Edwin Arlington Robinson |
“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?”
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.
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….
“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….
“…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!”
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!”
Ralph Waldo Emerson |
Man was made of social earth,
Child and brother from his birth;
Tethered by a liquid cord
Of blood through veins of kindred poured,
Next his heart the fireside band
Of mother, father, sister, stand;
Names from awful childhood heard,
Throbs of a wild religion stirred,
Their good was heaven, their harm was vice,
Till Beauty came to snap all ties,
The maid, abolishing the past,
With lotus-wine obliterates
Dear memory's stone-incarved traits,
And by herself supplants alone
Friends year by year more inly known.
When her calm eyes opened bright,
All were foreign in their light.
It was ever the self-same tale,
The old experience will not fail,—
Only two in the garden walked,
And with snake and seraph talked.
But God said;
I will have a purer gift,
There is smoke in the flame;
New flowerets bring, new prayers uplift,
And love without a name.
Fond children, ye desire
To please each other well;
Another round, a higher,
Ye shall climb on the heavenly stair,
And selfish preference forbear;
And in right deserving,
And without a swerving
Each from your proper state,
Weave roses for your mate.
Deep, deep are loving eyes,
Flowed with naphtha fiery sweet,
And the point is Paradise
Where their glances meet:
Their reach shall yet be more profound,
And a vision without bound:
The axis of those eyes sun-clear
Be the axis of the sphere;
Then shall the lights ye pour amain
Go without check or intervals,
Through from the empyrean walls,
Unto the same again.
Close, close to men,
Like undulating layer of air,
Right above their heads,
The potent plain of Dæmons spreads.
Stands to each human soul its own,
For watch, and ward, and furtherance
In the snares of nature's dance;
And the lustre and the grace
Which fascinate each human heart,
Beaming from another part,
Translucent through the mortal covers,
Is the Dæmon's form and face.
To and fro the Genius hies,
A gleam which plays and hovers
Over the maiden's head,
And dips sometimes as low as to her eyes.
Unknown, — albeit lying near, —
To men the path to the Dæmon sphere,
And they that swiftly come and go,
Leave no track on the heavenly snow.
Sometimes the airy synod bends,
And the mighty choir descends,
And the brains of men thenceforth,
In crowded and in still resorts,
Teem with unwonted thoughts.
As when a shower of meteors
Cross the orbit of the earth,
And, lit by fringent air,
Blaze near and far.
Mortals deem the planets bright
Have slipped their sacred bars,
And the lone seaman all the night
Sails astonished amid stars.
Beauty of a richer vein,
Graces of a subtler strain,
Unto men these moon-men lend,
And our shrinking sky extend.
So is man's narrow path
By strength and terror skirted,
Also (from the song the wrath
Of the Genii be averted!
The Muse the truth uncolored speaking),
The Dæmons are self-seeking;
Their fierce and limitary will
Draws men to their likeness still.
The erring painter made Love blind,
Highest Love who shines on all;
Him radiant, sharpest-sighted god
None can bewilder;
Whose eyes pierce
Mediator, royal giver,
Of joyful and transparent mien.
'Tis a sparkle passing
From each to each, from me to thee,
Sharing all, daring all,
Each obstruction, it unites
Equals remote, and seeming opposites.
And ever and forever Love
Delights to build a road;
Unheeded Danger near him strides,
Love laughs, and on a lion rides.
But Cupid wears another face
Born into Dæmons less divine,
His roses bleach apace,
His nectar smacks of wine.
The Dæmon ever builds a wall,
Himself incloses and includes,
Solitude in solitudes:
In like sort his love doth fall.
He is an oligarch,
He prizes wonder, fame, and mark,
He loveth crowns,
He scorneth drones;
He doth elect
The beautiful and fortunate,
And the sons of intellect,
And the souls of ample fate,
Who the Future's gates unbar,
Minions of the Morning Star.
In his prowess he exults,
And the multitude insults.
His impatient looks devour
Oft the humble and the poor,
And, seeing his eye glare,
They drop their few pale flowers
Gathered with hope to please
Along the mountain towers,
Lose courage, and despair.
He will never be gainsaid,
Pitiless, will not be stayed.
His hot tyranny
Burns up every other tie;
Therefore comes an hour from Jove
Which his ruthless will defies,
And the dogs of Fate unties.
Shiver the palaces of glass,
Shrivel the rainbow-colored walls
Where in bright art each god and sibyl dwelt
Secure as in the Zodiack's belt;
And the galleries and halls
Wherein every Siren sung,
Like a meteor pass.
For this fortune wanted root
In the core of God's abysm,
Was a weed of self and schism:
And ever the Dæmonic Love
Is the ancestor of wars,
And the parent of remorse.
Charlotte Bronte |
NOT in scorn do I reprove thee,
Not in pride thy vows I waive,
But, believe, I could not love thee,
Wert thou prince, and I a slave.
These, then, are thine oaths of passion ?
This, thy tenderness for me ?
Judged, even, by thine own confession,
Thou art steeped in perfidy.
Having vanquished, thou wouldst leave me !
Thus I read thee long ago;
Therefore, dared I not deceive thee,
Even with friendship's gentle show.
Therefore, with impassive coldness
Have I ever met thy gaze;
Though, full oft, with daring boldness,
Thou thine eyes to mine didst raise.
Why that smile ? Thou now art deeming
This my coldness all untrue,
But a mask of frozen seeming,
Hiding secret fires from view.
Touch my hand, thou self-deceiver,
Naybe calm, for I am so:
Does it burn ? Does my lip quiver ?
Has mine eye a troubled glow ?
Canst thou call a moment's colour
To my foreheadto my cheek ?
Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor
With one flattering, feverish streak?
Am I marble ? What ! no woman
Could so calm before thee stand ?
Nothing living, sentient, human,
Could so coldly take thy hand ?
Yesa sister might, a mother:
My good-will is sisterly:
Dream not, then, I strive to smother
Fires that inly burn for thee.
Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless,
Fury cannot change my mind;
I but deem the feeling rootless
Which so whirls in passion's wind.
Can I love ? Oh, deeplytruly
Warmlyfondlybut not thee;
And my love is answered duly,
With an equal energy.
Wouldst thou see thy rival ? Hasten,
Draw that curtain soft aside,
Look where yon thick branches chasten
Noon, with shades of eventide.
In that glade, where foliage blending
Forms a green arch overhead,
Sits thy rival thoughtful bending
O'er a stand with papers spread
Motionless, his fingers plying
That untired, unresting pen;
Time and tide unnoticed flying,
There he sitsthe first of men !
Man of conscienceman of reason;
Stern, perchance, but ever just;
Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason,
Honour's shield, and virtue's trust !
Worker, thinker, firm defender
Of Heaven's truthman's liberty;
Soul of ironproof to slander,
Rock where founders tyranny.
Fame he seeks notbut full surely
She will seek him, in his home;
This I know, and wait securely
For the atoning hour to come.
To that man my faith is given,
Therefore, soldier, cease to sue;
While God reigns in earth and heaven,
I to him will still be true !
Philip Larkin |
'This was Mr Bleaney's room.
The whole time he was at the Bodies, till
They moved him.
' Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,
Fall to within five inches of the sill,
Whose window shows a strip of building land,
'Mr Bleaney took
My bit of garden properly in hand.
Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook
Behind the door, no room for books or bags -
'I'll take it.
' So it happens that I lie
Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags
On the same saucer-souvenir, and try
Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown
The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.
I know his habits - what time he came down,
His preference for sauce to gravy, why
He kept on plugging at the four aways -
Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk
Who put him up for summer holidays,
And Christmas at his sister's house in Stoke.
But if he stood and watched the frigid wind
Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed
Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,
And shivered, without shaking off the dread
That how we live measures our own nature,
And at his age having no more to show
Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
He warranted no better, I don't know.
Robinson Jeffers |
The little biplane that has the river-meadow for landing-field
And carries passengers brief rides,
Buzzed overhead on the tender blue above the orange of sundown.
Below it five troubled night-herons
Turned short over the shore from its course, four east, one northward.
Swam the new moon in amber.
I don't know why, but lately the forms of things appear to me with time
One of their visible dimensions.
The thread brightness of the bent moon appeared enormous, unnumbered
Ages of years; the night-herons
Their natural size, they have croaked over the shore in the hush at sundown
Much longer than human language
Has fumbled with the air: but the plane having no past but a certain future,
Insect in size as in form,
Was also accepted, all these forms of power placed without preference
In the grave arrangement of the evening.
Francesco Petrarch |
Real natura, angelico intelletto.
ON THE KISS OF HONOUR GIVEN BY CHARLES OF LUXEMBURG TO LAURA AT A BANQUET.
A kingly nature, an angelic mind,
A spotless soul, prompt aspect and keen eye,
Quick penetration, contemplation high
And truly worthy of the breast which shrined:
In bright assembly lovely ladies join'd
To grace that festival with gratulant joy,
Amid so many and fair faces nigh
Soon his good judgment did the fairest find.
Of riper age and higher rank the rest
Gently he beckon'd with his hand aside,
And lovingly drew near the perfect one:
So courteously her eyes and brow he press'd,
All at his choice in fond approval vied—
Envy through my sole veins at that sweet freedom run.
A sovereign nature,—an exalted mind,—
A soul proud—sleepless—with a lynx's eye,—
[Pg 212]An instant foresight,—thought as towering high,
E'en as the heart in which they are enshrined:
A bright assembly on that day combined
Each other in his honour to outvie,
When 'mid the fair his judgment did descry
That sweet perfection all to her resign'd.
Unmindful of her rival sisterhood,
He motion'd silently his preference,
And fondly welcomed her, that humblest one:
So pure a kiss he gave, that all who stood,
Though fair, rejoiced in beauty's recompense:
By that strange act nay heart was quite undone!
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Mastah drink his ol' Made'a,
Missy drink huh sherry wine,
Ovahseah lak his whiskey,
But dat othah drink is mine,
Des' 'lasses an' watah, 'lasses an' watah.
Wen you git a steamin' hoe-cake
On de table, go way, man!
'D ain but one t'ing to go wid it,
'Sides de gravy in de pan,
Dat 's 'lasses an' watah, 'lasses an' watah.
W'en hit 's 'possum dat you eatin',
'Simmon beer is moughty sweet;
But fu' evahday consumin'
'D ain't no mo'tal way to beat
Des' 'lasses an' watah, 'lasses an' watah.
W'y de bees is allus busy,
An' ain' got no time to was'?
Hit's beca'se dey knows de honey
Dey 's a makin', gwine to tas'
Lak 'lasses an' watah, 'lasses an' watah.
Oh, hit 's moughty mil' an' soothin',
An' hit don' go to yo' haid;
Dat 's de reason I 's a-backin'
Up de othah wo'ds I said,
"Des 'lasses an' watah, 'lasses an' watah."
Robert William Service |
Although I have a car of class,
I also have a jenny ***
I call Titine.
And if I had in sober sense
To choose between,
I know I'd give the preference
To sleek Titine.
My chauffeur drives my Cadillac
I wear a worn coat on my back
That he would scorn.
He speeds with umpty equine power,
Like an express;
I amble at eight miles an hour,
Or even less.
My wife can use our fancy bus
To cut a dash;
She very definitely does,
And blows my cash.
But this old codger seeks the sane
And simple scene;
Content to jog along a lane
With old Titine.
So as in country ways I go
Wife loves the town;
But though I'm slow, serene I know
I won't break down.
With brawn and bone I reckon mine
The best machine:
Old folks and donkeys best combine,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe |
How grave thou loookest, loved one! wherefore so?
Thy marble image seems a type of thee;
Like it, no sign of life thou giv'st to me;
Compared with thee, the stone appears to glow.
Behind his shield in ambush lurks the foe,
The friend's brow all-unruffled we should see.
I seek thee, but thou seek'st away to flee;
Fix'd as this sculptured figure, learn to grow!
Tell me, to which should I the preference pay?
Must I from both with coldness meet alone?
The one is lifeless, thou with life art blest.
In short, no longer to throw words away,
I'll fondy kiss and kiss and kiss this stone,
Till thou dost tear me hence with envious breast.