Edwin Arlington Robinson |
“Do I hear them? Yes, I hear the children singing—and what of it?
Have you come with eyes afire to find me now and ask me that?
If I were not their father and if you were not their mother,
We might believe they made a noise….
What are you—driving at!”
“Well, be glad that you can hear them, and be glad they are so near us,—
For I have heard the stars of heaven, and they were nearer still.
All within an hour it is that I have heard them calling,
And though I pray for them to cease, I know they never will;
For their music on my heart, though you may freeze it, will fall always,
Like summer snow that never melts upon a mountain-top.
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing?
Do you hear the children singing?… God, will you make them stop!”
“And what now in His holy name have you to do with mountains?
We’re back to town again, my dear, and we’ve a dance tonight.
Frozen hearts and falling music? Snow and stars, and—what the devil!
Say it over to me slowly, and be sure you have it right.
“God knows if I be right or wrong in saying what I tell you,
Or if I know the meaning any more of what I say.
All I know is, it will kill me if I try to keep it hidden—
Well, I met him….
Yes, I met him, and I talked with him—today.
“You met him? Did you meet the ghost of someone you had poisoned,
Long ago, before I knew you for the woman that you are?
Take a chair; and don’t begin your stories always in the middle.
Was he man, or was he demon? Anyhow, you’ve gone too far
To go back, and I’m your servant.
I’m the lord, but you’re the master.
Now go on with what you know, for I’m excited.
“Do you mean—
Do you mean to make me try to think that you know less than I do?”
“I know that you foreshadow the beginning of a scene.
Pray be careful, and as accurate as if the doors of heaven
Were to swing or to stay bolted from now on for evermore.
“Do you conceive, with all your smooth contempt of every feeling,
Of hiding what you know and what you must have known before?
Is it worth a woman’s torture to stand here and have you smiling,
With only your poor fetish of possession on your side?
No thing but one is wholly sure, and that’s not one to scare me;
When I meet it I may say to God at last that I have tried.
And yet, for all I know, or all I dare believe, my trials
Henceforward will be more for you to bear than are your own;
And you must give me keys of yours to rooms I have not entered.
Do you see me on your threshold all my life, and there alone?
Will you tell me where you see me in your fancy—when it leads you
Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?”
“Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense
You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you—this?
Look around you and be sorry you’re not living in an attic,
With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent.
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters;
And I grant, if you insist, that I’ve a guess at what you meant.
“Have I told you, then, for nothing, that I met him? Are you trying
To be merry while you try to make me hate you?”
My dear, before you tell me, in a language unbecoming
To a lady, what you plan to tell me next.
If I complain,
If I seem an atom peevish at the preference you mention—
Or imply, to be precise—you may believe, or you may not,
That I’m a trifle more aware of what he wants than you are.
But I shouldn’t throw that at you.
Make believe that I forgot.
Make believe that he’s a genius, if you like,—but in the meantime
Don’t go back to rocking-horses.
There, there, there, now.
When you see me standing helpless on a plank above a whirlpool,
Do I drown, or do I hear you when you say it? Make believe?
How much more am I to say or do for you before I tell you
That I met him! What’s to follow now may be for you to choose.
Do you hear me? Won’t you listen? It’s an easy thing to listen….
“And it’s easy to be crazy when there’s everything to lose.
“If at last you have a notion that I mean what I am saying,
Do I seem to tell you nothing when I tell you I shall try?
If you save me, and I lose him—I don’t know—it won’t much matter.
I dare say that I’ve lied enough, but now I do not lie.
“Do you fancy me the one man who has waited and said nothing
While a wife has dragged an old infatuation from a tomb?
Give the thing a little air and it will vanish into ashes.
There you are—piff! presto!”
“When I came into this room,
It seemed as if I saw the place, and you there at your table,
As you are now at this moment, for the last time in my life;
And I told myself before I came to find you, ‘I shall tell him,
If I can, what I have learned of him since I became his wife.
And if you say, as I’ve no doubt you will before I finish,
That you have tried unceasingly, with all your might and main,
To teach me, knowing more than I of what it was I needed,
Don’t think, with all you may have thought, that you have tried in vain;
For you have taught me more than hides in all the shelves of knowledge
Of how little you found that’s in me and was in me all along.
I believed, if I intruded nothing on you that I cared for,
I’d be half as much as horses,—and it seems that I was wrong;
I believed there was enough of earth in me, with all my nonsense
Over things that made you sleepy, to keep something still awake;
But you taught me soon to read my book, and God knows I have read it—
Ages longer than an angel would have read it for your sake.
I have said that you must open other doors than I have entered,
But I wondered while I said it if I might not be obscure.
Is there anything in all your pedigrees and inventories
With a value more elusive than a dollar’s? Are you sure
That if I starve another year for you I shall be stronger
To endure another like it—and another—till I’m dead?”
“Has your tame cat sold a picture?—or more likely had a windfall?
Or for God’s sake, what’s broke loose? Have you a bee-hive in your head?
A little more of this from you will not be easy hearing
Do you know that? Understand it, if you do; for if you won’t….
What the devil are you saying! Make believe you never said it,
And I’ll say I never heard it….
“If I don’t?”
“There are men who say there’s reason hidden somewhere in a woman,
But I doubt if God himself remembers where the key was hung.
“He may not; for they say that even God himself is growing.
I wonder if He makes believe that He is growing young;
I wonder if He makes believe that women who are giving
All they have in holy loathing to a stranger all their lives
Are the wise ones who build houses in the Bible….
“…Or that souls are any whiter when their bodies are called wives.
If a dollar’s worth of gold will hoop the walls of hell together,
Why need heaven be such a ruin of a place that never was?
And if at last I lied my starving soul away to nothing,
Are you sure you might not miss it? Have you come to such a pass
That you would have me longer in your arms if you discovered
That I made you into someone else….
Oh!…Well, there are worse ways.
But why aim it at my feet—unless you fear you may be sorry….
There are many days ahead of you.
“I do not see those days.
“I can see them.
Granted even I am wrong, there are the children.
And are they to praise their father for his insight if we die?
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing?
Do you hear them? Do you hear the children?”
“Damn the children!”
What have they done?…Well, then,—do it….
Do it now, and have it over.
“Oh, you devil!…Oh, you….
“No, I’m not a devil, I’m a prophet—
One who sees the end already of so much that one end more
Would have now the small importance of one other small illusion,
Which in turn would have a welcome where the rest have gone before.
But if I were you, my fancy would look on a little farther
For the glimpse of a release that may be somewhere still in sight.
Furthermore, you must remember those two hundred invitations
For the dancing after dinner.
We shall have to shine tonight.
We shall dance, and be as happy as a pair of merry spectres,
On the grave of all the lies that we shall never have to tell;
We shall dance among the ruins of the tomb of our endurance,
And I have not a doubt that we shall do it very well.
There!—I’m glad you’ve put it back; for I don’t like it.
Shut the drawer now.
No—no—don’t cancel anything.
I’ll dance until I drop.
I can’t walk yet, but I’m going to….
Go away somewhere, and leave me….
Oh, you children! Oh, you children!…God, will they never stop!”
Ralph Waldo Emerson |
BURLY dozing humble-bee
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique
Far-off heats through seas to seek;
I will follow thee alone 5
Thou animated torrid-zone!
Zigzag steerer desert cheerer
Let me chase thy waving lines;
Keep me nearer me thy hearer
Singing over shrubs and vines.
Insect lover of the sun
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;
Voyager of light and noon; 15
Epicurean of June;
Wait I prithee till I come
Within earshot of thy hum ¡ª
All without is martyrdom.
When the south wind in May days 20
With a net of shining haze
Silvers the horizon wall
And with softness touching all
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance 25
And infusing subtle heats
Turns the sod to violets
Thou in sunny solitudes
Rover of the underwoods
The green silence dost displace 30
With thy mellow breezy bass.
Hot midsummer's petted crone
Sweet to me thy drowsy tone
Tells of countless sunny hours
Long days and solid banks of flowers; 35
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found;
Of Syrian peace immortal leisure
Firmest cheer and bird-like pleasure.
Aught unsavory or unclean 40
Hath my insect never seen;
But violets and bilberry bells
Maple-sap and daffodels
Grass with green flag half-mast high
Succory to match the sky 45
Columbine with horn of honey
Scented fern and agrimony
Clover catchfly adder's-tongue
And brier-roses dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste 50
All was picture as he passed.
Wiser far than human seer
Seeing only what is fair
Sipping only what is sweet 55
Thou dost mock at fate and care
Leave the chaff and take the wheat.
When the fierce northwestern blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast
Thou already slumberest deep; 60
Woe and want thou canst outsleep;
Want and woe which torture us
Thy sleep makes ridiculous.
Charlotte Bronte |
SHE will not sleep, for fear of dreams,
But, rising, quits her restless bed,
And walks where some beclouded beams
Of moonlight through the hall are shed.
