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Best Famous Viper Poems

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Written by Alfred Lord Tennyson | Create an image from this poem

The Grandmother

And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little Anne? Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like a man.
And Willy's wife has written: she never was over-wise, Never the wife for Willy: he would n't take my advice.
For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to save, Had n't a head to manage, and drank himself into his grave.
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for one.
Eh!--but he would n't hear me--and Willy, you say, is gone.
Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the flock; Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a rock.
`Here's a leg for a babe of a week!' says doctor; and he would be bound, There was not his like that year in twenty parishes round.
Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of his tongue! I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to stay; Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far away.
Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard and cold; But all my children have gone before me, I am so old: I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the rest; Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.
For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my dear, All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a tear.
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world of woe, Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.
For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I knew right well That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base little liar! But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the tongue is a fire.
And the parson made it his text that week, and he said likewise, That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies, That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright, But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.
And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week and a day; And all things look'd half-dead, tho' it was the middle of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had been! But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself clean.
And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an evening late I climb'd to the top of the garth, and stood by the road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the dale, And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt the nightingale.
All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of the farm, Willy,--he did n't see me,--and Jenny hung on his arm.
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew how; Ah, there's no fool like the old one -- it makes me angry now.
Willy stood up like a man, and look'd the thing that he meant; Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and went.
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it'll all be the same, You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good name.
And he turn'd, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet moonshine: Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well of ill; But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy still.
' XIV.
`Marry you, Willy!' said I, `but I needs must speak my mind, And I fear you'll listen to tales, be jealous and hard and unkind.
' But he turn'd and claspt me in his arms, and answer'd, `No, love, no;' Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.
So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac gown; And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was born, Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and thorn.
That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of death.
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a wife; But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had fought for his life.
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or pain: I look'd at the still little body--his trouble had all been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another morn: But I wept like a child for the child that was dead before he was born.
But he cheer'd me, my good man, for he seldom said me nay: Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have his way: Never jealous--not he: we had many a happy year; And he died, and I could not weep--my own time seem'd so near.
But I wish'd it had been God's will that I, too, then could have died: I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his side.
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don't forget: But as to the children, Annie, they're all about me yet.
Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at two, Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like you: Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her will, While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing the hill.
And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too--they sing to their team: Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a dream.
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my bed-- I am not always certain if they be alive or dead.
And yet I know for a truth, there's none of them left alive; For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty- five: And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and ten; I knew them all as babies, and now they're elderly men.
For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I grieve; I am oftener sitting at home in my father's farm at eve: And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and so do I; I find myself often laughing at things that have long gone by.
To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make us sad: But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to be had; And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life shall cease; And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of Peace.
And age is a time of peace, so it be free from pain, And happy has been my life; but I would not live it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that's all, and long for rest; Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.
So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my flower; But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for an hour,-- Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the next; I, too, shall go in a minute.
What time have I to be vext? XXVII.
And Willy's wife has written, she never was over-wise.
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past away.
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have long to stay.

Written by John Clare | Create an image from this poem


 See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray'd, And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours, When swains from shearing seek their nightly bow'rs; When weary reapers quit the sultry field, And crown'd with corn, their thanks to Ceres yield.
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides, But in my breast the serpent Love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew, But your Alexis knows no sweets but you.
Oh deign to visit our forsaken seats, The mossy fountains, and the green retreats! Where-e'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade, Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade, Where-e'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise, And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh! How I long with you to pass my days, Invoke the muses, and resound your praise; Your praise the birds shall chant in ev'ry grove, And winds shall waft it to the pow'rs above.
But wou'd you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain, The wond'ring forests soon shou'd dance again, The moving mountains hear the pow'rful call, And headlong streams hang list'ning in their fall! But see, the shepherds shun the noon-day heat, The lowing herds to murm'ring brooks retreat, To closer shades the panting flocks remove, Ye Gods! And is there no relief for Love? But soon the sun with milder rays descends To the cool ocean, where his journey ends; On me Love's fiercer flames for every prey, By night he scorches, as he burns by day.
Written by Anne Kingsmill Finch | Create an image from this poem

