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Best Famous Prose Poems

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

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Written by Barry Tebb | Create an image from this poem

MY PERFECT ROSE

 At ten she came to me, three years ago,

There was ‘something between us’ even then;

Watching her write like Eliot every day,

Turn prose into haiku in ten minutes flat,

Write a poem in Greek three weeks from learning the alphabet;

Then translate it as ‘Sun on a tomb, gold place, small sacred horse’.
I never got over having her in the room, though Every day she was impossible in a new way, Stamping her foot like a naughty Enid Blyton child, Shouting "Poets don’t do arithmetic!" Or drawing caricatures of me in her book.
Then there were the ‘moments of vision’, her eyes Dissolving the blank walls and made-up faces, Genius painfully going through her paces, The skull she drew, the withered chrysanthemum And scarlet rose, ‘Descensus averno’, like Virgil, I supposed.
Now three years later, in nylons and tight skirt, She returns from grammar school to make a chaos of my room; Plaiting a rose in her hair, I remember the words of her poem - ‘For love is wrong/in word, in deed/But you will be mine’ And now her promise to come the last two days of term, "But not tell them", the diamond bomb exploding In her eyes, the key left ‘Accidentally’ on my desk And the faint surprise.


Written by John Trumbull | Create an image from this poem

The Owl And The Sparrow

 In elder days, in Saturn's prime,
Ere baldness seized the head of Time,
While truant Jove, in infant pride,
Play'd barefoot on Olympus' side,
Each thing on earth had power to chatter,
And spoke the mother tongue of nature.
Each stock or stone could prate and gabble, Worse than ten labourers of Babel.
Along the street, perhaps you'd see A Post disputing with a Tree, And mid their arguments of weight, A Goose sit umpire of debate.
Each Dog you met, though speechless now, Would make his compliments and bow, And every Swine with congees come, To know how did all friends at home.
Each Block sublime could make a speech, In style and eloquence as rich, And could pronounce it and could pen it, As well as Chatham in the senate.
Nor prose alone.
--In these young times, Each field was fruitful too in rhymes; Each feather'd minstrel felt the passion, And every wind breathed inspiration.
Each Bullfrog croak'd in loud bombastic, Each Monkey chatter'd Hudibrastic; Each Cur, endued with yelping nature, Could outbark Churchill's[2] self in satire; Each Crow in prophecy delighted, Each Owl, you saw, was second-sighted, Each Goose a skilful politician, Each *** a gifted met'physician, Could preach in wrath 'gainst laughing rogues, Write Halfway-covenant Dialogues,[3] And wisely judge of all disputes In commonwealths of men or brutes.
'Twas then, in spring a youthful Sparrow Felt the keen force of Cupid's arrow: For Birds, as Æsop's tales avow, Made love then, just as men do now, And talk'd of deaths and flames and darts, And breaking necks and losing hearts; And chose from all th' aerial kind, Not then to tribes, like Jews, confined The story tells, a lovely Thrush Had smit him from a neigh'bring bush, Where oft the young coquette would play, And carol sweet her siren lay: She thrill'd each feather'd heart with love, And reign'd the Toast of all the grove.
He felt the pain, but did not dare Disclose his passion to the fair; For much he fear'd her conscious pride Of race, to noble blood allied.
Her grandsire's nest conspicuous stood, Mid loftiest branches of the wood, In airy height, that scorn'd to know Each flitting wing that waved below.
So doubting, on a point so nice He deem'd it best to take advice.
Hard by there dwelt an aged Owl, Of all his friends the gravest fowl; Who from the cares of business free, Lived, hermit, in a hollow tree; To solid learning bent his mind, In trope and syllogism he shined, 'Gainst reigning follies spent his railing; Too much a Stoic--'twas his failing.
Hither for aid our Sparrow came, And told his errand and his name, With panting breath explain'd his case, Much trembling at the sage's face; And begg'd his Owlship would declare If love were worth a wise one's care.
The grave Owl heard the weighty cause, And humm'd and hah'd at every pause; Then fix'd his looks in sapient plan, Stretch'd forth one foot, and thus began.
"My son, my son, of love beware, And shun the cheat of beauty's snare; That snare more dreadful to be in, Than huntsman's net, or horse-hair gin.
"By others' harms learn to be wise," As ancient proverbs well advise.
Each villany, that nature breeds, From females and from love proceeds.
'Tis love disturbs with fell debate Of man and beast the peaceful state: Men fill the world with war's alarms, When female trumpets sound to arms; The commonwealth of dogs delight For beauties, as for bones, to fight.
Love hath his tens of thousands slain, And heap'd with copious death the plain: Samson, with ***'s jaw to aid, Ne'er peopled thus th'infernal shade.
"Nor this the worst; for he that's dead, With love no more will vex his head.
'Tis in the rolls of fate above, That death's a certain cure for love; A noose can end the cruel smart; The lover's leap is from a cart.
But oft a living death they bear, Scorn'd by the proud, capricious fair.
The fair to sense pay no regard, And beauty is the fop's reward; They slight the generous hearts' esteem, And sigh for those, who fly from them.
Just when your wishes would prevail, Some rival bird with gayer tail, Who sings his strain with sprightlier note, And chatters praise with livelier throat, Shall charm your flutt'ring fair one down, And leave your choice, to hang or drown.
Ev'n I, my son, have felt the smart; A Pheasant won my youthful heart.
For her I tuned the doleful lay,[4] For her I watch'd the night away; In vain I told my piteous case, And smooth'd my dignity of face; In vain I cull'd the studied phrase, And sought hard words in beauty's praise.
Her, not my charms nor sense could move, For folly is the food of love.
Each female scorns our serious make, "Each woman is at heart a rake.
"[5] Thus Owls in every age have said, Since our first parent-owl was made; Thus Pope and Swift, to prove their sense, Shall sing, some twenty ages hence; Then shall a man of little fame, One ** **** sing the same.
Written by Jane Austen | Create an image from this poem

