Author Topic: Poetry  (Read 824 times)


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« on: February 22, 2013, 06:17:37 PM »
I've never been a huge fan of poetry, but there are a few that I enjoy.  Since I tend to have quite a bit in common with you fair Mustachians, I figured I'd share the few favorites I've found and saved, and ask in turn if you have any to share.

The Man in the Glass by Dale Wimbrow
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf [=wealth]

And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife,
Whose judgment upon you must pass;
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed the most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

A Psalm Of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
   What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

  "Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real !   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal ;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way ;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world's broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
        Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
        Let the dead Past bury its dead !
    Act,— act in the living Present !
        Heart within, and God o'erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

If by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
A silent voice is as powerless as a silenced one.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2013, 01:54:01 PM »
Nice one. Not many people I know are into poetry, or would admit to it! I've bought plenty of anthologies over the years and it's almost worth reading a whole book to come across one verse that strikes a chord with you. One of my personal favourites:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A E Housman


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2014, 08:20:17 PM »
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Open Window by Edward Rowland Sill
My tower was grimly builded,
With many a bolt and bar,
“And here,” I thought, “I will keep my life
From the bitter world afar.”

Dark and chill was the stony floor,
Where never a sunbeam lay,
And the mould crept up on the dreary wall,
With its ghost touch, day by day.

One morn, in my sullen musings,
A flutter and cry I heard;
And close at the rusty casement
There clung a frightened bird.

Then back I flung the shutter
That was never before undone,
And I kept till its wings were rested
The little weary one.

But in through the open window,
Which I had forgot to close,
There had burst a gush of sunshine
And a summer scent of rose.

For all the while I had burrowed
There in my dingy tower,
Lo! the birds had sung and the leaves had danced
From hour to sunny hour.

And such balm and warmth and beauty
Came drifting in since then,
That window still stands open
And shall never be shut again.

Grongar Hill by John Dyer
Silent Nymph, with curious eye,
Who the purple ev'ning lie
On the mountain's lonely van,
Beyond the noise of busy man,
Painting fair the form of things,     [5]
While the yellow linnet sings;
Or the tuneful nightingale
Charms the forest with her tale;
Come, with all thy various hues,
Come, and aid thy sister Muse;     [10]
Now, while Phoebus, riding high,
Gives lustre to the land and sky,
Grongar Hill invites my song,
Draw the landskip bright and strong;
Grongar, in whose mossy cells,     [15]
Sweetly musing, Quiet dwells;
Grongar, in whose silent shade,
For the modest Muses made,
So oft I have, the ev'ning still,
At the fountain of a rill     [20]
Sate upon a flow'ry bed,
With my hand beneath my head;
While stray'd my eyes o'er Towy's flood,
Over mead, and over wood,
From house to house, from hill to hill,     [25]
'Till Contemplation had her fill.
About his chequer'd sides I wind,
And leave his brooks and meads behind,
And groves, and grottos where I lay,
And vistas shooting beams of day:     [30]
Wide and wider spreads the vale,
As circles on a smooth canal:
The mountains round, unhappy fate!
Sooner or later, of all height,
Withdraw their summits from the skies,     [35]
And lessen as the others rise:
Still the prospect wider spreads,
Adds a thousand woods and meads,
Still it widens, widens still,
And sinks the newly-risen hill.     [40]

Now, I gain the mountain's brow,
What a landskip lies below!
No clouds, no vapours intervene,
But the gay, the open scene
Does the face of nature show,     [45]
In all the hues of heaven's bow!
And, swelling to embrace the light,
Spreads around beneath the sight.

Old castles on the cliffs arise,
Proudly towering in the skies!     [50]
Rushing from the woods, the spires
Seem from hence ascending fires!
Half his beams Apollo sheds
On the yellow mountain-heads!
Gilds the fleeces of the flocks,     [55]
And glitters on the broken rocks!

Below me trees unnumber'd rise,
Beautiful in various dyes:
The gloomy pine, the poplar blue,
The yellow beech, the sable yew,     [60]
The slender fir, that taper grows,
The sturdy oak, with broad-spread boughs;
And, beyond, the purple grove,
Haunt of Phyllis, queen of love!
Gaudy as the op'ning dawn,     [65]
Lies a long and level lawn,
On which a dark hill, steep and high,
Holds and charms the wandering eye!
Deep are his feet in Towy's flood,
His sides are cloth'd with waving wood,     [70]
And ancient towers crown his brow,
That cast an aweful look below;
Whose ragged walls the ivy creeps,
And with her arms from falling keeps;
So both a safety from the wind     [75]
In mutual dependence find.

