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Best Famous Wasp Poems

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Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow | Create an image from this poem

Hiawathas Childhood

 Downward through the evening twilight, 
In the days that are forgotten, 
In the unremembered ages, 
From the full moon fell Nokomis, 
Fell the beautiful Nokomis, 
She a wife, but not a mother.
She was sporting with her women, Swinging in a swing of grape-vines, When her rival the rejected, Full of jealousy and hatred, Cut the leafy swing asunder, Cut in twain the twisted grape-vines, And Nokomis fell affrighted Downward through the evening twilight, On the Muskoday, the meadow, On the prairie full of blossoms.
"See! a star falls!" said the people; "From the sky a star is falling!" There among the ferns and mosses, There among the prairie lilies, On the Muskoday, the meadow, In the moonlight and the starlight, Fair Nokomis bore a daughter.
And she called her name Wenonah, As the first-born of her daughters.
And the daughter of Nokomis Grew up like the prairie lilies, Grew a tall and slender maiden, With the beauty of the moonlight, With the beauty of the starlight.
And Nokomis warned her often, Saying oft, and oft repeating, "Oh, beware of Mudjekeewis, Of the West-Wind, Mudjekeewis; Listen not to what he tells you; Lie not down upon the meadow, Stoop not down among the lilies, Lest the West-Wind come and harm you!" But she heeded not the warning, Heeded not those words of wisdom, And the West-Wind came at evening, Walking lightly o'er the prairie, Whispering to the leaves and blossoms, Bending low the flowers and grasses, Found the beautiful Wenonah, Lying there among the lilies, Wooed her with his words of sweetness, Wooed her with his soft caresses, Till she bore a son in sorrow, Bore a son of love and sorrow.
Thus was born my Hiawatha, Thus was born the child of wonder; But the daughter of Nokomis, Hiawatha's gentle mother, In her anguish died deserted By the West-Wind, false and faithless, By the heartless Mudjekeewis.
For her daughter long and loudly Wailed and wept the sad Nokomis; "Oh that I were dead!" she murmured, "Oh that I were dead, as thou art! No more work, and no more weeping, Wahonowin! Wahonowin!" By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest, Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees, Rose the firs with cones upon them; Bright before it beat the water, Beat the clear and sunny water, Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
There the wrinkled old Nokomis Nursed the little Hiawatha, Rocked him in his linden cradle, Bedded soft in moss and rushes, Safely bound with reindeer sinews; Stilled his fretful wail by saying, "Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!" Lulled him into slumber, singing, "Ewa-yea! my little owlet! Who is this, that lights the wigwam? With his great eyes lights the wigwam? Ewa-yea! my little owlet!" Many things Nokomis taught him Of the stars that shine in heaven; Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet, Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses; Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits, Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs, Flaring far away to northward In the frosty nights of Winter; Showed the broad white road in heaven, Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows, Running straight across the heavens, Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.
At the door on summer evenings Sat the little Hiawatha; Heard the whispering of the pine-trees, Heard the lapping of the waters, Sounds of music, words of wonder; 'Minne-wawa!" said the Pine-trees, Mudway-aushka!" said the water.
