962. Before Summer Rain, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something - you don't know what - has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone's Saint Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren't supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now:
the chill, uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

(trans Stephen Mitchell)

Source: The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke

963. Eighty (from the Tao Te Ching), by Lao Tsu

A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred
__times faster than man, they are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple,
__their homes secure;
They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.

(trans. by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)

Source: Tao Te Ching

964. Sonnet 29, by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
__For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
__That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.

Source: The Norton Shakespeare

965. The Half-Finished Heaven, Tomas Transtromer

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a drink.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

(trans Robin Fulton)

Source: Selected Poems, 1954-1986

966. Beyond the Last Lamp, by Thomas Hardy

(Near Tooting Common)


While rain, with eve in partnership,
Descended darkly, drip, drip, drip,
Beyond the last lone lamp I passed
____Walking slowly, whispering sadly,
____Two linked loiterers, wan, downcast:
Some heavy thought constrained each face,
And blinded them to time and place.


The pair seemed lovers, yet absorbed
In mental scenes no longer orbed
By love's young rays. Each countenance
____As if slowly, as if sadly
____Caught the lamplight's yellow glance,
Held in suspense a misery
At things which had been or might be.


When I retrod that watery way
Some hours beyond the droop of day,
Still I found pacing there the twain
____Just as slowly, just as sadly,
____Heedless of the night and rain.
One could but wonder who they were
And what wild woe detained them there.


Though thirty years of blur and blot
Have slid since I beheld that spot,
And saw in curious converse there
____Moving slowly, moving sadly
____That mysterious tragic pair,
Its olden look may linger on -
All but the couple; they have gone.


Whither? Who knows, indeed ... And yet
To me, when nights are weird and wet,
Without those comrades there at tryst
____Creeping slowly, creeping sadly,
____That lone lane does not exist.
There they seem brooding on their pain,
And will, while such a lane remain.

Source: The Complete Poems

967. Nansen, by Gary Snyder

I found you on a rainy morning
After a typhoon
In a bamboo grove at Daitoku-ji.
Tiny wet rag with a
Huge voice, you crawled under the fence
To my hand. Left to die.
I carried you home in my raincoat.
"Nansen, cheese!" you'd shout an answer
And come running.
But you never got big,
Bandy-legged bright little dwarf -
Sometimes not eating, often coughing
Mewing bitterly at inner twinge.

Now, thin and older, you won't eat
But milk and cheese. Sitting on a pole
In the sun. Hardy with resigned
You just weren't made right. I saved you,
And your three-year life has been full
Of mild, steady pain.

Source: No Nature: New and Selected Poems

968. Letter Poem #3, by James Schuyler

The night is quiet
as a kettle drum
the bullfrog basses
tuning up. After
swimming, after sup-
per, a Tarzan movie,
dishes, a smoke. One
planet and I
wish. No need
of words. Just
you, or rather,
us. The stars tonight
in pale dark space
are clover flowers
in a lawn the expanding
universe in which
we love it is
our home. So many
galaxies and you my
bright particular,
my star, my sun, my
other self, my bet-
ter half, my one

Source: Selected Poems

969. Tea at the Palaz of Hoon, by Wallace Stevens

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

Source: The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play

970. Monday, by Primo Levi

Is there anything sadder than a train
That leaves when it's supposed to,
That has only one voice,
Only one route?
There's nothing sadder.

Except perhaps a cart horse
Shut between two shafts
And unable even to look sideways.
Its whole life is walking.

And a man? Isn't a man sad?
If he lives in solitude a long time,
If he believes time has run its course,
A man is a sad thing too.

(trans Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann)

Source: Collected Poems

971. 'Victory comes late' (690), by Emily Dickinson

Victory comes late -
And is held low to freezing lips -
Too rapt with frost
To take it -
How sweet it would have tasted -
Just a Drop -
Was God so economical?
His Table's spread too high for Us -
Unless We dine on tiptoe -
Crumbs - fit such little mouths -
Cherries - suit Robins -
The Eagle's Golden Breakfast strangles - Them -
God keep His Oath to Sparrows -
Who of little Love - know how to starve -

Source: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

972. VII (from More Poems), by A.E. Housman

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

Source: Collected Poems of A. E. Housman

973. The Unknown, by Edward Thomas

She is most fair,
And when they see her pass
The poets' ladies
Look no more in the glass
But after her.

On a bleak moor
Running under the moon
She lures a poet,
Once proud or happy, soon
Far from his door.

Beside a train,
Because they saw her go,
Or failed to see her,
Travellers and watchers know
Another pain.

The simple lack
Of her is more to me
Than others' presence
Whether life splendid be
Or utter black.

I have not seen,
I have no news of her;
I can tell only
She is not here, but there
She might have been.

She is to be kissed
Only perhaps by me;
She may be seeking
Me and no other; she
may not exist.

Souce: Poems of Edward Thomas

974. Dream Song 324, by John Berryman

An Elegy for W.C.W., the lovely man

Henry in Ireland to Bill underground:
Rest well, who worked so hard, who made a good sound
constantly, for so many years:
your high-jinks delighted the continents & our ears:
you had so many girls your life was a triumph
and you loved your one wife.

At dawn you rose & wrote - the books poured forth -
you delivered infinite babies, in one great birth -
and your generosity
to juniors made you deeply loved, deeply:
if envy was a Henry trademark, he would envy you,
especially the being through.

Too many journeys lie for him ahead,
too many galleys & page-proofs to be read,
he would like to lie down
in your sweet silence, to whom was not denied
the mysterious late excellence which is the crown
of our trials & our last bride.

Source: The Dream Songs