The King and the Shepherd

 Through ev'ry Age some Tyrant Passion reigns: 
Now Love prevails, and now Ambition gains 
Reason's lost Throne, and sov'reign Rule maintains.
Tho' beyond Love's, Ambition's Empire goes; For who feels Love, Ambition also knows, And proudly still aspires to be possest Of Her, he thinks superior to the rest.
As cou'd be prov'd, but that our plainer Task Do's no such Toil, or Definitions ask; But to be so rehears'd, as first 'twas told, When such old Stories pleas'd in Days of old.
A King, observing how a Shepherd's Skill Improv'd his Flocks, and did the Pastures fill, That equal Care th' assaulted did defend, And the secur'd and grazing Part attend, Approves the Conduct, and from Sheep and Curs Transfers the Sway, and changed his Wool to Furrs.
Lord-Keeper now, as rightly he divides His just Decrees, and speedily decides; When his sole Neighbor, whilst he watch'd the Fold, A Hermit poor, in Contemplation old, Hastes to his Ear, with safe, but lost Advice, Tells him such Heights are levell'd in a trice, Preferments treach'rous, and her Paths of Ice: And that already sure 't had turn'd his Brain, Who thought a Prince's Favour to retain.
Nor seem'd unlike, in this mistaken Rank, The sightless Wretch, who froze upon a Bank A Serpent found, which for a Staff he took, And us'd as such (his own but lately broke) Thanking the Fates, who thus his Loss supply'd, Nor marking one, that with amazement cry'd, Throw quickly from thy Hand that sleeping Ill; A Serpent 'tis, that when awak'd will kill.
A Serpent this! th' uncaution'd Fool replies: A Staff it feels, nor shall my want of Eyes Make me believe, I have no Senses left, And thro' thy Malice be of this bereft; Which Fortune to my Hand has kindly sent To guide my Steps, and stumbling to prevent.
No Staff, the Man proceeds; but to thy harm A Snake 'twill prove: The Viper, now grown warm Confirm'd it soon, and fasten'd on his Arm.
Thus wilt thou find, Shepherd believe it true, Some Ill, that shall this seeming Good ensue; Thousand Distastes, t' allay thy envy'd Gains, Unthought of, on the parcimonious Plains.
So prov'd the Event, and Whisp'rers now defame The candid Judge, and his Proceedings blame.
By Wrongs, they say, a Palace he erects, The Good oppresses, and the Bad protects.
To view this Seat the King himself prepares, Where no Magnificence or Pomp appears, But Moderation, free from each Extream, Whilst Moderation is the Builder's Theme.
Asham'd yet still the Sycophants persist, That Wealth he had conceal'd within a Chest, Which but attended some convenient Day, To face the Sun, and brighter Beams display.
The Chest unbarr'd, no radiant Gems they find, No secret Sums to foreign Banks design'd, But humble Marks of an obscure Recess, Emblems of Care, and Instruments of Peace; The Hook, the Scrip, and for unblam'd Delight The merry Bagpipe, which, ere fall of Night, Cou'd sympathizing Birds to tuneful Notes invite.
Welcome ye Monuments of former Joys! Welcome! to bless again your Master's Eyes, And draw from Courts, th' instructed Shepherd cries.
No more dear Relicks! we no more will part, You shall my Hands employ, who now revive my Heart.
No Emulations, nor corrupted Times Shall falsely blacken, or seduce to Crimes Him, whom your honest Industry can please, Who on the barren Down can sing from inward Ease.
How's this! the Monarch something mov'd rejoins.
With such low Thoughts, and Freedom from Designs, What made thee leave a Life so fondly priz'd, To be in Crouds, or envy'd, or despis'd? Forgive me, Sir, and Humane Frailty see, The Swain replies, in my past State and Me; All peaceful that, to which I vow return.
But who alas! (tho' mine at length I mourn) Was e'er without the Curse of some Ambition born.
Written by Robert Burns | Create an image from this poem

