Robert Frost |
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,
' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.
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.
As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie,
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.
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
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.
Robert Pinsky |
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.
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.
The little rabbi called for hundreds of candles
And danced around the body, chanting and praying
In Hebrew, then Yiddish, then Aramaic.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
John Trumbull |
In vain, fair Maid, you ask in vain,
My pen should try th' advent'rous strain,
And following truth's unalter'd law,
Attempt your character to draw.
I own indeed, that generous mind
That weeps the woes of human kind,
That heart by friendship's charms inspired,
That soul with sprightly fancy fired,
The air of life, the vivid eye,
The flowing wit, the keen reply--
To paint these beauties as they shine,
Might ask a nobler pen than mine.
Yet what sure strokes can draw the Fair,
Who vary, like the fleeting air,
Like willows bending to the force,
Where'er the gales direct their course,
Opposed to no misfortune's power,
And changing with the changing hour.
Now gaily sporting on the plain,
They charm the grove with pleasing strain;
Anon disturb'd, they know not why,
The sad tear trembles in their eye:
Led through vain life's uncertain dance,
The dupes of whim, the slaves of chance.
From me, not famed for much goodnature,
Expect not compliment, but satire;
To draw your picture quite unable,
Instead of fact accept a Fable.
One morn, in Æsop's noisy time,
When all things talk'd, and talk'd in rhyme,
A cloud exhaled by vernal beams
Rose curling o'er the glassy streams.
The dawn her orient blushes spread,
And tinged its lucid skirts with red,
Wide waved its folds with glitt'ring dies,
And gaily streak'd the eastern skies;
Beneath, illumed with rising day,
The sea's broad mirror floating lay.
Pleased, o'er the wave it hung in air,
Survey'd its glittering glories there,
And fancied, dress'd in gorgeous show,
Itself the brightest thing below:
For clouds could raise the vaunting strain,
And not the fair alone were vain.
Yet well it knew, howe'er array'd,
That beauty, e'en in clouds, might fade,
That nothing sure its charms could boast
Above the loveliest earthly toast;
And so, like them, in early dawn
Resolved its picture should be drawn,
That when old age with length'ning day
Should brush the vivid rose away,
The world should from the portrait own
Beyond all clouds how bright it shone.
Hard by, a painter raised his stage,
Far famed, the Copley of his age.
So just a form his colours drew,
Each eye the perfect semblance knew;
Yet still on every blooming face
He pour'd the pencil's flowing grace;
Each critic praised the artist rare,
Who drew so like, and yet so fair.
To him, high floating in the sky
Th' elated Cloud advanced t' apply.
The painter soon his colours brought,
The Cloud then sat, the artist wrought;
Survey'd her form, with flatt'ring strictures,
Just as when ladies sit for pictures,
Declared "whatever art can do,
My utmost skill shall try for you:
But sure those strong and golden dies
Dipp'd in the radiance of the skies,
Those folds of gay celestial dress,
No mortal colours can express.
Not spread triumphal o'er the plain,
The rainbow boasts so fair a train,
Nor e'en the morning sun so bright,
Who robes his face in heav'nly light.
To view that form of angel make,
Again Ixion would mistake,
And justly deem so fair a prize,
The sovereign Mistress of the skies,"
He said, and drew a mazy line,
With crimson touch his pencils shine,
The mingling colours sweetly fade,
And justly temper light and shade.
He look'd; the swelling Cloud on high
With wider circuit spread the sky,
Stretch'd to the sun an ampler train,
And pour'd new glories on the main.
As quick, effacing every ground,
His pencil swept the canvas round,
And o'er its field, with magic art,
Call'd forth new forms in every part.
But now the sun, with rising ray,
Advanced with speed his early way;
Each colour takes a differing die,
The orange glows, the purples fly.
The artist views the alter'd sight,
And varies with the varying light;
In vain! a sudden gust arose,
New folds ascend, new shades disclose,
And sailing on with swifter pace,
The Cloud displays another face.
In vain the painter, vex'd at heart,
Tried all the wonders of his art;
In vain he begg'd, her form to grace,
One moment she would keep her place:
For, "changing thus with every gale,
Now gay with light, with gloom now pale,
Now high in air with gorgeous train,
Now settling on the darken'd main,
With looks more various than the moon;
A French coquette were drawn as soon.
