Archive for category Favourite Poems

Favourite Poems LVI: Three Short Poems on Spring

Song on a May Morning

Now the bright morning-star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

— Milton (1660)

***         ***          ***

The year is ended, and it only adds to my age

The year is ended, and it only adds to my age;
Spring has come, but I must take leave of my home.
Alas, that the trees in this eastern garden,
Without me, will still bear flowers.

Su Ting (b. CE 680)

***         ***          ***

[In Just-]

in Just-
spring      when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles      far      and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far      and      wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and

the

goat-footed

balloonMan       whistles
far
and
wee

— e. e. cummings (1923)

, ,

3 Comments

Favourite Poems LV: If You Forget Me

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

— Pablo Neruda

, ,

4 Comments

Favourite Poems LVIV: The Curate Thinks You Have No Soul

Was thinking, by-the-by, about some dogs I have loved, and how I get along with (and like, if truth be known) dogs better than most people. So sentimentalism be damned: here’s a dog poem.

St John Lucas was an early 20th century anthologist of poetry and friend and mentor to Rupert Brooke.

The Curate Thinks You have No Soul

The curate thinks you have no soul;
I know that he has none. But you,
Dear friend, whose solemn self-control,
In our foursquare familiar pew,
Was pattern to my youth — whose bark
Called me in summer dawns to rove —
Have you gone down into the dark
Where none is welcome — none may love?
I will not think those good brown eyes
Have spent their life of truth so soon;
But in some canine paradise
Your wraith, I know, rebukes the moon,
And quarters every plain and hill,
Seeking his master. . . As for me,
This prayer at least the gods fulfill;
That when I pass the flood and see
Old Charon by the Stygian coast
Take toll of all the shades who land,
Your little, faithful, barking ghost
May leap to lick my phantom hand.

— St John Lucas

, , ,

1 Comment

Favourite Poems LVIII: And You as Well Must Die, Belovèd Dust | Edna St. Vincent Millay

You sometimes forget about authors. They sort of fall out of your head. Expect more Millay in the future.

And You as Well Must Die, Belovèd Dust

And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell,this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how belovèd above all else that dies.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

, ,

1 Comment

Favourite Poems LII

The execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The execution of Sir Walter Raleigh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raleigh wrote this poem as he awaited execution, the victim of the wrath of a monarch and of some treacherous diplomatic expediency between England and Spain.

The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand:
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong, but by a faction:
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending:
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in over-wiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay;
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell, manhood shakes off pity;
Tell, virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing —
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing —
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

— Sir Walter Raleigh

,

Leave a comment

A Poem for Easter

My own, with at least Easterish themes of death and rebirth. Originally published on 7/10/10.

VSA

You came to us, no vital signs, no breath
Found dead, or nearly so, by the mall
You last saw cars, careening carts, a child.
Then falling, hard pavement, blood, a void empty
Of consciousness when help came, skin mottled.
(And paramedics glared and muttered Too late)
But still by breaking bones your heart caressing
Blood returned, with oxygen, drugs and life.
No life did we see, but a purple face,
(Though never we speak it, we thought Too Late,)
V fib, we worked the algorithm, shocked
Gave epi, shocked, and then surprising you,
You gasped, and meaning to die, you did not:
Eyes from a dark face stared incredulous.

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Favourite Poems LI

Easter in Pittsburgh

Even on Easter Sunday
jungle of lilies and

ferns fat Uncle Paul
who loved his liquor

so would pound away
with both fists on the

when the church was a
stone pulpit shouting

sin sin sin and the
fiery fires of hell

and I cried all after-
noon the first time I

heard what they did to
Jesus it was something

the children shouldn’t
know about till they

were older but the new
maid told me and both

of us cried a lot and so
mother got another one

right away & she sent
away Miss Richardson

who came all the way
from England because

she kept telling how
her fiancé Mr. Bowles-

Lyon died suddenly of
a heart attack he just

said one day at lunch
I’m afraid I’m not well

and the next thing they
knew he was sliding un-

der the table. Easter
was nice the eggs were

silly but the big lilies
were wonderful & when

Uncle Paul got so fat
from drinking that he

couldn’t squeeze into
the pulpit anymore &

had to preach from the
floor there was an el-

ders’ meeting and they
said they would have

the pulpit rebuilt but
Uncle Paul said no it

was the Lord’s manifest
will and he would pass

his remaining years in
sacred studies I liked

Thanksgiving better be-
cause that was the day

father took us down to
the mills but Easter I

liked next best and the
rabbits died because we

fed them beet tops and
the lamb pulled up the

grass by the roots and
was sold to Mr. Page the

butcher I asked Uncle
Robert what were sacred

studies he said he was
not really sure but he

guessed they came in a
bottle and mother sent

me away from the table
when I wouldn’t eat my

lamb chops that was
ridiculous she said it

wasn’t the lamb of God
it was just Caesar An-

dromache Nibbles but I
couldn’t I just couldn’t

& the year of the strike
we didn’t go to Church

at all on Easter because
they said it wasn’t safe

down town so instead we
had prayers in the library

and then right in the mid-
dle the telephone rang it

was Mr. Shupstead at the
mill they had had to use

tear gas father made a
special prayer right a-

way for God’s protection
& mercy and then he sent

us out to the farm with
mother we stayed a week

and missed school but it
rained a lot and I broke

the bathroom mirror and
had to learn a long psalm.

— James Laughlin (1940)

, ,

Leave a comment

Favourite Poems XLIX

Eight haiku by Matsuo Bashōtranslated by R. K. Blyth. Wikipedia tells us the Shinto priesthood deified Basho in 1793, a sort of minor god of poetry, and for a time critical evaluation of his work was literally considered blasphemous.

1

Moonlight slants through
The vast bamboo grove:
A cuckoo cries

2

Ah, summer grasses!
All that remains
Of the warriors dreams.

3

Along this road
Goes no one;
This autumn evening.

4

From time to time
The clouds give rest
To the moon beholders.

5

The butterfly is perfuming
It’s wings in the scent
Of the orchid.

6

Yes, spring has come
This morning a nameless hill
Is shrouded in mist.

7

It is deep autumn
My neighbor
How does he live, I wonder.

8

The old pond
A frog jumps in
The sound of water.

, ,

2 Comments

Favourite Poems XLVIII

In Winter in My Room

In Winter in my Room
I came upon a Worm —
Pink, lank and warm —
But as he was a worm
And worms presume
Not quite with him at home —
Secured him by a string
To something neighboring
And went along.

A Trifle afterward
A thing occurred
I’d not believe it if I heard
But state with creeping blood —
A snake with mottles rare
Surveyed my chamber floor
In feature as the worm before
But ringed with power —

The very string with which
I tied him — too
When he was mean and new
That string was there —

I shrank — “How fair you are”!
Propitiation’s claw —
“Afraid,” he hissed
“Of me”?
“No cordiality” —
He fathomed me —
Then to a Rhythm Slim
Secreted in his Form
As Patterns swim
Projected him.

That time I flew
Both eyes his way
Lest he pursue
Nor ever ceased to run
Till in a distant Town
Towns on from mine
I set me down
This was a dream.

— Emily Dickinson

, ,

Leave a comment

Favourite Poems XLVI

Winter Night

It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed
To beat against the window pane

The blizzard sculptured on the glass
Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms,of crossed legs-
Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears
Upon a dress.

All things vanished within
The snowy murk-white,hoary.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame
And the white fever of temptation
Upswept its angel wings that cast
A cruciform shadow

It snowed hard throughout the month
Of February, and almost constantly
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

— Boris Pasternak

, ,

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: