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Best Famous River Poems

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Written by George (Lord) Byron | Create an image from this poem

The Dream

 I

Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power— 
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought, A slumbering thought, is capable of years, And curdles a long life into one hour.
II I saw two beings in the hues of youth Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill, Green and of mild declivity, the last As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such, Save that there was no sea to lave its base, But a most living landscape, and the wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill Was crowned with a peculiar diadem Of trees, in circular array, so fixed, Not by the sport of nature, but of man: These two, a maiden and a youth, were there Gazing—the one on all that was beneath Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her; And both were young, and one was beautiful: And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge, The maid was on the eve of womanhood; The boy had fewer summers, but his heart Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye There was but one beloved face on earth, And that was shining on him; he had looked Upon it till it could not pass away; He had no breath, no being, but in hers: She was his voice; he did not speak to her, But trembled on her words; she was his sight, For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers, Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased To live within himself: she was his life, The ocean to the river of his thoughts, Which terminated all; upon a tone, A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow, And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share: Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much, For brotherless she was, save in the name Her infant friendship had bestowed on him; Herself the solitary scion left Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why? Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved Another; even now she loved another, And on the summit of that hill she stood Looking afar if yet her lover's steed Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
III A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before Its walls there was a steed caparisoned: Within an antique Oratory stood The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone, And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere With a convulsion—then rose again, And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow Into a kind of quiet: as he paused, The Lady of his love re-entered there; She was serene and smiling then, and yet She knew she was by him beloved; she knew— For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp He took her hand; a moment o'er his face A tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced, and then it faded, as it came; He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps Retired, but not as bidding her adieu, For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed From out the massy gate of that old Hall, And mounting on his steed he went his way; And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
IV A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds Of fiery climes he made himself a home, And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt With strange and dusky aspects; he was not Himself like what he had been; on the sea And on the shore he was a wanderer; There was a mass of many images Crowded like waves upon me, but he was A part of all; and in the last he lay Reposing from the noontide sultriness, Couched among fallen columns, in the shade Of ruined walls that had survived the names Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds Were fastened near a fountain; and a man, Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while, While many of his tribe slumbered around: And they were canopied by the blue sky, So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful, That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
V A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One Who did not love her better: in her home, A thousand leagues from his,—her native home, She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy, Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold! Upon her face there was a tint of grief, The settled shadow of an inward strife, And an unquiet drooping of the eye, As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved, And he who had so loved her was not there To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish, Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not, Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved, Nor could he be a part of that which preyed Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
VI A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand Before an altar—with a gentle bride; Her face was fair, but was not that which made The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock That in the antique Oratory shook His bosom in its solitude; and then— As in that hour—a moment o'er his face The tablet of unutterable thoughts Was traced—and then it faded as it came, And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke The fitting vows, but heard not his own words, And all things reeled around him; he could see Not that which was, nor that which should have been— But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall, And the remembered chambers, and the place, The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade, All things pertaining to that place and hour, And her who was his destiny, came back And thrust themselves between him and the light; What business had they there at such a time? VII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed, As by the sickness of the soul; her mind Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes, They had not their own lustre, but the look Which is not of the earth; she was become The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts Were combinations of disjointed things; And forms impalpable and unperceived Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise Have a far deeper madness, and the glance Of melancholy is a fearful gift; What is it but the telescope of truth? Which strips the distance of its fantasies, And brings life near in utter nakedness, Making the cold reality too real! VIII A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore, The beings which surrounded him were gone, Or were at war with him; he was a mark For blight and desolation, compassed round With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed In all which was served up to him, until, Like to the Pontic monarch of old days, He fed on poisons, and they had no power, But were a kind of nutriment; he lived Through that which had been death to many men, And made him friends of mountains; with the stars And the quick Spirit of the Universe He held his dialogues: and they did teach To him the magic of their mysteries; To him the book of Night was opened wide, And voices from the deep abyss revealed A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
IX My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom Of these two creatures should be thus traced out Almost like a reality—the one To end in madness—both in misery.


Written by Rabindranath Tagore | Create an image from this poem

Friend

 Art thou abroad on this stormy night 
on thy journey of love, my friend? 
The sky groans like one in despair.
I have no sleep tonight.
Ever and again I open my door and look out on the darkness, my friend! I can see nothing before me.
I wonder where lies thy path! By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the frowning forest, through what mazy depth of gloom art thou threading thy course to come to me, my friend?
Written by Emily Dickinson | Create an image from this poem

How far is it to Heaven?

 How far is it to Heaven?
As far as Death this way --
Of River or of Ridge beyond
Was no discovery.
How far is it to Hell? As far as Death this way -- How far left hand the Sepulchre Defies Topography.
Written by Carl Sandburg | Create an image from this poem

Happiness

 I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell
me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.
Written by Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

Maple

 Her teacher's certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, "Maple— Maple is right.
" "But teacher told the school There's no such name.
" "Teachers don't know as much As fathers about children, you tell teacher.
You tell her that it's M-A-P-L-E.
You ask her if she knows a maple tree.
Well, you were named after a maple tree.
Your mother named you.
You and she just saw Each other in passing in the room upstairs, One coming this way into life, and one Going the other out of life—you know? So you can't have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard It must have made your dimple there, and said, 'Maple.
' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.
' She nodded.
So we're sure there's no mistake.
I don't know what she wanted it to mean, But it seems like some word she left to bid you Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree's for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn't try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know About the different trees, and something, too, About your mother that perhaps may help.
" Dangerous self-arousing words to sow.
Luckily all she wanted of her name then Was to rebuke her teacher with it next day, And give the teacher a scare as from her father.
Anything further had been wasted on her, Or so he tried to think to avoid blame.
She would forget it.
She all but forgot it.
What he sowed with her slept so long a sleep, And came so near death in the dark of years, That when it woke and came to life again The flower was different from the parent seed.
It carne back vaguely at the glass one day, As she stood saying her name over aloud, Striking it gently across her lowered eyes To make it go well with the way she looked.
What was it about her name? Its strangeness lay In having too much meaning.
Other names, As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie, Signified nothing.
Rose could have a meaning, But hadn't as it went.
(She knew a Rose.
) This difference from other names it was Made people notice it—and notice her.
(They either noticed it, or got it wrong.
) Her problem was to find out what it asked In dress or manner of the girl who bore it.
If she could form some notion of her mother— What she bad thought was lovely, and what good.
This was her mother's childhood home; The house one story high in front, three stories On the end it presented to the road.
(The arrangement made a pleasant sunny cellar.
) Her mother's bedroom was her father's still, Where she could watch her mother's picture fading.
Once she found for a bookmark in the Bible A maple leaf she thought must have been laid In wait for her there.
She read every word Of the two pages it was pressed between, As if it was her mother speaking to her.
But forgot to put the leaf back in closing And lost the place never to read again.
She was sure, though, there had been nothing in it.
So she looked for herself, as everyone Looks for himself, more or less outwardly.
And her self-seeking, fitful though it was, May still have been what led her on to read, And think a little, and get some city schooling.
She learned shorthand, whatever shorthand may Have had to do with it--she sometimes wondered.
So, till she found herself in a strange place For the name Maple to have brought her to, Taking dictation on a paper pad And, in the pauses when she raised her eyes, Watching out of a nineteenth story window An airship laboring with unshiplike motion And a vague all-disturbing roar above the river Beyond the highest city built with hands.
Someone was saying in such natural tones She almost wrote the words down on her knee, "Do you know you remind me of a tree-- A maple tree?" "Because my name is Maple?" "Isn't it Mabel? I thought it was Mabel.
" "No doubt you've heard the office call me Mabel.
I have to let them call me what they like.
" They were both stirred that he should have divined Without the name her personal mystery.
It made it seem as if there must be something She must have missed herself.
So they were married, And took the fancy home with them to live by.
They went on pilgrimage once to her father's (The house one story high in front, three stories On the side it presented to the road) To see if there was not some special tree She might have overlooked.
They could find none, Not so much as a single tree for shade, Let alone grove of trees for sugar orchard.
She told him of the bookmark maple leaf In the big Bible, and all she remembered of the place marked with it—"Wave offering, Something about wave offering, it said.
" "You've never asked your father outright, have you?" "I have, and been Put off sometime, I think.
" (This was her faded memory of the way Once long ago her father had put himself off.
) "Because no telling but it may have been Something between your father and your mother Not meant for us at all.
" "Not meant for me? Where would the fairness be in giving me A name to carry for life and never know The secret of?" "And then it may have been Something a father couldn't tell a daughter As well as could a mother.
And again It may have been their one lapse into fancy 'Twould be too bad to make him sorry for By bringing it up to him when be was too old.
Your father feels us round him with our questing, And holds us off unnecessarily, As if he didn't know what little thing Might lead us on to a discovery.
It was as personal as be could be About the way he saw it was with you To say your mother, bad she lived, would be As far again as from being born to bearing.
" "Just one look more with what you say in mind, And I give up"; which last look came to nothing.
But though they now gave up the search forever, They clung to what one had seen in the other By inspiration.
It proved there was something.
They kept their thoughts away from when the maples Stood uniform in buckets, and the steam Of sap and snow rolled off the sugarhouse.
When they made her related to the maples, It was the tree the autumn fire ran through And swept of leathern leaves, but left the bark Unscorched, unblackened, even, by any smoke.
They always took their holidays in autumn.
Once they came on a maple in a glade, Standing alone with smooth arms lifted up, And every leaf of foliage she'd worn Laid scarlet and pale pink about her feet.
But its age kept them from considering this one.
Twenty-five years ago at Maple's naming It hardly could have been a two-leaved seedling The next cow might have licked up out at pasture.
Could it have been another maple like it? They hovered for a moment near discovery, Figurative enough to see the symbol, But lacking faith in anything to mean The same at different times to different people.
Perhaps a filial diffidence partly kept them From thinking it could be a thing so bridal.
And anyway it came too late for Maple.
She used her hands to cover up her eyes.
"We would not see the secret if we could now: We are not looking for it any more.
" Thus had a name with meaning, given in death, Made a girl's marriage, and ruled in her life.
No matter that the meaning was not clear.
A name with meaning could bring up a child, Taking the child out of the parents' hands.
Better a meaningless name, I should say, As leaving more to nature and happy chance.
Name children some names and see what you do.


Written by Pablo Neruda | Create an image from this poem

Always

 I am not jealous
of what came before me.
Come with a man on your shoulders, come with a hundred men in your hair, come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet, come like a river full of drowned men which flows down to the wild sea, to the eternal surf, to Time! Bring them all to where I am waiting for you; we shall always be alone, we shall always be you and I alone on earth to start our life!
Written by Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

On the Pulse of Morning

(also referred to as The Rock Cries Out To Us Today)

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A river sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, Then forced on bloody feet, Left me to the employment of other seekers-- Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot.
.
.
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river, Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, Into your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
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 Maya Angelou | Create an image from this poem

Inaugural Poem

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no more hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in The bruising darkness, Have lain too long Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me, But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world, A River sings a beautiful song, Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country, Delicate and strangely made proud, Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit Have left collars of waste upon My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside, If you will study war no more.
Come, Clad in peace and I will sing the songs The Creator gave to me when I and the Tree and the stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your Brow and when you yet knew you still Knew nothing.
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear.
They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind.
Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot .
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You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours--your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you.
Give birth again To the dream.
Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most Private need.
Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out And into your sister's eyes, into Your brother's face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning.
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