Best Famous Fling Poems

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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! .
the manuscript! A thousand dollars! his only hope! he gazed and gazed at the garret wall.
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 .
at last she said: "Do! my husband? Keep your vow! Guard his secret and let me die.
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.
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 Langston Hughes | Create an image from this poem

Dream Variations

 To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening Beneath a tall tree While night comes on gently, Dark like me- That is my dream! To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening.
A tall, slim tree.
Night coming tenderly Black like me.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Living Dead

 Since I have come to years sedate
I see with more and more acumen
The bitter irony of Fate,
The vanity of all things human.
Why, just to-day some fellow said, As I surveyed Fame's outer portal: "By gad! I thought that you were dead.
" Poor me, who dreamed to be immortal! But that's the way with many men Whose name one fancied time-defying; We thought that they were dust and then We found them living by their dying.
Like dogs we penmen have our day, To brief best-sellerdom elected; And then, "thumbs down," we slink away And die forgotten and neglected.
Ah well, my lyric fling I've had; A thousand bits of verse I've minted; And some, alas! were very bad, And some, alack! were best unprinted.
But if I've made my muse a bawd (Since I am earthy as a ditch is), I'll answer humbly to my God: Most men at times have toyed with bitches.
Yes, I have played with Lady Rhyme, And had a long and lovely innings; And when the Umpire calls my time I'll blandly quit and take my winnings.
I'll hie me to some Sleepydale, And feed the ducks and pat the poodles, And prime my paunch with cakes and ale, And blether with the village noodles.
And then some day you'll idly scan The Times obituary column, And say: "Dear me, the poor old man!" And for a moment you'll look solemn.
"So all this time he's been alive - In realms of rhyme a second-rater .
But gad! to live to ninety-five: Let's toast his ghost - a sherry, waiter!"
Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson | Create an image from this poem

The Mermaid


Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?


I would be a mermaid fair;
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb'd I would sing and say,
'Who is it loves me? who loves not me?'
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall
 Low adown, low adown,
From under my starry sea-bud crown
 Low adown and around,
And I should look like a fountain of gold
 Springing alone
 With a shrill inner sound
 Over the throne
 In the midst of the hall;
Till that great sea-snake under the sea
From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps
Would slowly trail himself sevenfold
Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate
With his large calm eyes for the love of me.
And all the mermen under the sea Would feel their immortality Die in their hearts for the love of me.
III But at night I would wander away, away, I would fling on each side my low-flowing locks, And lightly vault from the throne and play With the mermen in and out of the rocks; We would run to and fro, and hide and seek, On the broad sea-wolds in the crimson shells, Whose silvery spikes are nighest the sea.
But if any came near I would call and shriek, And adown the steep like a wave I would leap From the diamond-ledges that jut from the dells; For I would not be kiss'd by all who would list Of the bold merry mermen under the sea.
They would sue me, and woo me, and flatter me, In the purple twilights under the sea; But the king of them all would carry me, Woo me, and win me, and marry me, In the branching jaspers under the sea.
Then all the dry-pied things that be In the hueless mosses under the sea Would curl round my silver feet silently, All looking up for the love of me.
And if I should carol aloud, from aloft All things that are forked, and horned, and soft Would lean out from the hollow sphere of the sea, All looking down for the love of me.
Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley | Create an image from this poem

A Dream of the Unknown

I DREAM'D that as I wander'd by the way 
Bare winter suddenly was changed to spring, 
And gentle odours led my steps astray, 
Mix'd with a sound of waters murmuring 
Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay 5 
Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling 
Its green arms round the bosom of the stream, 
But kiss'd it and then fled, as thou mightest in dream.
There grew pied wind-flowers and violets, Daisies, those pearl'd Arcturi of the earth, 10 The constellated flower that never sets; Faint oxlips; tender bluebells, at whose birth The sod scarce heaved; and that tall flower that wets¡ª Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth¡ª Its mother's face with heaven-collected tears, 15 When the low wind, its playmate's voice, it hears.
And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine, Green cow-bind and the moonlight-colour'd may, And cherry-blossoms, and white cups, whose wine Was the bright dew yet drain'd not by the day; 20 And wild roses, and ivy serpentine With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray; And flowers azure, black, and streak'd with gold, Fairer than any waken'd eyes behold.
And nearer to the river's trembling edge 25 There grew broad flag-flowers, purple prank'd with white, And starry river-buds among the sedge, And floating water-lilies, broad and bright, Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge With moonlight beams of their own watery light; 30 And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen.
Methought that of these visionary flowers I made a nosegay, bound in such a way That the same hues, which in their natural bowers 35 Were mingled or opposed, the like array Kept these imprison'd children of the Hours Within my hand,¡ªand then, elate and gay, I hasten'd to the spot whence I had come That I might there present it¡ªoh! to Whom? 40
Written by Matthew Arnold | Create an image from this poem

