William Butler Yeats |
Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.
Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.
Henry Van Dyke |
"Do you give thanks for this? -- or that?"
No, God be thanked
I am not grateful
In that cold, calculating way, with blessing ranked
As one, two, three, and four, -- that would be hateful.
I only know that every day brings good above"
My poor deserving;
I only feel that, in the road of Life, true Love
Is leading me along and never swerving.
Whatever gifts and mercies in my lot may fall,
I would not measure
As worth a certain price in praise, or great or small;
But take and use them all with simple pleasure.
For when we gladly eat our daily bread, we bless
The Hand that feeds us;
And when we tread the road of Life in cheerfulness,
Our very heart-beats praise the Love that leads us.
Henry David Thoreau |
Whate'er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God leaves alone.
If with light head erect I sing,
Though all the Muses lend their force,
From my poor love of anything,
The verse is weak and shallow as its source.
But if with bended neck I grope
Listening behind me for my wit,
With faith superior to hope,
More anxious to keep back than forward it;
Making my soul accomplice there
Unto the flame my heart hath lit,
Then will the verse forever wear--
Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ.
Always the general show of things
Floats in review before my mind,
And such true love and reverence brings,
That sometimes I forget that I am blind.
But now there comes unsought, unseen,
Some clear divine electuary,
And I, who had but sensual been,
Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary.
I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before,
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore.
I hear beyond the range of sound,
I see beyond the range of sight,
New earths and skies and seas around,
And in my day the sun doth pale his light.
A clear and ancient harmony
Pierces my soul through all its din,
As through its utmost melody--
Farther behind than they, farther within.
More swift its bolt than lightning is,
Its voice than thunder is more loud,
It doth expand my privacies
To all, and leave me single in the crowd.
It speaks with such authority,
With so serene and lofty tone,
That idle Time runs gadding by,
And leaves me with Eternity alone.
Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life;
Of manhood's strength it is the flower,
'Tis peace's end and war's beginning strife.
It comes in summer's broadest noon,
By a grey wall or some chance place,
Unseasoning Time, insulting June,
And vexing day with its presuming face.
Such fragrance round my couch it makes,
More rich than are Arabian drugs,
That my soul scents its life and wakes
The body up beneath its perfumed rugs.
Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid,
The star that guides our mortal course,
Which shows where life's true kernel's laid,
Its wheat's fine flour, and its undying force.
She with one breath attunes the spheres,
And also my poor human heart,
With one impulse propels the years
Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start.
I will not doubt for evermore,
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For thought the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once He saith.
I will not doubt the love untold
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young, and woos me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.
My memory I'll educate
To know the one historic truth,
Remembering to the latest date
The only true and sole immortal youth.
Be but thy inspiration given,
No matter through what danger sought,
I'll fathom hell or climb to heaven,
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.
Fame cannot tempt the bard
Who's famous with his God,
Nor laurel him reward
Who has his Maker's nod.
Mary Darby Robinson |
Dark was the dawn, and o'er the deep
The boist'rous whirlwinds blew;
The Sea-bird wheel'd its circling sweep,
And all was drear to view--
When on the beach that binds the western shore
The love-lorn ZELMA stood, list'ning the tempest's roar.
Her eager Eyes beheld the main,
While on her DRACO dear
She madly call'd, but call'd in vain,
No sound could DRACO hear,
Save the shrill yelling of the fateful blast,
While ev'ry Seaman's heart, quick shudder'd as it past.
White were the billows, wide display'd
The clouds were black and low;
The Bittern shriek'd, a gliding shade
Seem'd o'er the waves to go !
The livid flash illum'd the clam'rous main,
While ZELMA pour'd, unmark'd, her melancholy strain.
"Be still!" she cried, "loud tempest cease!
"O ! spare the gallant souls:
"The thunder rolls--the winds increase--
"The Sea, like mountains, rolls!
"While, from the deck, the storm worn victims leap,
"And o'er their struggling limbs, the furious billows sweep.
"O! barb'rous Pow'r! relentless Fate!
"Does Heav'n's high will decree
"That some should sleep on beds of state,--
"Some, in the roaring Sea ?
"Some, nurs'd in splendour, deal Oppression's blow,
"While worth and DRACO pine--in Slavery and woe!
"Yon Vessel oft has plough'd the main
"With human traffic fraught;
"Its cargo,--our dark Sons of pain--
"For worldly treasure bought !
"What had they done?--O Nature tell me why--
"Is taunting scorn the lot, of thy dark progeny?
"Thou gav'st, in thy caprice, the Soul
"Nor from the ebon Casket stole
"The Jewel of the mind!
"Then wherefore let the suff'ring Negro's breast
"Bow to his fellow, MAN, in brighter colours drest.
"Is it the dim and glossy hue
"That marks him for despair?--
"While men with blood their hands embrue,
"And mock the wretch's pray'r?
"Shall guiltless Slaves the Scourge of tyrants feel,
"And, e'en before their GOD ! unheard, unpitied kneel.
"Could the proud rulers of the land
"Our Sable race behold;
"Some bow'd by torture's Giant hand
"And others, basely sold !
"Then would they pity Slaves, and cry, with shame,
"Whate'er their TINTS may be, their SOULS are still the same!
"Why seek to mock the Ethiop's face?
"Why goad our hapless kind?
"Can features alienate the race--
"Is there no kindred mind?
"Does not the cheek which vaunts the roseate hue
"Oft blush for crimes, that Ethiops never knew?
"Behold ! the angry waves conspire
"To check the barb'rous toil!
"While wounded Nature's vengeful ire--
"Roars, round this trembling Isle!
"And hark ! her voice re-echoes in the wind--
"Man was not form'd by Heav'n, to trample on his kind!
"Torn from my Mother's aching breast,
"My Tyrant sought my love--
"But, in the Grave shall ZELMA rest,
"E'er she will faithless prove--
"No DRACO!--Thy companion I will be
"To that celestial realm, where Negros shall be free!
"The Tyrant WHITE MAN taught my mind--
"The letter'd page to trace;--
"He taught me in the Soul to find
"No tint, as in the face:
"He bade my Reason, blossom like the tree--
"But fond affection gave, the ripen'd fruits to thee.
"With jealous rage he mark'd my love
"He sent thee far away;--
"And prison'd in the plantain grove--
"Poor ZELMA pass'd the day--
"But ere the moon rose high above the main,
"ZELMA, and Love contriv'd, to break the Tyrant's chain.
"Swift, o'er the plain of burning Sand
"My course I bent to thee;
"And soon I reach'd the billowy strand
"Which bounds the stormy Sea.
"DRACO! my Love! Oh yet, thy ZELMA'S soul
"Springs ardently to thee,--impatient of controul.
"Again the lightning flashes white--
"The rattling cords among!
"Now, by the transient vivid light,
"I mark the frantic throng!
"Now up the tatter'd shrouds my DRACO flies--
While o'er the plunging prow, the curling billows rise.
"The topmast falls--three shackled slaves--
"Cling to the Vessel's side!
"Now lost amid the madd'ning waves--
"Now on the mast they ride--
"See ! on the forecastle my DRACO stands
"And now he waves his chain, now clasps his bleeding hands.
"Why, cruel WHITE-MAN! when away
"My sable Love was torn,
"Why did you let poor ZELMA stay,
On Afric's sands to mourn?
"No ! ZELMA is not left, for she will prove
"In the deep troubled main, her fond--her faithful LOVE.
The lab'ring Ship was now a wreck,
The shrouds were flutt'ring wide!
The rudder gone, the lofty deck
Was rock'd from side to side--
Poor ZELMA'S eyes now dropp'd their last big tear,
While, from her tawny cheek, the blood recoil'd with fear.
Now frantic, on the sands she roam'd,
Now shrieking stop'd to view
Where high the liquid mountains foam'd,
Around the exhausted crew--
'Till, from the deck, her DRACO'S well known form
Sprung mid the yawning waves, and buffetted the Storm.
Long, on the swelling surge sustain'd
Brave DRACO sought the shore,
Watch'd the dark Maid, but ne'er complain'd,
Then sunk, to gaze no more!
Poor ZELMA saw him buried by the wave--
And, with her heart's true Love, plung'd in a wat'ry grave.
Galway Kinnell |
As this plane dragged
its track of used ozone half the world long
thrusts some four hundred of us
toward places where actual known people
live and may wait,
we diminish down in our seats,
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours,
and yet we do not forget for a moment
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter:
where I will meet her again
and know her again,
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars.
Very likely she has always understood
what I have slowly learned,
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away
as one can get on this globe, almost
as far as thoughts can carry - yet still in her presence,
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her
as by things she had already reminded me of,
shadows of her
cast forward and waiting - can I try to express:
that love is hard,
that while many good things are easy, true love is not,
because love is first of all a power,
its own power,
which continually must make its way forward, from night
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult day.
And as the plane descends, it comes to me
in the space
where tears stream down across the stars,
tears fallen on the actual earth
where their shining is what we call spirit,
that once the lover
recognizes the other, knows for the first time
what is most to be valued in another,
from then on, love is very much like courage,
perhaps it is courage, and even
out of old selves, smearing the darkness
of expectation across experience, all of us little
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts
of landing to the imponderable world,
the transoceanic airliner,
resting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly,
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears
all its tires know the home ground.
Helen Hunt Jackson |
Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year's heart all weary grew,
But said: The New Year rest has brought.
The Old Year's hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but trusting, said:
"The blossoms of the New Year's crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.
The Old Year's heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: "I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year's generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all y failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet pace where I leave strife.
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.
Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year's morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old coem true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.
Robert Penn Warren |
In silence the heart raves.
It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
I was ten, skinny, red-headed,
In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat
In front of the drugstore, sipping something
Through a straw.
There is nothing like
It stops your heart.
Thickens your blood.
It stops your breath.
Makes you feel dirty.
You need a hot bath.
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.
How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me.
Named my name.
I thought I would wake up dead.
Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen.
They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop.
Did no work.
Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.
He never came down.
They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.
When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him.
I saw the wedding.
Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable.
I would cry.
I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.
The mortgage was foreclosed.
That last word was whispered.
She never came back.
Sort of drifted off.
Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.
But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once.
I didn't even know she knew it.
Robert Graves |
Love is universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.
Symptoms of true love
Are leanness, jealousy,
Are omens and nightmares -
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign:
For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look.
Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such pain
At any hand but hers?
Sir Walter Scott |
Woman's faith, and woman's trust -
Write the characters in the dust;
Stamp them on the running stream,
Print them on the moon's pale beam,
And each evanescent letter
Shall be clearer, firmer, better,
And more permanent, I ween,
Than the thing those letters mean.
I have strain'd the spider's thread
'Gainst the promise of a maid;
I have weigh'd a grain of sand
'Gainst her plight of heart and hand;
I told my true love of the token,
How her faith proved light, and her word was broken:
Again her word and truth she plight,
And I believed them again ere night.
Rg Gregory |
and off to scott's (the dockers' restaurant)
burly men packed in round solid tables
but what the helle (drowned in hellespont)
this place for me was rich in its own fables
i'll be the lover sunk if that enables
an awesome sense of just how deep the spells
that put scotts for me beyond the dardanelles
lace-curtained windows (or memory plays me false)
no capped odysseus could turn such sirens down
or was it a circean slip that shocked the pulse
all men are pigs when hunger rips the gown
and these men were not there to grace the town
service bustling (no time to take caps off)
hot steaming food and noses in the trough
i loved it deeply squashed in there with you
rough offensive banter bantered back
the smells of sweat and cargoes mixed with stew
and dumplings lamb chops roast beef - what the ****
these toughened men could outdo friar tuck
so ravenous their faith blown off the sea
that god lived in the stomach raucously
perhaps cramped into scotts i felt it most
that you belonged in a living sea of men
who shared the one blood-vision of a coast
tides washed you to but washed you off again
too much history made the struggle plain
but all the time there was this rough-hewn glimmer
that truth wore dirty clothes and ate its dinner
at midday - scotts was a parliament of sorts
where what was said had not the solid weight
of what was felt (or what was eaten) courts
bewigged and stuffed with pomp of state
were brushed aside in favour of the plate
but those who entered hungry came out wise
unspoken resolutions mulled like pies
and then the tram ride home (if we were lucky -
and nothing during the day had caused despair)
trams had a gift about them that was snaky
wriggling their straitened ways from lair to lair
they hissed upon their wires and flashed the air
they swallowed people whole and spewed them out
and most engorged in them became devout
you either believed in trams or thought them heathen
savage contraptions that shook you to your roots
on busy jaunts there was no room for breathing
damn dignity - rapt flesh was in cahoots
all sexes fused from head-scarves to their boots
and somewhere in the melee children pressed
shoulders to crotches noses to the rest
and in light-headed periods trams debunked
the classier lissome ways of shifting freight
emptied of pomp their anarchy instinct
they'd rattle down their tracks at such a rate
they'd writhe their upper structures like an eight
being drawn by revelling legless topers
strict rails (they claimed) gave sanction for such capers
trams had this kind of catholic conviction
the end ordained their waywardness was blessed
if tramways claimed per se this benediction
who cared if errant trams at times seemed pissed
religions prosper from the hedonist
who shags the world by day and prays at night
those drunken trams still brim me with delight
to climb the twisted stairs and seek a seat
as tram got under way through sozzled rotors
and find olympia vacant at my feet
(the gods too razzled by the rasping motors
- the sharps of life too much for absolutors)
would send me skeltering along the aisle
king of the upper world for one short while
and all the shaking rolling raucous gait
of this metallic serpent sizzling through
the maze of shoppy streets (o dizzy state)
sprinkled my heart-strings with ambrosial dew
(well tell a lie but such a wish will do)
and i'd be gloried as if leviathan
said hop on nip and sped me to japan
so back to earth - the tram that netley day
would be quite sober bumbling through the town
the rush-hour gone and night still on its way
mum lil and baby (babies) would stay down
and we'd be up the top - too tired to clown
our bodies glowed (a warm contentment brewed)
burnt backs nor aching legs could pop that mood
i lay in bed one day my joints subsiding
lost in a day-dream rhythmed by my heart
medicine-time (a pleasure not abiding)
i did my best to play the sleeping part
then at my back a nurse's rustling skirt
a bending breeze (all breathing held in check)
and then she blew sweet eddies down my neck
the nurse (of all) whose presence turned the winter
to summer's morning (cool before the sun)
who touched the quick with such exquisite splinter
the wince was there but no great hurt was done
she moved like silk the finest loom had spun
the ward went dark when she was gone or late
and i was seven longing to be eight
that whispering down my spine by scented lips
threw wants and hopes my way that stewed my mind
a draught drunk down in paradisal sips
stirred passages in me not then defined
at three i'd touched the grail with fingers blind
to heart-ache - this nurse though first described the gates
to elysium where grown-up love pupates
but soon a cloud knocked pristine sex aback
(i had to learn the hard way nothing's easy)
i went my own route off the sanctioned track
and came distraught - in fact distinctly queasy
without permission (both nonchalant and breezy)
i sailed from bed to have a pee (or worse)
and got locked in - and drew that nurse's curse
not only hers but all the fussing staff's
for daring such a voyage in my state
whose heart just then was not a bag of laughs
did i not understand the fist of fate
that waited naughty boys who could not wait
thunderous gods glared through the quaking panes
a corporate wrath set back my growing pains
forget the scented lips the creeping bliss
of such a nurse's presence on my flesh
locked in i'd been an hour or more amiss
they thought i'd done a bunk or slipped the leash
when found i'd gone all blue like frozen fish
those scented lips discharged their angry bile
and cupid's dart fell short a scornful mile
come christmas day the christmas tree was bright
its mothering arms held glittering gifts for all
and i was seven longing to be eight
and i was given a large pink fluffy ball
my spirit shrank into the nearest wall
true love reduced to this insulting gimcrack
my pumped-up heart was punctured by a tintack