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Best Famous Judgement Poems

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Written by Allen Ginsberg | Create an image from this poem

Plutonian Ode


What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
 a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
 Scientific theme
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
 ous hand, named for Death's planet through the 
 sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of 
 Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
 King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
 underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
 Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow, 
 black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
 able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
 bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
 lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
 ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
 sunny years
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred 
 sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night

Radioactive Nemesis were you there at the beginning 
 black dumb tongueless unsmelling blast of Disil-
I manifest your Baptismal Word after four billion years
I guess your birthday in Earthling Night, I salute your
 dreadful presence last majestic as the Gods,
Sabaot, Jehova, Astapheus, Adonaeus, Elohim, Iao, 
 Ialdabaoth, Aeon from Aeon born ignorant in an
 Abyss of Light,
Sophia's reflections glittering thoughtful galaxies, whirl-
 pools of starspume silver-thin as hairs of Einstein!
Father Whitman I celebrate a matter that renders Self
Grand Subject that annihilates inky hands & pages'
 prayers, old orators' inspired Immortalities,
I begin your chant, openmouthed exhaling into spacious
 sky over silent mills at Hanford, Savannah River,
 Rocky Flats, Pantex, Burlington, Albuquerque
I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado, 
 Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the 
 Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
 stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
 secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
 tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia
 while our Galaxy spirals around its nebulous core.
I enter your secret places with my mind, I speak with your presence, I roar your Lion Roar with mortal mouth.
One microgram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of heavy metal dust adrift slow motion over grey Alps the breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance speeds blight and death to sentient beings? Enter my body or not I carol my spirit inside you, Unnaproachable Weight, O heavy heavy Element awakened I vocalize your con- sciousness to six worlds I chant your absolute Vanity.
Yeah monster of Anger birthed in fear O most Ignorant matter ever created unnatural to Earth! Delusion of metal empires! Destroyer of lying Scientists! Devourer of covetous Generals, Incinerator of Armies & Melter of Wars! Judgement of judgements, Divine Wind over vengeful nations, Molester of Presidents, Death-Scandal of Capital politics! Ah civilizations stupidly indus- trious! Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manu- factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified imago of practicioner in Black Arts I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I publish your cause and effect! I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons! Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your ultimate powers! My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your form at last behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress of rubber & translucent silicon shields in filtered cabinets and baths of lathe oil, My voice resounds through robot glove boxes & ignot cans and echoes in electric vaults inert of atmo- sphere, I enter with spirit out loud into your fuel rod drums underground on soundless thrones and beds of lead O density! This weightless anthem trumpets transcendent through hidden chambers and breaks through iron doors into the Infernal Room! Over your dreadful vibration this measured harmony floats audible, these jubilant tones are honey and milk and wine-sweet water Poured on the stone black floor, these syllables are barley groats I scatter on the Reactor's core, I call your name with hollow vowels, I psalm your Fate close by, my breath near deathless ever at your side to Spell your destiny, I set this verse prophetic on your mausoleum walls to seal you up Eternally with Diamond Truth! O doomed Plutonium.
II The Bar surveys Plutonian history from midnight lit with Mercury Vapor streetlamps till in dawn's early light he contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between Nations' thought-forms proliferating bureaucratic & horrific arm'd, Satanic industries projected sudden with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength around the world same time this text is set in Boulder, Colorado before front range of Rocky Mountains twelve miles north of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility in United States of North America, Western Hemi- sphere of planet Earth six months and fourteen days around our Solar System in a Spiral Galaxy the local year after Dominion of the last God nineteen hundred seventy eight Completed as yellow hazed dawn clouds brighten East, Denver city white below Blue sky transparent rising empty deep & spacious to a morning star high over the balcony above some autos sat with wheels to curb downhill from Flatiron's jagged pine ridge, sunlit mountain meadows sloped to rust-red sandstone cliffs above brick townhouse roofs as sparrows waked whistling through Marine Street's summer green leafed trees.
III This ode to you O Poets and Orators to come, you father Whitman as I join your side, you Congress and American people, you present meditators, spiritual friends & teachers, you O Master of the Diamond Arts, Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and consonants to breath's end take this inhalation of black poison to your heart, breath out this blessing from your breast on our creation forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains in the Ten Directions pacify with exhalation, enrich this Plutonian Ode to explode its empty thunder through earthen thought-worlds Magnetize this howl with heartless compassion, destroy this mountain of Plutonium with ordinary mind and body speech, thus empower this Mind-guard spirit gone out, gone out, gone beyond, gone beyond me, Wake space, so Ah! July 14, 1978

Written by T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot | Create an image from this poem

Ash Wednesday


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
II Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained In the hollow round of my skull.
And God said Shall these bones live? shall these Bones live? And that which had been contained In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping: Because of the goodness of this Lady And because of her loveliness, and because She honours the Virgin in meditation, We shine with brightness.
And I who am here dissembled Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions Which the leopards reject.
The Lady is withdrawn In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them.
As I am forgotten And would be forgotten, so I would forget Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose.
And God said Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only The wind will listen.
And the bones sang chirping With the burden of the grasshopper, saying Lady of silences Calm and distressed Torn and most whole Rose of memory Rose of forgetfulness Exhausted and life-giving Worried reposeful The single Rose Is now the Garden Where all loves end Terminate torment Of love unsatisfied The greater torment Of love satisfied End of the endless Journey to no end Conclusion of all that Is inconclusible Speech without word and Word of no speech Grace to the Mother For the Garden Where all love ends.
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other, Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand, Forgetting themselves and each other, united In the quiet of the desert.
This is the land which ye Shall divide by lot.
And neither division nor unity Matters.
This is the land.
We have our inheritance.
III At the first turning of the second stair I turned and saw below The same shape twisted on the banister Under the vapour in the fetid air Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
At the second turning of the second stair I left them twisting, turning below; There were no more faces and the stair was dark, Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair, Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.
At the first turning of the third stair Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown, Lilac and brown hair; Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair, Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair Climbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthy Lord, I am not worthy but speak the word only.
IV Who walked between the violet and the violet Whe walked between The various ranks of varied green Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour, Talking of trivial things In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour Who moved among the others as they walked, Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour, Sovegna vos Here are the years that walk between, bearing Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring With a new verse the ancient rhyme.
Redeem The time.
Redeem The unread vision in the higher dream While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
The silent sister veiled in white and blue Between the yews, behind the garden god, Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down Redeem the time, redeem the dream The token of the word unheard, unspoken Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew And after this our exile V If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard; Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world; And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence Not on the sea or on the islands, not On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land, For those who walk in darkness Both in the day time and in the night time The right time and the right place are not here No place of grace for those who avoid the face No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice Will the veiled sister pray for Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee, Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray For children at the gate Who will not go away and cannot pray: Pray for those who chose and oppose O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender Yew trees pray for those who offend her And are terrified and cannot surrender And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks In the last desert before the last blue rocks The desert in the garden the garden in the desert Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
O my people.
VI Although I do not hope to turn again Although I do not hope Although I do not hope to turn Wavering between the profit and the loss In this brief transit where the dreams cross The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying (Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things From the wide window towards the granite shore The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying Unbroken wings And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices And the weak spirit quickens to rebel For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell Quickens to recover The cry of quail and the whirling plover And the blind eye creates The empty forms between the ivory gates And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks Sister, mother And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated And let my cry come unto Thee.
Written by John Donne | Create an image from this poem


 He that cannot choose but love,
And strives against it still,
Never shall my fancy move,
For he loves 'gainst his will;
Nor he which is all his own,
And can at pleasure choose,
When I am caught he can be gone,
And when he list refuse.
Nor he that loves none but fair, For such by all are sought; Nor he that can for foul ones care, For his judgement then is nought; Nor he that hath wit, for he Will make me his jest or slave; Nor a fool, for when others.
, He can neither.
; Nor he that still his Mistress pays, For she is thralled therefore; Nor he that pays not, for he says Within She's worth no more.
Is there then no kind of men Whom I may freely prove? I will vent that humour then In mine own self-love.
Written by Allen Ginsberg | Create an image from this poem

Crossing Nation

 Under silver wing
 San Francisco's towers sprouting
 thru thin gas clouds,
 Tamalpais black-breasted above Pacific azure
 Berkeley hills pine-covered below--
Dr Leary in his brown house scribing Independence
 typewriter at window
 silver panorama in natural eyeball--

Sacramento valley rivercourse's Chinese 
 dragonflames licking green flats north-hazed
 State Capitol metallic rubble, dry checkered fields
 to Sierras- past Reno, Pyramid Lake's 
 blue Altar, pure water in Nevada sands' 
 brown wasteland scratched by tires

 Jerry Rubin arrested! Beaten, jailed,
 coccyx broken--
Leary out of action--"a public menace.
persons of tender years.
immature judgement.
pyschiatric examination.
" i.
Shut up or Else Loonybin or Slam Leroi on bum gun rap, $7,000 lawyer fees, years' negotiations-- SPOCK GUILTY headlined temporary, Joan Baez' paramour husband Dave Harris to Gaol Dylan silent on politics, & safe-- having a baby, a man-- Cleaver shot at, jail'd, maddened, parole revoked, Vietnam War flesh-heap grows higher, blood splashing down the mountains of bodies on to Cholon's sidewalks-- Blond boys in airplane seats fed technicolor Murderers advance w/ Death-chords Earplugs in, steak on plastic served--Eyes up to the Image-- What do I have to lose if America falls? my body? my neck? my personality? June 19, 1968
Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

The Legend Of The One-Eyed Man

 Like Oedipus I am losing my sight.
LIke Judas I have done my wrong.
Their punishment is over; the shame and disgrace of it are all used up.
But as for me, look into my face and you will know that crimes dropped upon me as from a high building and although I cannot speak of them or explain the degrading details I have remembered much about Judas - about Judas, the old and the famous - that you overlooked.
The story of his life is the story of mine.
I have one glass eye.
My nerves push against its painted surface but the other one waiting for judgement continues to see .
Of course the New Testament is very small.
Its mouth opens four times - as out-of-date as a prehistoric monster, yet somehow man-made held together by pullies like the stone jaw of a back-hoe.
It gouges out the Judaic ground, taking its own backyard like a virgin daughter.
And furthermore how did Judas come into it - that Judas Iscariot, belonging to the tribe of Reuben? He should have tried to lift him up there! His neck like an iron pole, hard as Newcastle, his heart as stiff as beeswax, his legs swollen and unmarked, his other limbs still growing.
All of it heavy! That dead weight that would have been his fault .
He should have known! In the first place who builds up such ugliness? I think of this man saying .
Look! Here's the price to do it plus the cost of the raw materials and if it took him three or four days to do it, then, they'd understand.
They figured it weighed enough to support a man.
They said, fifteen stone is the approximate weight of a thief.
Its ugliness is a matter of custom.
If there was a mistake made then the Crucifix was constructed wrong .
not from the quality of the pine, not from hanging a mirror, not from dropping the studding or the drill but from having an inspriation.
But Judas was not a genius or under the auspices of an inspiration.
I don't know whether it was gold or silver.
I don't know why he betrayed him other than his motives, other than the avaricious and dishonest man.
And then there were the forbidden crimes, those that were expressly foretold, and then overlooked and then forgotten except by me .
Judas had a mother just as I had a mother.
Oh! Honor and relish the facts! Do not think of the intense sensation I have as I tell you this but think only .
Judas had a mother.
His mother had a dream.
Because of this dream he was altogether managed by fate and thus he raped her.
As a crime we hear little of this.
Also he sold his God.

Written by Leonard Cohen | Create an image from this poem

Tower Of Song

 Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey 
I ache in the places where I used to play 
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on 
I'm just paying my rent every day 
Oh in the Tower of Song 
I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get? 
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet 
But I hear him coughing all night long 
A hundred floors above me 
In the Tower of Song 
I was born like this, I had no choice 
I was born with the gift of a golden voice 
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond 
They tied me to this table right here 
In the Tower of Song 
So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll 
I'm very sorry, baby, doesn't look like me at all 
I'm standing by the window where the light is strong 
Ah they don't let a woman kill you 
Not in the Tower of Song 
Now you can say that I've grown bitter but of this you may
be sure 
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor 
And there's a mighty judgement coming, but I may be wrong 
You see, you hear these funny voices 
In the Tower of Song 
I see you standing on the other side 
I don't know how the river got so wide 
I loved you baby, way back when 
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed 
But I feel so close to everything that we lost 
We'll never have to lose it again 
Now I bid you farewell, I don't know when I'll be back 
There moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track 
But you'll be hearing from me baby, long after I'm gone 
I'll be speaking to you sweetly 
From a window in the Tower of Song 
Yeah my friends are gone and my hair is grey 
I ache in the places where I used to play 
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on 
I'm just paying my rent every day 
Oh in the Tower of Song
Written by Arthur Hugh Clough | Create an image from this poem

Through a Glass Darkly

 What we, when face to face we see
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
Ah! did he tell what we are here!

A mind for thoughts to pass into,
A heart for loves to travel through,
Five senses to detect things near,
Is this the whole that we are here?

Rules baffle instincts--instinct rules,
Wise men are bad--and good are fools,
Facts evil--wishes vain appear,
We cannot go, why are we here?

O may we for assurance's sake,
Some arbitrary judgement take,
And wilfully pronounce it clear,
For this or that 'tis we are here?

Or is it right, and will it do,
To pace the sad confusion through,
And say:--It doth not yet appear,
What we shall be, what we are here?

Ah yet, when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope we must believe,
And what is given us receive;

Must still believe, for still we hope
That in a world of larger scope,
What here is faithfully begun
Will be completed, not undone.
My child, we still must think, when we That ampler life together see, Some true result will yet appear Of what we are, together, here.
Written by Andrei Voznesensky | Create an image from this poem


 My doc announced yesterday : 
 "You may have talent, though it's hidden, 
 your beak, however, is frost-bitten, 
 so stick at home on a cold day".
The nose, eh? As irretrievable as time, conforming to the laws of medicine, your nose, like that of any person, keep growing steadily, with triumph! The noses of celebrities, of guards and ministers of ours grow, snoring restlessly like owls at night, along with plants and trees.
They're cool and crooked, resembling bills, they're squeezed in doors, get hurt by boxers, however, our neighbour's noses screw into keyholes, just like drills! (Great Gogol felt by intuition the role they play in man's ambition.
) My friend Bukashkin who was boozy dreamed of a nose that grew like crazy: above him, coming like a bore, upsetting pans and chandeliers, a nose was piercing the ceilings and threading floor upon the floor! "What's that? -- he thought, when out of bed.
"A sign of Judgement Day -- I said -- And the inspection of the debtors!" He was imprisoned on the 30th.
Perpetual motion of the nose! It's long, while life is getting shorter.
At night on faces, pale as blotter, like a black hawk, or pumping hose, the nose absorbs us, I suppose.
They say, the Northern Eskimos kiss one another with the nose It hasn't caught on here, of course.
© Copyright Alec Vagapov's translation
Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley | Create an image from this poem

Julian and Maddalo (excerpt)

 I rode one evening with Count Maddalo 
Upon the bank of land which breaks the flow
Of Adria towards Venice: a bare strand
Of hillocks, heap'd from ever-shifting sand,
Matted with thistles and amphibious weeds,
Such as from earth's embrace the salt ooze breeds,
Is this; an uninhabited sea-side,
Which the lone fisher, when his nets are dried,
Abandons; and no other object breaks
The waste, but one dwarf tree and some few stakes
Broken and unrepair'd, and the tide makes
A narrow space of level sand thereon,
Where 'twas our wont to ride while day went down.
This ride was my delight.
I love all waste And solitary places; where we taste The pleasure of believing what we see Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be: And such was this wide ocean, and this shore More barren than its billows; and yet more Than all, with a remember'd friend I love To ride as then I rode; for the winds drove The living spray along the sunny air Into our faces; the blue heavens were bare, Stripp'd to their depths by the awakening north; And, from the waves, sound like delight broke forth Harmonizing with solitude, and sent Into our hearts aëreal merriment.
So, as we rode, we talk'd; and the swift thought, Winging itself with laughter, linger'd not, But flew from brain to brain--such glee was ours, Charg'd with light memories of remember'd hours, None slow enough for sadness: till we came Homeward, which always makes the spirit tame.
This day had been cheerful but cold, and now The sun was sinking, and the wind also.
Our talk grew somewhat serious, as may be Talk interrupted with such raillery As mocks itself, because it cannot scorn The thoughts it would extinguish: 'twas forlorn, Yet pleasing, such as once, so poets tell, The devils held within the dales of Hell Concerning God, freewill and destiny: Of all that earth has been or yet may be, All that vain men imagine or believe, Or hope can paint or suffering may achieve, We descanted, and I (for ever still Is it not wise to make the best of ill?) Argu'd against despondency, but pride Made my companion take the darker side.
The sense that he was greater than his kind Had struck, methinks, his eagle spirit blind By gazing on its own exceeding light.
Meanwhile the sun paus'd ere it should alight, Over the horizon of the mountains--Oh, How beautiful is sunset, when the glow Of Heaven descends upon a land like thee, Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy! Thy mountains, seas, and vineyards, and the towers Of cities they encircle! It was ours To stand on thee, beholding it: and then, Just where we had dismounted, the Count's men Were waiting for us with the gondola.
As those who pause on some delightful way Though bent on pleasant pilgrimage, we stood Looking upon the evening, and the flood Which lay between the city and the shore, Pav'd with the image of the sky.
The hoar And aëry Alps towards the North appear'd Through mist, an heaven-sustaining bulwark rear'd Between the East and West; and half the sky Was roof'd with clouds of rich emblazonry Dark purple at the zenith, which still grew Down the steep West into a wondrous hue Brighter than burning gold, even to the rent Where the swift sun yet paus'd in his descent Among the many-folded hills: they were Those famous Euganean hills, which bear, As seen from Lido thro' the harbour piles, The likeness of a clump of peakèd isles-- And then--as if the Earth and Sea had been Dissolv'd into one lake of fire, were seen Those mountains towering as from waves of flame Around the vaporous sun, from which there came The inmost purple spirit of light, and made Their very peaks transparent.
"Ere it fade," Said my companion, "I will show you soon A better station"--so, o'er the lagune We glided; and from that funereal bark I lean'd, and saw the city, and could mark How from their many isles, in evening's gleam, Its temples and its palaces did seem Like fabrics of enchantment pil'd to Heaven.
I was about to speak, when--"We are even Now at the point I meant," said Maddalo, And bade the gondolieri cease to row.
"Look, Julian, on the west, and listen well If you hear not a deep and heavy bell.
" I look'd, and saw between us and the sun A building on an island; such a one As age to age might add, for uses vile, A windowless, deform'd and dreary pile; And on the top an open tower, where hung A bell, which in the radiance sway'd and swung; We could just hear its hoarse and iron tongue: The broad sun sunk behind it, and it toll'd In strong and black relief.
"What we behold Shall be the madhouse and its belfry tower," Said Maddalo, "and ever at this hour Those who may cross the water, hear that bell Which calls the maniacs, each one from his cell, To vespers.
" "As much skill as need to pray In thanks or hope for their dark lot have they To their stern Maker," I replied.
"O ho! You talk as in years past," said Maddalo.
" 'Tis strange men change not.
You were ever still Among Christ's flock a perilous infidel, A wolf for the meek lambs--if you can't swim Beware of Providence.
" I look'd on him, But the gay smile had faded in his eye.
"And such," he cried, "is our mortality, And this must be the emblem and the sign Of what should be eternal and divine! And like that black and dreary bell, the soul, Hung in a heaven-illumin'd tower, must toll Our thoughts and our desires to meet below Round the rent heart and pray--as madmen do For what? they know not--till the night of death, As sunset that strange vision, severeth Our memory from itself, and us from all We sought and yet were baffled.
" I recall The sense of what he said, although I mar The force of his expressions.
The broad star Of day meanwhile had sunk behind the hill, And the black bell became invisible, And the red tower look'd gray, and all between The churches, ships and palaces were seen Huddled in gloom;--into the purple sea The orange hues of heaven sunk silently.
We hardly spoke, and soon the gondola Convey'd me to my lodgings by the way.
The following morn was rainy, cold and dim: Ere Maddalo arose, I call'd on him, And whilst I waited with his child I play'd; A lovelier toy sweet Nature never made, A serious, subtle, wild, yet gentle being, Graceful without design and unforeseeing, With eyes--Oh speak not of her eyes!--which seem Twin mirrors of Italian Heaven, yet gleam With such deep meaning, as we never see But in the human countenance: with me She was a special favourite: I had nurs'd Her fine and feeble limbs when she came first To this bleak world; and she yet seem'd to know On second sight her ancient playfellow, Less chang'd than she was by six months or so; For after her first shyness was worn out We sate there, rolling billiard balls about, When the Count enter'd.
Salutations past-- "The word you spoke last night might well have cast A darkness on my spirit--if man be The passive thing you say, I should not see Much harm in the religions and old saws (Though I may never own such leaden laws) Which break a teachless nature to the yoke: Mine is another faith"--thus much I spoke And noting he replied not, added: "See This lovely child, blithe, innocent and free; She spends a happy time with little care, While we to such sick thoughts subjected are As came on you last night.
It is our will That thus enchains us to permitted ill.
We might be otherwise.
We might be all We dream of happy, high, majestical.
Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek But in our mind? and if we were not weak Should we be less in deed than in desire?" "Ay, if we were not weak--and we aspire How vainly to be strong!" said Maddalo: "You talk Utopia.
" "It remains to know," I then rejoin'd, "and those who try may find How strong the chains are which our spirit bind; Brittle perchance as straw.
We are assur'd Much may be conquer'd, much may be endur'd, Of what degrades and crushes us.
We know That we have power over ourselves to do And suffer--what, we know not till we try; But something nobler than to live and die: So taught those kings of old philosophy Who reign'd, before Religion made men blind; And those who suffer with their suffering kind Yet feel their faith, religion.
" "My dear friend," Said Maddalo, "my judgement will not bend To your opinion, though I think you might Make such a system refutation-tight As far as words go.
I knew one like you Who to this city came some months ago, With whom I argu'd in this sort, and he Is now gone mad--and so he answer'd me-- Poor fellow! but if you would like to go We'll visit him, and his wild talk will show How vain are such aspiring theories.
" "I hope to prove the induction otherwise, And that a want of that true theory, still, Which seeks a 'soul of goodness' in things ill Or in himself or others, has thus bow'd His being.
There are some by nature proud, Who patient in all else demand but this-- To love and be belov'd with gentleness; And being scorn'd, what wonder if they die Some living death? this is not destiny But man's own wilful ill.
" As thus I spoke Servants announc'd the gondola, and we Through the fast-falling rain and high-wrought sea Sail'd to the island where the madhouse stands.
Written by Ruth Padel | Create an image from this poem


 I was with Special Force, blue-X-ing raids 
to OK surfing on the Colonel's birthday.
Operation Ariel: we sprayed Jimi Hendrix loud from helis to frighten the slopes before 'palming.
A turkey shoot.
* The Nang fogged up.
The men you need are moral and kill like angels.
No judgement.
Judgement defeats us.
You're choosing between nightmares all the time.
My first tour, we hissed into an encampment early afternoon, round two.
The new directive, polio.
Inoculating kids.
It took a while.
As we left, this old man came up, pulled on our back-lag jeep-hoods, yacking.
We went back.
They'd come behind us, hacked off all the inoculated arms.
There they were in a pile, a pile of little arms.
* Soon after, all us new recruits turned on to angel-dust like the rest.
You get it subsidized out there.
The snail can' t crawl on the straight razor and live.
I'm innocent.
(This poem was Commended in the 1992 National Poetry Competition)