the pallet bed he sank, ashen his face, his voice a wail: "Save me, brother! I've robbed the bank; to-morrow it's ruin, capture, gaol.
Yet there's a chance: I could to-day pay back the money, save our name; You have a manuscript, they say, worth a thousand -- think, man! the shame.
.
.
.
" Brown with his heart pain-pierced the while, with his stern, starved face, and his lips stone-pale, Shuddered and smiled his twisted smile: "Brother, I guess you go to gaol.
" While poor Brown in the leer of dawn wrestled with God for the sacred fire, Came there a woman weak and wan, out of the mob, the murk, the mire; Frail as a reed, a fellow ghost, weary with woe, with sorrowing; Two pale souls in the legion lost; lo! Love bent with a tender wing, Taught them a joy so deep, so true, it seemed that the whole-world fabric shook, Thrilled and dissolved in radiant dew; then Brown made him a golden book, Full of the faith that Life is good, that the earth is a dream divinely fair, Lauding his gem of womanhood in many a lyric rich and rare; Took it to Jones, who shook his head: "I will consider it," he said.
While he considered, Brown's wife lay clutched in the tentacles of pain; Then came the doctor, grave and grey; spoke of decline, of nervous strain; Hinted Egypt, the South of France -- Brown with terror was tiger-gripped.
Where was the money? What the chance? Pitiful God! .
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the manuscript! A thousand dollars! his only hope! he gazed and gazed at the garret wall.
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Reached at last for the envelope, turned to his wife and told her all.
Told of his friend, his promise true; told like his very heart would break: "Oh, my dearest! what shall I do? shall I not sell it for your sake?" Ghostlike she lay, as still as doom; turned to the wall her weary head; Icy-cold in the pallid gloom, silent as death .
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at last she said: "Do! my husband? Keep your vow! Guard his secret and let me die.
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Oh, my dear, I must tell you now -- the women he loved and wronged was I; Darling! I haven't long to live: I never told you -- forgive, forgive!" For a long, long time Brown did not speak; sat bleak-browed in the wretched room; Slowly a tear stole down his cheek, and he kissed her hand in the dismal gloom.
To break his oath, to brand her shame; his well-loved friend, his worshipped wife; To keep his vow, to save her name, yet at the cost of what? Her life! A moment's space did he hesitate, a moment of pain and dread and doubt, Then he broke the seals, and, stern as fate, unfolded the sheets and spread them out.
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On his knees by her side he limply sank, peering amazed -- each page was blank.
(For oh, the supremest of our art are the stories we do not dare to tell, Locked in the silence of the heart, for the awful records of Heav'n and Hell.
) Yet those two in the silence there, seemed less weariful than before.
Hark! a step on the garret stair, a postman knocks at the flimsy door.
"Registered letter!" Brown thrills with fear; opens, and reads, then bends above: "Glorious tidings! Egypt, dear! The book is accepted -- life and love.
"
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

The Break Away

 Your daisies have come
on the day of my divorce:
the courtroom a cement box,
a gas chamber for the infectious Jew in me
and a perhaps land, a possibly promised land
for the Jew in me,
but still a betrayal room for the till-death-do-us—
and yet a death, as in the unlocking of scissors
that makes the now separate parts useless,
even to cut each other up as we did yearly
under the crayoned-in sun.
The courtroom keeps squashing our lives as they break into two cans ready for recycling, flattened tin humans and a tin law, even for my twenty-five years of hanging on by my teeth as I once saw at Ringling Brothers.
The gray room: Judge, lawyer, witness and me and invisible Skeezix, and all the other torn enduring the bewilderments of their division.
Your daisies have come on the day of my divorce.
They arrive like round yellow fish, sucking with love at the coral of our love.
Yet they wait, in their short time, like little utero half-borns, half killed, thin and bone soft.
They breathe the air that stands for twenty-five illicit days, the sun crawling inside the sheets, the moon spinning like a tornado in the washbowl, and we orchestrated them both, calling ourselves TWO CAMP DIRECTORS.
There was a song, our song on your cassette, that played over and over and baptised the prodigals.
It spoke the unspeakable, as the rain will on an attic roof, letting the animal join its soul as we kneeled before a miracle-- forgetting its knife.
The daisies confer in the old-married kitchen papered with blue and green chefs who call out pies, cookies, yummy, at the charcoal and cigarette smoke they wear like a yellowy salve.
The daisies absorb it all-- the twenty-five-year-old sanctioned love (If one could call such handfuls of fists and immobile arms that!) and on this day my world rips itself up while the country unfastens along with its perjuring king and his court.