'Tis now the raven's bleak abode;
'Tis now the apartment of the toad;
And there the fox securely feeds;
And there the pois'nous adder breeds,     [80]
Conceal'd in ruins, moss, and weeds;
While, ever and anon, there falls
Huge heap of hoary moulder'd walls.
Yet time has seen, that lifts the low,
And level lays the lofty brow,     [85]
Has seen this broken pile complete,
Big with the vanity of state;
But transient is the smile of Fate!
A little rule, a little sway,
A sunbeam in a winter's day,     [90]
Is all the proud and mighty have
Between the cradle and the grave.

And see the rivers how they run
Thro' woods and meads, in shade and sun!
Sometimes swift, sometimes slow,     [95]
Wave succeeding wave, they go
A various journey to the deep,
Like human life to endless sleep!
Thus is nature's vesture wrought,
To instruct our wand'ring thought;     [100]
Thus she dresses green and gay,
To disperse our cares away.
Ever charming, ever new,
When will the landskip tire the view!
The fountain's fall, the river's flow,     [105]
The woody valleys, warm and low:
The windy summit, wild and high,
Roughly rushing on the sky!
The pleasant seat, the ruin'd tow'r,
The naked rock, the shady bow'r;     [110]
The town and village, dome and farm,
Each give each a double charm,
As pearls upon an Ethiop's arm.

See on the mountain's southern side,
Where the prospect opens wide,     [115]
Where the evening gilds the tide;
How close and small the hedges lie!
What streaks of meadows cross the eye!
A step, methinks, may pass the stream,
So little distant dangers seem:     [120]
So we mistake the Future's face,
Ey'd thro' Hope's deluding glass:
As yon summits soft and fair,
Clad in colours of the air,
Which to those who journey near,     [125]
Barren, brown, and rough appear;
Still we tread the same coarse way;
The present's still a cloudy day.

O may I with myself agree,
And never covet what I see:     [130]
Content me with an humble shade,
My passions tam'd, my wishes laid;
For while our wishes wildly roll,
We banish quiet from the soul:
'Tis thus the busy beat the air;     [135]
And misers gather wealth and care.

Now, ev'n now, my joys run high,
As on the mountain-turf I lie:
While the wanton Zephyr sings,
And in the vale perfumes his wings;     [140]
While the waters murmur deep;
While the shepherd charms his sheep;
While the birds unbounded fly,
And with music fill the sky,
Now, ev'n now, my joys run high.     [145]

Be full, ye courts; be great who will;
Search for Peace with all your skill:
Open wide the lofty door,
Seek her on the marble floor:
In vain ye search, she is not there:     [150]
In vain ye search the domes of Care!
Grass and flowers Quiet treads,
On the meads, and mountain-heads,
Along with Pleasure, close ally'd,
Ever by each other's side:     [155]
And often, by the murm'ring rill,
Hears the thrush, while all is still,
Within the groves of Grongar Hill.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Dane-Geld by Rudyard Kipling
(AD 980-1016)

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
  To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
  Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
  And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
  And then  you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
  To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
  We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
  For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
  You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
  No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
  And the nation that pays it is lost!"
A silent voice is as powerless as a silenced one.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2014, 08:49:01 PM »
since feeling is first by e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. don't cry
-- the best gesture of my brian
is less than thy eyelids' flutter

which says we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis.

That one reminds me that beauty trumps wisdom when it comes to savoring all life has to offer.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
               1. He did not wear his scarlet coat,
                 For blood and wine are red,
               And blood and wine were on his hands
                 When they found him with the dead,
               The poor dead woman whom he loved,
                 And murdered in her bed.

               He walked amongst the Trial Men
                 In a suit of shabby grey;
               A cricket cap was on his head,
                 And his step seemed light and gay;
               But I never saw a man who looked
                 So wistfully at the day.

               I never saw a man who looked
                 With such a wistful eye
               Upon that little tent of blue
                 Which prisoners call the sky,
               And at every drifting cloud that went
                 With sails of silver by.