My Dearest Frank I Wish You Joy

 My dearest Frank, I wish you joy
Of Mary's safety with a Boy,
Whose birth has given little pain
Compared with that of Mary Jane.
-- May he a growing Blessing prove, And well deserve his Parents' Love!-- Endow'd with Art's and Nature's Good, Thy Name possessing with thy Blood, In him, in all his ways, may we Another Francis WIlliam see!-- Thy infant days may he inherit, THey warmth, nay insolence of spirit;-- We would not with one foult dispense To weaken the resemblance.
May he revive thy Nursery sin, Peeping as daringly within, His curley Locks but just descried, With 'Bet, my be not come to bide.
'-- Fearless of danger, braving pain, And threaten'd very oft in vain, Still may one Terror daunt his Soul, One needful engine of Controul Be found in this sublime array, A neigbouring Donkey's aweful Bray.
So may his equal faults as Child, Produce Maturity as mild! His saucy words and fiery ways In early Childhood's pettish days, In Manhood, shew his Father's mind Like him, considerate and Kind; All Gentleness to those around, And anger only not to wound.
Then like his Father too, he must, To his own former struggles just, Feel his Deserts with honest Glow, And all his self-improvement know.
A native fault may thus give birth To the best blessing, conscious Worth.
As for ourselves we're very well; As unaffected prose will tell.
-- Cassandra's pen will paint our state, The many comforts that await Our Chawton home, how much we find Already in it, to our mind; And how convinced, that when complete It will all other Houses beat The ever have been made or mended, With rooms concise, or rooms distended.
You'll find us very snug next year, Perhaps with Charles and Fanny near, For now it often does delight us To fancy them just over-right us.
--
Written by Walt Whitman | Create an image from this poem

A Riddle Song

 THAT which eludes this verse and any verse, 
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform’d in clearest eye or cunningest mind, 
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth, 
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world incessantly, 
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion, 
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner, 
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose, 
Which sculptor never chisel’d yet, nor painter painted, 
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter’d,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.
Indifferently, ’mid public, private haunts, in solitude, Behind the mountain and the wood, Companion of the city’s busiest streets, through the assemblage, It and its radiations constantly glide.
In looks of fair unconscious babes, Or strangely in the coffin’d dead, Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night, As some dissolving delicate film of dreams, Hiding yet lingering.
Two little breaths of words comprising it.
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.
How ardently for it! How many ships have sail’d and sunk for it! How many travelers started from their homes and ne’er return’d! How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it! What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur’d for it! How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it—and shall be to the end! How all heroic martyrdoms to it! How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth! How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and land, have drawn men’s eyes, Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the cliffs, Or midnight’s silent glowing northern lights unreachable.
Haply God’s riddle it, so vague and yet so certain, The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it, And heaven at last for it.
Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson | Create an image from this poem

The Talking Oak

 Once more the gate behind me falls; 
Once more before my face 
I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls, 
That stand within the chace.
Beyond the lodge the city lies, Beneath its drift of smoke; And ah! with what delighted eyes I turn to yonder oak.
For when my passion first began, Ere that, which in me burn'd, The love, that makes me thrice a man, Could hope itself return'd; To yonder oak within the field I spoke without restraint, And with a larger faith appeal'd Than Papist unto Saint.
For oft I talk'd with him apart And told him of my choice, Until he plagiarized a heart, And answer'd with a voice.
Tho' what he whisper'd under Heaven None else could understand; I found him garrulously given, A babbler in the land.
But since I heard him make reply Is many a weary hour; 'Twere well to question him, and try If yet he keeps the power.
Hail, hidden to the knees in fern, Broad Oak of Sumner-chace, Whose topmost branches can discern The roofs of Sumner-place! Say thou, whereon I carved her name, If ever maid or spouse, As fair as my Olivia, came To rest beneath thy boughs.
--- "O Walter, I have shelter'd here Whatever maiden grace The good old Summers, year by year Made ripe in Sumner-chace: "Old Summers, when the monk was fat, And, issuing shorn and sleek, Would twist his girdle tight, and pat The girls upon the cheek, "Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence, And number'd bead, and shrift, Bluff Harry broke into the spence And turn'd the cowls adrift: "And I have seen some score of those Fresh faces that would thrive When his man-minded offset rose To chase the deer at five; "And all that from the town would stroll, Till that wild wind made work In which the gloomy brewer's soul Went by me, like a stork: "The slight she-slips of royal blood, And others, passing praise, Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud For puritanic stays: "And I have shadow'd many a group Of beauties, that were born In teacup-times of hood and hoop, Or while the patch was worn; "And, leg and arm with love-knots gay About me leap'd and laugh'd The modish Cupid of the day, And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.
"I swear (and else may insects prick Each leaf into a gall) This girl, for whom your heart is sick, Is three times worth them all.
"For those and theirs, by Nature's law, Have faded long ago; But in these latter springs I saw Your own Olivia blow, "From when she gamboll'd on the greens A baby-germ, to when The maiden blossoms of her teens Could number five from ten.
"I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain, (And hear me with thine ears,) That, tho' I circle in the grain Five hundred rings of years--- "Yet, since I first could cast a shade, Did never creature pass So slightly, musically made, So light upon the grass: "For as to fairies, that will flit To make the greensward fresh, I hold them exquisitely knit, But far too spare of flesh.
" Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern, And overlook the chace; And from thy topmost branch discern The roofs of Sumner-place.
But thou, whereon I carved her name, That oft hast heard my vows, Declare when last Olivia came To sport beneath thy boughs.
"O yesterday, you know, the fair Was holden at the town; Her father left his good arm-chair, And rode his hunter down.
"And with him Albert came on his.
I look'd at him with joy: As cowslip unto oxlip is, So seems she to the boy.
"An hour had past---and, sitting straight Within the low-wheel'd chaise, Her mother trundled to the gate Behind the dappled grays.
"But as for her, she stay'd at home, And on the roof she went, And down the way you use to come, She look'd with discontent.
"She left the novel half-uncut Upon the rosewood shelf; She left the new piano shut: She could not please herseif "Then ran she, gamesome as the colt, And livelier than a lark She sent her voice thro' all the holt Before her, and the park.
"A light wind chased her on the wing, And in the chase grew wild, As close as might be would he cling About the darling child: "But light as any wind that blows So fleetly did she stir, The flower, she touch'd on, dipt and rose, And turn'd to look at her.
"And here she came, and round me play'd, And sang to me the whole Of those three stanzas that you made About my Ôgiant bole;' "And in a fit of frolic mirth She strove to span my waist: Alas, I was so broad of girth, I could not be embraced.
"I wish'd myself the fair young beech That here beside me stands, That round me, clasping each in each, She might have lock'd her hands.
"Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet As woodbine's fragile hold, Or when I feel about my feet The berried briony fold.
" O muffle round thy knees with fern, And shadow Sumner-chace! Long may thy topmost branch discern The roofs of Sumner-place! But tell me, did she read the name I carved with many vows When last with throbbing heart I came To rest beneath thy boughs? "O yes, she wander'd round and round These knotted knees of mine, And found, and kiss'd the name she found, And sweetly murmur'd thine.
"A teardrop trembled from its source, And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse, But I believe she wept.
"Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light, She glanced across the plain; But not a creature was in sight: She kiss'd me once again.
"Her kisses were so close and kind, That, trust me on my word, Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind, But yet my sap was stirr'd: "And even into my inmost ring A pleasure I discern'd, Like those blind motions of the Spring, That show the year is turn'd.
"Thrice-happy he that may caress The ringlet's waving balm--- The cushions of whose touch may press The maiden's tender palm.
"I, rooted here among the groves But languidly adjust My vapid vegetable loves With anthers and with dust: "For ah! my friend, the days were brief Whereof the poets talk, When that, which breathes within the leaf, Could slip its bark and walk.
"But could I, as in times foregone, From spray, and branch, and stem, Have suck'd and gather'd into one The life that spreads in them, "She had not found me so remiss; But lightly issuing thro', I would have paid her kiss for kiss, With usury thereto.
" O flourish high, with leafy towers, And overlook the lea, Pursue thy loves among the bowers But leave thou mine to me.
O flourish, hidden deep in fern, Old oak, I love thee well; A thousand thanks for what I learn And what remains to tell.
" ÔTis little more: the day was warm; At last, tired out with play, She sank her head upon her arm And at my feet she lay.
"Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves I breathed upon her eyes Thro' all the summer of my leaves A welcome mix'd with sighs.
"I took the swarming sound of life--- The music from the town--- The murmurs of the drum and fife And lull'd them in my own.
"Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip, To light her shaded eye; A second flutter'd round her lip Like a golden butterfly; "A third would glimmer on her neck To make the necklace shine; Another slid, a sunny fleck, From head to ankle fine, "Then close and dark my arms I spread, And shadow'd all her rest--- Dropt dews upon her golden head, An acorn in her breast.
"But in a pet she started up, And pluck'd it out, and drew My little oakling from the cup, And flung him in the dew.
"And yet it was a graceful gift--- I felt a pang within As when I see the woodman lift His axe to slay my kin.
"I shook him down because he was The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.
"O kiss him twice and thrice for me, That have no lips to kiss, For never yet was oak on lea Shall grow so fair as this.
' Step deeper yet in herb and fern, Look further thro' the chace, Spread upward till thy boughs discern The front of Sumner-place.
This fruit of thine by Love is blest, That but a moment lay Where fairer fruit of Love may rest Some happy future day.
I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice, The warmth it thence shall win To riper life may magnetise The baby-oak within.
But thou, while kingdoms overset, Or lapse from hand to hand, Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet Thine acorn in the land.
May never saw dismember thee, Nor wielded axe disjoint, That art the fairest-spoken tree From here to Lizard-point.
O rock upon thy towery-top All throats that gurgle sweet! All starry culmination drop Balm-dews to bathe thy feet! All grass of silky feather grow--- And while he sinks or swells The full south-breeze around thee blow The sound of minster bells.
The fat earth feed thy branchy root, That under deeply strikes! The northern morning o'er thee shoot, High up, in silver spikes! Nor ever lightning char thy grain, But, rolling as in sleep, Low thunders bring the mellow rain, That makes thee broad and deep! And hear me swear a solemn oath, That only by thy side Will I to Olive plight my troth, And gain her for my bride.
And when my marriage morn may fall, She, Dryad-like, shall wear Alternate leaf and acorn-ball In wreath about her hair.
And I will work in prose and rhyme, And praise thee more in both Than bard has honour'd beech or lime, Or that Thessalian growth, In which the swarthy ringdove sat, And mystic sentence spoke; And more than England honours that, Thy famous brother-oak, Wherein the younger Charles abode Till all the paths were dim, And far below the Roundhead rode, And humm'd a surly hymn.
Written by Stephen Dunn | Create an image from this poem

Allegory Of The Cave

 He climbed toward the blinding light
and when his eyes adjusted
he looked down and could see

his fellow prisoners captivated
by shadows; everything he had believed
was false.
And he was suddenly in the 20th century, in the sunlight and violence of history, encumbered by knowledge.
Only a hero would dare return with the truth.
So from the cave's upper reaches, removed from harm, he called out the disturbing news.
What lovely echoes, the prisoners said, what a fine musical place to live.
He spelled it out, then, in clear prose on paper scraps, which he floated down.
But in the semi-dark they read his words with the indulgence of those who seldom read: It's about my father's death, one of them said.
No, said the others, it's a joke.
By this time he no longer was sure of what he'd seen.
Wasn't sunlight a shadow too? Wasn't there always a source behind a source? He just stood there, confused, a man who had moved to larger errors, without a prayer.
Written by Oliver Wendell Holmes | Create an image from this poem

A Familiar Letter

 YES, write, if you want to, there's nothing like trying;
Who knows what a treasure your casket may hold?
I'll show you that rhyming's as easy as lying,
If you'll listen to me while the art I unfold.
Here's a book full of words; one can choose as he fancies, As a painter his tint, as a workman his tool; Just think! all the poems and plays and romances Were drawn out of this, like the fish from a pool! You can wander at will through its syllabled mazes, And take all you want, not a copper they cost,-- What is there to hinder your picking out phrases For an epic as clever as "Paradise Lost"? Don't mind if the index of sense is at zero, Use words that run smoothly, whatever they mean; Leander and Lilian and Lillibullero Are much the same thing in the rhyming machine.
There are words so delicious their sweetness will smother That boarding-school flavor of which we're afraid, There is "lush"is a good one, and "swirl" is another,-- Put both in one stanza, its fortune is made.
With musical murmurs and rhythmical closes You can cheat us of smiles when you've nothing to tell You hand us a nosegay of milliner's roses, And we cry with delight, "Oh, how sweet they do smell!" Perhaps you will answer all needful conditions For winning the laurels to which you aspire, By docking the tails of the two prepositions I' the style o' the bards you so greatly admire.
As for subjects of verse, they are only too plenty For ringing the changes on metrical chimes; A maiden, a moonbeam, a lover of twenty Have filled that great basket with bushels of rhymes.
Let me show you a picture--'t is far from irrelevant-- By a famous old hand in the arts of design; 'T is only a photographed sketch of an elephant,-- The name of the draughtsman was Rembrandt of Rhine.
How easy! no troublesome colors to lay on, It can't have fatigued him,-- no, not in the least,-- A dash here and there with a haphazard crayon, And there stands the wrinkled-skinned, baggy-limbed beast.
Just so with your verse,-- 't is as easy as sketching,-- You can reel off a song without knitting your brow, As lightly as Rembrandt a drawing or etching; It is nothing at all, if you only know how.
Well; imagine you've printed your volume of verses: Your forehead is wreathed with the garland of fame, Your poems the eloquent school-boy rehearses, Her album the school-girl presents for your name; Each morning the post brings you autograph letters; You'll answer them promptly,-- an hour isn't much For the honor of sharing a page with your betters, With magistrates, members of Congress, and such.
Of course you're delighted to serve the committees That come with requests from the country all round, You would grace the occasion with poems and ditties When they've got a new schoolhouse, or poorhouse, or pound.
With a hymn for the saints and a song for the sinners, You go and are welcome wherever you please; You're a privileged guest at all manner of dinners, You've a seat on the platform among the grandees.
At length your mere presence becomes a sensation, Your cup of enjoyment is filled to its brim With the pleasure Horatian of digitmonstration, As the whisper runs round of "That's he!" or "That's him!" But remember, O dealer in phrases sonorous, So daintily chosen, so tunefully matched, Though you soar with the wings of the cherubim o'er us, The ovum was human from which you were hatched.
No will of your own with its puny compulsion Can summon the spirit that quickens the lyre; It comes, if at all, like the Sibyl's convulsion And touches the brain with a finger of fire.
So perhaps, after all, it's as well to he quiet If you've nothing you think is worth saying in prose, As to furnish a meal of their cannibal diet To the critics, by publishing, as you propose.
But it's all of no use, and I'm sorry I've written,-- I shall see your thin volume some day on my shelf; For the rhyming tarantula surely has bitten, And music must cure you, so pipe it yourself.


Written by John Dryden | Create an image from this poem

Mac Flecknoe

 All human things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey:
This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
Was call'd to empire, and had govern'd long:
In prose and verse, was own'd, without dispute
Through all the realms of Non-sense, absolute.
This aged prince now flourishing in peace, And blest with issue of a large increase, Worn out with business, did at length debate To settle the succession of the State: And pond'ring which of all his sons was fit To reign, and wage immortal war with wit; Cry'd, 'tis resolv'd; for nature pleads that he Should only rule, who most resembles me: Shadwell alone my perfect image bears, Mature in dullness from his tender years.
Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he Who stands confirm'd in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence, But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall, Strike through and make a lucid interval; But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray, His rising fogs prevail upon the day: Besides his goodly fabric fills the eye, And seems design'd for thoughtless majesty: Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the plain, And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, Thou last great prophet of tautology: Even I, a dunce of more renown than they, Was sent before but to prepare thy way; And coarsely clad in Norwich drugget came To teach the nations in thy greater name.
My warbling lute, the lute I whilom strung When to King John of Portugal I sung, Was but the prelude to that glorious day, When thou on silver Thames did'st cut thy way, With well tim'd oars before the royal barge, Swell'd with the pride of thy celestial charge; And big with hymn, commander of an host, The like was ne'er in Epsom blankets toss'd.
Methinks I see the new Arion sail, The lute still trembling underneath thy nail.
At thy well sharpen'd thumb from shore to shore The treble squeaks for fear, the basses roar: Echoes from Pissing-Alley, Shadwell call, And Shadwell they resound from Aston Hall.
About thy boat the little fishes throng, As at the morning toast, that floats along.
Sometimes as prince of thy harmonious band Thou wield'st thy papers in thy threshing hand.
St.
Andre's feet ne'er kept more equal time, Not ev'n the feet of thy own Psyche's rhyme: Though they in number as in sense excel; So just, so like tautology they fell, That, pale with envy, Singleton forswore The lute and sword which he in triumph bore And vow'd he ne'er would act Villerius more.
Here stopt the good old sire; and wept for joy In silent raptures of the hopeful boy.
All arguments, but most his plays, persuade, That for anointed dullness he was made.
Close to the walls which fair Augusta bind, (The fair Augusta much to fears inclin'd) An ancient fabric, rais'd t'inform the sight, There stood of yore, and Barbican it hight: A watch tower once; but now, so fate ordains, Of all the pile an empty name remains.
From its old ruins brothel-houses rise, Scenes of lewd loves, and of polluted joys.
Where their vast courts, the mother-strumpets keep, And, undisturb'd by watch, in silence sleep.
Near these a nursery erects its head, Where queens are form'd, and future heroes bred; Where unfledg'd actors learn to laugh and cry, Where infant punks their tender voices try, And little Maximins the gods defy.
Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here, Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear; But gentle Simkin just reception finds Amidst this monument of vanish'd minds: Pure clinches, the suburbian muse affords; And Panton waging harmless war with words.
Here Flecknoe, as a place to fame well known, Ambitiously design'd his Shadwell's throne.
For ancient Decker prophesi'd long since, That in this pile should reign a mighty prince, Born for a scourge of wit, and flail of sense: To whom true dullness should some Psyches owe, But worlds of Misers from his pen should flow; Humorists and hypocrites it should produce, Whole Raymond families, and tribes of Bruce.
Now Empress Fame had publisht the renown, Of Shadwell's coronation through the town.
Rous'd by report of fame, the nations meet, From near Bun-Hill, and distant Watling-street.
No Persian carpets spread th'imperial way, But scatter'd limbs of mangled poets lay: From dusty shops neglected authors come, Martyrs of pies, and reliques of the bum.
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay, But loads of Shadwell almost chok'd the way.
Bilk'd stationers for yeoman stood prepar'd, And Herringman was Captain of the Guard.
The hoary prince in majesty appear'd, High on a throne of his own labours rear'd.
At his right hand our young Ascanius sat Rome's other hope, and pillar of the state.
His brows thick fogs, instead of glories, grace, And lambent dullness play'd around his face.
As Hannibal did to the altars come, Sworn by his sire a mortal foe to Rome; So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be vain, That he till death true dullness would maintain; And in his father's right, and realm's defence, Ne'er to have peace with wit, nor truce with sense.
The king himself the sacred unction made, As king by office, and as priest by trade: In his sinister hand, instead of ball, He plac'd a mighty mug of potent ale; Love's kingdom to his right he did convey, At once his sceptre and his rule of sway; Whose righteous lore the prince had practis'd young, And from whose loins recorded Psyche sprung, His temples last with poppies were o'er spread, That nodding seem'd to consecrate his head: Just at that point of time, if fame not lie, On his left hand twelve reverend owls did fly.
So Romulus, 'tis sung, by Tiber's brook, Presage of sway from twice six vultures took.
Th'admiring throng loud acclamations make, And omens of his future empire take.
The sire then shook the honours of his head, And from his brows damps of oblivion shed Full on the filial dullness: long he stood, Repelling from his breast the raging god; At length burst out in this prophetic mood: Heavens bless my son, from Ireland let him reign To far Barbadoes on the Western main; Of his dominion may no end be known, And greater than his father's be his throne.
Beyond love's kingdom let him stretch his pen; He paus'd, and all the people cry'd Amen.
Then thus, continu'd he, my son advance Still in new impudence, new ignorance.
Success let other teach, learn thou from me Pangs without birth, and fruitless industry.
Let Virtuosos in five years be writ; Yet not one thought accuse thy toil of wit.
Let gentle George in triumph tread the stage, Make Dorimant betray, and Loveit rage; Let Cully, Cockwood, Fopling, charm the pit, And in their folly show the writer's wit.
Yet still thy fools shall stand in thy defence, And justify their author's want of sense.
Let 'em be all by thy own model made Of dullness, and desire no foreign aid: That they to future ages may be known, Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own.
Nay let thy men of wit too be the same, All full of thee, and differing but in name; But let no alien Sedley interpose To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose.
And when false flowers of rhetoric thou would'st cull, Trust Nature, do not labour to be dull; But write thy best, and top; and in each line, Sir Formal's oratory will be thine.
Sir Formal, though unsought, attends thy quill, And does thy Northern Dedications fill.
Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame, By arrogating Jonson's hostile name.
Let Father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise, And Uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part; What share have we in Nature or in Art? Where did his wit on learning fix a brand, And rail at arts he did not understand? Where made he love in Prince Nicander's vein, Or swept the dust in Psyche's humble strain? Where sold he bargains, whip-stitch, kiss my ****, Promis'd a play and dwindled to a farce? When did his muse from Fletcher scenes purloin, As thou whole Eth'ridge dost transfuse to thine? But so transfus'd as oil on waters flow, His always floats above, thine sinks below.
This is thy province, this thy wondrous way, New humours to invent for each new play: This is that boasted bias of thy mind, By which one way, to dullness, 'tis inclin'd, Which makes thy writings lean on one side still, And in all changes that way bends thy will.
Nor let thy mountain belly make pretence Of likeness; thine's a tympany of sense.
A tun of man in thy large bulk is writ, But sure thou 'rt but a kilderkin of wit.
Like mine thy gentle numbers feebly creep, Thy Tragic Muse gives smiles, thy Comic sleep.
With whate'er gall thou sett'st thy self to write, Thy inoffensive satires never bite.
In thy felonious heart, though venom lies, It does but touch thy Irish pen, and dies.
Thy genius calls thee not to purchase fame In keen iambics, but mild anagram: Leave writing plays, and choose for thy command Some peaceful province in acrostic land.
There thou may'st wings display and altars raise, And torture one poor word ten thousand ways.
Or if thou would'st thy diff'rent talents suit, Set thy own songs, and sing them to thy lute.
He said, but his last words were scarcely heard, For Bruce and Longvil had a trap prepar'd, And down they sent the yet declaiming bard.
Sinking he left his drugget robe behind, Born upwards by a subterranean wind.
The mantle fell to the young prophet's part, With double portion of his father's art.
Written by Sidney Lanier | Create an image from this poem

The Crystal

 At midnight, death's and truth's unlocking time,
When far within the spirit's hearing rolls
The great soft rumble of the course of things --
A bulk of silence in a mask of sound, --
When darkness clears our vision that by day
Is sun-blind, and the soul's a ravening owl
For truth and flitteth here and there about
Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft
Is minded for to sit upon a bough,
Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree
And muse in that gaunt place, -- 'twas then my heart,
Deep in the meditative dark, cried out:

"Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-wall'd heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total lustre blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largesse so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.
Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakespeare sole, A hundred hurts a day I do forgive ('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee): Small curious quibble; Juliet's prurient pun In the poor, pale face of Romeo's fancied death; Cold rant of Richard; Henry's fustian roar Which frights away that sleep he invocates; Wronged Valentine's unnatural haste to yield; Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise -- Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind; Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain; Last I forgive (with more delight, because 'Tis more to do) the labored-lewd discourse That e'en thy young invention's youngest heir Besmirched the world with.
Father Homer, thee, Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes Of prose and catalogue, thy drear harangues That tease the patience of the centuries, Thy sleazy scrap of story, -- but a rogue's Rape of a light-o'-love, -- too soiled a patch To broider with the gods.
Thee, Socrates, Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies That were but dandy upside-down, thy words Of truth that, mildlier spoke, had mainlier wrought.
So, Buddha, beautiful! I pardon thee That all the All thou hadst for needy man Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was But not to be.
Worn Dante, I forgive The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed By death, nor time, nor love.
And I forgive Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel, Immortals smite immortals mortalwise And fill all heaven with folly.
Also thee, Brave Aeschylus, thee I forgive, for that Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked, Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love Stands shining.
So, unto thee, Lucretius mine (For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this That's now complaining?), freely I forgive Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth Whose graves eat souls and all.
Yea, all you hearts Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large: Aurelius fine, oft superfine; mild Saint A Kempis, overmild; Epictetus, Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct; Rapt Behmen, rapt too far; high Swedenborg, O'ertoppling; Langley, that with but a touch Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest, now, And most adorable; Caedmon, in the morn A-calling angels with the cow-herd's call That late brought up the cattle; Emerson, Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angels' nerves Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice Since Milton, yet some register of wit Wanting; -- all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked, Your more or less, your little mole that marks You brother and your kinship seals to man.
But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time, But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue, But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love, O perfect life in perfect labor writ, O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest, -- What `if' or `yet', what mole, what flaw, what lapse, What least defect or shadow of defect, What rumor, tattled by an enemy, Of inference loose, what lack of grace Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's, -- Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee, Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?"
Written by Kenneth Koch | Create an image from this poem

One Train May Hide Another

 (sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at Least after the first train is gone.
And so when you read Wait until you have read the next line— Then it is safe to go on reading.
In a family one sister may conceal another, So, when you are courting, it's best to have them all in view Otherwise in coming to find one you may love another.
One father or one brother may hide the man, If you are a woman, whom you have been waiting to love.
So always standing in front of something the other As words stand in front of objects, feelings, and ideas.
One wish may hide another.
And one person's reputation may hide The reputation of another.
One dog may conceal another On a lawn, so if you escape the first one you're not necessarily safe; One lilac may hide another and then a lot of lilacs and on the Appia Antica one tomb May hide a number of other tombs.
In love, one reproach may hide another, One small complaint may hide a great one.
One injustice may hide another—one colonial may hide another, One blaring red uniform another, and another, a whole column.
One bath may hide another bath As when, after bathing, one walks out into the rain.
One idea may hide another: Life is simple Hide Life is incredibly complex, as in the prose of Gertrude Stein One sentence hides another and is another as well.
And in the laboratory One invention may hide another invention, One evening may hide another, one shadow, a nest of shadows.
One dark red, or one blue, or one purple—this is a painting By someone after Matisse.
One waits at the tracks until they pass, These hidden doubles or, sometimes, likenesses.
One identical twin May hide the other.
And there may be even more in there! The obstetrician Gazes at the Valley of the Var.
We used to live there, my wife and I, but One life hid another life.
And now she is gone and I am here.
A vivacious mother hides a gawky daughter.
The daughter hides Her own vivacious daughter in turn.
They are in A railway station and the daughter is holding a bag Bigger than her mother's bag and successfully hides it.
In offering to pick up the daughter's bag one finds oneself confronted by the mother's And has to carry that one, too.
So one hitchhiker May deliberately hide another and one cup of coffee Another, too, until one is over-excited.
One love may hide another love or the same love As when "I love you" suddenly rings false and one discovers The better love lingering behind, as when "I'm full of doubts" Hides "I'm certain about something and it is that" And one dream may hide another as is well known, always, too.
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve may hide the real Adam and Eve.
Jerusalem may hide another Jerusalem.
When you come to something, stop to let it pass So you can see what else is there.
At home, no matter where, Internal tracks pose dangers, too: one memory Certainly hides another, that being what memory is all about, The eternal reverse succession of contemplated entities.
Reading A Sentimental Journey look around When you have finished, for Tristram Shandy, to see If it is standing there, it should be, stronger And more profound and theretofore hidden as Santa Maria Maggiore May be hidden by similar churches inside Rome.
One sidewalk May hide another, as when you're asleep there, and One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs Hide the beating of drums.
One friend may hide another, you sit at the foot of a tree With one and when you get up to leave there is another Whom you'd have preferred to talk to all along.
One teacher, One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man May hide another.
Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one.
It can be important To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.
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