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Best Famous London Poems

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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 Wordsworth | Create an image from this poem

London 1802

 Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness.
We are selfish men; Oh! raise us up, return to us again; And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart: Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, So didst thou travel on life's common way, In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem

TO SOME BIRDS FLOWN AWAY

 ("Enfants! Oh! revenez!") 
 
 {XXII, April, 1837} 


 Children, come back—come back, I say— 
 You whom my folly chased away 
 A moment since, from this my room, 
 With bristling wrath and words of doom! 
 What had you done, you bandits small, 
 With lips as red as roses all? 
 What crime?—what wild and hapless deed? 
 What porcelain vase by you was split 
 To thousand pieces? Did you need 
 For pastime, as you handled it, 
 Some Gothic missal to enrich 
 With your designs fantastical? 
 Or did your tearing fingers fall 
 On some old picture? Which, oh, which 
 Your dreadful fault? Not one of these; 
 Only when left yourselves to please 
 This morning but a moment here 
 'Mid papers tinted by my mind 
 You took some embryo verses near— 
 Half formed, but fully well designed 
 To open out. Your hearts desire 
 Was but to throw them on the fire, 
 Then watch the tinder, for the sight 
 Of shining sparks that twinkle bright 
 As little boats that sail at night, 
 Or like the window lights that spring 
 From out the dark at evening. 
 
 'Twas all, and you were well content. 
 Fine loss was this for anger's vent— 
 A strophe ill made midst your play, 
 Sweet sound that chased the words away 
 In stormy flight. An ode quite new, 
 With rhymes inflated—stanzas, too, 
 That panted, moving lazily, 
 And heavy Alexandrine lines 
 That seemed to jostle bodily, 
 Like children full of play designs 
 That spring at once from schoolroom's form. 
 Instead of all this angry storm, 
 Another might have thanked you well 
 For saving prey from that grim cell, 
 That hollowed den 'neath journals great, 
 Where editors who poets flout 
 With their demoniac laughter shout. 
 And I have scolded you! What fate 
 For charming dwarfs who never meant 
 To anger Hercules! And I 
 Have frightened you!—My chair I sent 
 Back to the wall, and then let fly 
 A shower of words the envious use— 
 "Get out," I said, with hard abuse, 
 "Leave me alone—alone I say." 
 Poor man alone! Ah, well-a-day, 
 What fine result—what triumph rare! 
 As one turns from the coffin'd dead 
 So left you me:—I could but stare 
 Upon the door through which you fled— 
 I proud and grave—but punished quite. 
 And what care you for this my plight!— 
 You have recovered liberty, 
 Fresh air and lovely scenery, 
 The spacious park and wished-for grass; 
lights 
 And gratefully to sing. 
 
 E'e 
 A blade to watch what comes to pass; 
 Blue sky, and all the spring can show; 
 Nature, serenely fair to see; 
 The book of birds and spirits free, 
 God's poem, worth much more than mine, 
 Where flowers for perfect stanzas shine— 
 Flowers that a child may pluck in play, 
 No harsh voice frightening it away. 
 And I'm alone—all pleasure o'er— 
 Alone with pedant called "Ennui," 
 For since the morning at my door 
 Ennui has waited patiently. 
 That docto-r-London born, you mark, 
 One Sunday in December dark, 
 Poor little ones—he loved you not, 
 And waited till the chance he got 
 To enter as you passed away, 
 And in the very corner where 
 You played with frolic laughter gay, 
 He sighs and yawns with weary air. 
 
 What can I do? Shall I read books, 
 Or write more verse—or turn fond looks 
 Upon enamels blue, sea-green, 
 And white—on insects rare as seen 
 Upon my Dresden china ware? 
 Or shall I touch the globe, and care 
 To make the heavens turn upon 
 Its axis? No, not one—not one 
 Of all these things care I to do; 
 All wearies me—I think of you. 
 In truth with you my sunshine fled, 
 And gayety with your light tread— 
 Glad noise that set me dreaming still. 
 'Twas my delight to watch your will, 
 And mark you point with finger-tips 
 To help your spelling out a word; 
 To see the pearls between your lips 
 When I your joyous laughter heard; 
 Your honest brows that looked so true, 
 And said "Oh, yes!" to each intent; 
 Your great bright eyes, that loved to view 
 With admiration innocent 
 My fine old Sèvres; the eager thought 
 That every kind of knowledge sought; 
 The elbow push with "Come and see!" 
 
 Oh, certes! spirits, sylphs, there be, 
 And fays the wind blows often here; 
 The gnomes that squat the ceiling near, 
 In corners made by old books dim; 
 The long-backed dwarfs, those goblins grim 
 That seem at home 'mong vases rare, 
 And chat to them with friendly air— 
 Oh, how the joyous demon throng 
 Must all have laughed with laughter long 
 To see you on my rough drafts fall, 
 My bald hexameters, and all 
 The mournful, miserable band, 
 And drag them with relentless hand 
 From out their box, with true delight 
 To set them each and all a-light, 
 And then with clapping hands to lean 
 Above the stove and watch the scene, 
 How to the mass deformed there came 
 A soul that showed itself in flame! 
 
 Bright tricksy children—oh, I pray 
 Come back and sing and dance away, 
 And chatter too—sometimes you may, 
 A giddy group, a big book seize— 
 Or sometimes, if it so you please, 
 With nimble step you'll run to me 
 And push the arm that holds the pen, 
 Till on my finished verse will be 
 A stroke that's like a steeple when 
 Seen suddenly upon a plain. 
 My soul longs for your breath again 
 To warm it. Oh, return—come here 
 With laugh and babble—and no fear 
 When with your shadow you obscure 
 The book I read, for I am sure, 
 Oh, madcaps terrible and dear, 
 That you were right and I was wrong. 
 But who has ne'er with scolding tongue 
 Blamed out of season. Pardon me! 
 You must forgive—for sad are we. 
 
 The young should not be hard and cold 
 And unforgiving to the old. 
 Children each morn your souls ope out 
 Like windows to the shining day, 
 Oh, miracle that comes about, 
 The miracle that children gay 
 Have happiness and goodness too, 
 Caressed by destiny are you, 
 Charming you are, if you but play. 
 But we with living overwrought, 
 And full of grave and sombre thought, 
 Are snappish oft: dear little men, 
 We have ill-tempered days, and then, 
 Are quite unjust and full of care; 
 It rained this morning and the air 
 Was chill; but clouds that dimm'd the sky 
 Have passed. Things spited me, and why? 
 But now my heart repents. Behold 
 What 'twas that made me cross, and scold! 
 All by-and-by you'll understand, 
 When brows are mark'd by Time's stern hand; 
 Then you will comprehend, be sure, 
 When older—that's to say, less pure. 
 
 The fault I freely own was mine. 
 But oh, for pardon now I pine! 
 Enough my punishment to meet, 
 You must forgive, I do entreat 
 With clasped hands praying—oh, come back, 
 Make peace, and you shall nothing lack. 
 See now my pencils—paper—here, 
 And pointless compasses, and dear 
 Old lacquer-work; and stoneware clear 
 Through glass protecting; all man's toys 
 So coveted by girls and boys. 
 Great China monsters—bodies much 
 Like cucumbers—you all shall touch. 
 I yield up all! my picture rare 
 Found beneath antique rubbish heap, 
 My great and tapestried oak chair 
 I will from you no longer keep. 
 You shall about my table climb, 
 And dance, or drag, without a cry 
 From me as if it were a crime. 
 Even I'll look on patiently 
 If you your jagged toys all throw 
 Upon my carved bench, till it show 
 The wood is torn; and freely too, 
 I'll leave in your own hands to view, 
 My pictured Bible—oft desired— 
 But which to touch your fear inspired— 
 With God in emperor's robes attired. 
 
 Then if to see my verses burn, 
 Should seem to you a pleasant turn, 
 Take them to freely tear away 
 Or burn. But, oh! not so I'd say, 
 If this were Méry's room to-day. 
 That noble poet! Happy town, 
 Marseilles the Greek, that him doth own! 
 Daughter of Homer, fair to see, 
 Of Virgil's son the mother she. 
 To you I'd say, Hold, children all, 
 Let but your eyes on his work fall; 
 These papers are the sacred nest 
 In which his crooning fancies rest; 
 To-morrow winged to Heaven they'll soar, 
 For new-born verse imprisoned still 
 In manuscript may suffer sore 
 At your small hands and childish will, 
 Without a thought of bad intent, 
 Of cruelty quite innocent. 
 You wound their feet, and bruise their wings, 
 And make them suffer those ill things 
 That children's play to young birds brings. 
 
 But mine! no matter what you do, 
 My poetry is all in you; 
 You are my inspiration bright 
 That gives my verse its purest light. 
 Children whose life is made of hope, 
 Whose joy, within its mystic scope, 
 Owes all to ignorance of ill, 
 You have not suffered, and you still 
 Know not what gloomy thoughts weigh down 
 The poet-writer weary grown. 
 What warmth is shed by your sweet smile! 
 How much he needs to gaze awhile 
 Upon your shining placid brow, 
 When his own brow its ache doth know; 
 With what delight he loves to hear 
 Your frolic play 'neath tree that's near, 
 Your joyous voices mixing well 
 With his own song's all-mournful swell! 
 Come back then, children! come to me, 
 If you wish not that I should be 
 As lonely now that you're afar 
 As fisherman of Etrétat, 
 Who listless on his elbow leans 
 Through all the weary winter scenes, 
 As tired of thought—as on Time flies— 
 And watching only rainy skies! 
 
 MRS. NEWTON CROSLAND. 


 




Written by John Betjeman | Create an image from this poem

Christmas

 The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge And round the Manor House the yew Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge, The altar, font and arch and pew, So that the villagers can say 'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze, Corporation tramcars clang, On lighted tenements I gaze, Where paper decorations hang, And bunting in the red Town Hall Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.
And London shops on Christmas Eve Are strung with silver bells and flowers As hurrying clerks the City leave To pigeon-haunted classic towers, And marbled clouds go scudding by The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad, And oafish louts remember Mum, And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!' Even to shining ones who dwell Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true, This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window's hue, A Baby in an ox's stall ? The Maker of the stars and sea Become a Child on earth for me ? And is it true ? For if it is, No loving fingers tying strings Around those tissued fripperies, The sweet and silly Christmas things, Bath salts and inexpensive scent And hideous tie so kindly meant, No love that in a family dwells, No carolling in frosty air, Nor all the steeple-shaking bells Can with this single Truth compare - That God was man in Palestine And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

Paris

 First, London, for its myriads; for its height, 
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite; 
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths 
That lead the heart unto the heart's delight.
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Fair loiterer on the threshold of those days When there's no lovelier prize the world displays Than, having beauty and your twenty years, You have the means to conquer and the ways, And coming where the crossroads separate And down each vista glories and wonders wait, Crowning each path with pinnacles so fair You know not which to choose, and hesitate -- Oh, go to Paris.
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In the midday gloom Of some old quarter take a little room That looks off over Paris and its towers From Saint Gervais round to the Emperor's Tomb, -- So high that you can hear a mating dove Croon down the chimney from the roof above, See Notre Dame and know how sweet it is To wake between Our Lady and our love.
And have a little balcony to bring Fair plants to fill with verdure and blossoming, That sparrows seek, to feed from pretty hands, And swallows circle over in the Spring.
There of an evening you shall sit at ease In the sweet month of flowering chestnut-trees, There with your little darling in your arms, Your pretty dark-eyed Manon or Louise.
And looking out over the domes and towers That chime the fleeting quarters and the hours, While the bright clouds banked eastward back of them Blush in the sunset, pink as hawthorn flowers, You cannot fail to think, as I have done, Some of life's ends attained, so you be one Who measures life's attainment by the hours That Joy has rescued from oblivion.
II Come out into the evening streets.
The green light lessens in the west.
The city laughs and liveliest her fervid pulse of pleasure beats.
The belfry on Saint Severin strikes eight across the smoking eaves: Come out under the lights and leaves to the Reine Blanche on Saint Germain.
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Now crowded diners fill the floor of brasserie and restaurant.
Shrill voices cry "L'Intransigeant," and corners echo "Paris-Sport.
" Where rows of tables from the street are screened with shoots of box and bay, The ragged minstrels sing and play and gather sous from those that eat.
And old men stand with menu-cards, inviting passers-by to dine On the bright terraces that line the Latin Quarter boulevards.
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But, having drunk and eaten well, 'tis pleasant then to stroll along And mingle with the merry throng that promenades on Saint Michel.
Here saunter types of every sort.
The shoddy jostle with the chic: Turk and Roumanian and Greek; student and officer and sport; Slavs with their peasant, Christ-like heads, and courtezans like powdered moths, And peddlers from Algiers, with cloths bright-hued and stitched with golden threads; And painters with big, serious eyes go rapt in dreams, fantastic shapes In corduroys and Spanish capes and locks uncut and flowing ties; And lovers wander two by two, oblivious among the press, And making one of them no less, all lovers shall be dear to you: All laughing lips you move among, all happy hearts that, knowing what Makes life worth while, have wasted not the sweet reprieve of being young.
"Comment ca va!" "Mon vieux!" "Mon cher!" Friends greet and banter as they pass.
'Tis sweet to see among the mass comrades and lovers everywhere, A law that's sane, a Love that's free, and men of every birth and blood Allied in one great brotherhood of Art and Joy and Poverty.
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The open cafe-windows frame loungers at their liqueurs and beer, And walking past them one can hear fragments of Tosca and Boheme.
And in the brilliant-lighted door of cinemas the barker calls, And lurid posters paint the walls with scenes of Love and crime and war.
But follow past the flaming lights, borne onward with the stream of feet, Where Bullier's further up the street is marvellous on Thursday nights.
Here all Bohemia flocks apace; you could not often find elsewhere So many happy heads and fair assembled in one time and place.
Under the glare and noise and heat the galaxy of dancing whirls, Smokers, with covered heads, and girls dressed in the costume of the street.
From tables packed around the wall the crowds that drink and frolic there Spin serpentines into the air far out over the reeking hall, That, settling where the coils unroll, tangle with pink and green and blue The crowds that rag to "Hitchy-koo" and boston to the "Barcarole".
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Here Mimi ventures, at fifteen, to make her debut in romance, And join her sisters in the dance and see the life that they have seen.
Her hair, a tight hat just allows to brush beneath the narrow brim, Docked, in the model's present whim, `frise' and banged above the brows.
Uncorseted, her clinging dress with every step and turn betrays, In pretty and provoking ways her adolescent loveliness, As guiding Gaby or Lucile she dances, emulating them In each disturbing stratagem and each lascivious appeal.
Each turn a challenge, every pose an invitation to compete, Along the maze of whirling feet the grave-eyed little wanton goes, And, flaunting all the hue that lies in childish cheeks and nubile waist, She passes, charmingly unchaste, illumining ignoble eyes.
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But now the blood from every heart leaps madder through abounding veins As first the fascinating strains of "El Irresistible" start.
Caught in the spell of pulsing sound, impatient elbows lift and yield The scented softnesses they shield to arms that catch and close them round, Surrender, swift to be possessed, the silken supple forms beneath To all the bliss the measures breathe and all the madness they suggest.
Crowds congregate and make a ring.
Four deep they stand and strain to see The tango in its ecstasy of glowing lives that clasp and cling.
Lithe limbs relaxed, exalted eyes fastened on vacancy, they seem To float upon the perfumed stream of some voluptuous Paradise, Or, rapt in some Arabian Night, to rock there, cradled and subdued, In a luxurious lassitude of rhythm and sensual delight.
And only when the measures cease and terminate the flowing dance They waken from their magic trance and join the cries that clamor "Bis!" .
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Midnight adjourns the festival.
The couples climb the crowded stair, And out into the warm night air go singing fragments of the ball.
Close-folded in desire they pass, or stop to drink and talk awhile In the cafes along the mile from Bullier's back to Montparnasse: The "Closerie" or "La Rotonde", where smoking, under lamplit trees, Sit Art's enamored devotees, chatting across their `brune' and `blonde'.
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Make one of them and come to know sweet Paris -- not as many do, Seeing but the folly of the few, the froth, the tinsel, and the show -- But taking some white proffered hand that from Earth's barren every day Can lead you by the shortest way into Love's florid fairyland.
And that divine enchanted life that lurks under Life's common guise -- That city of romance that lies within the City's toil and strife -- Shall, knocking, open to your hands, for Love is all its golden key, And one's name murmured tenderly the only magic it demands.
And when all else is gray and void in the vast gulf of memory, Green islands of delight shall be all blessed moments so enjoyed: When vaulted with the city skies, on its cathedral floors you stood, And, priest of a bright brotherhood, performed the mystic sacrifice, At Love's high altar fit to stand, with fire and incense aureoled, The celebrant in cloth of gold with Spring and Youth on either hand.
III Choral Song Have ye gazed on its grandeur Or stood where it stands With opal and amber Adorning the lands, And orcharded domes Of the hue of all flowers? Sweet melody roams Through its blossoming bowers, Sweet bells usher in from its belfries the train of the honey-sweet hour.
A city resplendent, Fulfilled of good things, On its ramparts are pendent The bucklers of kings.
Broad banners unfurled Are afloat in its air.
The lords of the world Look for harborage there.
None finds save he comes as a bridegroom, having roses and vine in his hair.
'Tis the city of Lovers, There many paths meet.
Blessed he above others, With faltering feet, Who past its proud spires Intends not nor hears The noise of its lyres Grow faint in his ears! Men reach it through portals of triumph, but leave through a postern of tears.
It was thither, ambitious, We came for Youth's right, When our lips yearned for kisses As moths for the light, When our souls cried for Love As for life-giving rain Wan leaves of the grove, Withered grass of the plain, And our flesh ached for Love-flesh beside it with bitter, intolerable pain.
Under arbor and trellis, Full of flutes, full of flowers, What mad fortunes befell us, What glad orgies were ours! In the days of our youth, In our festal attire, When the sweet flesh was smooth, When the swift blood was fire, And all Earth paid in orange and purple to pavilion the bed of Desire!
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

The Rhyme of the Three Captains

 This ballad appears to refer to one of the exploits of the notorious
Paul Jones, the American pirate.
It is founded on fact.
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At the close of a winter day, Their anchors down, by London town, the Three Great Captains lay; And one was Admiral of the North from Solway Firth to Skye, And one was Lord of the Wessex coast and all the lands thereby, And one was Master of the Thames from Limehouse to Blackwall, And he was Captain of the Fleet -- the bravest of them all.
Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer, When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer.
Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze, Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas.
Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled, And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold.
"I ha' paid Port dues for your Law," quoth he, "and where is the Law ye boast If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast? Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk, We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk; I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre.
There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore, And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore.
He would not fly the Rovers' flag -- the bloody or the black, But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack.
He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew -- he swore it was only a loan; But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own.
He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line, He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine; He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas, He has taken my grinning heathen gods -- and what should he want o' these? My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats; He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats.
I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside, But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied.
Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm, I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm; I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw, And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw; I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark, I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark; I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil, And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil; I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i' the mesh, And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh; I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws, Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab's claws! He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow, For he carries the taint of a musky ship -- the reek of the slaver's dhow!" The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold, And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold, And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: -- "Good Sir, we ha' dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut.
Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus: He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us.
We ha' sold him canvas and rope and spar -- we know that his price is fair, And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre.
And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you, We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true.
" The skipper called to the tall taffrail: -- "And what is that to me? Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three? Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o' the Line? He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine.
There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in, But we do not steal the niggers' meal, for that is a ******'s sin.
Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel? Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? 'Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?" The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet, For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet.
But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: -- "We have heard a tale of a -- foreign sail, but he is a merchantman.
" The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: -- "'Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!" By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: -- "We have sold our spars to the merchantman -- we know that his price is fair.
" The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: -- "They ha' rigged him a Joseph's jury-coat to keep his honour warm.
" The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad, The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord.
Masthead -- masthead, the signal sped by the line o' the British craft; The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: -- "It's mainsail haul, my bully boys all -- we'll out to the seas again -- Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain.
It's fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine -- We'll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o' the Line: Till we come as a ship o' the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer, Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer; Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty, Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea.
Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam -- we stand on the outward tack, We are paid in the coin of the white man's trade -- the bezant is hard, ay, and black.
The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port; How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there Shall dip their flag to a slaver's rag -- to show that his trade is fair!"
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

London Bridge

 “Do I hear them? Yes, I hear the children singing—and what of it? 
Have you come with eyes afire to find me now and ask me that? 
If I were not their father and if you were not their mother, 
We might believe they made a noise….
What are you—driving at!” “Well, be glad that you can hear them, and be glad they are so near us,— For I have heard the stars of heaven, and they were nearer still.
All within an hour it is that I have heard them calling, And though I pray for them to cease, I know they never will; For their music on my heart, though you may freeze it, will fall always, Like summer snow that never melts upon a mountain-top.
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing? Do you hear the children singing?… God, will you make them stop!” “And what now in His holy name have you to do with mountains? We’re back to town again, my dear, and we’ve a dance tonight.
Frozen hearts and falling music? Snow and stars, and—what the devil! Say it over to me slowly, and be sure you have it right.
” “God knows if I be right or wrong in saying what I tell you, Or if I know the meaning any more of what I say.
All I know is, it will kill me if I try to keep it hidden— Well, I met him….
Yes, I met him, and I talked with him—today.
” “You met him? Did you meet the ghost of someone you had poisoned, Long ago, before I knew you for the woman that you are? Take a chair; and don’t begin your stories always in the middle.
Was he man, or was he demon? Anyhow, you’ve gone too far To go back, and I’m your servant.
I’m the lord, but you’re the master.
Now go on with what you know, for I’m excited.
” “Do you mean— Do you mean to make me try to think that you know less than I do?” “I know that you foreshadow the beginning of a scene.
Pray be careful, and as accurate as if the doors of heaven Were to swing or to stay bolted from now on for evermore.
” “Do you conceive, with all your smooth contempt of every feeling, Of hiding what you know and what you must have known before? Is it worth a woman’s torture to stand here and have you smiling, With only your poor fetish of possession on your side? No thing but one is wholly sure, and that’s not one to scare me; When I meet it I may say to God at last that I have tried.
And yet, for all I know, or all I dare believe, my trials Henceforward will be more for you to bear than are your own; And you must give me keys of yours to rooms I have not entered.
Do you see me on your threshold all my life, and there alone? Will you tell me where you see me in your fancy—when it leads you Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?” “Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you—this? Look around you and be sorry you’re not living in an attic, With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent.
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters; And I grant, if you insist, that I’ve a guess at what you meant.
” “Have I told you, then, for nothing, that I met him? Are you trying To be merry while you try to make me hate you?” “Think again, My dear, before you tell me, in a language unbecoming To a lady, what you plan to tell me next.
If I complain, If I seem an atom peevish at the preference you mention— Or imply, to be precise—you may believe, or you may not, That I’m a trifle more aware of what he wants than you are.
But I shouldn’t throw that at you.
Make believe that I forgot.
Make believe that he’s a genius, if you like,—but in the meantime Don’t go back to rocking-horses.
There, there, there, now.
” “Make believe! When you see me standing helpless on a plank above a whirlpool, Do I drown, or do I hear you when you say it? Make believe? How much more am I to say or do for you before I tell you That I met him! What’s to follow now may be for you to choose.
Do you hear me? Won’t you listen? It’s an easy thing to listen….
” “And it’s easy to be crazy when there’s everything to lose.
” “If at last you have a notion that I mean what I am saying, Do I seem to tell you nothing when I tell you I shall try? If you save me, and I lose him—I don’t know—it won’t much matter.
I dare say that I’ve lied enough, but now I do not lie.
” “Do you fancy me the one man who has waited and said nothing While a wife has dragged an old infatuation from a tomb? Give the thing a little air and it will vanish into ashes.
There you are—piff! presto!” “When I came into this room, It seemed as if I saw the place, and you there at your table, As you are now at this moment, for the last time in my life; And I told myself before I came to find you, ‘I shall tell him, If I can, what I have learned of him since I became his wife.
’ And if you say, as I’ve no doubt you will before I finish, That you have tried unceasingly, with all your might and main, To teach me, knowing more than I of what it was I needed, Don’t think, with all you may have thought, that you have tried in vain; For you have taught me more than hides in all the shelves of knowledge Of how little you found that’s in me and was in me all along.
I believed, if I intruded nothing on you that I cared for, I’d be half as much as horses,—and it seems that I was wrong; I believed there was enough of earth in me, with all my nonsense Over things that made you sleepy, to keep something still awake; But you taught me soon to read my book, and God knows I have read it— Ages longer than an angel would have read it for your sake.
I have said that you must open other doors than I have entered, But I wondered while I said it if I might not be obscure.
Is there anything in all your pedigrees and inventories With a value more elusive than a dollar’s? Are you sure That if I starve another year for you I shall be stronger To endure another like it—and another—till I’m dead?” “Has your tame cat sold a picture?—or more likely had a windfall? Or for God’s sake, what’s broke loose? Have you a bee-hive in your head? A little more of this from you will not be easy hearing Do you know that? Understand it, if you do; for if you won’t….
What the devil are you saying! Make believe you never said it, And I’ll say I never heard it….
Oh, you….
If you….
” “If I don’t?” “There are men who say there’s reason hidden somewhere in a woman, But I doubt if God himself remembers where the key was hung.
” “He may not; for they say that even God himself is growing.
I wonder if He makes believe that He is growing young; I wonder if He makes believe that women who are giving All they have in holy loathing to a stranger all their lives Are the wise ones who build houses in the Bible….
” “Stop—you devil!” “…Or that souls are any whiter when their bodies are called wives.
If a dollar’s worth of gold will hoop the walls of hell together, Why need heaven be such a ruin of a place that never was? And if at last I lied my starving soul away to nothing, Are you sure you might not miss it? Have you come to such a pass That you would have me longer in your arms if you discovered That I made you into someone else….
Oh!…Well, there are worse ways.
But why aim it at my feet—unless you fear you may be sorry….
There are many days ahead of you.
” “I do not see those days.
” “I can see them.
Granted even I am wrong, there are the children.
And are they to praise their father for his insight if we die? Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing? Do you hear them? Do you hear the children?” “Damn the children!” “Why? What have they done?…Well, then,—do it….
Do it now, and have it over.
” “Oh, you devil!…Oh, you….
” “No, I’m not a devil, I’m a prophet— One who sees the end already of so much that one end more Would have now the small importance of one other small illusion, Which in turn would have a welcome where the rest have gone before.
But if I were you, my fancy would look on a little farther For the glimpse of a release that may be somewhere still in sight.
Furthermore, you must remember those two hundred invitations For the dancing after dinner.
We shall have to shine tonight.
We shall dance, and be as happy as a pair of merry spectres, On the grave of all the lies that we shall never have to tell; We shall dance among the ruins of the tomb of our endurance, And I have not a doubt that we shall do it very well.
There!—I’m glad you’ve put it back; for I don’t like it.
Shut the drawer now.
No—no—don’t cancel anything.
I’ll dance until I drop.
I can’t walk yet, but I’m going to….
Go away somewhere, and leave me….
Oh, you children! Oh, you children!…God, will they never stop!”


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

Four Quartets 1: Burnt Norton

 I

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden.
My words echo Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know.
Other echoes Inhabit the garden.
Shall we follow? Quick, said the bird, find them, find them, Round the corner.
Through the first gate, Into our first world, shall we follow The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible, Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves, In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air, And the bird called, in response to The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern, Along the empty alley, into the box circle, To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged, And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.
II Garlic and sapphires in the mud Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood Sings below inveterate scars Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery The circulation of the lymph Are figured in the drift of stars Ascend to summer in the tree We move above the moving tree In light upon the figured leaf And hear upon the sodden floor Below, the boarhound and the boar Pursue their pattern as before But reconciled among the stars.
At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire, The release from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving, Erhebung without motion, concentration Without elimination, both a new world And the old made explicit, understood In the completion of its partial ecstasy, The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future Woven in the weakness of the changing body, Protects mankind from heaven and damnation Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, The moment in the draughty church at smokefall Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
III Here is a place of disaffection Time before and time after In a dim light: neither daylight Investing form with lucid stillness Turning shadow into transient beauty With slow rotation suggesting permanence Nor darkness to purify the soul Emptying the sensual with deprivation Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy.
Only a flicker Over the strained time-ridden faces Distracted from distraction by distraction Filled with fancies and empty of meaning Tumid apathy with no concentration Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind That blows before and after time, Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls Into the faded air, the torpid Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London, Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney, Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate.
Not here Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.
Descend lower, descend only Into the world of perpetual solitude, World not world, but that which is not world, Internal darkness, deprivation And destitution of all property, Desiccation of the world of sense, Evacuation of the world of fancy, Inoperancy of the world of spirit; This is the one way, and the other Is the same, not in movement But abstention from movement; while the world moves In appetency, on its metalled ways Of time past and time future.
IV Time and the bell have buried the day, The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray Clutch and cling? Chill Fingers of yew be curled Down on us? After the kingfisher's wing Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still At the still point of the turning world.
V Words move, music moves Only in time; but that which is only living Can only die.
Words, after speech, reach Into the silence.
Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness, as a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts, Not that only, but the co-existence, Or say that the end precedes the beginning, And the end and the beginning were always there Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.
Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, Will not stay still.
Shrieking voices Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering, Always assail them.
The Word in the desert Is most attacked by voices of temptation, The crying shadow in the funeral dance, The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.
The detail of the pattern is movement, As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement Not in itself desirable; Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement, Timeless, and undesiring Except in the aspect of time Caught in the form of limitation Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight Even while the dust moves There rises the hidden laughter Of children in the foliage Quick now, here, now, always— Ridiculous the waste sad time Stretching before and after.
Written by John Ashbery | Create an image from this poem

Daffy Duck In Hollywood

 Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland Fling Terrace.
He promised he'd get me out of this one, That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call Companionable.
But everything is getting choked to the point of Silence.
Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically-- To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.
Suddenly all is Loathing.
I don't want to go back inside any more.
You meet Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no, Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings, The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of happy-go-nutty Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little White cardboard castle over the mill run.
"Up The lazy river, how happy we could be?" How will it end? That geranium glow Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner (Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight micturition spree On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes.
Wait! I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering, Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore) leads to Tophet, that Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin Of a borborygmic giant who even now Is rolling over on us in his sleep.
Farewell bocages, Tanneries, water-meadows.
The allegory comes unsnarled Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is About all there is to be noted between tornadoes.
I have Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live Which is like thinking in another language.
Everything Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me.
That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times" Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should.
Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them We live in one dimension, they in ours.
While I Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions At each new parting of the ways.
Pastel Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals.
"It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing Stands alone.
What happened to creative evolution?" Sighed Aglavaine.
Then to her Sélysette: "If his Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others, What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once? I have to stay here while they sit in there, Laugh, drink, have fine time.
In my day One lay under the tough green leaves, Pretending not to notice how they bled into The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed Not to concern us.
And so we too Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance, Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then Grew taciturn by previous agreement.
We were spirited Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark.
It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness Of the finished product.
True, to ask less were folly, yet If he is the result of himself, how much the better For him we ought to be! And how little, finally, We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this, Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves Has been applauded in London and St.
Petersburg.
Somewhere Ravens pray for us.
" The storm finished brewing.
And thus She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none She found who ever heard of Amadis, Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love.
Some They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all By definition is completeness (so In utter darkness they reasoned), why not Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps The pattern that may carry the sense, but Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination.
Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces The change as we would greet the change itself.
All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage Shrouds our sense of it.
Therefore bivouac we On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by Veiled scruples, worn conundrums.
Morning is Impermanent.
Grab sex things, swing up Over the horizon like a boy On a fishing expedition.
No one really knows Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's The tradition more than the safekeeping of it.
This mulch for Play keeps them interested and busy while the big, Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what Model cities, how much waste space.
Life, our Life anyway, is between.
We don't mind Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot One, but have our earnest where it chances on us, Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more, Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.
Written by William Butler Yeats | Create an image from this poem

Vacillation

 I

Between extremities
Man runs his course;
A brand, or flaming breath.
Comes to destroy All those antinomies Of day and night; The body calls it death, The heart remorse.
But if these be right What is joy? II A tree there is that from its topmost bough Is half all glittering flame and half all green Abounding foliage moistened with the dew; And half is half and yet is all the scene; And half and half consume what they renew, And he that Attis' image hangs between That staring fury and the blind lush leaf May know not what he knows, but knows not grief III Get all the gold and silver that you can, Satisfy ambition, animate The trivial days and ram them with the sun, And yet upon these maxims meditate: All women dote upon an idle man Although their children need a rich estate; No man has ever lived that had enough Of children's gratitude or woman's love.
No longer in Lethean foliage caught Begin the preparation for your death And from the fortieth winter by that thought Test every work of intellect or faith, And everything that your own hands have wrought And call those works extravagance of breath That are not suited for such men as come proud, open-eyed and laughing to the tomb.
IV My fiftieth year had come and gone, I sat, a solitary man, In a crowded London shop, An open book and empty cup On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed My body of a sudden blazed; And twenty minutes more or less It seemed, so great my happiness, That I was blessed and could bless.
V Although the summer Sunlight gild Cloudy leafage of the sky, Or wintry moonlight sink the field In storm-scattered intricacy, I cannot look thereon, Responsibility so weighs me down.
Things said or done long years ago, Or things I did not do or say But thought that I might say or do, Weigh me down, and not a day But something is recalled, My conscience or my vanity appalled.
VI A rivery field spread out below, An odour of the new-mown hay In his nostrils, the great lord of Chou Cried, casting off the mountain snow, `Let all things pass away.
' Wheels by milk-white asses drawn Where Babylon or Nineveh Rose; some conquer drew rein And cried to battle-weary men, `Let all things pass away.
' From man's blood-sodden heart are sprung Those branches of the night and day Where the gaudy moon is hung.
What's the meaning of all song? `Let all things pass away.
' VII The Soul.
Seek out reality, leave things that seem.
The Heart.
What, be a singer born and lack a theme? The Soul.
Isaiah's coal, what more can man desire? The Heart.
Struck dumb in the simplicity of fire! The Soul.
Look on that fire, salvation walks within.
The Heart.
What theme had Homer but original sin? VIII Must we part, Von Hugel, though much alike, for we Accept the miracles of the saints and honour sanctity? The body of Saint Teresa lies undecayed in tomb, Bathed in miraculous oil, sweet odours from it come, Healing from its lettered slab.
Those self-same hands perchance Eternalised the body of a modern saint that once Had scooped out pharaoh's mummy.
I - though heart might find relief Did I become a Christian man and choose for my belief What seems most welcome in the tomb - play a pre-destined part.
Homer is my example and his unchristened heart.
The lion and the honeycomb, what has Scripture said? So get you gone, Von Hugel, though with blessings on your head.
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