Saw the fire-fly, Wah-wah-taysee, Flitting through the dusk of evening, With the twinkle of its candle Lighting up the brakes and bushes, And he sang the song of children, Sang the song Nokomis taught him: "Wah-wah-taysee, little fire-fly, Little, flitting, white-fire insect, Little, dancing, white-fire creature, Light me with your little candle, Ere upon my bed I lay me, Ere in sleep I close my eyelids!" Saw the moon rise from the water Rippling, rounding from the water, Saw the flecks and shadows on it, Whispered, "What is that, Nokomis?" And the good Nokomis answered: "Once a warrior, very angry, Seized his grandmother, and threw her Up into the sky at midnight; Right against the moon he threw her; 'T is her body that you see there.
" Saw the rainbow in the heaven, In the eastern sky, the rainbow, Whispered, "What is that, Nokomis?" And the good Nokomis answered: "'T is the heaven of flowers you see there; All the wild-flowers of the forest, All the lilies of the prairie, When on earth they fade and perish, Blossom in that heaven above us.
" When he heard the owls at midnight, Hooting, laughing in the forest, 'What is that?" he cried in terror, "What is that," he said, "Nokomis?" And the good Nokomis answered: "That is but the owl and owlet, Talking in their native language, Talking, scolding at each other.
" Then the little Hiawatha Learned of every bird its language, Learned their names and all their secrets, How they built their nests in Summer, Where they hid themselves in Winter, Talked with them whene'er he met them, Called them "Hiawatha's Chickens.
" Of all beasts he learned the language, Learned their names and all their secrets, How the beavers built their lodges, Where the squirrels hid their acorns, How the reindeer ran so swiftly, Why the rabbit was so timid, Talked with them whene'er he met them, Called them "Hiawatha's Brothers.
" Then Iagoo, the great boaster, He the marvellous story-teller, He the traveller and the talker, He the friend of old Nokomis, Made a bow for Hiawatha; From a branch of ash he made it, From an oak-bough made the arrows, Tipped with flint, and winged with feathers, And the cord he made of deer-skin.
Then he said to Hiawatha: "Go, my son, into the forest, Where the red deer herd together, Kill for us a famous roebuck, Kill for us a deer with antlers!" Forth into the forest straightway All alone walked Hiawatha Proudly, with his bow and arrows; And the birds sang round him, o'er him, "Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!" Sang the robin, the Opechee, Sang the bluebird, the Owaissa, "Do not shoot us, Hiawatha!" Up the oak-tree, close beside him, Sprang the squirrel, Adjidaumo, In and out among the branches, Coughed and chattered from the oak-tree, Laughed, and said between his laughing, "Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!" And the rabbit from his pathway Leaped aside, and at a distance Sat erect upon his haunches, Half in fear and half in frolic, Saying to the little hunter, "Do not shoot me, Hiawatha!" But he heeded not, nor heard them, For his thoughts were with the red deer; On their tracks his eyes were fastened, Leading downward to the river, To the ford across the river, And as one in slumber walked he.
Hidden in the alder-bushes, There he waited till the deer came, Till he saw two antlers lifted, Saw two eyes look from the thicket, Saw two nostrils point to windward, And a deer came down the pathway, Flecked with leafy light and shadow.
And his heart within him fluttered, Trembled like the leaves above him, Like the birch-leaf palpitated, As the deer came down the pathway.
Then, upon one knee uprising, Hiawatha aimed an arrow; Scarce a twig moved with his motion, Scarce a leaf was stirred or rustled, But the wary roebuck started, Stamped with all his hoofs together, Listened with one foot uplifted, Leaped as if to meet the arrow; Ah! the singing, fatal arrow, Like a wasp it buzzed and stung him! Dead he lay there in the forest, By the ford across the river; Beat his timid heart no longer, But the heart of Hiawatha Throbbed and shouted and exulted, As he bore the red deer homeward, And Iagoo and Nokomis Hailed his coming with applauses.
From the red deer's hide Nokomis Made a cloak for Hiawatha, From the red deer's flesh Nokomis Made a banquet to his honor.
All the village came and feasted, All the guests praised Hiawatha, Called him Strong-Heart, Soan-ge-taha! Called him Loon-Heart, Mahn-go-taysee!