Obedient to the goad of grief,
Her steps, now fast, now lingering slow,
In varying motion seek relief
From the Eumenides of woe.
Wringing her hands, at intervals
But long as mute as phantom dim
She glides along the dusky walls,
Under the black oak rafters, grim.
The close air of the grated tower
Stifles a heart that scarce can beat,
And, though so late and lone the hour,
Forth pass her wandering, faltering feet;
And on the pavement, spread before
The long front of the mansion grey,
Her steps imprint the night-frost hoar,
Which pale on grass and granite lay.
Not long she stayed where misty moon
And shimmering stars could on her look,
But through the garden arch-way, soon
Her strange and gloomy path she took.
Some firs, coeval with the tower,
Their straight black boughs stretched o'er her head,
Unseen, beneath this sable bower,
Rustled her dress and rapid tread.
There was an alcove in that shade,
Screening a rustic-seat and stand;
Weary she sat her down and laid
Her hot brow on her burning hand.
To solitude and to the night,
Some words she now, in murmurs, said;
And, trickling through her fingers white,
Some tears of misery she shed.
' God help me, in my grievous need,
God help me, in my inward pain;
Which cannot ask for pity's meed,
Which has no license to complain;
Which must be borne, yet who can bear,
Hours long, days long, a constant weight
The yoke of absolute despair,
A suffering wholly desolate ?
Who can for ever crush the heart,
Restrain its throbbing, curb its life ?
Dissemble truth with ceaseless art,
With outward calm, mask inward strife ?'
She waitedas for some reply;
The still and cloudy night gave none;
Erelong, with deep-drawn, trembling sigh,
Her heavy plaint again begun.
' UnlovedI love; unweptI weep;
Grief I restrainhope I repress:
Vain is this anguishfixed and deep;
Vainer, desires and dreams of bliss.
My love awakes no love again,
My tears collect, and fall unfelt;
My sorrow touches none with pain,
My humble hopes to nothing melt.
For me the universe is dumb,
Stone-deaf, and blank, and wholly blind;
Life I must bound, existence sum
In the strait limits of one mind;
That mind my own.
Oh ! narrow cell;
Darkimagelessa living tomb !
There must I sleep, there wake and dwell
Content, with palsy, pain, and gloom.
Again she paused; a moan of pain,
A stifled sob, alone was heard;
Long silence followedthen again,
Her voice the stagnant midnight stirred.
' Must it be so ? Is this my fate ?
Can I nor struggle, nor contend ?
And am I doomed for years to wait,
Watching death's lingering axe descend ?
And when it falls, and when I die,
What follows ? Vacant nothingness ?
The blank of lost identity ?
Erasure both of pain and bliss ?
I've heard of heavenI would believe;
For if this earth indeed be all,
Who longest lives may deepest grieve,
Most blest, whom sorrows soonest call.
Oh ! leaving disappointment here,
Will man find hope on yonder coast ?
Hope, which, on earth, shines never clear,
And oft in clouds is wholly lost.
Will he hope's source of light behold,
Fruition's spring, where doubts expire,
And drink, in waves of living gold,
Contentment, full, for long desire ?
Will he find bliss, which here he dreamed ?
Rest, which was weariness on earth ?
Knowledge, which, if o'er life it beamed,
Served but to prove it void of worth ?
Will he find love without lust's leaven,
Love fearless, tearless, perfect, pure,
To all with equal bounty given,
In all, unfeigned, unfailing, sure ?
Will he, from penal sufferings free,
Released from shroud and wormy clod,
All calm and glorious, rise and see
Creation's SireExistence' God ?
Then, glancing back on Time's brief woes,
Will he behold them, fading, fly;
Swept from Eternity's repose,
Like sullying cloud, from pure blue sky ?
If soendure, my weary frame;
And when thy anguish strikes too deep,
And when all troubled burns life's flame,
Think of the quiet, final sleep;
Think of the glorious waking-hour,
Which will not dawn on grief and tears,
But on a ransomed spirit's power,
Certain, and free from mortal fears.
Seek now thy couch, and lie till morn,
Then from thy chamber, calm, descend,
With mind nor tossed, nor anguish-torn,
But tranquil, fixed, to wait the end.
And when thy opening eyes shall see
Mementos, on the chamber wall,
Of one who has forgotten thee,
Shed not the tear of acrid gall.
The tear which, welling from the heart,
Burns where its drop corrosive falls,
And makes each nerve, in torture, start,
At feelings it too well recalls:
When the sweet hope of being loved,
Threw Eden sunshine on life's way;
When every sense and feeling proved
Expectancy of brightest day.
When the hand trembled to receive
A thrilling clasp, which seemed so near,
And the heart ventured to believe,
Another heart esteemed it dear.
When words, half love, all tenderness,
Were hourly heard, as hourly spoken,
When the long, sunny days of bliss,
Only by moonlight nights were broken.
Till drop by drop, the cup of joy
Filled full, with purple light, was glowing,
And Faith, which watched it, sparkling high,
Still never dreamt the overflowing.
It fell not with a sudden crashing,
It poured not out like open sluice;
No, sparkling still, and redly flashing,
Drained, drop by drop, the generous juice.
I saw it sink, and strove to taste it,
My eager lips approached the brim;
The movement only seemed to waste it,
It sank to dregs, all harsh and dim.
These I have drank, and they for ever
Have poisoned life and love for me;
A draught from Sodom's lake could never
More fiery, salt, and bitter, be.
Oh ! Love was all a thin illusion;
Joy, but the desert's flying stream;
And, glancing back on long delusion,
My memory grasps a hollow dream.
Yet, whence that wondrous change of feeling,
I never knew, and cannot learn,
Nor why my lover's eye, congealing,
Grew cold, and clouded, proud, and stern.
Nor wherefore, friendship's forms forgetting,
He careless left, and cool withdrew;
Nor spoke of grief, nor fond regretting,
Nor even one glance of comfort threw.
And neither word nor token sending,
Of kindness, since the parting day,
His course, for distant regions bending,
Went, self-contained and calm, away.
Oh, bitter, blighting, keen sensation,
Which will not weaken, cannot die,
Hasten thy work of desolation,
And let my tortured spirit fly !
Vain as the passing gale, my crying;
Though lightning-struck, I must live on;
I know, at heart, there is no dying
Of love, and ruined hope, alone.
Still strong, and young, and warm with vigour,
Though scathed, I long shall greenly grow,
And many a storm of wildest rigour
Shall yet break o'er my shivered bough.
Rebellious now to blank inertion,
My unused strength demands a task;
Travel, and toil, and full exertion,
Are the last, only boon I ask.
Whence, then, this vain and barren dreaming
Of death, and dubious life to come ?
I see a nearer beacon gleaming
Over dejection's sea of gloom.
The very wildness of my sorrow
Tells me I yet have innate force;
My track of life has been too narrow,
Effort shall trace a broader course.
The world is not in yonder tower,
Earth is not prisoned in that room,
'Mid whose dark pannels, hour by hour,
I've sat, the slave and prey of gloom.
One feelingturned to utter anguish,
Is not my being's only aim;
When, lorn and loveless, life will languish,
But courage can revive the flame.
He, when he left me, went a roving
To sunny climes, beyond the sea;
And I, the weight of woe removing,
Am free and fetterless as he.
New scenes, new language, skies less clouded,
May once more wake the wish to live;
Strange, foreign towns, astir, and crowded,
New pictures to the mind may give.
New forms and faces, passing ever,
May hide the one I still retain,
Defined, and fixed, and fading never,
Stamped deep on vision, heart, and brain.
And we might meettime may have changed him;
Chance may reveal the mystery,
The secret influence which estranged him;
Love may restore him yet to me.
False thoughtfalse hopein scorn be banished !
I am not lovednor loved have been;
Recall not, then, the dreams scarce vanished,
Traitors ! mislead me not again !
To words like yours I bid defiance,
'Tis such my mental wreck have made;
Of God alone, and self-reliance,
I ask for solacehope for aid.
Morn comesand ere meridian glory
O'er these, my natal woods, shall smile,
Both lonely wood and mansion hoary
I'll leave behind, full many a mile.
John Dryden |
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.
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.
Edgar Allan Poe |
Thank Heaven! the crisis-
The danger is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last-
And the fever called "Living"
Is conquered at last.
Sadly, I know
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length-
But no matter!-I feel
I am better at length.
And I rest so composedly,
Now, in my bed
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead-
Might start at beholding me,
Thinking me dead.
The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:- ah, that horrible,
The sickness- the nausea-
The pitiless pain-
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain-
With the fever called "Living"
That burned in my brain.
And oh! of all tortures
That torture the worst
Has abated- the terrible
Torture of thirst
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:-
I have drunk of a water
That quenches all thirst:-
Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground-
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.
And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed;
For man never slept
In a different bed-
And, to sleep, you must slumber
In just such a bed.
My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting its roses-
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:
For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies-
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies-
With rue and the beautiful
And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie-
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.
She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast-
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.
When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm-
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.
And I lie so composedly,
Now, in my bed,
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead-
And I rest so contentedly,
Now, in my bed,
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead-
That you shudder to look at me,
Thinking me dead.
But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie-
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie-
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.
Stephen Vincent Benet |
Black trees against an orange sky,
Trees that the wind shook terribly,
Like a harsh spume along the road,
Quavering up like withered arms,
Writhing like streams, like twisted charms
Of hot lead flung in snow.
The iron ice stung like a goad,
Slashing the torn shoes from my feet,
And all the air was bitter sleet.
And all the land was cramped with snow,
Steel-strong and fierce and glimmering wan,
Like pale plains of obsidian.
-- And yet I strove -- and I was fire
And ice -- and fire and ice were one
In one vast hunger of desire.
A dim desire, of pleasant places,
And lush fields in the summer sun,
And logs aflame, and walls, and faces,
-- And wine, and old ambrosial talk,
A golden ball in fountains dancing,
And unforgotten hands.
I trod them down where I have trod,
And they remain, and they remain,
Etched in unutterable pain,
Loved lips and faces now apart,
That once were closer than my heart --
In agony, in agony,
And horribly a part of me.
For Lethe is for no man set,
And in Hell may no man forget.
And there were flowers, and jugs, bright-glancing,
And old Italian swords -- and looks,
A moment's glance of fire, of fire,
Spiring, leaping, flaming higher,
Into the intense, the cloudless blue,
Until two souls were one, and flame,
And very flesh, and yet the same!
As if all springs were crushed anew
Into one globed drop of dew!
But for the most I thought of heat,
Hot white sand
The lazy body lies at rest in,
Or sun-dried, scented grass to nest in,
And fires, innumerable fires,
Great fagots hurling golden gyres
Of sparks far up, and the red heart
In sea-coals, crashing as they part
To tiny flares, and kindling snapping,
Bunched sticks that burst their string and wrapping
And fall like jackstraws; green and blue
The evil flames of driftwood too,
And heavy, sullen lumps of coke
With still, fierce heat and ugly smoke.
And then the vision of his face,
And theirs, all theirs, came like a sword,
Thrice, to the heart -- and as I fell
I thought I saw a light before.
My hands were blue and sore,
Torn on the ice.
I scarcely felt
The frozen sleet begin to melt
Upon my face as I breathed deeper,
But lay there warmly, like a sleeper
Who shifts his arm once, and moans low,
And then sinks back to night.
And still as Death, came Sleep and Death
And looked at me with quiet breath.
Unbending figures, black and stark
Against the intense deeps of the dark.
Tall and like trees.
Like sweet and fire
Rest crept and crept along my veins,
And there were no more pains.
Was it not better so to lie?
The fight was done.
Even gods tire
My way was the wrong.
Now I should drift and drift along
To endless quiet, golden peace .
And let the tortured body cease.
And then a light winked like an eye.
And very many miles away
A girl stood at a warm, lit door,
Holding a lamp.
Ray upon ray
It cloaked the snow with perfect light.
And where she was there was no night
Nor could be, ever.
God is sure,
And in his hands are things secure.
It is not given me to trace
The lovely laughter of that face,
Like a clear brook most full of light,
Or olives swaying on a height,
So silver they have wings, almost;
Like a great word once known and lost
And meaning all things.
Nor her voice
A happy sound where larks rejoice,
Her body, that great loveliness,
The tender fashion of her dress,
I may not paint them.
These I see,
Blazing through all eternity,
A fire-winged sign, a glorious tree!
She stood there, and at once I knew
The bitter thing that I must do.
There could be no surrender now;
Though Sleep and Death were whispering low.
My way was wrong.
Would it mend
If I shrank back before the end?
And sank to death and cowardice?
No, the last lees must be drained up,
Base wine from an ignoble cup;
(Yet not so base as sleek content
When I had shrunk from punishment)
The wretched body strain anew!
Life was a storm to wander through.
I took the wrong way.
Good and well,
At least my feet sought out not Hell!
Though night were one consuming flame
I must go on for my base aim,
And so, perhaps, make evil grow
To something clean by agony .
And reach that light upon the snow .
And touch her dress at last .
I could not speak or see
The ice glared like fire,
A long bright Hell of choking cold,
And each vein was a tautened wire,
Throbbing with torture -- and I crawled.
My hands were wounds.
So I attained
The second Hell.
The snow was stained
I thought, and shook my head at it
How red it was! Black tree-roots clutched
And tore -- and soon the snow was smutched
Anew; and I lurched babbling on,
And then fell down to rest a bit,
And came upon another Hell .
Loose stones that ice made terrible,
That rolled and gashed men as they fell.
I stumbled, slipped .
and all was gone
That I had gained.
Once more I lay
Before the long bright Hell of ice.
And still the light was far away.
There was red mist before my eyes
Or I could tell you how I went
Across the swaying firmament,
A glittering torture of cold stars,
And how I fought in Titan wars .
And died .
and lived again upon
The rack .
and how the horses strain
When their red task is nearly done.
I only know that there was Pain,
Infinite and eternal Pain.
And that I fell -- and rose again.
So she was walking in the road.
And I stood upright like a man,
Once, and fell blind, and heard her cry .
And then there came long agony.
There was no pain when I awoke,
No pain at all.
Rest, like a goad,
Spurred my eyes open -- and light broke
Upon them like a million swords:
And she was there.
There are no words.
Heaven is for a moment's span.
So I spoke and said,
"My honor stands up unbetrayed,
And I have seen you.
Closed like a cloak.
I moaned and died.
Here, even here, these things remain.
I shall draw nearer to her side.
Oh dear and laughing, lost to me,
Hidden in grey Eternity,
I shall attain, with burning feet,
To you and to the mercy-seat!
The ages crumble down like dust,
Dark roses, deviously thrust
And scattered in sweet wine -- but I,
I shall lift up to you my cry,
And kiss your wet lips presently
Beneath the ever-living Tree.
This in my heart I keep for goad!
Somewhere, in Heaven she walks that road.
in Heaven .
she walks .
George (Lord) Byron |
Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise;
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain,
All that the proud can feel of pain,
The agony they do not show,
The suffocating sense of woe,
Which speaks but in its loneliness,
And then is jealous lest the sky
Should have a listener, nor will sigh
Until its voice is echoless.
Titan! to thee the strife was given
Between the suffering and the will,
Which torture where they cannot kill;
And the inexorable Heaven,
And the deaf tyranny of Fate,
The ruling principle of Hate,
Which for its pleasure doth create
The things it may annihilate,
Refus'd thee even the boon to die:
The wretched gift Eternity
Was thine--and thou hast borne it well.
All that the Thunderer wrung from thee
Was but the menace which flung back
On him the torments of thy rack;
The fate thou didst so well foresee,
But would not to appease him tell;
And in thy Silence was his Sentence,
And in his Soul a vain repentance,
And evil dread so ill dissembled,
That in his hand the lightnings trembled.
Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen Man with his own mind;
But baffled as thou wert from high,
Still in thy patient energy,
In the endurance, and repulse
Of thine impenetrable Spirit,
Which Earth and Heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit:
Thou art a symbol and a sign
To Mortals of their fate and force;
Like thee, Man is in part divine,
A troubled stream from a pure source;
And Man in portions can foresee
His own funereal destiny;
His wretchedness, and his resistance,
And his sad unallied existence:
To which his Spirit may oppose
Itself--and equal to all woes,
And a firm will, and a deep sense,
Which even in torture can descry
Its own concenter'd recompense,
Triumphant where it dares defy,
And making Death a Victory.
Robinson Jeffers |
Seventy years ago my mother labored to bear me,
A twelve-pound baby with a big head,
Her first, it was plain torture.
Finally they used the forceps
And dragged me out, with one prong
In my right eye, and slapped and banged me until I breathed.
I am not particularly grateful for it.
As to the eye: it remained invalid and now has a cataract.
It can see gods and spirits in its cloud,
And the weird end of the world: the left one's for common daylight.
As to my mother:
A rather beautiful young woman married to a grim clergyman
Twenty-two years older than she:
She had her little innocent diversions, her little travels in Europe—
And once for scandal kissed the Pope's ring—
Perhaps her life was no emptier than other lives.
Swim in my blood and distort my thought but the old man's welcome.
Rudyard Kipling |
When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale --
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
Man, a bear in most relations-worm and savage otherwise, --
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger --- Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue -- to the scandal of The Sex!
But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same,
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity -- must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions -- not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unchained to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.
She is wedded to convictions -- in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies! --
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
Unprovoked and awful charges -- even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons -- even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish -- like the Jesuit with the squaw!
So it cames that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare nat leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice -- which no woman understands.
And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern -- shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.
Billy Collins |
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.