               I walked, with other souls in pain,
                 Within another ring,
               And was wondering if the man had done
                 A great or little thing,
               When a voice behind me whispered low,
                 "That fellow's got to swing."

               Dear Christ! the very prison walls
                 Suddenly seemed to reel,
               And the sky above my head became
                 Like a casque of scorching steel;
               And, though I was a soul in pain,
                 My pain I could not feel.

               I only knew what hunted thought
                 Quickened his step, and why
               He looked upon the garish day
                 With such a wistful eye;
               The man had killed the thing he loved
                 And so he had to die.

               Yet each man kills the thing he loves
                 By each let this be heard,
               Some do it with a bitter look,
                 Some with a flattering word,
               The coward does it with a kiss,
                 The brave man with a sword!

               Some kill their love when they are young,
                 And some when they are old;
               Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
                 Some with the hands of Gold:
               The kindest use a knife, because
                 The dead so soon grow cold.

               Some love too little, some too long,
                 Some sell, and others buy;
               Some do the deed with many tears,
                 And some without a sigh:
               For each man kills the thing he loves,
                 Yet each man does not die.

               He does not die a death of shame
                 On a day of dark disgrace,
               Nor have a noose about his neck,
                 Nor a cloth upon his face,
               Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
                 Into an empty place

               He does not sit with silent men
                 Who watch him night and day;
               Who watch him when he tries to weep,
                 And when he tries to pray;
               Who watch him lest himself should rob
                 The prison of its prey.

               He does not wake at dawn to see
                 Dread figures throng his room,
               The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
                 The Sheriff stern with gloom,
               And the Governor all in shiny black,
                 With the yellow face of Doom.

               He does not rise in piteous haste
                 To put on convict-clothes,
               While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
                 Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
               Fingering a watch whose little ticks
                 Are like horrible hammer-blows.

               He does not know that sickening thirst
                 That sands one's throat, before
               The hangman with his gardener's gloves
                 Slips through the padded door,
               And binds one with three leathern thongs,
                 That the throat may thirst no more.

               He does not bend his head to hear
                 The Burial Office read,
               Nor, while the terror of his soul
                 Tells him he is not dead,
               Cross his own coffin, as he moves
                 Into the hideous shed.

               He does not stare upon the air
                 Through a little roof of glass;
               He does not pray with lips of clay
                 For his agony to pass;
               Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
                 The kiss of Caiaphas.

               2. Six weeks our guardsman...

This is only the first of five parts. You can read the whole thing here: Wilde wrote this poem shortly after his release from jail, serving time on sodomy charges; it is his last major work. During his time in jail Wilde's health suffered a major decline. He died two years after his release, only a little while after writing this. It's hard to imagine that this is the same man that wrote The Importance of Being Ernest.

This poem reminds me to be kind and gentle and compassionate to everyone I meet, and to thank God daily for life and freedom and love.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 06:22:08 AM »
A Mustachian if sad one, "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden. Linked because of copyright (the linked site has display rights):



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Re: Poetry
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 07:25:42 AM »
I have always loved "Do not go gentle into the good night" as mentioned before.  My all-time favorite is this very popular one:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2014, 09:08:35 AM »
More contemporary than what's being posted, but I love Tony Hoagland's Suicide Song.  It really resonated with me during a difficult time in life:

But now I am afraid I know too much to kill myself
Though I would still like to jump off a high bridge

At midnight, or paddle a kayak out to sea
Until I turn into a speck, or wear a necktie made of knotted rope

But people would squirm, it would hurt them in some way,
And I am too knowledgeable now to hurt people imprecisely.

No longer do I live by the law of me,
No longer having the excuse of youth or craziness,

And dying you know shows a serious ingratitude
For sunsets and beehive hairdos and the precious green corrugated

Pickles they place at the edge of your plate.
Killing yourself is wasteful, like spilling oil

At sea or not recycling all the kisses you've been given,
And anyway, who has clothes nice enough to be caught dead in?

Not me. You stay alive you stupid asshole
Because you haven't been excused,

You haven't finished though it takes a mulish stubbornness
To chew this food.

It is a stone, it is an inconvenience, it is an innocence,
And I turn against it like a record

Turns against the needle
That makes it play.
A personal development blog from a charmingly-undeveloped person:

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Re: Poetry
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2014, 11:10:48 AM »
Some of my favorites. I should also note that all of these sound great read aloud. You should find a loved one such as a significant other, child, dog, or teddy bear, and pick a poem or two to read aloud to them. It's probably even better if you expect them to not understand it, as one often finds with dogs or significant others.

This one reminds me of how commerce connects people globally, about how our consumption affects the world, and a bit more simply as a contemplation about the presence of a physical object you might otherwise take for granted:


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms   
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord.   Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.


This poem is simple and straightforward and beautiful and melancholy. My heart wells up whenever I hear it. Garrison Keillor did a reading of it once that I really liked.

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness   
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.   
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.   
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me   
And nuzzled my left hand.   
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.


This one is a bit less straightforward, but that refrain is great, and it gets stuck in my head. It takes place during kitchen preparations for a wake. Many interpretations say it's a poem about a hedonistic interpretation of the world, but there's room for lots of meanings.

"The Anecdote of the Jar" is another top-notch Wallace Stevens poem.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream
by Wallace Stevens
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

This poem is about our journeys. I love that it is essentially a poem celebrating misadventure and detour and experience. Cavafy is not that well known, but he should be. He was ahead of his time.

He was gay and some of his poems are very straightforward about it, shocking for the time. "The Afternoon Sun" is a meditation in an empty room remembering a departed lover, and is just wonderful.

C. P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


And here's one last poem I love, which has, after many readings over the years, never made a lick of sense to me. It's a sestina, which is a fairly rigid and formal form, which uses characters from Popeye. If you try to "get" this poem your head will probably explode. The thing I love is that it's both high-concept and low-brow at the same time; I always find that delicious. I would expect a lot of people to hate this poem, which is another thing I like about it.

Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape
by John Ashbery

The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits in thunder,
Unthought of. From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain's hue, a tangram emerges: a country."
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: "How pleasant
To spend one's vacation en la casa de Popeye," she scratched
Her cleft chin's solitary hair. She remembered spinach

And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
"M'love," he intercepted, "the plains are decked out in thunder
Today, and it shall be as you wish." He scratched
The part of his head under his hat. The apartment
Seemed to grow smaller. "But what if no pleasant
Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my country."

Suddenly they remembered how it was cheaper in the country.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 can of spinach
When the door opened and Swee'pea crept in. "How pleasant!"
But Swee'pea looked morose. A note was pinned to his bib. "Thunder
And tears are unavailing," it read. "Henceforth shall Popeye's apartment
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or scratched."

Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh. "I have news!" she gasped. "Popeye, forced as you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened,
duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant

Arpeggio of our years. No more shall pleasant
Rays of the sun refresh your sense of growing old, nor the scratched
Tree-trunks and mossy foliage, only immaculate darkness and thunder."
She grabbed Swee'pea. "I'm taking the brat to the country."
"But you can't do that--he hasn't even finished his spinach,"
Urged the Sea Hag, looking fearfully around at the apartment.

But Olive was already out of earshot. Now the apartment
Succumbed to a strange new hush. "Actually it's quite pleasant
Here," thought the Sea Hag. "If this is all we need fear from spinach
Then I don't mind so much. Perhaps we could invite Alice the Goon over"--she scratched
One dug pensively--"but Wimpy is such a country
Bumpkin, always burping like that." Minute at first, the thunder

Soon filled the apartment. It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach. Popeye chuckled and scratched
His balls: it sure was pleasant to spend a day in the country.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2014, 09:00:25 PM »
I offer two fragments.

From Ulysses, by Tennyson

                                  Come my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

From Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey, by William Wordsworth.

                                      And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts: a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Both the fragments from Ulysees and Lines Written above Tintern Abbey were spoken at the scattering of my late father’s ashes. A year later, the fragment from Lines was spoken at the scattering of my late mother’s ashes.

« Last Edit: April 30, 2014, 05:13:00 AM by Leisured »


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2014, 05:20:04 AM »

I offer two more poems.

Ozymandias by Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

The Donkey by G K Chesterton. An unusual and poignant point of view.

When fishes flew and forests walked   
   And figs grew upon thorn,   
Some moment when the moon was blood   
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,   
The devil’s walking parody   
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,   
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:   
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.


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Re: Poetry
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2014, 06:59:58 AM »
A personal development blog from a charmingly-undeveloped person: