899. The Stoic: For Laura Von Courten, by Edgar Bowers

All winter long you listened for the boom
Of distant cannon wheeled into their place.
Sometimes outside beneath a bombers' moon
You stood alone to watch the searchlights trace

Their careful webs against the boding sky,
While miles away on Munich's vacant square
The bombs lunged down with an unruly cry
Whose blast you saw yet could but faintly hear.

And might have turned your eyes upon the gleam
Of a thousand years of snow, where near the clouds
The Alps ride massive to their full extreme,
And season after season glacier crowds

The dark, persistent smudge of conifers.
And seen beyond the hedge and through the trees
The shadowy forms of cattle on the furze,
Their dim coats white with mist against the freeze.

Or thought instead of other times than these,
Of other countries and of other sights:
Eternal Venice sinking by degrees
Into the very water that she lights;

Reflected in canals, the lucid dome
Of Maria della Salute at your feet,
Her triple spires disfigured by the foam.
Remembered in Berlin the parks, the neat

Footpaths and lawns, the clean spring foliage,
Where just short weeks before, a bomb, unaimed,
Released a frightened lion from its cage,
Which in the mottled dark that trees enflamed

Killed one who hurried homeward from the raid.
And by yourself there standing in the chill
You must, with so much known, have been afraid
And chosen such a mind of constant will,

Which, though all time corrode with constant hurt,
Remains, until it occupies no space,
That which it is; and passionless, inert,
Becomes at last no meaning and no place.

Source: Collected Poems

900. Early Autumn, by Po Chü-i

Two gray hairs appear in the lit mirror,
a single leaf tumbling into the courtyard.

Old age slips away, nothing to do with me,
and when grief comes, who does it find?

Idle months and years emptying away,
loved ones from long ago lost to sight,

I'll play with my girl here, my little girl:
we keep coaxing smiles from each other.

(trans David Hinton)

Source: The Selected Poems of Po Chu-I

901. During Wind and Rain, by Thomas Hardy

      They sing their dearest songs -
      He, she, all of them - yea,
      Treble and tenor and bass,
          And one to play;
      With the candles mooning each face...
         Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!

      They clear the creeping moss -
      Elders and juniors - aye,
      Making the pathways neat
          And the garden gay;
      And they build a shady seat...
         Ah, no; the years, the years;
See, the white storm-birds wing across!

      They are blithely breakfasting all -
      Men and maidens - yea,
      Under the summer tree,
          With a glimpse of the bay,
      While pet fowl come to the knee...
         Ah, no; the years O;
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.

      They change to a high new house,
      He, she, all of them - aye,
      Clocks and carpets and chairs
          On the lawn all day,
      And brightest things that are theirs...
         Ah, no; the years, the years;
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.

Source: Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems

902. To Earthward, by Robert Frost

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of—was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost

903. Catch What You Can, by Jean Garrigue

The thing to do is try for that sweet skin
One gets by staying deep inside a thing.
The image that I have is that of fruit—
The stone within the plum or some such pith
As keeps the slender sphere both firm and sound.

Stay with me, mountain flowers I saw
And battering moth against a wind-dark rock,
Stay with me till you build me all around
The honey and the clove I thought to taste
If lingering long enough I lived and got
Your intangible wild essence in my heart.
And whether that's by sight or thought
Or staying deep inside an aerial shed
Till imagination makes the heart-leaf vine
Out of damned bald rock, I cannot guess.
The game is worth the candle if there's flame.

Source: Selected Poems

904. 116 from Tristia, by Osip Mandelstam

Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone's bees.

You can't untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.

For us, all that's left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.

Deep in the transparent night they're still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.

But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.

(trans W. S. Merwin and Clarence Brown)

Source: The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam