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Best Famous Lay Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Lay poems. This is a select list of the best famous Lay poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Lay poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of lay poems.

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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 Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that, the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Written by Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

Maple

 Her teacher's certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, "Maple— Maple is right.
" "But teacher told the school There's no such name.
" "Teachers don't know as much As fathers about children, you tell teacher.
You tell her that it's M-A-P-L-E.
You ask her if she knows a maple tree.
Well, you were named after a maple tree.
Your mother named you.
You and she just saw Each other in passing in the room upstairs, One coming this way into life, and one Going the other out of life—you know? So you can't have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard It must have made your dimple there, and said, 'Maple.
' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.
' She nodded.
So we're sure there's no mistake.
I don't know what she wanted it to mean, But it seems like some word she left to bid you Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree's for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn't try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know About the different trees, and something, too, About your mother that perhaps may help.
" Dangerous self-arousing words to sow.
Luckily all she wanted of her name then Was to rebuke her teacher with it next day, And give the teacher a scare as from her father.
Anything further had been wasted on her, Or so he tried to think to avoid blame.
She would forget it.
She all but forgot it.
What he sowed with her slept so long a sleep, And came so near death in the dark of years, That when it woke and came to life again The flower was different from the parent seed.
It carne back vaguely at the glass one day, As she stood saying her name over aloud, Striking it gently across her lowered eyes To make it go well with the way she looked.
What was it about her name? Its strangeness lay In having too much meaning.
Other names, As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie, Signified nothing.
Rose could have a meaning, But hadn't as it went.
(She knew a Rose.
) This difference from other names it was Made people notice it—and notice her.
(They either noticed it, or got it wrong.
) Her problem was to find out what it asked In dress or manner of the girl who bore it.
If she could form some notion of her mother— What she bad thought was lovely, and what good.
This was her mother's childhood home; The house one story high in front, three stories On the end it presented to the road.
(The arrangement made a pleasant sunny cellar.
) Her mother's bedroom was her father's still, Where she could watch her mother's picture fading.
Once she found for a bookmark in the Bible A maple leaf she thought must have been laid In wait for her there.
She read every word Of the two pages it was pressed between, As if it was her mother speaking to her.
But forgot to put the leaf back in closing And lost the place never to read again.
She was sure, though, there had been nothing in it.
So she looked for herself, as everyone Looks for himself, more or less outwardly.
And her self-seeking, fitful though it was, May still have been what led her on to read, And think a little, and get some city schooling.
She learned shorthand, whatever shorthand may Have had to do with it--she sometimes wondered.
So, till she found herself in a strange place For the name Maple to have brought her to, Taking dictation on a paper pad And, in the pauses when she raised her eyes, Watching out of a nineteenth story window An airship laboring with unshiplike motion And a vague all-disturbing roar above the river Beyond the highest city built with hands.
Someone was saying in such natural tones She almost wrote the words down on her knee, "Do you know you remind me of a tree-- A maple tree?" "Because my name is Maple?" "Isn't it Mabel? I thought it was Mabel.
" "No doubt you've heard the office call me Mabel.
I have to let them call me what they like.
" They were both stirred that he should have divined Without the name her personal mystery.
It made it seem as if there must be something She must have missed herself.
So they were married, And took the fancy home with them to live by.
They went on pilgrimage once to her father's (The house one story high in front, three stories On the side it presented to the road) To see if there was not some special tree She might have overlooked.
They could find none, Not so much as a single tree for shade, Let alone grove of trees for sugar orchard.
She told him of the bookmark maple leaf In the big Bible, and all she remembered of the place marked with it—"Wave offering, Something about wave offering, it said.
" "You've never asked your father outright, have you?" "I have, and been Put off sometime, I think.
" (This was her faded memory of the way Once long ago her father had put himself off.
) "Because no telling but it may have been Something between your father and your mother Not meant for us at all.
" "Not meant for me? Where would the fairness be in giving me A name to carry for life and never know The secret of?" "And then it may have been Something a father couldn't tell a daughter As well as could a mother.
And again It may have been their one lapse into fancy 'Twould be too bad to make him sorry for By bringing it up to him when be was too old.
Your father feels us round him with our questing, And holds us off unnecessarily, As if he didn't know what little thing Might lead us on to a discovery.
It was as personal as be could be About the way he saw it was with you To say your mother, bad she lived, would be As far again as from being born to bearing.
" "Just one look more with what you say in mind, And I give up"; which last look came to nothing.
But though they now gave up the search forever, They clung to what one had seen in the other By inspiration.
It proved there was something.
They kept their thoughts away from when the maples Stood uniform in buckets, and the steam Of sap and snow rolled off the sugarhouse.
When they made her related to the maples, It was the tree the autumn fire ran through And swept of leathern leaves, but left the bark Unscorched, unblackened, even, by any smoke.
They always took their holidays in autumn.
Once they came on a maple in a glade, Standing alone with smooth arms lifted up, And every leaf of foliage she'd worn Laid scarlet and pale pink about her feet.
But its age kept them from considering this one.
Twenty-five years ago at Maple's naming It hardly could have been a two-leaved seedling The next cow might have licked up out at pasture.
Could it have been another maple like it? They hovered for a moment near discovery, Figurative enough to see the symbol, But lacking faith in anything to mean The same at different times to different people.
Perhaps a filial diffidence partly kept them From thinking it could be a thing so bridal.
And anyway it came too late for Maple.
She used her hands to cover up her eyes.
"We would not see the secret if we could now: We are not looking for it any more.
" Thus had a name with meaning, given in death, Made a girl's marriage, and ruled in her life.
No matter that the meaning was not clear.
A name with meaning could bring up a child, Taking the child out of the parents' hands.
Better a meaningless name, I should say, As leaving more to nature and happy chance.
Name children some names and see what you do.
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 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 .
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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.
.
.
.
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 Aleister Crowley | Create an image from this poem

A Birthday

 "Aug.
" 10, 1911.
Full moon to-night; and six and twenty years Since my full moon first broke from angel spheres! A year of infinite love unwearying --- No circling seasons, but perennial spring! A year of triumph trampling through defeat, The first made holy and the last made sweet By this same love; a year of wealth and woe, Joy, poverty, health, sickness --- all one glow In the pure light that filled our firmament Of supreme silence and unbarred extent, Wherein one sacrament was ours, one Lord, One resurrection, one recurrent chord, One incarnation, one descending dove, All these being one, and that one being Love! You sent your spirit into tunes; my soul Yearned in a thousand melodies to enscroll Its happiness: I left no flower unplucked That might have graced your garland.
I induct Tragedy, comedy, farce, fable, song, Each longing a little, each a little long, But each aspiring only to express Your excellence and my unworthiness --- Nay! but my worthiness, since I was sense And spirit too of that same excellence.
So thus we solved the earth's revolving riddle: I could write verse, and you could play the fiddle, While, as for love, the sun went through the signs, And not a star but told him how love twines A wreath for every decanate, degree, Minute and second, linked eternally In chains of flowers that never fading are, Each one as sempiternal as a star.
Let me go back to your last birthday.
Then I was already your one man of men Appointed to complete you, and fulfil From everlasting the eternal will.
We lay within the flood of crimson light In my own balcony that August night, And conjuring the aright and the averse Created yet another universe.
We worked together; dance and rite and spell Arousing heaven and constraining hell.
We lived together; every hour of rest Was honied from your tiger-lily breast.
We --- oh what lingering doubt or fear betrayed My life to fate! --- we parted.
Was I afraid? I was afraid, afraid to live my love, Afraid you played the serpent, I the dove, Afraid of what I know not.
I am glad Of all the shame and wretchedness I had, Since those six weeks have taught me not to doubt you, And also that I cannot live without you.
Then I came back to you; black treasons rear Their heads, blind hates, deaf agonies of fear, Cruelty, cowardice, falsehood, broken pledges, The temple soiled with senseless sacrileges, Sickness and poverty, a thousand evils, Concerted malice of a million devils; --- You never swerved; your high-pooped galleon Went marvellously, majestically on Full-sailed, while every other braver bark Drove on the rocks, or foundered in the dark.
Then Easter, and the days of all delight! God's sun lit noontide and his moon midnight, While above all, true centre of our world, True source of light, our great love passion-pearled Gave all its life and splendour to the sea Above whose tides stood our stability.
Then sudden and fierce, no monitory moan, Smote the mad mischief of the great cyclone.
How far below us all its fury rolled! How vainly sulphur tries to tarnish gold! We lived together: all its malice meant Nothing but freedom of a continent! It was the forest and the river that knew The fact that one and one do not make two.
We worked, we walked, we slept, we were at ease, We cried, we quarrelled; all the rocks and trees For twenty miles could tell how lovers played, And we could count a kiss for every glade.
Worry, starvation, illness and distress? Each moment was a mine of happiness.
Then we grew tired of being country mice, Came up to Paris, lived our sacrifice There, giving holy berries to the moon, July's thanksgiving for the joys of June.