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land, Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago Heard it on the {AE}gean, and it brought Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Written by Thomas Hardy | Create an image from this poem

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be The Century's corpse outleant, His crypt the cloudy canopy, The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fevourless as I.
At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead In a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited; An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.
Written by James Whitcomb Riley | Create an image from this poem


 New Castle, July 4, 1878

or a hundred years the pulse of time
Has throbbed for Liberty;
For a hundred years the grand old clime
Columbia has been free;
For a hundred years our country's love,
The Stars and Stripes, has waved above.
Away far out on the gulf of years-- Misty and faint and white Through the fogs of wrong--a sail appears, And the Mayflower heaves in sight, And drifts again, with its little flock Of a hundred souls, on Plymouth Rock.
Do you see them there--as long, long since-- Through the lens of History; Do you see them there as their chieftain prints In the snow his bended knee, And lifts his voice through the wintry blast In thanks for a peaceful home at last? Though the skies are dark and the coast is bleak, And the storm is wild and fierce, Its frozen flake on the upturned cheek Of the Pilgrim melts in tears, And the dawn that springs from the darkness there Is the morning light of an answered prayer.
The morning light of the day of Peace That gladdens the aching eyes, And gives to the soul that sweet release That the present verifies,-- Nor a snow so deep, nor a wind so chill To quench the flame of a freeman's will! II Days of toil when the bleeding hand Of the pioneer grew numb, When the untilled tracts of the barren land Where the weary ones had come Could offer nought from a fruitful soil To stay the strength of the stranger's toil.
Days of pain, when the heart beat low, And the empty hours went by Pitiless, with the wail of woe And the moan of Hunger's cry-- When the trembling hands upraised in prayer Had only the strength to hold them there.
Days when the voice of hope had fled-- Days when the eyes grown weak Were folded to, and the tears they shed Were frost on a frozen cheek-- When the storm bent down from the skies and gave A shroud of snow for the Pilgrim's grave.
Days at last when the smiling sun Glanced down from a summer sky, And a music rang where the rivers run, And the waves went laughing by; And the rose peeped over the mossy bank While the wild deer stood in the stream and drank.
And the birds sang out so loud and good, In a symphony so clear And pure and sweet that the woodman stood With his ax upraised to hear, And to shape the words of the tongue unknown Into a language all his own-- 1 'Sing! every bird, to-day! Sing for the sky so clear, And the gracious breath of the atmosphere Shall waft our cares away.
Sing! sing! for the sunshine free; Sing through the land from sea to sea; Lift each voice in the highest key And sing for Liberty!' 2 'Sing for the arms that fling Their fetters in the dust And lift their hands in higher trust Unto the one Great King; Sing for the patriot heart and hand; Sing for the country they have planned; Sing that the world may understand This is Freedom's land!' 3 'Sing in the tones of prayer, Sing till the soaring soul Shall float above the world's control In freedom everywhere! Sing for the good that is to be, Sing for the eyes that are to see The land where man at last is free, O sing for liberty!' III A holy quiet reigned, save where the hand Of labor sent a murmur through the land, And happy voices in a harmony Taught every lisping breeze a melody.
A nest of cabins, where the smoke upcurled A breathing incense to the other world.
A land of languor from the sun of noon, That fainted slowly to the pallid moon, Till stars, thick-scattered in the garden-land Of Heaven by the great Jehovah's hand, Had blossomed into light to look upon The dusky warrior with his arrow drawn, As skulking from the covert of the night With serpent cunning and a fiend's delight, With murderous spirit, and a yell of hate The voice of Hell might tremble to translate: When the fond mother's tender lullaby Went quavering in shrieks all suddenly, And baby-lips were dabbled with the stain Of crimson at the bosom of the slain, And peaceful homes and fortunes ruined--lost In smoldering embers of the holocaust.
Yet on and on, through years of gloom and strife, Our country struggled into stronger life; Till colonies, like footprints in the sand, Marked Freedom's pathway winding through the land-- And not the footprints to be swept away Before the storm we hatched in Boston Bay,-- But footprints where the path of war begun That led to Bunker Hill and Lexington,-- For he who "dared to lead where others dared To follow" found the promise there declared Of Liberty, in blood of Freedom's host Baptized to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Oh, there were times when every patriot breast Was riotous with sentiments expressed In tones that swelled in volume till the sound Of lusty war itself was well-nigh drowned.
Oh, those were times when happy eyes with tears Brimmed o'er as all the misty doubts and fears Were washed away, and Hope with gracious mien, Reigned from her throne again a sovereign queen.
Until at last, upon a day like this When flowers were blushing at the summer's kiss, And when the sky was cloudless as the face Of some sweet infant in its angel grace,-- There came a sound of music, thrown afloat Upon the balmy air--a clanging note Reiterated from the brazen throat Of Independence Bell: A sound so sweet, The clamoring throngs of people in the streets Were stilled as at the solemn voice of prayer, And heads were bowed, and lips were moving there That made no sound--until the spell had passed, And then, as when all sudden comes the blast Of some tornado, came the cheer on cheer Of every eager voice, while far and near The echoing bells upon the atmosphere Set glorious rumors floating, till the ear Of every listening patriot tingled clear, And thrilled with joy and jubilee to hear.
I 'Stir all your echoes up, O Independence Bell, And pour from your inverted cup The song we love so well.
'Lift high your happy voice, And swing your iron tongue Till syllables of praise rejoice That never yet were sung.
'Ring in the gleaming dawn Of Freedom--Toll the knell Of Tyranny, and then ring on, O Independence Bell.
-- 'Ring on, and drown the moan, Above the patriot slain, Till sorrow's voice shall catch the tone And join the glad refrain.
'Ring out the wounds of wrong And rankle in the breast; Your music like a slumber-song Will lull revenge to rest.
'Ring out from Occident To Orient, and peal From continent to continent The mighty joy you feel.
'Ring! Independence Bell! Ring on till worlds to be Shall listen to the tale you tell Of love and Liberty!' IV O Liberty--the dearest word A bleeding country ever heard,-- We lay our hopes upon thy shrine And offer up our lives for thine.
You gave us many happy years Of peace and plenty ere the tears A mourning country wept were dried Above the graves of those who died Upon thy threshold.
And again When newer wars were bred, and men Went marching in the cannon's breath And died for thee and loved the death, While, high above them, gleaming bright, The dear old flag remained in sight, And lighted up their dying eyes With smiles that brightened paradise.
O Liberty, it is thy power To gladden us in every hour Of gloom, and lead us by thy hand As little children through a land Of bud and blossom; while the days Are filled with sunshine, and thy praise Is warbled in the roundelays Of joyous birds, and in the song Of waters, murmuring along The paths of peace, whose flowery fringe Has roses finding deeper tinge Of crimson, looking on themselves Reflected--leaning from the shelves Of cliff and crag and mossy mound Of emerald splendor shadow-drowned.
-- We hail thy presence, as you come With bugle blast and rolling drum, And booming guns and shouts of glee Commingled in a symphony That thrills the worlds that throng to see The glory of thy pageantry.
0And with thy praise, we breathe a prayer That God who leaves you in our care May favor us from this day on With thy dear presence--till the dawn Of Heaven, breaking on thy face, Lights up thy first abiding place.
Written by William Vaughn Moody | Create an image from this poem

An Ode in Time of Hesitation

 After seeing at Boston the statue of Robert Gould Shaw, killed while storming Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863, at the head of the first enlisted negro regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts.
I Before the solemn bronze Saint Gaudens made To thrill the heedless passer's heart with awe, And set here in the city's talk and trade To the good memory of Robert Shaw, This bright March morn I stand, And hear the distant spring come up the land; Knowing that what I hear is not unheard Of this boy soldier and his negro band, For all their gaze is fixed so stern ahead, For all the fatal rhythm of their tread.
The land they died to save from death and shame Trembles and waits, hearing the spring's great name, And by her pangs these resolute ghosts are stirred.
II Through street and mall the tides of people go Heedless; the trees upon the Common show No hint of green; but to my listening heart The still earth doth impart Assurance of her jubilant emprise, And it is clear to my long-searching eyes That love at last has might upon the skies.
The ice is runneled on the little pond; A telltale patter drips from off the trees; The air is touched with southland spiceries, As if but yesterday it tossed the frond Of pendant mosses where the live-oaks grow Beyond Virginia and the Carolines, Or had its will among the fruits and vines Of aromatic isles asleep beyond Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
III Soon shall the Cape Ann children shout in glee, Spying the arbutus, spring's dear recluse; Hill lads at dawn shall hearken the wild goose Go honking northward over Tennessee; West from Oswego to Sault Sainte-Marie, And on to where the Pictured Rocks are hung, And yonder where, gigantic, wilful, young, Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates, With restless violent hands and casual tongue Moulding her mighty fates, The Lakes shall robe them in ethereal sheen; And like a larger sea, the vital green Of springing wheat shall vastly be outflung Over Dakota and the prairie states.
By desert people immemorial On Arizonan mesas shall be done Dim rites unto the thunder and the sun; Nor shall the primal gods lack sacrifice More splendid, when the white Sierras call Unto the Rockies straightway to arise And dance before the unveiled ark of the year, Sounding their windy cedars as for shawms, Unrolling rivers clear For flutter of broad phylacteries; While Shasta signals to Alaskan seas That watch old sluggish glaciers downward creep To fling their icebergs thundering from the steep, And Mariposa through the purple calms Gazes at far Hawaii crowned with palms Where East and West are met, -- A rich seal on the ocean's bosom set To say that East and West are twain, With different loss and gain: The Lord hath sundered them; let them be sundered yet.
IV Alas! what sounds are these that come Sullenly over the Pacific seas, -- Sounds of ignoble battle, striking dumb The season's half-awakened ecstasies? Must I be humble, then, Now when my heart hath need of pride? Wild love falls on me from these sculptured men; By loving much the land for which they died I would be justified.
My spirit was away on pinions wide To soothe in praise of her its passionate mood And ease it of its ache of gratitude.
Too sorely heavy is the debt they lay On me and the companions of my day.
I would remember now My country's goodliness, make sweet her name.
Alas! what shade art thou Of sorrow or of blame Liftest the lyric leafage from her brow, And pointest a slow finger at her shame? V Lies! lies! It cannot be! The wars we wage Are noble, and our battles still are won By justice for us, ere we lift the gage.
We have not sold our loftiest heritage.
The proud republic hath not stooped to cheat And scramble in the market-place of war; Her forehead weareth yet its solemn star.
Here is her witness: this, her perfect son, This delicate and proud New England soul Who leads despisèd men, with just-unshackled feet, Up the large ways where death and glory meet, To show all peoples that our shame is done, That once more we are clean and spirit-whole.
VI Crouched in the sea fog on the moaning sand All night he lay, speaking some simple word From hour to hour to the slow minds that heard, Holding each poor life gently in his hand And breathing on the base rejected clay Till each dark face shone mystical and grand Against the breaking day; And lo, the shard the potter cast away Was grown a fiery chalice crystal-fine Fulfilled of the divine Great wine of battle wrath by God's ring-finger stirred.
Then upward, where the shadowy bastion loomed Huge on the mountain in the wet sea light, Whence now, and now, infernal flowerage bloomed, Bloomed, burst, and scattered down its deadly seed, -- They swept, and died like freemen on the height, Like freemen, and like men of noble breed; And when the battle fell away at night By hasty and contemptuous hands were thrust Obscurely in a common grave with him The fair-haired keeper of their love and trust.
Now limb doth mingle with dissolvèd limb In nature's busy old democracy To flush the mountain laurel when she blows Sweet by the southern sea, And heart with crumbled heart climbs in the rose: -- The untaught hearts with the high heart that knew This mountain fortress for no earthly hold Of temporal quarrel, but the bastion old Of spiritual wrong, Built by an unjust nation sheer and strong, Expugnable but by a nation's rue And bowing down before that equal shrine By all men held divine, Whereof his band and he were the most holy sign.
VII O bitter, bitter shade! Wilt thou not put the scorn And instant tragic question from thine eye? Do thy dark brows yet crave That swift and angry stave -- Unmeet for this desirous morn -- That I have striven, striven to evade? Gazing on him, must I not deem they err Whose careless lips in street and shop aver As common tidings, deeds to make his cheek Flush from the bronze, and his dead throat to speak? Surely some elder singer would arise, Whose harp hath leave to threaten and to mourn Above this people when they go astray.
Is Whitman, the strong spirit, overworn? Has Whittier put his yearning wrath away? I will not and I dare not yet believe! Though furtively the sunlight seems to grieve, And the spring-laden breeze Out of the gladdening west is sinister With sounds of nameless battle overseas; Though when we turn and question in suspense If these things be indeed after these ways, And what things are to follow after these, Our fluent men of place and consequence Fumble and fill their mouths with hollow phrase, Or for the end-all of deep arguments Intone their dull commercial liturgies -- I dare not yet believe! My ears are shut! I will not hear the thin satiric praise And muffled laughter of our enemies, Bidding us never sheathe our valiant sword Till we have changed our birthright for a gourd Of wild pulse stolen from a barbarian's hut; Showing how wise it is to cast away The symbols of our spiritual sway, That so our hands with better ease May wield the driver's whip and grasp the jailer's keys.
VIII Was it for this our fathers kept the law? This crown shall crown their struggle and their ruth? Are we the eagle nation Milton saw Mewing its mighty youth, Soon to possess the mountain winds of truth, And be a swift familiar of the sun Where aye before God's face his trumpets run? Or have we but the talons and the maw, And for the abject likeness of our heart Shall some less lordly bird be set apart? -- Some gross-billed wader where the swamps are fat? Some gorger in the sun? Some prowler with the bat? IX Ah no! We have not fallen so.
We are our fathers' sons: let those who lead us know! 'T was only yesterday sick Cuba's cry Came up the tropic wind, "Now help us, for we die!" Then Alabama heard, And rising, pale, to Maine and Idaho Shouted a burning word.
Proud state with proud impassioned state conferred, And at the lifting of a hand sprang forth, East, west, and south, and north, Beautiful armies.
Oh, by the sweet blood and young Shed on the awful hill slope at San Juan, By the unforgotten names of eager boys Who might have tasted girls' love and been stung With the old mystic joys And starry griefs, now the spring nights come on, But that the heart of youth is generous, -- We charge you, ye who lead us, Breathe on their chivalry no hint of stain! Turn not their new-world victories to gain! One least leaf plucked for chaffer from the bays Of their dear praise, One jot of their pure conquest put to hire, The implacable republic will require; With clamor, in the glare and gaze of noon, Or subtly, coming as a thief at night, But surely, very surely, slow or soon That insult deep we deeply will requite.
Tempt not our weakness, our cupidity! For save we let the island men go free, Those baffled and dislaureled ghosts Will curse us from the lamentable coasts Where walk the frustrate dead.
The cup of trembling shall be drainèd quite, Eaten the sour bread of astonishment, With ashes of the hearth shall be made white Our hair, and wailing shall be in the tent; Then on your guiltier head Shall our intolerable self-disdain Wreak suddenly its anger and its pain; For manifest in that disastrous light We shall discern the right And do it, tardily.
-- O ye who lead, Take heed! Blindness we may forgive, but baseness we will smite.
Written by Sarojini Naidu | Create an image from this poem

An Indian Love Song


Lift up the veils that darken the delicate moon 
of thy glory and grace,
Withhold not, O love, from the night 
of my longing the joy of thy luminous face,
Give me a spear of the scented keora 
guarding thy pinioned curls, 
Or a silken thread from the fringes 
that trouble the dream of thy glimmering pearls;
Faint grows my soul with thy tresses' perfume 
and the song of thy anklets' caprice,
Revive me, I pray, with the magical nectar 
that dwells in the flower of thy kiss.
She How shall I yield to the voice of thy pleading, how shall I grant thy prayer, Or give thee a rose-red silken tassel, a scented leaf from my hair? Or fling in the flame of thy heart's desire the veils that cover my face, Profane the law of my father's creed for a foe of my father's race? Thy kinsmen have broken our sacred altars and slaughtered our sacred kine, The feud of old faiths and the blood of old battles sever thy people and mine.
He What are the sins of my race, Beloved, what are my people to thee? And what are thy shrines, and kine and kindred, what are thy gods to me? Love recks not of feuds and bitter follies, of stranger, comrade or kin, Alike in his ear sound the temple bells and the cry of the muezzin.
For Love shall cancel the ancient wrong and conquer the ancient rage, Redeem with his tears the memoried sorrow that sullied a bygone age.