Today I’d like to tell you about some wonderful poems which I recently read aloud on Librivox.org, a website anyone who’s interested in poetry and other classic literature should check out. The volunteers at Librivox are dedicated to recording every published work in the public domain they can find - and as you might expect, there is a lot of poetry there.
What’s nice is that there is poetry from authors you may only know about from their other works. For example, one of our recent projects was a book of poems by Radclyffe Hall entitled “Twixt Earth and Stars,” published in 1906.
Now you may have heard of Radclyffe Hall, as she was the author of a novel called “The Well of Loneliness.” Published in 1928, this novel is one of the first to deal with the subject of lesbian romance, and was the subject of an obscenity trial in the U.K. It is somewhat autobiographical, and deals with a “masculine lesbian” named Stephen Gordon, who self-identifies as an “invert” (as did Hall herself). (An “invert,” in that time period, was synonymous with “homosexual”.)
Her novel is still in print and deserves the attention it gets for its place in history. However, her earlier works of poetry dealt quite explicitly with her love for women, and are quite lovely in their own right.
Here are a couple of the poems I had the privilege of reading for Librivox:
IT is sweet to lie in a boat,
And drift with the languid stream,
With body and soul afloat
The lake of a perfect dream.
It is sweet in the afternoon,
With just the breath of a breeze,
If the time be the month of June
And the birds sing low in the trees.
And the mind has a pleasant thought,
And the heart has a fond desire,
And the soul is a tissue wrought
Of youth, and it's golden fire.
And the limbs are both clean and strong,
And able to rest with joy,
And our time in the world is long,
With nothing that can destroy
The rapture of God's green earth,
The throb and the ecstasy
That springs into life with birth,
And lives through eternity.
THE day walks over the mountains,
To the splash of a thousand fountains,
To the song of a million streams.
Her hair is unbound and flowing,
Her eyes are as bluebells growing
In a valley of shade and dreams.
Her breast, than the snow is whiter,
Her lips, than the poppies brighter,
Her limbs are as strong white fire.
Thus she comes from the sky above her
To the arms of the Earth her lover,
In a splendour of warm desire.
There are, of course, many more of these lovely poems. And the great thing is that they’re all in the public domain, so you can get them free! Just check out Librivox.org (to listen to them), or Project Gutenberg (to read them) - and lose yourself in her sensual, expressive world!