Written by Anne Sexton | Create an image from this poem

Doors Doors Doors

Old Man Old man, it's four flights up and for what? Your room is hardly bigger than your bed.
Puffing as you climb, you are a brown woodcut stooped over the thin tail and the wornout tread.
The room will do.
All that's left of the old life is jampacked on shelves from floor to ceiling like a supermarket: your books, your dead wife generously fat in her polished frame, the congealing bowl of cornflakes sagging in their instant milk, your hot plate and your one luxury, a telephone.
You leave your door open, lounging in maroon silk and smiling at the other roomers who live alone.
Well, almost alone.
Through the old-fashioned wall the fellow next door has a girl who comes to call.
Twice a week at noon during their lunch hour they puase by your door to peer into your world.
They speak sadly as if the wine they carry would sour or as if the mattress would not keep them curled together, extravagantly young in their tight lock.
Old man, you are their father holding court in the dingy hall until their alarm clock rings and unwinds them.
You unstopper the quart of brandy you've saved, examining the small print in the telephone book.
The phone in your lap is all that's left of your family name.
Like a Romanoff prince you stay the same in your small alcove off the hall.
Castaway, your time is a flat sea that doesn't stop, with no new land to make for and no new stories to swap.
Seamstress I'm at pains to know what else I could have done but move him out of his parish, him being my son; him being the only one at home since his Pa left us to beat the Japs at Okinawa.
I put the gold star up in the front window beside the flag.
Alterations is what I know and what I did: hems, gussets and seams.
When my boy had the fever and the bad dreams I paid for the clinic exam and a pack of lies.
As a youngster his private parts were undersize.
I thought of his Pa, that muscly old laugh he had and the boy was thin as a moth, but never once bad, as smart as a rooster! To hear some neighbors tell, Your kid! He'll go far.
He'll marry well.
So when he talked of taking the cloth, I thought I'd talk him out of it.
You're all I got, I told him.
For six years he studied up.
I prayed against God Himself for my boy.
But he stayed.
Christ was a hornet inside his head.
I guess I'd better stitch the zipper in this dress.
I guess I'll get along.
I always did.
Across the hall from me's an old invalid, aside of him, a young one -- he carries on with a girl who pretends she comes to use the john.
The old one with the bad breath and his bed all mussed, he smiles and talks to them.
He's got some crust.
Sure as hell, what else could I have done but pack up and move in here, him being my son? 3.
Young Girl Dear love, as simple as some distant evil we walk a little drunk up these three flughts where you tacked a Dufy print above your army cot.
The thin apartment doors on the way up will not tell us.
We are saying, we have our rights and let them see the sandwiches and wine we bought for we do not explain my husband's insane abuse and we do not say why your wild-haired wife has fled or that my father opened like a walnut and then was dead.
Your palms fold over me like knees.
Love is the only use.
Both a little drunk in the afternoon with the forgotten smart of August on our skin we hold hands as if we were still children who trudge up the wooden tower, on up past that close platoon of doors, past the dear old man who always asks us in and the one who sews like a wasp and will not budge.
Climbing the dark halls, I ignore their papers and pails, the twelve coats of rubbish of someone else's dim life.
Tell them need is an excuse for love.
Tell them need prevails.
Tell them I remake and smooth your bed and am your wife.
Written by Etheridge Knight | Create an image from this poem

The Violent Space (Or When Your Sister Sleeps Around For Money)

 Exchange in greed the ungraceful signs.
Thrust The thick notes between green apple breasts.
Then the shadow of the devil descends, The violent space cries and angel eyes, Large and dark, retreat in innocence and in ice.
(Run sister run—the Bugga man comes!) The violent space cries silently, Like you cried wide years ago In another space, speckled by the sun And the leaves of a green plum tree, And you were stung By a red wasp and we flew home.
(Run sister run—the Bugga man comes!) Well, hell, lil sis, wasps still sting.
You are all of seventeen and as alone now In your pain as you were with the sting On your brow.
Well, ****.
lil sis, here we are: You and I and this poem.
And what should I do? should I squat In the dust and make strange markings on the ground? Shall I chant a spell to drive the demon away? (Run sister run—the Bugga man comes!) In the beginning you were the Virgin Mary, And you are the Virgin Mary now.
But somewhere between Nazareth and Bethlehem You lost your name in the nameless void.
"O Mary don't you weep don't you moan" O Mary shake your butt to the violent juke, Absord the demon puke and watch the whites eyes pop, (Run sister run—the Bugga man comes!) And what do I do.
I boil my tears in a twisted spoon And dance like an angel on the point of a needle.
I sit counting syllables like Midas gold.
I am not bold.
I cannot yet take hold of the demon And lift his weight from you black belly, So I grab the air and sing my song.
(But the air cannot stand my singing long.
Written by Marianne Moore | Create an image from this poem

The Pangolin

 Another armored animal--scale
 lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until they
form the uninterrupted central
 tail-row! This near artichoke with head and legs and grit-equipped
the night miniature artist engineer is,
 yes, Leonardo da Vinci's replica--
 impressive animal and toiler of whom we seldom hear.
Armor seems extra.
But for him, the closing ear-ridge-- or bare ear lacking even this small eminence and similarly safe contracting nose and eye apertures impenetrably closable, are not; a true ant-eater, not cockroach eater, who endures exhausting solitary trips through unfamiliar ground at night, returning before sunrise, stepping in the moonlight, on the moonlight peculiarly, that the outside edges of his hands may bear the weight and save the claws for digging.
Serpentined about the tree, he draws away from danger unpugnaciously, with no sound but a harmless hiss; keeping the fragile grace of the Thomas- of-Leighton Buzzard Westminster Abbey wrought-iron vine, or rolls himself into a ball that has power to defy all effort to unroll it; strongly intailed, neat head for core, on neck not breaking off, with curled-in-feet.
Nevertheless he has sting-proof scales; and nest of rocks closed with earth from inside, which can thus darken.
Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast each with a splendor which man in all his vileness cannot set aside; each with an excellence! "Fearfull yet to be feared," the armored ant-eater met by the driver-ant does not turn back, but engulfs what he can, the flattened sword- edged leafpoints on the tail and artichoke set leg- and body-plates quivering violently when it retaliates and swarms on him.
Compact like the furled fringed frill on the hat-brim of Gargallo's hollow iron head of a matador, he will drop and will then walk away unhurt, although if unintruded on, he cautiously works down the tree, helped by his tail.
The giant-pangolin- tail, graceful tool, as a prop or hand or broom or ax, tipped like an elephant's trunkwith special skin, is not lost on this ant- and stone-swallowing uninjurable artichoke which simpletons thought a living fable whom the stones had nourished, whereas ants had done so.
Pangolins are not aggressive animals; between dusk and day they have not unchain-like machine-like form and frictionless creep of a thing made graceful by adversities, con- versities.
To explain grace requires a curious hand.
If that which is at all were not forever, why would those who graced the spires with animals and gathered there to rest, on cold luxurious low stone seats--a monk and monk and monk--between the thus ingenious roof supports, have slaved to confuse grace with a kindly manner, time in which to pay a debt, the cure for sins, a graceful use of what are yet approved stone mullions branching out across the perpendiculars? A sailboat was the first machine.
Pangolins, made for moving quietly also, are models of exactness, on four legs; on hind feet plantigrade, with certain postures of a man.
Beneath sun and moon, man slaving to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers worth having, needing to choose wisely how to use his strength; a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs, like the ant; spidering a length of web from bluffs above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked like the pangolin; capsizing in disheartenment.
Bedizened or stark naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing- masters to this world, griffons a dark "Like does not like like that is abnoxious"; and writes error with four r's.
Among animals, one has sense of humor.
Humor saves a few steps, it saves years.
Unignorant, modest and unemotional, and all emotion, he has everlasting vigor, power to grow, though there are few creatures who can make one breathe faster and make one erecter.
Not afraid of anything is he, and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an obstacle at every step.
Consistent with the formula--warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and a few hairs-- that is a mammal; there he sits on his own habitat, serge-clad, strong-shod.
The prey of fear, he, always curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk, work partly done, says to the alternating blaze, "Again the sun! anew each day; and new and new and new, that comes into and steadies my soul.
Written by David Herbert Lawrence | Create an image from this poem

Tortoise Shell

 The Cross, the Cross
Goes deeper in than we know,
Deeper into life;
Right into the marrow
And through the bone.
Along the back of the baby tortoise The scales are locked in an arch like a bridge, Scale-lapping, like a lobster's sections Or a bee's.
Then crossways down his sides Tiger-stripes and wasp-bands.
Five, and five again, and five again, And round the edges twenty-five little ones, The sections of the baby tortoise shell.
Four, and a keystone; Four, and a keystone; Four, and a keystone; Then twenty-four, and a tiny little keystone.
It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back Of the baby tortoise; Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet, Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise shell.
The first little mathematical gentleman Stepping, wee mite, in his loose trousers Under all the eternal dome of mathematical law.
Fives, and tens, Threes and fours and twelves, All the volte face of decimals, The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.
Turn him on his back, The kicking little beetle, And there again, on his shell-tender, earth-touching belly, The long cleavage of division, upright of the eternal cross And on either side count five, On each side, two above, on each side, two below The dark bar horizontal.
The Cross! It goes right through him, the sprottling insect, Through his cross-wise cloven psyche, Through his five-fold complex-nature.
So turn him over on his toes again; Four pin-point toes, and a problematical thumb-piece, Four rowing limbs, and one wedge-balancing head, Four and one makes five, which is the clue to all mathematics.
The Lord wrote it all down on the little slate Of the baby tortoise.
Outward and visible indication of the plan within, The complex, manifold involvednes,s of an individual creature Plotted out On this small bird, this rudiment, This little dome, this pediment Of all creation, This slow one.

Written by Edward Taylor | Create an image from this poem

Upon A Wasp Chilled With Cold

 The bear that breathes the northern blast
Did numb, torpedo-like, a wasp
Whose stiffened limbs encramped, lay bathing
In Sol's warm breath and shine as saving,
Which with her hands she chafes and stands
Rubbing her legs, shanks, thighs, and hands.
Her pretty toes, and fingers' ends Nipped with this breath, she out extends Unto the sun, in great desire To warm her digits at that fire.
Doth hold her temples in this state Where pulse doth beat, and head doth ache.
Doth turn, and stretch her body small, Doth comb her velvet capital.
As if her little brain pan were A volume of choice precepts clear.
As if her satin jacket hot Contained apothecary's shop Of nature's receipts, that prevails To remedy all her sad ails, As if her velvet helmet high Did turret rationality.
She fans her wing up to the wind As if her pettycoat were lined, With reason's fleece, and hoists sails And humming flies in thankful gales Unto her dun curled palace hall Her warm thanks offering for all.
Lord, clear my misted sight that I May hence view Thy divinity, Some sparks whereof thou up dost hasp Within this little downy wasp In whose small corporation we A school and a schoolmaster see, Where we may learn, and easily find A nimble spirit bravely mind Her work in every limb: and lace It up neat with a vital grace, Acting each part though ne'er so small Here of this fustian animal.
Till I enravished climb into The Godhead on this ladder do, Where all my pipes inspired upraise An heavenly music furred with praise.
Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | Create an image from this poem


 LIGHT human nature is too lightly tost
And ruffled without cause, complaining on--
Restless with rest, until, being overthrown,
It learneth to lie quiet.
Let a frost Or a small wasp have crept to the inner-most Of our ripe peach, or let the wilful sun Shine westward of our window,--straight we run A furlong's sigh as if the world were lost.
But what time through the heart and through the brain God hath transfixed us,--we, so moved before, Attain to a calm.
Ay, shouldering weights of pain, We anchor in deep waters, safe from shore, And hear submissive o'er the stormy main God's chartered judgments walk for evermore.
Written by Robert Lowell | Create an image from this poem

For the Union Dead

 "Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam.
" The old South Boston Aquarium stands in a Sahara of snow now.
Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.
Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass; my hand tingled to burst the bubbles drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.
My hand draws back.
I often sigh still for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom of the fish and reptile.
One morning last March, I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized fence on the Boston Common.
Behind their cage, yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting as they cropped up tons of mush and grass to gouge their underworld garage.
Parking spaces luxuriate like civic sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders braces the tingling Statehouse, shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry on St.
Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief, propped by a plank splint against the garage's earthquake.
Two months after marching through Boston, half the regiment was dead; at the dedication, William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.
Their monument sticks like a fishbone in the city's throat.
Its Colonel is as lean as a compass-needle.
He has an angry wrenlike vigilance, a greyhound's gently tautness; he seems to wince at pleasure, and suffocate for privacy.
He is out of bounds now.
He rejoices in man's lovely, peculiar power to choose life and die-- when he leads his black soldiers to death, he cannot bend his back.
On a thousand small town New England greens, the old white churches hold their air of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier grow slimmer and younger each year-- wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets and muse through their sideburns .
Shaw's father wanted no monument except the ditch, where his son's body was thrown and lost with his "niggers.
" The ditch is nearer.
There are no statues for the last war here; on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph shows Hiroshima boiling over a Mosler Safe, the "Rock of Ages" that survived the blast.
Space is nearer.
When I crouch to my television set, the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.
Colonel Shaw is riding on his bubble, he waits for the bless?d break.
The Aquarium is gone.
Everywhere, giant finned cars nose forward like fish; a savage servility slides by on grease.
Written by Erica Jong | Create an image from this poem

Henry James in the Heart of the City

 We have a small sculpture of Henry James on our terrace in New York City.
Nothing would surprise him.
The beast in the jungle was what he saw-- Edith Wharton's obfuscating older brother.
He fled the demons of Manhattan for fear they would devour his inner ones (the ones who wrote the books) & silence the stifled screams of his protagonists.
To Europe like a wandering Jew-- WASP that he was-- but with the Jew's outsider's hunger.
face pressed up to the glass of sex refusing every passion but the passion to write the words grew more & more complex & convoluted until they utterly imprisoned him in their fairytale brambles.
Language for me is meant to be a transparency, clear water gleaming under a covered bridge.
I love his spiritual sister because she snatched clarity from her murky history.
Tormented New Yorkers both, but she journeyed to the heart of light-- did he? She took her friends on one last voyage, through the isles of Greece on a yacht chartered with her royalties-- a rich girl proud to be making her own money.
The light of the Middle Sea was what she sought.
All denizens of this demonic city caught between pitch and black long for the light.
But she found it in a few of her books.
while Henry James discovered what he had probably started with: that beast, that jungle, that solipsistic scream.
He did not join her on that final cruise.
(He was on his own final cruise).
Did he want to? I would wager yes.
I look back with love and sorrow at them both-- dear teachers-- but she shines like Miss Liberty to Emma Lazarus' hordes, while he gazes within, always, at his own impenetrable jungle.
Written by Robert Browning | Create an image from this poem

The Englishman In Italy

) Fortu, Frotu, my beloved one, Sit here by my side, On my knees put up both little feet! I was sure, if I tried, I could make you laugh spite of Scirocco; Now, open your eyes— Let me keep you amused till he vanish In black from the skies, With telling my memories over As you tell your beads; All the memories plucked at Sorrento —The flowers, or the weeds, Time for rain! for your long hot dry Autumn Had net-worked with brown The white skin of each grape on the bunches, Marked like a quail's crown, Those creatures you make such account of, Whose heads,—specked with white Over brown like a great spider's back, As I told you last night,— Your mother bites off for her supper; Red-ripe as could be.
Pomegranates were chapping and splitting In halves on the tree: And betwixt the loose walls of great flintstone, Or in the thick dust On the path, or straight out of the rock side, Wherever could thrust Some burnt sprig of bold hardy rock-flower Its yellow face up, For the prize were great butterflies fighting, Some five for one cup.
So, I guessed, ere I got up this morning, What change was in store, By the quick rustle-down of the quail-nets Which woke me before I could open my shutter, made fast With a bough and a stone, And look through the twisted dead vine-twigs, Sole lattice that's known! Quick and sharp rang the rings down the net-poles, While, busy beneath, Your priest and his brother tugged at them, The rain in their teeth: And out upon all the flat house-roofs Where split figs lay drying, The girls took the frails under cover: Nor use seemed in trying To get out the boats and go fishing, For, under the cliff, Fierce the black water frothed o'er the blind-rock No seeing our skiff Arrive about noon from Amalfi, —Our fisher arrive, And pitch down his basket before us, All trembling alive With pink and grey jellies, your sea-fruit, —You touch the strange lumps, And mouths gape there, eyes open, all manner Of horns and of humps.
Which only the fisher looks grave at, While round him like imps Cling screaming the children as naked And brown as his shrimps; Himself too as bare to the middle— —You see round his neck The string and its brass coin suspended, That saves him from wreck.
But today not a boat reached Salerno, So back to a man Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards Grape-harvest began: In the vat, half-way up in our house-side, Like blood the juice spins, While your brother all bare-legged is dancing Till breathless he grins Dead-beaten, in effort on effort To keep the grapes under, Since still when he seems all but master, In pours the fresh plunder From girls who keep coming and going With basket on shoulder, And eyes shut against the rain's driving, Your girls that are older,— For under the hedges of aloe, And where, on its bed Of the orchard's black mould, the love-apple Lies pulpy and red, All the young ones are kneeling and filling Their laps with the snails Tempted out by this first rainy weather,— Your best of regales, As tonight will be proved to my sorrow, When, supping in state, We shall feast our grape-gleaners (two dozen, Three over one plate) With lasagne so tempting to swallow In slippery ropes, And gourds fried in great purple slices, That colour of popes.
Meantime, see the grape-bunch they've brought you,— The rain-water slips O'er the heavy blue bloom on each globe Which the wasp to your lips Still follows with fretful persistence— Nay, taste, while awake, This half of a curd-white smooth cheese-ball, That peels, flake by flake, Like an onion's, each smoother and whiter; Next, sip this weak wine From the thin green glass flask, with its stopper, A leaf of the vine,— And end with the prickly-pear's red flesh That leaves through its juice The stony black seeds on your pearl-teeth .
Scirocco is loose! Hark! the quick, whistling pelt of the olives Which, thick in one's track, Tempt the stranger to pick up and bite them, Though not yet half black! How the old twisted olive trunks shudder! The medlars let fall Their hard fruit, and the brittle great fig-trees Snap off, figs and all,— For here comes the whole of the tempest No refuge, but creep Back again to my side and my shoulder, And listen or sleep.
