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Best Famous Riddle Poems

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Written by Aleister Crowley | Create an image from this poem

A Birthday

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


Written by Lewis Carroll | Create an image from this poem

Four Riddles

 I 

There was an ancient City, stricken down
With a strange frenzy, and for many a day
They paced from morn to eve the crowded town,
And danced the night away.
I asked the cause: the aged man grew sad: They pointed to a building gray and tall, And hoarsely answered "Step inside, my lad, And then you'll see it all.
" Yet what are all such gaieties to me Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds? x*x + 7x + 53 = 11/3 But something whispered "It will soon be done: Bands cannot always play, nor ladies smile: Endure with patience the distasteful fun For just a little while!" A change came o'er my Vision - it was night: We clove a pathway through a frantic throng: The steeds, wild-plunging, filled us with affright: The chariots whirled along.
Within a marble hall a river ran - A living tide, half muslin and half cloth: And here one mourned a broken wreath or fan, Yet swallowed down her wrath; And here one offered to a thirsty fair (His words half-drowned amid those thunders tuneful) Some frozen viand (there were many there), A tooth-ache in each spoonful.
There comes a happy pause, for human strength Will not endure to dance without cessation; And every one must reach the point at length Of absolute prostration.
At such a moment ladies learn to give, To partners who would urge them over-much, A flat and yet decided negative - Photographers love such.
There comes a welcome summons - hope revives, And fading eyes grow bright, and pulses quicken: Incessant pop the corks, and busy knives Dispense the tongue and chicken.
Flushed with new life, the crowd flows back again: And all is tangled talk and mazy motion - Much like a waving field of golden grain, Or a tempestuous ocean.
And thus they give the time, that Nature meant For peaceful sleep and meditative snores, To ceaseless din and mindless merriment And waste of shoes and floors.
And One (we name him not) that flies the flowers, That dreads the dances, and that shuns the salads, They doom to pass in solitude the hours, Writing acrostic-ballads.
How late it grows! The hour is surely past That should have warned us with its double knock? The twilight wanes, and morning comes at last - "Oh, Uncle, what's o'clock?" The Uncle gravely nods, and wisely winks.
It MAY mean much, but how is one to know? He opens his mouth - yet out of it, methinks, No words of wisdom flow.
II Empress of Art, for thee I twine This wreath with all too slender skill.
Forgive my Muse each halting line, And for the deed accept the will! O day of tears! Whence comes this spectre grim, Parting, like Death's cold river, souls that love? Is not he bound to thee, as thou to him, By vows, unwhispered here, yet heard above? And still it lives, that keen and heavenward flame, Lives in his eye, and trembles in his tone: And these wild words of fury but proclaim A heart that beats for thee, for thee alone! But all is lost: that mighty mind o'erthrown, Like sweet bells jangled, piteous sight to see! "Doubt that the stars are fire," so runs his moan, "Doubt Truth herself, but not my love for thee!" A sadder vision yet: thine aged sire Shaming his hoary locks with treacherous wile! And dost thou now doubt Truth to be a liar? And wilt thou die, that hast forgot to smile? Nay, get thee hence! Leave all thy winsome ways And the faint fragrance of thy scattered flowers: In holy silence wait the appointed days, And weep away the leaden-footed hours.
III.
The air is bright with hues of light And rich with laughter and with singing: Young hearts beat high in ecstasy, And banners wave, and bells are ringing: But silence falls with fading day, And there's an end to mirth and play.
Ah, well-a-day Rest your old bones, ye wrinkled crones! The kettle sings, the firelight dances.
Deep be it quaffed, the magic draught That fills the soul with golden fancies! For Youth and Pleasance will not stay, And ye are withered, worn, and gray.
Ah, well-a-day! O fair cold face! O form of grace, For human passion madly yearning! O weary air of dumb despair, From marble won, to marble turning! "Leave us not thus!" we fondly pray.
"We cannot let thee pass away!" Ah, well-a-day! IV.
My First is singular at best: More plural is my Second: My Third is far the pluralest - So plural-plural, I protest It scarcely can be reckoned! My First is followed by a bird: My Second by believers In magic art: my simple Third Follows, too often, hopes absurd And plausible deceivers.
My First to get at wisdom tries - A failure melancholy! My Second men revered as wise: My Third from heights of wisdom flies To depths of frantic folly.
My First is ageing day by day: My Second's age is ended: My Third enjoys an age, they say, That never seems to fade away, Through centuries extended.
My Whole? I need a poet's pen To paint her myriad phases: The monarch, and the slave, of men - A mountain-summit, and a den Of dark and deadly mazes - A flashing light - a fleeting shade - Beginning, end, and middle Of all that human art hath made Or wit devised! Go, seek HER aid, If you would read my riddle!
Written by Edgar Allan Poe | Create an image from this poem