And you are gone away --- and how shall I Make August sing the raptures of July? And you are gone away --- what evil star Makes you so competent and popular? How have I raised this harpy-hag of Hell's Malice --- that you are wanted somewhere else? I wish you were like me a man forbid, Banned, outcast, nice society well rid Of the pair of us --- then who would interfere With us? --- my darling, you would now be here! But no! we must fight on, win through, succeed, Earn the grudged praise that never comes to meed, Lash dogs to kennel, trample snakes, put bit In the mule-mouths that have such need of it, Until the world there's so much to forgive in Becomes a little possible to live in.
God alone knows if battle or surrender Be the true courage; either has its splendour.
But since we chose the first, God aid the right, And damn me if I fail you in the fight! God join again the ways that lie apart, And bless the love of loyal heart to heart! God keep us every hour in every thought, And bring the vessel of our love to port! These are my birthday wishes.
Dawn's at hand, And you're an exile in a lonely land.
But what were magic if it could not give My thought enough vitality to live? Do not then dream this night has been a loss! All night I have hung, a god, upon the cross; All night I have offered incense at the shrine; All night you have been unutterably mine, Miner in the memory of the first wild hour When my rough grasp tore the unwilling flower From your closed garden, mine in every mood, In every tense, in every attitude, In every possibility, still mine While the sun's pomp and pageant, sign to sign, Stately proceeded, mine not only so In the glamour of memory and austral glow Of ardour, but by image of my brow Stronger than sense, you are even here and now Miner, utterly mine, my sister and my wife, Mother of my children, mistress of my life! O wild swan winging through the morning mist! The thousand thousand kisses that we kissed, The infinite device our love devised If by some chance its truth might be surprised, Are these all past? Are these to come? Believe me, There is no parting; they can never leave me.
I have built you up into my heart and brain So fast that we can never part again.
Why should I sing you these fantastic psalms When all the time I have you in my arms? Why? 'tis the murmur of our love that swells Earth's dithyrambs and ocean's oracles.
But this is dawn; my soul shall make its nest Where your sighs swing from rapture into rest Love's thurible, your tiger-lily breast.
Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | Create an image from this poem

The Day is Done

THE DAY is done and the darkness 
Falls from the wings of Night  
As a feather is wafted downward 
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village 5 Gleam through the rain and the mist And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me That my soul cannot resist: A feeling of sadness and longing That is not akin to pain 10 And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain.
Come read to me some poem Some simple and heartfelt lay That shall soothe this restless feeling 15 And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters Not from the bards sublime Whose distant footsteps echo Through the corridors of Time.
20 For like strains of martial music Their mighty thoughts suggest Life's endless toil and endeavor; And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet 25 Whose songs gushed from his heart As showers from the clouds of summer Or tears from the eyelids start; Who through long days of labor And nights devoid of ease 30 Still heard in his soul the music Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet The restless pulse of care And come like the benediction 35 That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume The poem of thy choice And lend to the rhyme of the poet The beauty of thy voice.
40 And the night shall be filled with music And the cares that infest the day Shall fold their tents like the Arabs And as silently steal away.


Written by Robert Pinsky | Create an image from this poem

Impossible To Tell

 to Robert Hass and in memory of Elliot Gilbert


Slow dulcimer, gavotte and bow, in autumn,
Bashõ and his friends go out to view the moon;
In summer, gasoline rainbow in the gutter,

The secret courtesy that courses like ichor
Through the old form of the rude, full-scale joke,
Impossible to tell in writing.
"Bashõ" He named himself, "Banana Tree": banana After the plant some grateful students gave him, Maybe in appreciation of his guidance Threading a long night through the rules and channels Of their collaborative linking-poem Scored in their teacher's heart: live, rigid, fluid Like passages etched in a microscopic cicuit.
Elliot had in his memory so many jokes They seemed to breed like microbes in a culture Inside his brain, one so much making another It was impossible to tell them all: In the court-culture of jokes, a top banana.
Imagine a court of one: the queen a young mother, Unhappy, alone all day with her firstborn child And her new baby in a squalid apartment Of too few rooms, a different race from her neighbors.
She tells the child she's going to kill herself.
She broods, she rages.
Hoping to distract her, The child cuts capers, he sings, he does imitations Of different people in the building, he jokes, He feels if he keeps her alive until the father Gets home from work, they'll be okay till morning.
It's laughter versus the bedroom and the pills.
What is he in his efforts but a courtier? Impossible to tell his whole delusion.
In the first months when I had moved back East From California and had to leave a message On Bob's machine, I used to make a habit Of telling the tape a joke; and part-way through, I would pretend that I forgot the punchline, Or make believe that I was interrupted-- As though he'd be so eager to hear the end He'd have to call me back.
The joke was Elliot's, More often than not.
The doctors made the blunder That killed him some time later that same year.
One day when I got home I found a message On my machine from Bob.
He had a story About two rabbis, one of them tall, one short, One day while walking along the street together They see the corpse of a Chinese man before them, And Bob said, sorry, he forgot the rest.
Of course he thought that his joke was a dummy, Impossible to tell--a dead-end challenge.
But here it is, as Elliot told it to me: The dead man's widow came to the rabbis weeping, Begging them, if they could, to resurrect him.
Shocked, the tall rabbi said absolutely not.
But the short rabbi told her to bring the body Into the study house, and ordered the shutters Closed so the room was night-dark.
Then he prayed Over the body, chanting a secret blessing Out of Kabala.
"Arise and breathe," he shouted; But nothing happened.
The body lay still.
So then The little rabbi called for hundreds of candles And danced around the body, chanting and praying In Hebrew, then Yiddish, then Aramaic.
He prayed In Turkish and Egyptian and Old Galician For nearly three hours, leaping about the coffin In the candlelight so that his tiny black shoes Seemed not to touch the floor.
With one last prayer Sobbed in the Spanish of before the Inquisition He stopped, exhausted, and looked in the dead man's face.
Panting, he raised both arms in a mystic gesture And said, "Arise and breathe!" And still the body Lay as before.
Impossible to tell In words how Elliot's eyebrows flailed and snorted Like shaggy mammoths as--the Chinese widow Granting permission--the little rabbi sang The blessing for performing a circumcision And removed the dead man's foreskin, chanting blessings In Finnish and Swahili, and bathed the corpse From head to foot, and with a final prayer In Babylonian, gasping with exhaustion, He seized the dead man's head and kissed the lips And dropped it again and leaping back commanded, "Arise and breathe!" The corpse lay still as ever.
At this, as when Bashõ's disciples wind Along the curving spine that links the renga Across the different voices, each one adding A transformation according to the rules Of stasis and repetition, all in order And yet impossible to tell beforehand, Elliot changes for the punchline: the wee Rabbi, still panting, like a startled boxer, Looks at the dead one, then up at all those watching, A kind of Mel Brooks gesture: "Hoo boy!" he says, "Now that's what I call really dead.
" O mortal Powers and princes of earth, and you immortal Lords of the underground and afterlife, Jehovah, Raa, Bol-Morah, Hecate, Pluto, What has a brilliant, living soul to do with Your harps and fires and boats, your bric-a-brac And troughs of smoking blood? Provincial stinkers, Our languages don't touch you, you're like that mother Whose small child entertained her to beg her life.
Possibly he grew up to be the tall rabbi, The one who washed his hands of all those capers Right at the outset.
Or maybe he became The author of these lines, a one-man renga The one for whom it seems to be impossible To tell a story straight.
It was a routine Procedure.
When it was finished the physicians Told Sandra and the kids it had succeeded, But Elliot wouldn't wake up for maybe an hour, They should go eat.
The two of them loved to bicker In a way that on his side went back to Yiddish, On Sandra's to some Sicilian dialect.
He used to scold her endlessly for smoking.
When she got back from dinner with their children The doctors had to tell them about the mistake.
Oh swirling petals, falling leaves! The movement Of linking renga coursing from moment to moment Is meaning, Bob says in his Haiku book.
Oh swirling petals, all living things are contingent, Falling leaves, and transient, and they suffer.
But the Universal is the goal of jokes, Especially certain ethnic jokes, which taper Down through the swirling funnel of tongues and gestures Toward their preposterous Ithaca.
There's one A journalist told me.
He heard it while a hero Of the South African freedom movement was speaking To elderly Jews.
The speaker's own right arm Had been blown off by right-wing letter-bombers.
He told his listeners they had to cast their ballots For the ANC--a group the old Jews feared As "in with the Arabs.
" But they started weeping As the old one-armed fighter told them their country Needed them to vote for what was right, their vote Could make a country their children could return to From London and Chicago.
The moved old people Applauded wildly, and the speaker's friend Whispered to the journalist, "It's the Belgian Army Joke come to life.
" I wish I could tell it To Elliot.
In the Belgian Army, the feud Between the Flemings and Walloons grew vicious, So out of hand the army could barely function.
Finally one commander assembled his men In one great room, to deal with things directly.
They stood before him at attention.
"All Flemings," He ordered, "to the left wall.
" Half the men Clustered to the left.
"Now all Walloons," he ordered, "Move to the right.
" An equal number crowded Against the right wall.
Only one man remained At attention in the middle: "What are you, soldier?" Saluting, the man said, "Sir, I am a Belgian.
" "Why, that's astonishing, Corporal--what's your name?" Saluting again, "Rabinowitz," he answered: A joke that seems at first to be a story About the Jews.
But as the renga describes Religious meaning by moving in drifting petals And brittle leaves that touch and die and suffer The changing winds that riffle the gutter swirl, So in the joke, just under the raucous music Of Fleming, Jew, Walloon, a courtly allegiance Moves to the dulcimer, gavotte and bow, Over the banana tree the moon in autumn-- Allegiance to a state impossible to tell.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

The Castaway

 Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast Than he with whom he went, Nor ever ship left Albion's coast, With warmer wishes sent.
He lov'd them both, but both in vain, Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine, Expert to swim, he lay; Nor soon he felt his strength decline, Or courage die away; But wag'd with death a lasting strife, Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd To check the vessel's course, But so the furious blast prevail'd, That, pitiless perforce, They left their outcast mate behind, And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford; And, such as storms allow, The cask, the coop, the floated cord, Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore, Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he Their haste himself condemn, Aware that flight, in such a sea, Alone could rescue them; Yet bitter felt it still to die Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour In ocean, self-upheld; And so long he, with unspent pow'r, His destiny repell'd; And ever, as the minutes flew, Entreated help, or cried--Adieu! At length, his transient respite past, His comrades, who before Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast, Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page Of narrative sincere; That tells his name, his worth, his age, Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream, Descanting on his fate, To give the melancholy theme A more enduring date: But misery still delights to trace Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allay'd, No light propitious shone; When, snatch'd from all effectual aid, We perish'd, each alone: But I beneath a rougher sea, And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.
Written by Charlotte Bronte | Create an image from this poem

The Wood

 BUT two miles more, and then we rest ! 
Well, there is still an hour of day, 
And long the brightness of the West 
Will light us on our devious way; 
Sit then, awhile, here in this wood­ 
So total is the solitude, 
We safely may delay.
These massive roots afford a seat, Which seems for weary travellers made.
There rest.
The air is soft and sweet In this sequestered forest glade, And there are scents of flowers around, The evening dew draws from the ground; How soothingly they spread ! Yes; I was tired, but not at heart; No­that beats full of sweet content, For now I have my natural part Of action with adventure blent; Cast forth on the wide vorld with thee, And all my once waste energy To weighty purpose bent.
Yet­say'st thou, spies around us roam, Our aims are termed conspiracy ? Haply, no more our English home An anchorage for us may be ? That there is risk our mutual blood May redden in some lonely wood The knife of treachery ? Say'st thou­that where we lodge each night, In each lone farm, or lonelier hall Of Norman Peer­ere morning light Suspicion must as duly fall, As day returns­such vigilance Presides and watches over France, Such rigour governs all ? I fear not, William; dost thou fear ? So that the knife does not divide, It may be ever hovering near: I could not tremble at thy side, And strenuous love­like mine for thee­ Is buckler strong, 'gainst treachery, And turns its stab aside.
I am resolved that thou shalt learn To trust my strength as I trust thine; I am resolved our souls shall burn, With equal, steady, mingling shine; Part of the field is conquered now, Our lives in the same channel flow, Along the self-same line; And while no groaning storm is heard, Thou seem'st content it should be so, But soon as comes a warning word Of danger­straight thine anxious brow Bends over me a mournful shade, As doubting if my powers are made To ford the floods of woe.
Know, then it is my spirit swells, And drinks, with eager joy, the air Of freedom­where at last it dwells, Chartered, a common task to share With thee, and then it stirs alert, And pants to learn what menaced hurt Demands for thee its care.
Remember, I have crossed the deep, And stood with thee on deck, to gaze On waves that rose in threatening heap, While stagnant lay a heavy haze, Dimly confusing sea with sky, And baffling, even, the pilot's eye, Intent to thread the maze­ Of rocks, on Bretagne's dangerous coast, And find a way to steer our band To the one point obscure, which lost, Flung us, as victims, on the strand;­ All, elsewhere, gleamed the Gallic sword, And not a wherry could be moored Along the guarded land.
I feared not then­I fear not now; The interest of each stirring scene Wakes a new sense, a welcome glow, In every nerve and bounding vein; Alike on turbid Channel sea, Or in still wood of Normandy, I feel as born again.
The rain descended that wild morn When, anchoring in the cove at last, Our band, all weary and forlorn, Ashore, like wave-worn sailors, cast­ Sought for a sheltering roof in vain, And scarce could scanty food obtain To break their morning fast.
Thou didst thy crust with me divide, Thou didst thy cloak around me fold; And, sitting silent by thy side, I ate the bread in peace untold: Given kindly from thy hand, 'twas sweet As costly fare or princely treat On royal plate of gold.
Sharp blew the sleet upon my face, And, rising wild, the gusty wind Drove on those thundering waves apace, Our crew so late had left behind; But, spite of frozen shower and storm, So close to thee, my heart beat warm, And tranquil slept my mind.
So now­nor foot-sore nor opprest With walking all this August day, I taste a heaven in this brief rest, This gipsy-halt beside the way.
England's wild flowers are fair to view, Like balm is England's summer dew, Like gold her sunset ray.
But the white violets, growing here, Are sweeter than I yet have seen, And ne'er did dew so pure and clear Distil on forest mosses green, As now, called forth by summer heat, Perfumes our cool and fresh retreat­ These fragrant limes between.
That sunset ! Look beneath the boughs, Over the copse­beyond the hills; How soft, yet deep and warm it glows, And heaven with rich suffusion fills; With hues where still the opal's tint, Its gleam of poisoned fire is blent, Where flame through azure thrills ! Depart we now­for fast will fade That solemn splendour of decline, And deep must be the after-shade As stars alone to-night will shine; No moon is destined­pale­to gaze On such a day's vast Phoenix blaze, A day in fires decayed ! There­hand-in-hand we tread again The mazes of this varying wood, And soon, amid a cultured plain, Girt in with fertile solitude, We shall our resting-place descry, Marked by one roof-tree, towering high Above a farm-stead rude.
Refreshed, erelong, with rustic fare, We'll seek a couch of dreamless ease; Courage will guard thy heart from fear, And Love give mine divinest peace: To-morrow brings more dangerous toil, And through its conflict and turmoil We'll pass, as God shall please.
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