He spoke; again the air was mild,
The Cloud with opening radiance smiled;
With canvas new his art he tries,
Anew he joins the glitt'ring dies;
Th' admiring Cloud with pride beheld
Her image deck the pictured field,
And colours half-complete adorn
The splendor of the painted morn.
When lo, the stormy winds arise,
Deep gloom invests the changing skies;
The sounding tempest shakes the plain,
And lifts in billowy surge the main.
The Cloud's gay dies in darkness fade,
Its folds condense in thicker shade,
And borne by rushing blasts, its form
With lowering vapour joins the storm.
Billy Collins |
This is not bad --
ambling along 44th Street
with Sonny Rollins for company,
his music flowing through the soft calipers
of these earphones,
as if he were right beside me
on this clear day in March,
the pavement sparkling with sunlight,
pigeons fluttering off the curb,
nodding over a profusion of bread crumbs.
In fact, I would say
my delight at being suffused
with phrases from his saxophone --
some like honey, some like vinegar --
is surpassed only by my gratitude
to Tommy Potter for taking the time
to join us on this breezy afternoon
with his most unwieldy bass
and to the esteemed Arthur Taylor
who is somehow managing to navigate
this crowd with his cumbersome drums.
And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk
for figuring out a way
to motorize -- or whatever -- his huge piano
so he could be with us today.
This music is loud yet so confidential.
I cannot help feeling even more
like the center of the universe
than usual as I walk along to a rapid
little version of "The Way You Look Tonight,"
and all I can say to my fellow pedestrians,
to the woman in the white sweater,
the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses,
who mistake themselves for the center of the universe --
all I can say is watch your step,
because the five of us, instruments and all,
are about to angle over
to the south side of the street
and then, in our own tightly knit way,
turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.
And if any of you are curious
about where this aggregation,
this whole battery-powered crew,
is headed, let us just say
that the real center of the universe,
the only true point of view,
is full of hope that he,
the hub of the cosmos
with his hair blown sideways,
will eventually make it all the way downtown.
Jonathan Swift |
To the Priest, on Observing how most Men mistake their own Talents
When beasts could speak (the learned say,
They still can do so ev'ry day),
It seems, they had religion then,
As much as now we find in men.
It happen'd, when a plague broke out
(Which therefore made them more devout),
The king of brutes (to make it plain,
Of quadrupeds I only mean)
By proclamation gave command,
That ev'ry subject in the land
Should to the priest confess their sins;
And thus the pious wolf begins:
"Good father, I must own with shame,
That often I have been to blame:
I must confess, on Friday last,
Wretch that I was! I broke my fast:
But I defy the basest tongue
To prove I did my neighbour wrong;
Or ever went to seek my food
By rapine, theft, or thirst of blood.
The ***, approaching next, confess'd
That in his heart he lov'd a jest:
A wag he was, he needs must own,
And could not let a dunce alone:
Sometimes his friend he would not spare,
And might perhaps be too severe:
But yet, the worst that could be said,
He was a wit both born and bred;
And, if it be a sin or shame,
Nature alone must bear the blame:
One fault he hath, is sorry for't,
His ears are half a foot too short;
Which could he to the standard bring,
He'd show his face before the King:
Then for his voice, there's none disputes
That he's the nightingale of brutes.
The swine with contrite heart allow'd,
His shape and beauty made him proud:
In diet was perhaps too nice,
But gluttony was ne'er his vice:
In ev'ry turn of life content,
And meekly took what fortune sent:
Inquire through all the parish round,
A better neighbour ne'er was found:
His vigilance might some displease;
'Tis true he hated sloth like peas.
The mimic ape began his chatter,
How evil tongues his life bespatter:
Much of the cens'ring world complain'd,
Who said, his gravity was feign'd:
Indeed, the strictness of his morals
Engag'd him in a hundred quarrels:
He saw, and he was griev'd to see't,
His zeal was sometimes indiscreet:
He found his virtues too severe
For our corrupted times to bear:
Yet, such a lewd licentious age
Might well excuse a Stoic's rage.
The goat advanc'd with decent pace;
And first excus'd his youthful face;
Forgiveness begg'd that he appear'd
('Twas nature's fault) without a beard.
'Tis true, he was not much inclin'd
To fondness for the female kind;
Not, as his enemies object,
From chance, or natural defect;
Not by his frigid constitution,
But through a pious resolution;
For he had made a holy vow
Of chastity as monks do now;
Which he resolv'd to keep for ever hence,
As strictly too, as doth his Reverence.
Apply the tale, and you shall find,
How just it suits with human kind.
Some faults we own: but, can you guess?
Why?--virtues carried to excess,
Wherewith our vanity endows us,
Though neither foe nor friend allows us.
The lawyer swears, you may rely on't,
He never squeez'd a needy client;
And this he makes his constant rule,
For which his brethren call him fool:
His conscience always was so nice,
He freely gave the poor advice;
By which he lost, he may affirm,
A hundred fees last Easter term.
While others of the learned robe
Would break the patience of a Job;
No pleader at the bar could match
His diligence and quick dispatch;
Ne'er kept a cause, he well may boast,
Above a term or two at most.
The cringing knave, who seeks a place
Without success, thus tells his case:
Why should he longer mince the matter?
He fail'd because he could not flatter;
He had not learn'd to turn his coat,
Nor for a party give his vote:
His crime he quickly understood;
Too zealous for the nation's good:
He found the ministers resent it,
Yet could not for his heart repent it.
The chaplain vows he cannot fawn,
Though it would raise him to the lawn:
He pass'd his hours among his books;
You find it in his meagre looks:
He might, if he were worldly wise,
Preferment get and spare his eyes:
But own'd he had a stubborn spirit,
That made him trust alone in merit:
Would rise by merit to promotion;
Alas! a mere chimeric notion.
The doctor, if you will believe him,
Confess'd a sin; and God forgive him!
Call'd up at midnight, ran to save
A blind old beggar from the grave:
But see how Satan spreads his snares;
He quite forgot to say his prayers.
He cannot help it for his heart
Sometimes to act the parson's part:
Quotes from the Bible many a sentence,
That moves his patients to repentance:
And, when his med'cines do no good,
Supports their minds with heav'nly food,
At which, however well intended,
He hears the clergy are offended;
And grown so bold behind his back,
To call him hypocrite and quack.
In his own church he keeps a seat;
Says grace before and after meat;
And calls, without affecting airs,
His household twice a day to prayers.
He shuns apothecaries' shops;
And hates to cram the sick with slops:
He scorns to make his art a trade;
Nor bribes my lady's fav'rite maid.
Old nurse-keepers would never hire
To recommend him to the squire;
Which others, whom he will not name,
Have often practis'd to their shame.
The statesman tells you with a sneer,
His fault is to be too sincere;
And, having no sinister ends,
Is apt to disoblige his friends.
The nation's good, his master's glory,
Without regard to Whig or Tory,
Were all the schemes he had in view;
Yet he was seconded by few:
Though some had spread a hundred lies,
'Twas he defeated the Excise.
'Twas known, though he had borne aspersion,
That standing troops were his aversion:
His practice was, in ev'ry station,
To serve the King, and please the nation.
Though hard to find in ev'ry case
The fittest man to fill a place:
His promises he ne'er forgot,
But took memorials on the spot:
His enemies, for want of charity,
Said he affected popularity:
'Tis true, the people understood,
That all he did was for their good;
Their kind affections he has tried;
No love is lost on either side.
He came to Court with fortune clear,
Which now he runs out ev'ry year:
Must, at the rate that he goes on,
Inevitably be undone:
Oh! if his Majesty would please
To give him but a writ of ease,
Would grant him licence to retire,
As it hath long been his desire,
By fair accounts it would be found,
He's poorer by ten thousand pound.
He owns, and hopes it is no sin,
He ne'er was partial to his kin;
He thought it base for men in stations
To crowd the Court with their relations;
His country was his dearest mother,
And ev'ry virtuous man his brother;
Through modesty or awkward shame
(For which he owns himself to blame),
He found the wisest man he could,
Without respect to friends or blood;
Nor ever acts on private views,
When he hath liberty to choose.
The sharper swore he hated play,
Except to pass an hour away:
And well he might; for, to his cost,
By want of skill he always lost;
He heard there was a club of cheats,
Who had contriv'd a thousand feats;
Could change the stock, or cog a die,
And thus deceive the sharpest eye:
Nor wonder how his fortune sunk,
His brothers fleece him when he's drunk.
I own the moral not exact;
Besides, the tale is false in fact;
And so absurd, that could I raise up
From fields Elysian fabling Aesop;
I would accuse him to his face
For libelling the four-foot race.
Creatures of ev'ry kind but ours
Well comprehend their natural pow'rs;
While we, whom reason ought to sway,
Mistake our talents ev'ry day.
The *** was never known so stupid
To act the part of Tray or Cupid;
Nor leaps upon his master's lap,
There to be strok'd, and fed with pap,
As Aesop would the world persuade;
He better understands his trade:
Nor comes, whene'er his lady whistles;
But carries loads, and feeds on thistles.
Our author's meaning, I presume, is
A creature bipes et implumis;
Wherein the moralist design'd
A compliment on human kind:
For here he owns, that now and then
Beasts may degenerate into men.
Francis Thompson |
I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me.
I pleaded, outlaw--wise by many a hearted casement,
curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities,
For though I knew His love who followe d,
Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,
I should have nought beside.
But if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to.
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clange d bars,
Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter
The pale ports of the moon.
I said to Dawn --- be sudden, to Eve --- be soon,
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover.
Float thy vague veil about me lest He see.
I tempted all His servitors but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him, their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue,
Or whether, thunder-driven,
They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet,
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:
Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.
I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of Man or Maid.
But still within the little childrens' eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me.
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair,
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature's
Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning with our Lady Mother's vagrant tresses,
Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,
Underneath her azured dai:s,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.
So it was done.
I in their delicate fellowship was one.
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies,
I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.
All that's born or dies,
Rose and drooped with,
Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or Divine.
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the Even,
when she lit her glimmering tapers round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
I laid my own to beat
And share commingling heat.
But not by that, by that was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah! we know what each other says,
these things and I; In sound I speak,
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.
Let her, if she would owe me
Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky
And show me the breasts o' her tenderness.
Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase, with unperturbe d pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:
Lo, nought contentst thee who content'st nought Me.
Naked, I wait thy Love's uplifted stroke.
My harness, piece by piece,
thou'st hewn from me
And smitten me to my knee,
I am defenceless, utterly.
I slept methinks, and awoke.
And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours,
and pulled my life upon me.
Grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o' the mounded years--
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
Yeah, faileth now even dream the dreamer
and the lute, the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist,
I swung the Earth, a trinket at my wrist,
Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,
For Earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
Ah! is thy Love indeed a weed,
albeit an Amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must, Designer Infinite,
Ah! must thou char the wood 'ere thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust.
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver upon the sighful branches of my
What is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds,
Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity.
Those shaken mists a space unsettle,
Then round the half-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.
But not 'ere Him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether Man's Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,
Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?
Now of that long pursuit,
Comes at hand the bruit.
That Voice is round me like a bursting Sea:
And is thy Earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me.
Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of Naught (He said).
And human love needs human meriting ---
How hast thou merited,
Of all Man's clotted clay, the dingiest clot.
Alack! Thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?
All which I took from thee, I did'st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.
All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
Halts by me that Footfall.
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me.
Sharon Olds |
How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away.
How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God.
They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.
Robert Frost |
“OH, let’s go up the hill and scare ourselves,
As reckless as the best of them to-night,
By setting fire to all the brush we piled
With pitchy hands to wait for rain or snow.
Oh, let’s not wait for rain to make it safe.
The pile is ours: we dragged it bough on bough
Down dark converging paths between the pines.
Let’s not care what we do with it to-night.
Divide it? No! But burn it as one pile
The way we piled it.
And let’s be the talk
Of people brought to windows by a light
Thrown from somewhere against their wall-paper.
Rouse them all, both the free and not so free
With saying what they’d like to do to us
For what they’d better wait till we have done.
Let’s all but bring to life this old volcano,
If that is what the mountain ever was—
And scare ourselves.
Let wild fire loose we will….
“And scare you too?” the children said together.
“Why wouldn’t it scare me to have a fire
Begin in smudge with ropy smoke and know
That still, if I repent, I may recall it,
But in a moment not: a little spurt
Of burning fatness, and then nothing but
The fire itself can put it out, and that
By burning out, and before it burns out
It will have roared first and mixed sparks with stars,
And sweeping round it with a flaming sword,
Made the dim trees stand back in wider circle—
Done so much and I know not how much more
I mean it shall not do if I can bind it.
Well if it doesn’t with its draft bring on
A wind to blow in earnest from some quarter,
As once it did with me upon an April.
The breezes were so spent with winter blowing
They seemed to fail the bluebirds under them
Short of the perch their languid flight was toward;
And my flame made a pinnacle to heaven
As I walked once round it in possession.
But the wind out of doors—you know the saying.
There came a gust.
You used to think the trees
Made wind by fanning since you never knew
It blow but that you saw the trees in motion.
Something or someone watching made that gust.
It put the flame tip-down and dabbed the grass
Of over-winter with the least tip-touch
Your tongue gives salt or sugar in your hand.
The place it reached to blackened instantly.
The black was all there was by day-light,
That and the merest curl of cigarette smoke—
And a flame slender as the hepaticas,
Blood-root, and violets so soon to be now.
But the black spread like black death on the ground,
And I think the sky darkened with a cloud
Like winter and evening coming on together.
There were enough things to be thought of then.
Where the field stretches toward the north
And setting sun to Hyla brook, I gave it
To flames without twice thinking, where it verges
Upon the road, to flames too, though in fear
They might find fuel there, in withered brake,
Grass its full length, old silver golden-rod,
And alder and grape vine entanglement,
To leap the dusty deadline.
For my own
I took what front there was beside.
And thrust hands in and held my face away.
Fight such a fire by rubbing not by beating.
A board is the best weapon if you have it.
I had my coat.
And oh, I knew, I knew,
And said out loud, I couldn’t bide the smother
And heat so close in; but the thought of all
The woods and town on fire by me, and all
The town turned out to fight for me—that held me.
I trusted the brook barrier, but feared
The road would fail; and on that side the fire
Died not without a noise of crackling wood—
Of something more than tinder-grass and weed—
That brought me to my feet to hold it back
By leaning back myself, as if the reins
Were round my neck and I was at the plough.
I won! But I’m sure no one ever spread
Another color over a tenth the space
That I spread coal-black over in the time
It took me.
Neighbors coming home from town
Couldn’t believe that so much black had come there
While they had backs turned, that it hadn’t been there
When they had passed an hour or so before
Going the other way and they not seen it.
They looked about for someone to have done it.
But there was no one.
I was somewhere wondering
Where all my weariness had gone and why
I walked so light on air in heavy shoes
In spite of a scorched Fourth-of-July feeling.
Why wouldn’t I be scared remembering that?”
“If it scares you, what will it do to us?”
But if you shrink from being scared,
What would you say to war if it should come?
That’s what for reasons I should like to know—
If you can comfort me by any answer.
“Oh, but war’s not for children—it’s for men.
“Now we are digging almost down to China.
My dears, my dears, you thought that—we all thought it.
So your mistake was ours.
Haven’t you heard, though,
About the ships where war has found them out
At sea, about the towns where war has come
Through opening clouds at night with droning speed
Further o’erhead than all but stars and angels,—
And children in the ships and in the towns?
Haven’t you heard what we have lived to learn?
Nothing so new—something we had forgotten:
War is for everyone, for children too.
I wasn’t going to tell you and I mustn’t.
The best way is to come up hill with me
And have our fire and laugh and be afraid.
Robert Burns |
MY father was a farmer upon the Carrick border, O,
And carefully he bred me in decency and order, O;
He bade me act a manly part, though I had ne’er a farthing, O;
For without an honest manly heart, no man was worth regarding, O.
Then out into the world my course I did determine, O;
Tho’ to be rich was not my wish, yet to be great was charming, O;
My talents they were not the worst, nor yet my education, O:
Resolv’d was I at least to try to mend my situation, O.
In many a way, and vain essay, I courted Fortune’s favour, O;
Some cause unseen still stept between, to frustrate each endeavour, O;
Sometimes by foes I was o’erpower’d, sometimes by friends forsaken, O;
And when my hope was at the top, I still was worst mistaken, O.
Then sore harass’d and tir’d at last, with Fortune’s vain delusion, O,
I dropt my schemes, like idle dreams, and came to this conclusion, O;
The past was bad, and the future hid, its good or ill untried, O;
But the present hour was in my pow’r, and so I would enjoy it, O.
No help, nor hope, nor view had I, nor person to befriend me, O;
So I must toil, and sweat, and moil, and labour to sustain me, O;
To plough and sow, to reap and mow, my father bred me early, O;
For one, he said, to labour bred, was a match for Fortune fairly, O.
Thus all obscure, unknown, and poor, thro’ life I’m doom’d to wander, O,
Till down my weary bones I lay in everlasting slumber, O:
No view nor care, but shun whate’er might breed me pain or sorrow, O;
I live to-day as well’s I may, regardless of to-morrow, O.
But cheerful still, I am as well as a monarch in his palace, O,
Tho’ Fortune’s frown still hunts me down, with all her wonted malice, O:
I make indeed my daily bread, but ne’er can make it farther, O:
But as daily bread is all I need, I do not much regard her, O.
When sometimes by my labour, I earn a little money, O,
Some unforeseen misfortune comes gen’rally upon me, O;
Mischance, mistake, or by neglect, or my goodnatur’d folly, O:
But come what will, I’ve sworn it still, I’ll ne’er be melancholy, O.
All you who follow wealth and power with unremitting ardour, O,
The more in this you look for bliss, you leave your view the farther, O:
Had you the wealth Potosi boasts, or nations to adore you, O,
A cheerful honest-hearted clown I will prefer before you, O.
William Shakespeare |
But, lo! from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud,
Adonis' trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud;
The strong-neck'd steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder;
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven's thunder;
The iron bit he crushes 'tween his teeth
Controlling what he was controlled with.
His ears up-prick'd; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass'd crest now stand on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send:
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire.
Sometime her trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty and modest pride;
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say, 'Lo! thus my strength is tried;
And this I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair breeder that is standing by.
What recketh he his rider's angry stir,
His flattering 'Holla,' or his 'Stand, I say?'
What cares he now for curb of pricking spur?
For rich caparisons or trapping gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
Nor nothing else with his proud sight agrees.
Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion'd steed,
His art with nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one,
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone
Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look, what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.
Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather;
To bid the wind a race he now prepares,
And whe'r he run or fly they know not whether;
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather'd wings.
He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his mind;
Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,
She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind,
Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements with her heels.
Then, like a melancholy malcontent,
He vails his tail that, like a falling plume
Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent:
He stamps, and bites the poor flies in his fume.
His love, perceiving how he is enrag'd,
Grew kinder, and his fury was assuag'd.
His testy master goeth about to take him;
When lo! the unback'd breeder, full of fear,
Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him,
With her the horse, and left Adonis there.
As they were mad, unto the wood they hie them,
Out-stripping crows that strive to over-fly them.
I prophesy they death, my living sorrow,
If thou encounter with the boar to-morrow.
"But if thou needs wilt hunt, be rul'd by me;
Uncouple at the timorous flying hare,
Or at the fox which lives by subtlety,
Or at the roe which no encounter dare:
Pursue these fearful creatures o'er the downs,
And on they well-breath'd horse keep with they hounds.
"And when thou hast on food the purblind hare,
Mark the poor wretch, to overshoot his troubles
How he outruns with winds, and with what care
He cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles:
The many musits through the which he goes
Are like a labyrinth to amaze his foes.
"Sometime he runs among a flock of sheep,
To make the cunning hounds mistake their smell,
And sometime where earth-delving conies keep,
To stop the loud pursuers in their yell,
And sometime sorteth with a herd of deer;
Danger deviseth shifts; wit waits on fear:
"For there his smell with other being mingled,
The hot scent-snuffing hounds are driven to doubt,
Ceasing their clamorous cry till they have singled
With much ado the cold fault cleanly out;
Then do they spend their mouths: Echo replies,
As if another chase were in the skies.
"By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear,
To hearken if his foes pursue him still:
Anon their loud alarums he doth hear;
And now his grief may be compared well
To one sore sick that hears the passing-bell.
"Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
Turn, and return, indenting with the way;
Each envious briar his weary legs doth scratch,
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay:
For misery is trodden on by many,
And being low never reliev'd by any.
"Lie quietly, and hear a little more;
Nay, do not struggle, for thou shalt not rise:
To make thee hate the hunting of the boar,
Unlike myself thou hear'st me moralize,
Applying this to that, and so to so;
For love can comment upon every woe.