It unfastens into an abortion of belief, as in me-- the legal rift-- as on might do with the daisies but does not for they stand for a love undergoihng open heart surgery that might take if one prayed tough enough.
And yet I demand, even in prayer, that I am not a thief, a mugger of need, and that your heart survive on its own, belonging only to itself, whole, entirely whole, and workable in its dark cavern under your ribs.
I pray it will know truth, if truth catches in its cup and yet I pray, as a child would, that the surgery take.
I dream it is taking.
Next I dream the love is swallowing itself.
Next I dream the love is made of glass, glass coming through the telephone that is breaking slowly, day by day, into my ear.
Next I dream that I put on the love like a lifejacket and we float, jacket and I, we bounce on that priest-blue.
We are as light as a cat's ear and it is safe, safe far too long! And I awaken quickly and go to the opposite window and peer down at the moon in the pond and know that beauty has walked over my head, into this bedroom and out, flowing out through the window screen, dropping deep into the water to hide.
I will observe the daisies fade and dry up wuntil they become flour, snowing themselves onto the table beside the drone of the refrigerator, beside the radio playing Frankie (as often as FM will allow) snowing lightly, a tremor sinking from the ceiling-- as twenty-five years split from my side like a growth that I sliced off like a melanoma.
It is six P.
M.
as I water these tiny weeds and their little half-life, their numbered days that raged like a secret radio, recalling love that I picked up innocently, yet guiltily, as my five-year-old daughter picked gum off the sidewalk and it became suddenly an elastic miracle.
For me it was love found like a diamond where carrots grow-- the glint of diamond on a plane wing, meaning: DANGER! THICK ICE! but the good crunch of that orange, the diamond, the carrot, both with four million years of resurrecting dirt, and the love, although Adam did not know the word, the love of Adam obeying his sudden gift.
You, who sought me for nine years, in stories made up in front of your naked mirror or walking through rooms of fog women, you trying to forget the mother who built guilt with the lumber of a locked door as she sobbed her soured mild and fed you loss through the keyhole, you who wrote out your own birth and built it with your own poems, your own lumber, your own keyhole, into the trunk and leaves of your manhood, you, who fell into my words, years before you fell into me (the other, both the Camp Director and the camper), you who baited your hook with wide-awake dreams, and calls and letters and once a luncheon, and twice a reading by me for you.
But I wouldn't! Yet this year, yanking off all past years, I took the bait and was pulled upward, upward, into the sky and was held by the sun-- the quick wonder of its yellow lap-- and became a woman who learned her own shin and dug into her soul and found it full, and you became a man who learned his won skin and dug into his manhood, his humanhood and found you were as real as a baker or a seer and we became a home, up into the elbows of each other's soul, without knowing-- an invisible purchase-- that inhabits our house forever.
We were blessed by the House-Die by the altar of the color T.
V.
and somehow managed to make a tiny marriage, a tiny marriage called belief, as in the child's belief in the tooth fairy, so close to absolute, so daft within a year or two.
The daisies have come for the last time.
And I who have, each year of my life, spoken to the tooth fairy, believing in her, even when I was her, am helpless to stop your daisies from dying, although your voice cries into the telephone: Marry me! Marry me! and my voice speaks onto these keys tonight: The love is in dark trouble! The love is starting to die, right now-- we are in the process of it.
The empty process of it.
I see two deaths, and the two men plod toward the mortuary of my heart, and though I willed one away in court today and I whisper dreams and birthdays into the other, they both die like waves breaking over me and I am drowning a little, but always swimming among the pillows and stones of the breakwater.
And though your daisies are an unwanted death, I wade through the smell of their cancer and recognize the prognosis, its cartful of loss-- I say now, you gave what you could.
It was quite a ferris wheel to spin on! and the dead city of my marriage seems less important than the fact that the daisies came weekly, over and over, likes kisses that can't stop themselves.
There sit two deaths on November 5th, 1973.
Let one be forgotten-- Bury it! Wall it up! But let me not forget the man of my child-like flowers though he sinks into the fog of Lake Superior, he remains, his fingers the marvel of fourth of July sparklers, his furious ice cream cones of licking, remains to cool my forehead with a washcloth when I sweat into the bathtub of his being.
For the rest that is left: name it gentle, as gentle as radishes inhabiting their short life in the earth, name it gentle, gentle as old friends waving so long at the window, or in the drive, name it gentle as maple wings singing themselves upon the pond outside, as sensuous as the mother-yellow in the pond, that night that it was ours, when our bodies floated and bumped in moon water and the cicadas called out like tongues.
Let such as this be resurrected in all men whenever they mold their days and nights as when for twenty-five days and nights you molded mine and planted the seed that dives into my God and will do so forever no matter how often I sweep the floor.
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