O how will your country show next week When all the vine-boughs Have been stripped of their foliage to pasture The mules and the cows? Last eve, I rode over the mountains; Your brother, my guide, Soon left me, to feast on the myrtles That offered, each side, Their fruit-balls, black, glossy and luscious,— Or strip from the sorbs A treasure, so rosy and wondrous, Of hairy gold orbs! But my mule picked his sure, sober path out, Just stopping to neigh When he recognized down in the valley His mates on their way With the faggots, and barrels of water; And soon we emerged From the plain, where the woods could scarce follow And still as we urged Our way, the woods wondered, and left us, As up still we trudged Though the wild path grew wilder each instant, And place was e'en grudged 'Mid the rock-chasms, and piles of loose stones (Like the loose broken teeth Of some monster, which climbed there to die From the ocean beneath) Place was grudged to the silver-grey fume-weed That clung to the path, And dark rosemary, ever a-dying, That, 'spite the wind's wrath, So loves the salt rock's face to seaward,— And lentisks as staunch To the stone where they root and bear berries,— And.
what shows a branch Coral-coloured, transparent, with circlets Of pale seagreen leaves— Over all trod my mule with the caution Of gleaners o'er sheaves, Still, foot after foot like a lady— So, round after round, He climbed to the top of Calvano, And God's own profound Was above me, and round me the mountains, And under, the sea, And within me, my heart to bear witness What was and shall be! Oh Heaven, and the terrible crystal! No rampart excludes Your eye from the life to be lived In the blue solitudes! Oh, those mountains, their infinite movement! Still moving with you— For, ever some new head and breast of them Thrusts into view To observe the intruder—you see it If quickly you turn And, before they escape you, surprise them— They grudge you should learn How the soft plains they look on, lean over, And love (they pretend) -Cower beneath them; the flat sea-pine crouches The wild fruit-trees bend, E'en the myrtle-leaves curl, shrink and shut— All is silent and grave— 'Tis a sensual and timorous beauty— How fair, but a slave! So, I turned to the sea,—and there slumbered As greenly as ever Those isles of the siren, your Galli; No ages can sever The Three, nor enable their sister To join them,—half-way On the voyage, she looked at Ulysses— No farther today; Though the small one, just launched in the wave, Watches breast-high and steady From under the rock, her bold sister Swum half-way already.
Fortu, shall we sail there together And see from the sides Quite new rocks show their faces—new haunts Where the siren abides? Shall we sail round and round them, close over The rocks, though unseen, That ruffle the grey glassy water To glorious green? Then scramble from splinter to splinter, Reach land and explore, On the largest, the strange square black turret With never a door, Just a loop to admit the quick lizards; Then, stand there and hear The birds' quiet singing, that tells us What life is, so clear! The secret they sang to Ulysses, When, ages ago, He heard and he knew this life's secret, I hear and I know! Ah, see! The sun breaks o'er Calvano— He strikes the great gloom And flutters it o'er the mount's summit In airy gold fume! All is over! Look out, see the gipsy, Our tinker and smith, Has arrived, set up bellows and forge, And down-squatted forthwith To his hammering, under the wall there; One eye keeps aloof The urchins that itch to be putting His jews'-harps to proof, While the other, through locks of curled wire, Is watching how sleek Shines the hog, come to share in the windfalls —An abbot's own cheek! All is over! Wake up and come out now, And down let us go, And see the fine things got in order At Church for the show Of the Sacrament, set forth this evening; Tomorrow's the Feast Of the Rosary's Virgin, by no means Of Virgins the least— As you'll hear in the off-hand discourse Which (all nature, no art) The Dominican brother, these three weeks, Was getting by heart.
Not a post nor a pillar but's dizened With red and blue papers; All the roof waves with ribbons, each altar A-blaze with long tapers; But the great masterpiece is the scaffold Rigged glorious to hold All the fiddlers and fifers and drummers And trumpeters bold, Not afraid of Bellini nor Auber, Who, when the priest's hoarse, Will strike us up something that's brisk For the feast's second course.
And then will the flaxen-wigged Image Be carried in pomp Through the plain, while in gallant procession The priests mean to stomp.
And all round the glad church lie old bottles With gunpowder stopped, Which will be, when the Image re-enters, Religiously popped.
And at night from the crest of Calvano Great bonfires will hang, On the plain will the trumpets join chorus, And more poppers bang! At all events, come—to the garden, As far as the wall, See me tap with a hoe on the plaster Till out there shall fall A scorpion with wide angry nippers! .
"Such trifles"—you say? Fortu, in my England at home, Men meet gravely today And debate, if abolishing Corn-laws Is righteous and wise —If 'tis proper, Scirocco should vanish In black from the skies!