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Best Famous William Morris Poems

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Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

The Doomed Ship

 The doomed ship drives on helpless through the sea, 
All that the mariners may do is done 
And death is left for men to gaze upon, 
While side by side two friends sit silently; 
Friends once, foes once, and now by death made free 
Of Love and Hate, of all things lost or won; 
Yet still the wonder of that strife bygone 
Clouds all the hope or horror that may be.
Thus, Sorrow, are we sitting side by side Amid this welter of the grey despair, Nor have we images of foul or fair To vex, save of thy kissed face of a bride, Thy scornful face of tears when I was tried, And failed neath pain I was not made to bear.

Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Sir Galahad a Christmas Mystery

 It is the longest night in all the year,
Near on the day when the Lord Christ was born;
Six hours ago I came and sat down here,
And ponder'd sadly, wearied and forlorn.
The winter wind that pass'd the chapel door, Sang out a moody tune, that went right well With mine own thoughts: I look'd down on the floor, Between my feet, until I heard a bell Sound a long way off through the forest deep, And toll on steadily; a drowsiness Came on me, so that I fell half asleep, As I sat there not moving: less and less I saw the melted snow that hung in beads Upon my steel-shoes; less and less I saw Between the tiles the bunches of small weeds: Heartless and stupid, with no touch of awe Upon me, half-shut eyes upon the ground, I thought: O Galahad! the days go by, Stop and cast up now that which you have found, So sorely you have wrought and painfully.
Night after night your horse treads down alone The sere damp fern, night after night you sit Holding the bridle like a man of stone, Dismal, unfriended: what thing comes of it? And what if Palomydes also ride, And over many a mountain and bare heath Follow the questing beast with none beside? Is he not able still to hold his breath With thoughts of Iseult? doth he not grow pale With weary striving, to seem best of all To her, "as she is best," he saith? to fail Is nothing to him, he can never fall.
For unto such a man love-sorrow is So dear a thing unto his constant heart, That even if he never win one kiss, Or touch from Iseult, it will never part.
And he will never know her to be worse Than in his happiest dreams he thinks she is: Good knight, and faithful, you have 'scaped the curse In wonderful-wise; you have great store of bliss.
Yea, what if Father Launcelot ride out, Can he not think of Guenevere's arms, round Warm and lithe, about his neck, and shout Till all the place grows joyful with the sound? And when he lists can often see her face, And think, "Next month I kiss you, or next week, And still you think of me": therefore the place Grows very pleasant, whatsoever he seek.
But me, who ride alone, some carle shall find Dead in my arms in the half-melted snow, When all unkindly with the shifting wind, The thaw comes on at Candlemas: I know Indeed that they will say: "This Galahad If he had lived had been a right good knight; Ah! poor chaste body!" but they will be glad, Not most alone, but all, when in their sight That very evening in their scarlet sleeves The gay-dress'd minstrels sing; no maid will talk Of sitting on my tomb, until the leaves, Grown big upon the bushes of the walk, East of the Palace-pleasaunce, make it hard To see the minster therefrom: well-a-day! Before the trees by autumn were well bared, I saw a damozel with gentle play, Within that very walk say last farewell To her dear knight, just riding out to find (Why should I choke to say it?) the Sangreal, And their last kisses sunk into my mind, Yea, for she stood lean'd forward on his breast, Rather, scarce stood; the back of one dear hand, That it might well be kiss'd, she held and press'd Against his lips; long time they stood there, fann'd By gentle gusts of quiet frosty wind, Till Mador de la porte a-going by, And my own horsehoofs roused them; they untwined, And parted like a dream.
In this way I, With sleepy face bent to the chapel floor, Kept musing half asleep, till suddenly A sharp bell rang from close beside the door, And I leapt up when something pass'd me by, Shrill ringing going with it, still half blind I stagger'd after, a great sense of awe At every step kept gathering on my mind, Thereat I have no marvel, for I saw One sitting on the altar as a throne, Whose face no man could say he did not know, And though the bell still rang, he sat alone, With raiment half blood-red, half white as snow.
Right so I fell upon the floor and knelt, Not as one kneels in church when mass is said, But in a heap, quite nerveless, for I felt The first time what a thing was perfect dread.
But mightily the gentle voice came down: "Rise up, and look and listen, Galahad, Good knight of God, for you will see no frown Upon my face; I come to make you glad.
"For that you say that you are all alone, I will be with you always, and fear not You are uncared for, though no maiden moan Above your empty tomb; for Launcelot, "He in good time shall be my servant too, Meantime, take note whose sword first made him knight, And who has loved him alway, yea, and who Still trusts him alway, though in all men's sight, "He is just what you know, O Galahad, This love is happy even as you say, But would you for a little time be glad, To make ME sorry long, day after day? "Her warm arms round his neck half throttle ME, The hot love-tears burn deep like spots of lead, Yea, and the years pass quick: right dismally Will Launcelot at one time hang his head; "Yea, old and shrivell'd he shall win my love.
Poor Palomydes fretting out his soul! Not always is he able, son, to move His love, and do it honour: needs must roll "The proudest destrier sometimes in the dust, And then 'tis weary work; he strives beside Seem better than he is, so that his trust Is always on what chances may betide; "And so he wears away, my servant, too, When all these things are gone, and wretchedly He sits and longs to moan for Iseult, who Is no care now to Palomydes: see, "O good son, Galahad, upon this day, Now even, all these things are on your side, But these you fight not for; look up, I say, And see how I can love you, for no pride "Closes your eyes, no vain lust keeps them down.
See now you have ME always; following That holy vision, Galahad, go on, Until at last you come to ME to sing "In Heaven always, and to walk around The garden where I am.
" He ceased, my face And wretched body fell upon the ground; And when I look'd again, the holy place Was empty; but right so the bell again Came to the chapel-door, there entered Two angels first, in white, without a stain, And scarlet wings, then, after them, a bed Four ladies bore, and set it down beneath The very altar-step, and while for fear I scarcely dared to move or draw my breath, Those holy ladies gently came a-near, And quite unarm'd me, saying: "Galahad, Rest here awhile and sleep, and take no thought Of any other thing than being glad; Hither the Sangreal will be shortly brought, "Yet must you sleep the while it stayeth here.
" Right so they went away, and I, being weary, Slept long and dream'd of Heaven: the bell comes near, I doubt it grows to morning.
Miserere! [Enter Two Angels in white, with scarlet wings; also, Four Ladies in gowns of red and green; also an Angel, bearing in his hands a surcoat of white, with a red cross.
] AN ANGEL O servant of the high God, Galahad! Rise and be arm'd: the Sangreal is gone forth Through the great forest, and you must be had Unto the sea that lieth on the north: There shall you find the wondrous ship wherein The spindles of King Solomon are laid, And the sword that no man draweth without sin, But if he be most pure: and there is stay'd, Hard by, Sir Launcelot, whom you will meet In some short space upon that ship: first, though, Will come here presently that lady sweet, Sister of Percival, whom you well know, And with her Bors and Percival: stand now, These ladies will to arm you.
[FIRST LADY, putting on the hauberk] Galahad, That I may stand so close beneath your brow, Margaret of Antioch, am glad.
[SECOND LADY, girding him with the sword.
] That I may stand and touch you with my hand, O Galahad, I, Cecily, am glad.
[THIRD LADY, buckling on the spurs.
] That I may kneel while up above you stand, And gaze at me, O holy Galahad, I, Lucy, am most glad.
[FOURTH LADY, putting on the basnet.
] O gentle knight, That you bow down to us in reverence, We are most glad, I, Katherine, with delight Must needs fall trembling.
[ANGEL, putting on the crossed surcoat.
] Galahad, we go hence, For here, amid the straying of the snow, Come Percival's sister, Bors, and Percival.
[The Four Ladies carry out the bed, and all go but Galahad.
How still and quiet everything seems now: They come, too, for I hear the horsehoofs fall.
[Enter Sir Bors, Sir Percival and his Sister.
] Fair friends and gentle lady, God you save! A many marvels have been here to-night; Tell me what news of Launcelot you have, And has God's body ever been in sight? SIR BORS.
Why, as for seeing that same holy thing, As we were riding slowly side by side, An hour ago, we heard a sweet voice sing, And through the bare twigs saw a great light glide, With many-colour'd raiment, but far off; And so pass'd quickly: from the court nought good; Poor merry Dinadan, that with jape and scoff Kept us all merry, in a little wood Was found all hack'd and dead: Sir Lionel And Gauwaine have come back from the great quest, Just merely shamed; and Lauvaine, who loved well Your father Launcelot, at the king's behest Went out to seek him, but was almost slain, Perhaps is dead now; everywhere The knights come foil'd from the great quest, in vain; In vain they struggle for the vision fair.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem


 Laden Autumn here I stand
Worn of heart, and weak of hand:
Nought but rest seems good to me,
Speak the word that sets me free.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Riding Together

 For many, many days together
The wind blew steady from the East;
For many days hot grew the weather,
About the time of our Lady's Feast.
For many days we rode together, Yet met we neither friend nor foe; Hotter and clearer grew the weather, Steadily did the East wind blow.
We saw the trees in the hot, bright weather, Clear-cut, with shadows very black, As freely we rode on together With helms unlaced and bridles slack.
And often, as we rode together, We, looking down the green-bank'd stream, Saw flowers in the sunny weather, And saw the bubble-making bream.
And in the night lay down together, And hung above our heads the rood, Or watch'd night-long in the dewy weather, The while the moon did watch the wood.
Our spears stood bright and thick together, Straight out the banners stream'd behind, As we gallop'd on in the sunny weather, With faces turn'd towards the wind.
Down sank our threescore spears together, As thick we saw the pagans ride; His eager face in the clear fresh weather, Shone out that last time by my side.
Up the sweep of the bridge we dash'd together, It rock'd to the crash of the meeting spears, Down rain'd the buds of the dear spring weather, The elm-tree flowers fell like tears.
There, as we roll'd and writhed together, I threw my arms above my head, For close by my side, in the lovely weather, I saw him reel and fall back dead.
I and the slayer met together, He waited the death-stroke there in his place, With thoughts of death, in the lovely weather, Gapingly mazed at my madden'd face.
Madly I fought as we fought together; In vain: the little Christian band The pagans drown'd, as in stormy weather The river drowns low-lying land.
They bound my blood-stain'd hands together, They bound his corpse to nod by my side: Then on we rode, in the bright March weather, With clash of cymbals did we ride.
We ride no more, no more together; My prison-bars are thick and strong, I take no heed of any weather, The sweet Saints grant I live not long.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Summer Dawn

 Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips, 
Think but one thought of me up in the stars.
The summer night waneth, the morning light slips, Faint and grey 'twixt the leaves of the aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars That are patiently waiting there for the dawn: Patient and colourless, though Heaven's gold Waits to float through them along with the sun.
Far out in the meadows, above the young corn, The heavy elms wait, and restless and cold The uneasy wind rises; the roses are dun; Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn, Round the lone house in the midst of the corn, Speak but one word to me over the corn, Over the tender, bow'd locks of the corn.

Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Iceland First Seen

 Lo from our loitering ship a new land at last to be seen;
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth on the east guard a weary wide lea,
And black slope the hillsides above, striped adown with their desolate green:
And a peak rises up on the west from the meeting of cloud and of sea,
Foursquare from base unto point like the building of Gods that have been,
The last of that waste of the mountains all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey,
And bright with the dawn that began just now at the ending of day.
Ah! what came we forth for to see that our hearts are so hot with desire? Is it enough for our rest, the sight of this desolate strand, And the mountain-waste voiceless as death but for winds that may sleep not nor tire? Why do we long to wend forth through the length and breadth of a land, Dreadful with grinding of ice, and record of scarce hidden fire, But that there 'mid the grey grassy dales sore scarred by the ruining streams Lives the tale of the Northland of old and the undying glory of dreams? O land, as some cave by the sea where the treasures of old have been laid, The sword it may be of a king whose name was the turning of fight; Or the staff of some wise of the world that many things made and unmade, Or the ring of a woman maybe whose woe is grown wealth and delight.
No wheat and no wine grows above it, no orchard for blossom and shade; The few ships that sail by its blackness but deem it the mouth of a grave; Yet sure when the world shall awaken, this too shall be mighty to save.
Or rather, O land, if a marvel it seemeth that men ever sought Thy wastes for a field and a garden fulfilled of all wonder and doubt, And feasted amidst of the winter when the fight of the year had been fought, Whose plunder all gathered together was little to babble about; Cry aloud from thy wastes, O thou land, "Not for this nor for that was I wrought.
Amid waning of realms and of riches and death of things worshipped and sure, I abide here the spouse of a God, and I made and I make and endure.
" O Queen of the grief without knowledge, of the courage that may not avail, Of the longing that may not attain, of the love that shall never forget, More joy than the gladness of laughter thy voice hath amidst of its wail: More hope than of pleasure fulfilled amidst of thy blindness is set; More glorious than gaining of all thine unfaltering hand that shall fail: For what is the mark on thy brow but the brand that thy Brynhild doth bear? Love once, and loved and undone by a love that no ages outwear.
Ah! when thy Balder comes back, and bears from the heart of the Sun Peace and the healing of pain, and the wisdom that waiteth no more; And the lilies are laid on thy brow 'mid the crown of the deeds thou hast done; And the roses spring up by thy feet that the rocks of the wilderness wore: Ah! when thy Balder comes back and we gather the gains he hath won, Shall we not linger a little to talk of thy sweetness of old, Yea, turn back awhile to thy travail whence the Gods stood aloof to behold?
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Song IV: Draw Near and Behold Me