A Valentine

 For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure Divine- a talisman- an amulet That must be worn at heart.
Search well the measure- The words- the syllables! Do not forget The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor And yet there is in this no Gordian knot Which one might not undo without a sabre, If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet's, too, Its letters, although naturally lying Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando- Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying! You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.
Written by William Blake | Create an image from this poem

Auguries Of Innocence

 To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master's gate Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing, A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf's and lion's howl Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer wandering here and there Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife, And yet forgives the butcher's knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night Speaks the unbeliever's fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly, For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat, Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer's song Poison gets from Slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt Is the sweat of Envy's foot.
The poison of the honey-bee Is the artist's jealousy.
The prince's robes and beggar's rags Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so: Man was made for joy and woe; And when this we rightly know Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands, Throughout all these human lands; Tools were made and born were hands, Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye Becomes a babe in eternity; This is caught by females bright And returned to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath Writes Revenge! in realms of death.
The beggar's rags fluttering in air Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier armed with sword and gun Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more Than all the gold on Afric's shore.
One mite wrung from the labourer's hands Shall buy and sell the miser's lands, Or if protected from on high Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant's faith Shall be mocked in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner who sits so sly Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race Like to the armour's iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plough To peaceful arts shall Envy bow.
A riddle or the cricket's cry Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet's inch and eagle's mile Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt, They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do, But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street Shall weave old England's winding sheet.
The winner's shout, the loser's curse, Dance before dead England's hearse.
Every night and every morn Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie When we see not through the eye Which was born in a night to perish in a night, When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light To those poor souls who dwell in night, But does a human form display To those who dwell in realms of day.
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 Charles Simic | Create an image from this poem

White

 A New Version: 1980

 What is that little black thing I see there
 in the white?
 Walt Whitman


One

Out of poverty
To begin again: 

With the color of the bride
And that of blindness,

Touch what I can
Of the quick,

Speak and then wait,
As if this light

Will continue to linger
On the threshold.
All that is near, I no longer give it a name.
Once a stone hard of hearing, Once sharpened into a knife.
.
.
Now only a chill Slipping through.
Enough glow to kneel by and ask To be tied to its tail When it goes marrying Its cousins, the stars.
Is it a cloud? If it's a cloud it will move on.
The true shape of this thought, Migrant, waning.
Something seeks someone, It bears him a gift Of himself, a bit Of snow to taste, Glimpse of his own nakedness By which to imagine the face.
On a late afternoon of snow In a dim badly-aired grocery, Where a door has just rung With a short, shrill echo, A little boy hands the old, Hard-faced woman Bending low over the counter, A shiny nickel for a cupcake.
Now only that shine, now Only that lull abides.
That your gaze Be merciful, Sister, bride Of my first hopeless insomnia.
Kind nurse, show me The place of salves.
Teach me the song That makes a man rise His glass at dusk Until a star dances in it.
Who are you? Are you anybody A moonrock would recognize? There are words I need.
They are not near men.
I went searching.
Is this a deathmarch? You bend me, bend me, Oh toward what flower! Little-known vowel, Noose big for us all.
As strange as a shepherd In the Arctic Circle.
Someone like Bo-peep.
All his sheep are white And he can't get any sleep Over lost sheep.
And he's got a flute Which says Bo-peep, Which says Poor boy, Take care of your snow-sheep.
to A.
S.
Hamilton Then all's well and white, And no more than white.
Illinois snowbound.
Indiana with one bare tree.
Michigan a storm-cloud.
Wisconsin empty of men.
There's a trap on the ice Laid there centuries ago.
The bait is still fresh.
The metal glitters as the night descends.
Woe, woe, it sings from the bough.
Our Lady, etc.
.
.
You had me hoodwinked.
I see your brand new claws.
Praying, what do I betray By desiring your purity? There are old men and women, All bandaged up, waiting At the spiked, wrought-iron gate Of the Great Eye and Ear Infirmery.
We haven't gone far.
.
.
Fear lives there too.
Five ears of my fingertips Against the white page.
What do you hear? We hear holy nothing Blindfolding itself.
It touched you once, twice, And tore like a stitch Out of a new wound.
Two What are you up to son of a gun? I roast on my heart's dark side.
What do you use as a skewer sweetheart? I use my own crooked backbone.
What do you salt yourself with loverboy? I grind the words out of my spittle.
And how will you know when you're done chump? When the half-moons on my fingernails set.
With what knife will you carve yourself smartass? The one I hide in my tongue's black boot.
Well, you can't call me a wrestler If my own dead weight has me pinned down.
Well, you can't call me a cook If the pot's got me under its cover.
Well, you can't call me a king if the flies hang their hats in my mouth.
Well, you can't call me smart, When the rain's falling my cup's in the cupboard.
Nor can you call me a saint, If I didn't err, there wouldn't be these smudges.
One has to manage as best as one can.
The poppies ate the sunset for supper.
One has to manage as best as one can.
Who stole my blue thread, the one I tied around my pinky to remember? One has to manage as best as one can.
The flea I was standing on, jumped.
One has to manage as best as one can.
I think my head went out for a walk.
One has to manage as best as one can.
This is breath, only breath, Think it over midnight! A fly weighs twice as much.
The struck match nods as it passes, But when I shout, Its true name sticks in my throat.
It has to be cold So the breath turns white, And then mother, who's fast enough To write his life on it? A song in prison And for prisoners, Made of what the condemned Have hidden from the jailers.
White--let me step aside So that the future may see you, For when this sheet is blown away, What else is left But to set the food on the table, To cut oneself a slice of bread? In an unknown year Of an algebraic century, An obscure widow Wrapped in the colors of widowhood, Met a true-blue orphan On an indeterminate street-corner.
She offered him A tiny sugar cube In the hand so wizened All the lines said: fate.
Do you take this line Stretching to infinity? I take this chipped tooth On which to cut it in half.
Do you take this circle Bounded by a single curved line? I take this breath That it cannot capture.
Then you may kiss the spot Where her bridal train last rustled.
Winter can come now, The earth narrow to a ditch-- And the sky with its castles and stone lions Above the empty plains.
The snow can fall.
.
.
What other perennials would you plant, My prodigals, my explorers Tossing and turning in the dark For those remote, finely honed bees, The December stars? Had to get through me elsewhere.
Woe to bone That stood in their way.
Woe to each morsel of flesh.
White ants In a white anthill.
The rustle of their many feet Scurrying--tiptoing too.
Gravedigger ants.
Village-idiot ants.
This is the last summoning.
Solitude--as in the beginning.
A zero burped by a bigger zero-- It's an awful licking I got.
And fear--that dead letter office.
And doubt--that Chinese shadow play.
Does anyone still say a prayer Before going to bed? White sleeplessness.
No one knows its weight.
What The White Had To Say For how could anything white be distinct from or divided from whiteness? Meister Eckhart Because I am the bullet That has gone through everyone already, I thought of you long before you thought of me.
Each one of you still keeps a blood-stained handkerchief In which to swaddle me, but it stays empty And even the wind won't remain in it long.
Cleverly you've invented name after name for me, Mixed the riddles, garbled the proverbs, Shook you loaded dice in a tin cup, But I do not answer back even to your curses, For I am nearer to you than your breath.
One sun shines on us both through a crack in the roof.
A spoon brings me through the window at dawn.
A plate shows me off to the four walls While with my tail I swing at the flies.
But there's no tail and the flies are your thoughts.
Steadily, patiently I life your arms.
I arrange them in the posture of someone drowning, And yet the sea in which you are sinking, And even this night above it, is myself.
Because I am the bullet That has baptized each one of your senses, Poems are made of our lusty wedding nights.
.
.
The joy of words as they are written.
The ear that got up at four in the morning To hear the grass grow inside a word.
Still, the most beautiful riddle has no answer.
I am the emptiness that tucks you in like a mockingbird's nest, The fingernail that scratched on your sleep's blackboard.
Take a letter: From cloud to onion.
Say: There was never any real choice.
One gaunt shadowy mother wiped our asses, The same old orphanage taught us loneliness.
Street-organ full of blue notes, I am the monkey dancing to your grinding-- And still you are afraid-and so, It's as if we had not budged from the beginning.
Time slopes.
We are falling head over heels At the speed of night.
That milk tooth You left under the pillow, it's grinning.
1970-1980 This currently out-of-print edition: Copyright ©1980 Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc.
An earlier version of White was first published by New Rivers Press in 1972.
Written by Andrew Barton Paterson | Create an image from this poem

Song of the Future

 'Tis strange that in a land so strong 
So strong and bold in mighty youth, 
We have no poet's voice of truth 
To sing for us a wondrous song.
Our chiefest singer yet has sung In wild, sweet notes a passing strain, All carelessly and sadly flung To that dull world he thought so vain.
"I care for nothing, good nor bad, My hopes are gone, my pleasures fled, I am but sifting sand," he said: What wonder Gordon's songs were sad! And yet, not always sad and hard; In cheerful mood and light of heart He told the tale of Britomarte, And wrote the Rhyme of Joyous Garde.
And some have said that Nature's face To us is always sad; but these Have never felt the smiling grace Of waving grass and forest trees On sunlit plains as wide as seas.
"A land where dull Despair is king O'er scentless flowers and songless bird!" But we have heard the bell-birds ring Their silver bells at eventide, Like fairies on the mountain side, The sweetest note man ever heard.
The wild thrush lifts a note of mirth; The bronzewing pigeons call and coo Beside their nests the long day through; The magpie warbles clear and strong A joyous, glad, thanksgiving song, For all God's mercies upon earth.
And many voices such as these Are joyful sounds for those to tell, Who know the Bush and love it well, With all its hidden mysteries.
We cannot love the restless sea, That rolls and tosses to and fro Like some fierce creature in its glee; For human weal or human woe It has no touch of sympathy.
For us the bush is never sad: Its myriad voices whisper low, In tones the bushmen only know, Its sympathy and welcome glad.
For us the roving breezes bring From many a blossum-tufted tree -- Where wild bees murmur dreamily -- The honey-laden breath of Spring.
* * * * We have our tales of other days, Good tales the northern wanderers tell When bushmen meet and camp-fires blaze, And round the ring of dancing light The great, dark bush with arms of night Folds every hearer in its spell.
We have our songs -- not songs of strife And hot blood spilt on sea and land; But lilts that link achievement grand To honest toil and valiant life.
Lift ye your faces to the sky Ye barrier mountains in the west Who lie so peacefully at rest Enshrouded in a haze of blue; 'Tis hard to feel that years went by Before the pioneers broke through Your rocky heights and walls of stone, And made your secrets all their own.
For years the fertile Western plains Were hid behind your sullen walls, Your cliffs and crags and waterfalls All weatherworn with tropic rains.
Between the mountains and the sea Like Israelites with staff in hand, The people waited restlessly: They looked towards the mountains old And saw the sunsets come and go With gorgeous golden afterglow, That made the West a fairyland, And marvelled what that West might be Of which such wondrous tales were told.
For tales were told of inland seas Like sullen oceans, salt and dead, And sandy deserts, white and wan, Where never trod the foot of man, Nor bird went winging overhead, Nor ever stirred a gracious breeze To wake the silence with its breath -- A land of loneliness and death.
At length the hardy pioneers By rock and crag found out the way, And woke with voices of today A silence kept for years and tears.
Upon the Western slope they stood And saw -- a wide expanse of plain As far as eye could stretch or see Go rolling westward endlessly.
The native grasses, tall as grain, Bowed, waved and rippled in the breeze; From boughs of blossom-laden trees The parrots answered back again.
They saw the land that it was good, A land of fatness all untrod, And gave their silent thanks to God.
The way is won! The way is won! And straightway from the barren coast There came a westward-marching host, That aye and ever onward prest With eager faces to the West, Along the pathway of the sun.
The mountains saw them marching by: They faced the all-consuming drought, They would not rest in settled land: But, taking each his life in hand, Their faces ever westward bent Beyond the farthest settlement, Responding to the challenge cry of "better country farther out".
And lo, a miracle! the land But yesterday was all unknown, The wild man's boomerang was thrown Where now great busy cities stand.
It was not much, you say, that these Should win their way where none withstood; In sooth there was not much of blood -- No war was fought between the seas.
It was not much! but we who know The strange capricious land they trod -- At times a stricken, parching sod, At times with raging floods beset -- Through which they found their lonely way Are quite content that you should say It was not much, while we can feel That nothing in the ages old, In song or story written yet On Grecian urn or Roman arch, Though it should ring with clash of steel, Could braver histories unfold Than this bush story, yet untold -- The story of their westward march.
* * * * But times are changed, and changes rung From old to new -- the olden days, The old bush life and all its ways, Are passing from us all unsung.
The freedom, and the hopeful sense Of toil that brought due recompense, Of room for all, has passed away, And lies forgotten with the dead.
Within our streets men cry for bread In cities built but yesterday.
About us stretches wealth of land, A boundless wealth of virgin soil As yet unfruitful and untilled! Our willing workmen, strong and skilled, Within our cities idle stand, And cry aloud for leave to toil.
The stunted children come and go In squalid lanes and alleys black: We follow but the beaten track Of other nations, and we grow In wealth for some -- for many, woe.
And it may be that we who live In this new land apart, beyond The hard old world grown fierce and fond And bound by precedent and bond, May read the riddle right, and give New hope to those who dimly see That all things yet shall be for good, And teach the world at length to be One vast united brotherhood.
* * * * So may it be! and he who sings In accents hopeful, clear, and strong, The glories which that future brings Shall sing, indeed, a wondrous song.


Written by Aleister Crowley | Create an image from this poem

The Wizard Way

 [Dedicated to General J.
C.
F.
Fuller] Velvet soft the night-star glowed Over the untrodden road, Through the giant glades of yew Where its ray fell light as dew Lighting up the shimmering veil Maiden pure and aery frail That the spiders wove to hide Blushes of the sylvan bride Earth, that trembled with delight At the male caress of Night.
Velvet soft the wizard trod To the Sabbath of his God.
With his naked feet he made Starry blossoms in the glade, Softly, softly, as he went To the sombre sacrament, Stealthy stepping to the tryst In his gown of amethyst.
Earlier yet his soul had come To the Hill of Martyrdom, Where the charred and crooked stake Like a black envenomed snake By the hangman's hands is thrust Through the wet and writhing dust, Never black and never dried Heart's blood of a suicide.
He had plucked the hazel rod From the rude and goatish god, Even as the curved moon's waning ray Stolen from the King of Day.
He had learnt the elvish sign; Given the Token of the Nine: Once to rave, and once to revel, Once to bow before the devil, Once to swing the thurible, Once to kiss the goat of hell, Once to dance the aspen spring, Once to croak, and once to sing, Once to oil the savoury thighs Of the witch with sea-green eyes With the unguents magical.
Oh the honey and the gall Of that black enchanter's lips As he croons to the eclipse Mingling that most puissant spell Of the giant gods of hell With the four ingredients Of the evil elements; Ambergris from golden spar, Musk of ox from Mongol jar, Civet from a box of jade, Mixed with fat of many a maid Slain by the inchauntments cold Of the witches wild and old.
He had crucified a toad In the basilisk abode, Muttering the Runes averse Mad with many a mocking curse.
He had traced the serpent sigil In his ghastly virgin vigil.
Sursum cor! the elfin hill, Where the wind blows deadly chill From the world that wails beneath Death's black throat and lipless teeth.
There he had stood - his bosom bare - Tracing Life upon the Air With the crook and with the flail Lashing forward on the gale, Till its blade that wavereth Like the flickering of Death Sank before his subtle fence To the starless sea of sense.
Now at last the man is come Haply to his halidom.
Surely as he waves his rod In a circle on the sod Springs the emerald chaste and clean From the duller paler green.
Surely in the circle millions Of immaculate pavilions Flash upon the trembling turf Like the sea-stars in the surf - Millions of bejewelled tents For the warrior sacraments.
Vaster, vaster, vaster, vaster, Grows the stature of the master; All the ringed encampment vies With the infinite galaxies.
In the midst a cubic stone With the Devil set thereon; Hath a lamb's virginal throat; Hath the body of a stoat; Hath the buttocks of a goat; Hath the sanguine face and rod Of a goddess and a god! Spell by spell and pace by pace! Mystic flashes swing and trace Velvet soft the sigils stepped By the silver-starred adept.
Back and front, and to and fro, Soul and body sway and flow In vertiginous caresses To imponderable recesses, Till at last the spell is woven, And the faery veil is cloven That was Sequence, Space, and Stress Of the soul-sick consciousness.
"Give thy body to the beasts! Give thy spirit to the priests! Break in twain the hazel rod On the virgin lips of God! Tear the Rosy Cross asunder! Shatter the black bolt of thunder! Suck the swart ensanguine kiss Of the resolute abyss!" Wonder-weft the wizard heard This intolerable word.
Smote the blasting hazel rod On the scarlet lips of God; Trampled Cross and rosy core; Brake the thunder-tool of Thor; Meek and holy acolyte Of the priestly hells of spite, Sleek and shameless catamite Of the beasts that prowl the night! Like a star that streams from heaven Through the virgin airs light-riven, From the lift there shot and fell An admirable miracle.
Carved minute and clean, a key Of purest lapis-lazuli More blue than the blind sky that aches (Wreathed with the stars, her torturing snakes), For the dead god's kiss that never wakes; Shot with golden specks of fire Like a virgin with desire.
Look, the levers! fern-frail fronds Of fantastic diamonds, Glimmering with ethereal azure In each exquisite embrasure.
On the shaft the letters laced, As if dryads lunar-chaste With the satyrs were embraced, Spelled the secret of the key: Sic pervenias.
And he Went his wizard way, inweaving Dreams of things beyond believing.
When he will, the weary world Of the senses closely curled Like a serpent round his heart Shakes herself and stands apart.
So the heart's blood flames, expanding, Strenuous, urgent, and commanding; And the key unlocks the door Where his love lives evermore.
She is of the faery blood; All smaragdine flows its flood.
Glowing in the amber sky To ensorcelled porphyry She hath eyes of glittering flake Like a cold grey water-snake.
She hath naked breasts of amber Jetting wine in her bed-chamber, Whereof whoso stoops and drinks Rees the riddle of the Sphinx.
She hath naked limbs of amber Whereupon her children clamber.
She hath five navels rosy-red From the five wounds of God that bled; Each wound that mothered her still bleeding, And on that blood her babes are feeding.
Oh! like a rose-winged pelican She hath bred blessed babes to Pan! Oh! like a lion-hued nightingale She hath torn her breast on thorns to avail The barren rose-tree to renew Her life with that disastrous dew, Building the rose o' the world alight With music out of the pale moonlight! O She is like the river of blood That broke from the lips of the bastard god, When he saw the sacred mother smile On the ibis that flew up the foam of Nile Bearing the limbs unblessed, unborn, That the lurking beast of Nile had torn! So (for the world is weary) I These dreadful souls of sense lay by.
I sacrifice these impure shoon To the cold ray of the waning moon.
I take the forked hazel staff, And the rose of no terrene graff, And the lamp of no olive oil With heart's blood that alone may boil.
With naked breast and feet unshod I follow the wizard way to God.
Wherever he leads my foot shall follow; Over the height, into the hollow, Up to the caves of pure cold breath, Down to the deeps of foul hot death, Across the seas, through the fires, Past the palace of desires; Where he will, whether he will or no, If I go, I care not whither I go.
For in me is the taint of the faery blood.
Fast, fast its emerald flood Leaps within me, violent rude Like a bestial faun's beatitude.
In me the faery blood runs hard: My sires were a druid, a devil, a bard, A beast, a wizard, a snake and a satyr; For - as my mother said - what does it matter? She was a fay, pure of the faery; Queen Morgan's daughter by an aery Demon that came to Orkney once To pay the Beetle his orisons.
So, it is I that writhe with the twitch Of the faery blood, and the wizard itch To attain a matter one may not utter Rather than sink in the greasy splutter Of Britons munching their bread and butter; Ailing boys and coarse-grained girls Grown to sloppy women and brutal churls.
So, I am off with staff in hand To the endless light of the nameless land.
Darkness spreads its sombre streams, Blotting out the elfin dreams.
I might haply be afraid, Were it not the Feather-maid Leads me softly by the hand, Whispers me to understand.
Now (when through the world of weeping Light at last starrily creeping Steals upon my babe-new sight, Light - O light that is not light!) On my mouth the lips of her Like a stone on my sepulchre Seal my speech with ecstasy, Till a babe is born of me That is silent more than I; For its inarticulate cry Hushes as its mouth is pressed To the pearl, her honey breast; While its breath divinely ripples The rose-petals of her nipples, And the jetted milk he laps From the soft delicious paps, Sweeter than the bee-sweet showers In the chalice of the flowers, More intoxicating than All the purple grapes of Pan.
Ah! my proper lips are stilled.
Only, all the world is filled With the Echo, that drips over Like the honey from the clover.
Passion, penitence, and pain Seek their mother's womb again, And are born the triple treasure, Peace and purity and pleasure.
- Hush, my child, and come aloft Where the stars are velvet soft!
Written by Anthony Hecht | Create an image from this poem

The Transparent Man

 I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs.
Curtis, And thank you very kindly for this visit-- Especially now when all the others here Are having holiday visitors, and I feel A little conspicuous and in the way.
It's mainly because of Thanksgiving.
All these mothers And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully And feel they should break up their box of chocolates For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.
What they don't understand and never guess Is that it's better for me without a family; It's a great blessing.
Though I mean no harm.
And as for visitors, why, I have you, All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday, Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.
And you always bring even better gifts than any On your book-trolley.
Though they mean only good, Families can become a sort of burden.
I've only got my father, and he won't come, Poor man, because it would be too much for him.
And for me, too, so it's best the way it is.
He knows, you see, that I will predecease him, Which is hard enough.
It would take a callous man To come and stand around and watch me failing.
(Now don't you fuss; we both know the plain facts.
) But for him it's even harder.
He loved my mother.
They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.
Or rather, as I grew older I came to look More and more like she must one time have looked, And so the prospect for my father now Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.
I know he frets about me.
Dr.
Frazer Tells me he phones in every single day, Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.
But with leukemia things don't improve.
It's like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream, A deep, severe, unseasonable winter, Burying everything.
The white blood cells Multiply crazily and storm around, Out of control.
The chemotherapy Hasn't helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.
I know I look a sight, but I don't care.
I care about fewer things; I'm more selective.
It's got so I can't even bring myself To read through any of your books these days.
It's partly weariness, and partly the fact That I seem not to care much about the endings, How things work out, or whether they even do.
What I do instead is sit here by this window And look out at the trees across the way.
You wouldn't think that was much, but let me tell you, It keeps me quite intent and occupied.
Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare, Delicate structures of the sycamores, The fine articulation of the beeches.
I have sat here for days studying them, And I have only just begun to see What it is that they resemble.
One by one, They stand there like magnificent enlargements Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds, Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.
So I've assigned them names.
There, near the path, Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.
This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame, It came to me one day when I remembered Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me When we were girls.
One year her parents gave her A birthday toy called "The Transparent Man.
" It was made of plastic, with different colored organs, And the circulatory system all mapped out In rivers of red and blue.
She'd ask me over And the two of us would sit and study him Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.
I figure he's most likely the only man Either of us would ever get to know Intimately, because Mary Beth became A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.
She must be thirty-one; she was a year Older than I, and about four inches taller.
I used to envy both those advantages Back in those days.
Anyway, I was struck Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy, The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.
But this last week it seems I have found myself Looking beyond, or through, individual trees At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them, Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.
It's become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle And keeps me fascinated.
My eyes are twenty-twenty, Or used to be, but of course I can't unravel The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs, That mackled, cinder grayness.
It's a riddle Beyond the eye's solution.
Impenetrable.
If there is order in all that anarchy Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness, It takes a better eye than mine to see it.
It set me on to wondering how to deal With such a thickness of particulars, Deal with it faithfully, you understand, Without blurring the issue.
Of course I know That within a month the sleeving snows will come With cold, selective emphases, with massings And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled, Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That's when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope that you won't think me plain ungrateful For not selecting one of your fine books, And I take it very kindly that you came And sat here and let me rattle on this way.
Written by Robert Hayden | Create an image from this poem

Perseus

 The Triumph of Wit Over Suffering

Head alone shows you in the prodigious act
Of digesting what centuries alone digest:
The mammoth, lumbering statuary of sorrow,
Indissoluble enough to riddle the guts
Of a whale with holes and holes, and bleed him white
Into salt seas.
Hercules had a simple time, Rinsing those stables: a baby's tears would do it.
But who'd volunteer to gulp the Laocoon, The Dying Gaul and those innumerable pietas Festering on the dim walls of Europe's chapels, Museums and sepulchers? You.
You Who borrowed feathers for your feet, not lead, Not nails, and a mirror to keep the snaky head In safe perspective, could outface the gorgon-grimace Of human agony: a look to numb Limbs: not a basilisk-blink, nor a double whammy, But all the accumulated last grunts, groans, Cries and heroic couplets concluding the million Enacted tragedies on these blood-soaked boards, And every private twinge a hissing asp To petrify your eyes, and every village Catastrophe a writhing length of cobra, And the decline of empires the thick coil of a vast Anacnoda.
Imagine: the world Fisted to a foetus head, ravined, seamed With suffering from conception upwards, and there You have it in hand.
Grit in the eye or a sore Thumb can make anyone wince, but the whole globe Expressive of grief turns gods, like kings, to rocks.
Those rocks, cleft and worn, themselves then grow Ponderous and extend despair on earth's Dark face.
So might rigor mortis come to stiffen All creation, were it not for a bigger belly Still than swallows joy.
You enter now, Armed with feathers to tickle as well as fly, And a fun-house mirror that turns the tragic muse To the beheaded head of a sullen doll, one braid, A bedraggled snake, hanging limp as the absurd mouth Hangs in its lugubious pout.
Where are The classic limbs of stubborn Antigone? The red, royal robes of Phedre? The tear-dazzled Sorrows of Malfi's gentle duchess? Gone In the deep convulsion gripping your face, muscles And sinews bunched, victorious, as the cosmic Laugh does away with the unstitching, plaguey wounds Of an eternal sufferer.
To you Perseus, the palm, and may you poise And repoise until time stop, the celestial balance Which weighs our madness with our sanity.
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