242. The Poet's Progress

 THOU, Nature, partial Nature, I arraign;
Of thy caprice maternal I complain.
The peopled fold thy kindly care have found, The hornèd bull, tremendous, spurns the ground; The lordly lion has enough and more, The forest trembles at his very roar; Thou giv’st the ass his hide, the snail his shell, The puny wasp, victorious, guards his cell.
Thy minions, kings defend, controul devour, In all th’ omnipotence of rule and power: Foxes and statesmen subtle wiles ensure; The cit and polecat stink, and are secure: Toads with their poison, doctors with their drug, The priest and hedgehog, in their robes, are snug: E’en silly women have defensive arts, Their eyes, their tongues—and nameless other parts.
But O thou cruel stepmother and hard, To thy poor fenceless, naked child, the Bard! A thing unteachable in worldly skill, And half an idiot too, more helpless still: No heels to bear him from the op’ning dun, No claws to dig, his hated sight to shun: No horns, but those by luckless Hymen worn, And those, alas! not Amalthea’s horn: No nerves olfact’ry, true to Mammon’s foot, Or grunting, grub sagacious, evil’s root: The silly sheep that wanders wild astray, Is not more friendless, is not more a prey; Vampyre-booksellers drain him to the heart, And viper-critics cureless venom dart.
Critics! appll’d I venture on the name, Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame, Bloody dissectors, worse than ten Monroes, He hacks to teach, they mangle to expose: By blockhead’s daring into madness stung, His heart by wanton, causeless malice wrung, His well-won ways-than life itself more dear— By miscreants torn who ne’er one sprig must wear; Foil’d, bleeding, tortur’d in th’ unequal strife, The hapless Poet flounces on through life, Till, fled each hope that once his bosom fired, And fled each Muse that glorious once inspir’d, Low-sunk in squalid, unprotected age, Dead even resentment for his injur’d page, He heeds no more the ruthless critics’ rage.
So by some hedge the generous steed deceas’d, For half-starv’d, snarling curs a dainty feast; By toil and famine worn to skin and bone, Lies, senseless of each tugging *****’s son.
· · · · · · A little upright, pert, tart, tripping wight, And still his precious self his dear delight; Who loves his own smart shadow in the streets, Better than e’er the fairest she he meets; Much specious lore, but little understood, (Veneering oft outshines the solid wood), His solid sense, by inches you must tell, But mete his cunning by the Scottish ell! A man of fashion too, he made his tour, Learn’d “vive la bagatelle et vive l’amour;” So travell’d monkeys their grimace improve, Polish their grin-nay, sigh for ladies’ love! His meddling vanity, a busy fiend, Still making work his selfish craft must mend.
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · Crochallan came, The old cock’d hat, the brown surtout—the same; His grisly beard just bristling in its might— ’Twas four long nights and days from shaving-night; His uncomb’d, hoary locks, wild-staring, thatch’d A head, for thought profound and clear, unmatch’d; Yet, tho’ his caustic wit was biting-rude, His heart was warm, benevolent and good.
· · · · · · O Dulness, portion of the truly blest! Calm, shelter’d haven of eternal rest! Thy sons ne’er madden in the fierce extremes Of Fortune’s polar frost, or torrid beams; If mantling high she fills the golden cup, With sober, selfish ease they sip it up; Conscious the bounteous meed they well deserve, They only wonder “some folks” do not starve! The grave, sage hern thus easy picks his frog, And thinks the mallard a sad worthless dog.
When disappointment snaps the thread of Hope, When, thro’ disastrous night, they darkling grope, With deaf endurance sluggishly they bear, And just conclude that “fools are Fortune’s care:” So, heavy, passive to the tempest’s shocks, Strong on the sign-post stands the stupid ox.
Not so the idle Muses’ mad-cap train, Not such the workings of their moon-struck brain; In equanimity they never dwell, By turns in soaring heaven, or vaulted hell!
Written by Andrew Barton Paterson | Create an image from this poem

Johnson's Antidote

 Down along the Snakebite River, where the overlanders camp, 
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp; 
Where the station-cook in terror, nearly every time he bakes, 
Mixes up among the doughboys half-a-dozen poison-snakes: 
Where the wily free-selector walks in armour-plated pants, 
And defies the stings of scorpions, and the bites of bull-dog ants: 
Where the adder and the viper tear each other by the throat,— 
There it was that William Johnson sought his snake-bite antidote.
Johnson was a free-selector, and his brain went rather *****, For the constant sight of serpents filled him with a deadly fear; So he tramped his free-selection, morning, afternoon, and night, Seeking for some great specific that would cure the serpent’s bite.
Till King Billy, of the Mooki, chieftain of the flour-bag head, Told him, “Spos’n snake bite pfeller, pfeller mostly drop down dead; Spos’n snake bite old goanna, then you watch a while you see, Old goanna cure himself with eating little pfeller tree.
” “That’s the cure,” said William Johnson, “point me out this plant sublime,” But King Billy, feeling lazy, said he’d go another time.
Thus it came to pass that Johnson, having got the tale by rote, Followed every stray goanna, seeking for the antidote.
Loafing once beside the river, while he thought his heart would break, There he saw a big goanna fighting with a tiger-snake, In and out they rolled and wriggled, bit each other, heart and soul, Till the valiant old goanna swallowed his opponent whole.
Breathless, Johnson sat and watched him, saw him struggle up the bank, Saw him nibbling at the branches of some bushes, green and rank; Saw him, happy and contented, lick his lips, as off he crept, While the bulging in his stomach showed where his opponent slept.
Then a cheer of exultation burst aloud from Johnson’s throat; “Luck at last,” said he, “I’ve struck it! ’tis the famous antidote.
“Here it is, the Grand Elixir, greatest blessing ever known,— Twenty thousand men in India die each year of snakes alone.
Think of all the foreign nations, negro, chow, and blackamoor, Saved from sudden expiration, by my wondrous snakebite cure.
It will bring me fame and fortune! In the happy days to be, Men of every clime and nation will be round to gaze on me— Scientific men in thousands, men of mark and men of note, Rushing down the Mooki River, after Johnson’s antidote.
It will cure delirium tremens, when the patient’s eyeballs stare At imaginary spiders, snakes which really are not there.
When he thinks he sees them wriggle, when he thinks he sees them bloat, It will cure him just to think of Johnson’s Snakebite Antidote.
” Then he rushed to the museum, found a scientific man— “Trot me out a deadly serpent, just the deadliest you can; I intend to let him bite me, all the risk I will endure, Just to prove the sterling value of my wondrous snakebite cure.
Even though an adder bit me, back to life again I’d float; Snakes are out of date, I tell you, since I’ve found the antidote.
” Said the scientific person, “If you really want to die, Go ahead—but, if you’re doubtful, let your sheep-dog have a try.
Get a pair of dogs and try it, let the snake give both a nip; Give your dog the snakebite mixture, let the other fellow rip; If he dies and yours survives him, then it proves the thing is good.
Will you fetch your dog and try it?” Johnson rather thought he would.
So he went and fetched his canine, hauled him forward by the throat.
“Stump, old man,” says he, “we’ll show them we’ve the genwine antidote.
” Both the dogs were duly loaded with the poison-gland’s contents; Johnson gave his dog the mixture, then sat down to wait events.
“Mark,” he said, “in twenty minutes Stump’ll be a-rushing round, While the other wretched creature lies a corpse upon the ground.
” But, alas for William Johnson! ere they’d watched a half-hour’s spell Stumpy was as dead as mutton, t’other dog was live and well.
And the scientific person hurried off with utmost speed, Tested Johnson’s drug and found it was a deadly poison-weed; Half a tumbler killed an emu, half a spoonful killed a goat, All the snakes on earth were harmless to that awful antidote.
Down along the Mooki River, on the overlanders’ camp, Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp, Wanders, daily, William Johnson, down among those poisonous hordes, Shooting every stray goanna, calls them “black and yaller frauds”.
And King Billy, of the Mooki, cadging for the cast-off coat, Somehow seems to dodge the subject of the snake-bite antidote.

Written by Victor Hugo | Create an image from this poem


 ("Monseigneur le Duc de Bretagne.") 
 {VI., October, 1825.} 

 My lord the Duke of Brittany 
 Has summoned his barons bold— 
 Their names make a fearful litany! 
 Among them you will not meet any 
 But men of giant mould. 
 Proud earls, who dwell in donjon keep, 
 And steel-clad knight and peer, 
 Whose forts are girt with a moat cut deep— 
 But none excel in soldiership 
 My own loved cymbaleer. 
 Clashing his cymbals, forth he went, 
 With a bold and gallant bearing; 
 Sure for a captain he was meant, 
 To judge his pride with courage blent, 
 And the cloth of gold he's wearing. 
 But in my soul since then I feel 
 A fear in secret creeping; 
 And to my patron saint I kneel, 
 That she may recommend his weal 
 To his guardian-angel's keeping. 
 I've begged our abbot Bernardine 
 His prayers not to relax; 
 And to procure him aid divine 
 I've burnt upon Saint Gilda's shrine 
 Three pounds of virgin wax. 
 Our Lady of Loretto knows 
 The pilgrimage I've vowed: 
 "To wear the scallop I propose, 
 If health and safety from the foes 
 My lover be allowed." 
 No letter (fond affection's gage!) 
 From him could I require, 
 The pain of absence to assuage— 
 A vassal-maid can have no page, 
 A liegeman has no squire. 
 This day will witness, with the duke's, 
 My cymbaleer's return: 
 Gladness and pride beam in my looks, 
 Delay my heart impatient brooks, 
 All meaner thoughts I spurn. 
 Back from the battlefield elate 
 His banner brings each peer; 
 Come, let us see, at the ancient gate, 
 The martial triumph pass in state— 
 With the princes my cymbaleer. 
 We'll have from the rampart walls a glance 
 Of the air his steed assumes; 
 His proud neck swells, his glad hoofs prance, 
 And on his head unceasing dance, 
 In a gorgeous tuft, red plumes! 
 Be quick, my sisters! dress in haste! 
 Come, see him bear the bell, 
 With laurels decked, with true love graced, 
 While in his bold hands, fitly placed, 
 The bounding cymbals swell! 
 Mark well the mantle that he'll wear, 
 Embroidered by his bride! 
 Admire his burnished helmet's glare, 
 O'ershadowed by the dark horsehair 
 That waves in jet folds wide! 
 The gypsy (spiteful wench!) foretold, 
 With a voice like a viper hissing. 
 (Though I had crossed her palm with gold), 
 That from the ranks a spirit bold 
 Would be to-day found missing. 
 But I have prayed so much, I trust 
 Her words may prove untrue; 
 Though in a tomb the hag accurst 
 Muttered: "Prepare thee for the worst!" 
 Whilst the lamp burnt ghastly blue. 
 My joy her spells shall not prevent. 
 Hark! I can hear the drums! 
 And ladies fair from silken tent 
 Peep forth, and every eye is bent 
 On the cavalcade that comes! 
 Pikemen, dividing on both flanks, 
 Open the pageantry; 
 Loud, as they tread, their armor clanks, 
 And silk-robed barons lead the ranks— 
 The pink of gallantry! 
 In scarfs of gold the priests admire; 
 The heralds on white steeds; 
 Armorial pride decks their attire, 
 Worn in remembrance of some sire 
 Famed for heroic deeds. 
 Feared by the Paynim's dark divan, 
 The Templars next advance; 
 Then the tall halberds of Lausanne, 
 Foremost to stand in battle van 
 Against the foes of France. 
 Now hail the duke, with radiant brow, 
 Girt with his cavaliers; 
 Round his triumphant banner bow 
 Those of his foe. Look, sisters, now! 
 Here come the cymbaleers! 
 She spoke—with searching eye surveyed 
 Their ranks—then, pale, aghast, 
 Sunk in the crowd! Death came in aid— 
 'Twas mercy to that loving maid— 
 The cymbaleers had passed! 


Written by Algernon Charles Swinburne | Create an image from this poem

Eurydice - To Victor Hugo

 Orpheus, the night is full of tears and cries,
And hardly for the storm and ruin shed
Can even thine eyes be certain of her head
Who never passed out of thy spirit's eyes,
But stood and shone before them in such wise
As when with love her lips and hands were fed,
And with mute mouth out of the dusty dead
Strove to make answer when thou bad'st her rise.
Yet viper-stricken must her lifeblood feel The fang that stung her sleeping, the foul germ Even when she wakes of hell's most poisonous worm, Though now it writhe beneath her wounded heel.
Turn yet, she will not fade nor fly from thee; Wait, and see hell yield up Eurydice.