 Love is enough: draw near and behold me
Ye who pass by the way to your rest and your laughter,
And are full of the hope of the dawn coming after;
For the strong of the world have bought me and sold me
And my house is all wasted from threshold to rafter.
--Pass by me, and hearken, and think of me not! Cry out and come near; for my ears may not hearken, And my eyes are grown dim as the eyes of the dying.
Is this the grey rack o'er the sun's face a-flying? Or is it your faces his brightness that darken? Comes a wind from the sea, or is it your sighing? --Pass by me and hearken, and pity me not! Ye know not how void is your hope and your living: Depart with your helping lest yet ye undo me! Ye know not that at nightfall she draweth near to me, There is soft speech between us and words of forgiving Till in dead of the midnight her kisses thrill through me.
--Pass by me and harken, and waken me not! Wherewith will ye buy it, ye rich who behold me? Draw out from your coffers your rest and your laughter, And the fair gilded hope of the dawn coming after! Nay this I sell not,--though ye bought me and sold me,-- For your house stored with such things from threshold to rafter.
--Pass by me, I hearken, and think of you not!
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The Earthly Paradise: Apology

 Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.
But rather, when aweary of your mirth, From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh, And, feeling kindly unto all the earth, Grudge every minute as it passes by, Made the more mindful that the sweet days die-- --Remember me a little then I pray, The idle singer of an empty day.
The heavy trouble, the bewildering care That weighs us down who live and earn our bread, These idle verses have no power to bear; So let em sing of names remember{`e}d, Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead, Or long time take their memory quite away From us poor singers of an empty day.
Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time, Why should I strive to set the crooked straight? Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme Beats with light wing against the ivory gate, Telling a tale not too importunate To those who in the sleepy region stay, Lulled by the singer of an empty day.
Folk say, a wizard to a northern king At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show, That through one window men beheld the spring, And through another saw the summer glow, And through a third the fruited vines a-row, While still, unheard, but in its wonted way, Piped the drear wind of that December day.
So with this Earthly Paradise it is, If ye will read aright, and pardon me, Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss Midmost the beating of the steely sea, Where tossed about all hearts of men must be; Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay, Not the poor singer of an empty day.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Love is enough

 LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning, 
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining, 
 Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover 
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder, 
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder, 
 And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over, 
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter; 
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter 
 These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Song VI: Cherish Life that Abideth

 Love is enough: cherish life that abideth,
Lest ye die ere ye know him, and curse and misname him;
For who knows in what ruin of all hope he hideth,
On what wings of the terror of darkness he rideth?
And what is the joy of man's life that ye blame him
For his bliss grown a sword, and his rest grown a fire? 

Ye who tremble for death, or the death of desire,
Pass about the cold winter-tide garden and ponder
On the rose in his glory amidst of June's fire,
On the languor of noontide that gathered the thunder,
On the morn and its freshness, the eve and its wonder:
Ye may make it no more--shall Spring come to awaken? 

Live on, for Love liveth, and earth shall be shaken
By the wind of his wings on the triumphing morning,
When the dead, and their deeds that die not shall awaken,
And the world's tale shall sound in your trumpet of warning,
And the sun smite the banner called Scorn of the Scorning,
And dead pain ye shall trample, dead fruitless desire,
As ye wend to pluck out the new world from the fire.