868. Sonnet, by John Masefield

from the Spanish of Don Francisco de Quevedo

I saw the ramparts of my native land,
One time so strong, now dropping in decay,
Their strength destroyed by this new age's way
That has worn out and rotted what was grand.
I went into the fields: there I could see
The sun drink up the waters newly thawed,
And on the hills the moaning cattle pawed;
Their miseries robbed the day of light for me.

I went into my house: I saw how spotted,
Decaying things made that old home their prize.
My withered walking-staff had come to bend;
I felt the age had won; my sword was rotted,
And there was nothing on which I set my eyes
That was not a reminder of the end.

Source: The Collected Poems of John Masefield

869. Reading in Wartime, by Edwin Muir

Boswell by my bed,
Tolstoy on my table:
Though the world has bled
For four and a half years,
And wives' and mothers' tears
Collected would be able
To water a little field
Untouched by anger and blood,
A penitential yield
somewhere in the world;
Though in each latitude
Armies like forests fall,
The iniquitous and the good
Head over heels hurled,
And confusion over all:
Boswell's turbulent friend
And his deafening verbal strife,
Ivan Ilych's death
Tell me more about life,
The meaning and the end
Of our familiar breath,
Both being personal,
Than all the carnage can,
Retrieve the shape of man,
Lost and anonymous,
Tell me wherever I look
That not one soul can die
Of this or any clan
Who is not one of us
And has a personal tie
Perhaps to someone now
Searching an ancient book,
Folk-tale or country song
In many and many a tongue,
To find the original face,
The individual soul,
The eye, the lip, the brow
For ever gone from their place,
And gather an image whole.

Source: Selected Poems

870. Return, by Robinson Jeffers

A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies,
Let the rich life run to the roots again.
I will go down to the lovely Sur Rivers
And dip my arms in them up to the shoulders.
I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers
In the ocean wind over the river boulders.
I will touch things and things and no more thoughts,
That breed like mouthless May-flies darkening the sky,
The insect clouds that blind our passionate hawks
So that they cannot strike, hardly can fly.
Things are the hawk's food and noble is the mountain,
     Oh noble
Pico Blanco, steep sea-wave of marble.

Source: Selected Poems

871. Ask Me, by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden, and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Source: You Must Revise Your Life

872. Thomas, by Edgar Bowers

A porter found him in the Pullman car,
A few weeks old, dressed like a rich man's child.
The orphanage named him Thomas, for Aquinas.
The parents who adopted him were Czech,
New immigrants, the promise of the new
Betrayed by the Depression, the greying city
Idle, but for Feller on the mound
And Fred and Ginger's pastorals on the screen.
At school he read his namesake, then, in the Air Force,
As if a revelation sent to him,
His lineage and his birthright. Their starry son,
Trying untried elations of the skies
Above the green earth's curve, his silver wing
Climbing and spinning through undarkened day,
He grasped the golden bowl and drank the wine,
His pride and joy like Hermes' beauty, wings
Dancing with every debutante, a feast
Of arms for boys and girls, where no death is.
The destiny that holds the hero's life
Appeared to him above the clouds of France
In combat, on the field of dread. Messerschmitts
Everywhere in pursuit of his pursuit,
He never reported sick or turned away
Suddenly over the Channel, for a year,
Till over Frankfurt screaming from its pyre,
Engine aflame, then cockpit, he bailed out,
The parachute his spirit in the dark.
Burnt air, burnt earth, burnt time! An angry mob
Mistook him for another bomber pilot
And hanged him from a tree, near Goethe's house.

Source: Collected Poems

873. 'As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,' by Gerald Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
   As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
   Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
   Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
   Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
   Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
   Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
   To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Source: Poetry and Prose

874. Day, by A. R. Ammons

On a cold late
September morning,
wider than sky-wide
discs of lit-shale clouds

skim the hills,
crescents, chords
of sunlight
now and then fracturing

the long peripheries:
the crow flies
on course but destinationless,

hurry, hurry,
the running light says,
while anything remains.

Source: The Selected Poems

875. Adam's Curse, by W. B. Yeats

We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said: 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all of these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'

                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied: 'To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.'

I said: 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Source: The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

876. The Horses, by Edwin Muir

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days' war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listening to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
'They'll moulder away and be like other loam.'
We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.
                                      And then, that evening,
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half-a-dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our ploughs and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.

Source: The Complete Poems of Edwin Muir

877. Men Trees, by Juan Ramón Jiménez

     Yesterday evening
I returned with the clouds
drifting under the rosebushes
(great, round tenderness)
among the faithful tree trunks.

     The solitude was eternal
and the silence never-ending.
I stood still like a tree
and listened to the trees talking.

     Only the bird took flight
from such a secret place,
I alone could stand there
among the last of the roses.

     I did not wish to become
myself again, fearing
to displease, being different,
the trees that were alike.

     The trees finally forgot
my shape of wandering man,
and I, my shape forgotten,
heard the talking of the trees.

     I delayed until star-rise.
In a flight of softened light,
I began edging away,
with the moon now in the air.

     When I was almost outside,
I saw the trees look at me.
They realized everything
and it grieved me to leave them.

     And I could hear them talking,
among mother-of-pearl clouds,
in a soft murmur, about me.
How could I undeceive them?

     Tell them that it was not so,
that I was only a passer-by,
that they must not talk to me?
I did not want to betray them.

     And quite late, yesterday evening,
I heard the trees talk to me.

(trans Eloise Roach)

Source: Three Hundred Poems 1903-1953

878. The Bamboo by Li Ch'e Yun's Window, by Po Chü-i

Don't cut it to make a flute.
Don't trim it for a fishing
Pole. When the grass and flowers
Are all gone, it will be beautiful
Under the falling snow flakes.

(trans Kenneth Rexroth)

Source: The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry

879. Against the False Magicians, by Thomas McGrath

                for Don Gordon

The poem must not charm us like a film:
See, in the war-torn city, that reckless, gallant
Handsome lieutenant turn to the wet-lipped blonde
(Our childhood fixation) for one sweet desperate kiss
In the broken room, in blue cinematic moonlight —
Bombers across that moon, and the bombs falling,
The last train leaving, the regiment departing —
And their lips lock, saluting themselves and death:
And then the screen goes dead and all go home...
Ritual of the false imagination.

The poem must not charm us like the fact:
A warship can sink a circus at forty miles,
And art, love's lonely counterfeit, has small dominion
Over those nightmares that move in the actual sunlight.
The blonde will not be faithful, nor her lover ever return
Nor the note be found in the hollow tree of childhood —
This dazzle of the facts would have us weeping
The orphaned fantasies of easier days.

It is the charm which the potential has
That is the proper aura for the poem.
Though ceremony fail, though each of your grey hairs
Help string a harp in the landlord's heaven,
And every battle, every augury,
Argue defeat, and if defeat itself
Bring all the darkness level with our eyes —
It is the poem provides the proper charm,
Spelling resistance and the living will,
To bring to dance a stony field of fact
And set against terror exile or despair
The rituals of our humanity.

Source: Selected Poems 1938-1988

880. Recalling War, by Robert Graves

Entrance and exit wounds are silvered clean,
The track aches only when the rain reminds.
The one-legged man forgets his leg of wood,
The one-armed man his jointed wooden arm.
The blinded man sees with his ears and hands
As much or more than once with both his eyes.
Their war was fought these twenty years ago
And now assumes the nature-look of time,
As when the morning traveller turns and views
His wild night-stumbling carved into a hill.

What, then, was war? No mere discord of flags
But an infection of the common sky
That sagged ominously upon the earth
Even when the season was the airiest May.
Down pressed the sky, and we, oppressed, thrust out
Boastful tongue, clenched fist and valiant yard.
Natural infirmities were out of mode,
For Death was young again: patron alone
Of healthy dying, premature fate-spasm.

Fear made fine bed-fellows. Sick with delight
At life's discovered transitoriness,
Our youth became all-flesh and waived the mind.
Never was such antiqueness of romance,
Such tasty honey oozing from the heart.
And old importances came swimming back —
Wine, meat, log-fires, a roof over the head,
A weapon at the thigh, surgeons at call.
Even there was a use again for God —
A word of rage in lack of meat, wine, fire,
In ache of wounds beyond all surgeoning.

War was return of earth to ugly earth,
War was foundering of sublimities,
Extinction of each happy art and faith
By which the world had still kept head in air.
Protesting logic or protesting love,
Until the unendurable moment struck —
The inward scream, the duty to run mad.

And we recall the merry ways of guns —
Nibbling the walls of factory and church
Like a child, piecrust; felling groves of trees
Like a child, dandelions with a switch!
Machine-guns rattle toy-like from a hill,
Down in a row the brave tin-soldiers fall:
A sight to be recalled in elder days
When learnedly the future we devote
To yet more boastful visions of despair.

Source: The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

881. Wisdom, by Sara Teasdale

It was a night of early spring,
    The winter-sleep was scarcely broken;
Around us shadows and the wind
    Listening for what was never spoken.

Though half a score of years are gone,
    Spring comes as sharply now as then—
But if we had it all to do
    It would be done the same again.

It was a spring that never came,
    But we have lived enough to know
What we have never had, remains;
    It is the things we have that go.

Source: Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale

882. Fable For When There's No Way Out, by May Swenson

Grown too big for his skin,
and it grown hard,

without a sea and atmosphere—
he's drunk it all up—

his strength's inside him now,
but there's no room to stretch.

He pecks at the top
but his beak's too soft;

though instinct or ambition shoves,
he can't get through.

Barely old enough to bleed
and already bruised!

In a case this tough
what's the use

if you break your head
instead of the lid?

Despair tempts him
to just go limp:

Maybe the cell's
already a tomb,

and beginning end
in this round room.

Still, stupidly he pecks
and pecks, as if from under

his own skull—
yet makes no crack...

No crack until
he finally cracks,

and kicks and stomps.
What a thrill

and shock to feel
his little gaff poke

through the floor!
A way he hadn't known or meant.

Rage works if reason won't.
When locked up, bear down.

Source: New and Selected Things Taking Place

883. Looking Across the River, by William Stafford

We were driving the river road.
It was at night. "There's the island,"
someone said. And we all looked across
at the light where the hermit lived.

"I'd be afraid to live there"—
it was Ken the driver who spoke.
He shivered and let us feel
the fear that made him shake.

Over to that dark island
my thought had already crossed—
I felt the side of the house
and the night wind unwilling to rest.

For the first time in all my life
I became someone else:
it was dark; others were going their way;
the river and I kept ours.

We came on home that night;
the road led us on. Everything
we said was louder—it was hollow,
and sounded dark like a bridge.

Somewhere I had lost someone—
so dear or so great or so fine
that I never cared again: as if
time dimmed, and color and sound were gone.

Come for me now, World—
whatever is near, come close.
I have been over the water
and lived there all alone.

Source: The Darkness Around Us is Deep: Selected Poems

884. Ken, by Charlotte Mew

The town is old and very steep
 A place of bells and cloisters and grey towers,
And black clad people walking in their sleep —
 A nun, a priest, a woman taking flowers
 To her new grave; and watched from end to end
 By the great Church above, through the still hours:
  But in the morning and the early dark
The children wake to dart from doors and call
Down the wide, crooked street, where, at the bend,
  Before it climbs up to the park,
Ken's is in the gabled house facing the Castle wall.

When first I came upon him there
Suddenly, on the half-lit stairs,
I think I hardly found a trace
Of likeness to a human face
 In his. And I said then
If in His image God made men
Some other must have made poor Ken —
But for his eyes which looked at you
As two red, wounded stars might do.

He scarcely spoke, you scarcely heard,
  His voice broke off in little jars
To tears sometimes. An uncouth bird
 He seemed as he ploughed up the street,
Groping, with knarred, high-lifted feet
 And arms thrust out as if to beat
  Always against a threat of bars.
 And oftener than not there'd be
 A child just higher than his knee
Trotting beside him. Through his dim
 Long twilight this, at least, shone clear,
 That all the children and the deer,
  Whom every day he went to see
Out in the park, belonged to him.

 'God help the folk that next him sits
 He fidgets so, with his poor wits,'
The neighbours said on Sunday nights
When he would go to Church to 'see the lights!'
 Although for these he used to fix
 His eyes upon a crucifix
 In a dark corner, staring on
 Till everybody else had gone.
 And sometimes, in his evil fits,
You could not move him from his chair —
You did not look at him as he sat there,
 Biting his rosary to bits.
While pointing to the Christ he tried to say,
 'Take it away.'

  Nothing was dead:
He said 'a bird' if he picked up a broken wing,
  A perished leaf or any such thing
  Was just 'a rose'; and once when I had said
 He must not stand and knock there any more,
 He left a twig on the mat outside my door.

  Not long ago
The last thrush stiffened in the snow,
 While black against a sullen sky
  The sighing pines stood by.
But now the wind has left our rattled pane
To flutter the hedge-sparrow's wing,
The birches in the wood are red again
  And only yesterday
The larks went up a little way to sing
  What lovers say
 Who loiter in the lanes to-day;
 The buds begin to talk of May
 With learned rooks on city trees,
  And if God please
  With all of these
We, too, shall see another Spring.

But in that red brick barn upon the hill
 I wonder — can one own the deer,
And does one walk with children still
  As one did here —
  Do roses grow
Beneath those twenty windows in a row —
  And if some night
When you have not seen any light
They cannot move you from your chair
  What happens there?
  I do not know.

  So, when they took
Ken to that place, I did not look
  After he called and turned on me
  His eyes. These I shall see —

Source: Charlotte Mew and Her Friends

885. Parting at Dawn, by John Crowe Ransom

If there was a broken whispering by night
It was an image of the coward heart,
But the white dawn assures them how to part—
Stoics are born on the cold glitter of light
And with the morning star lovers take flight.
Say then your parting; and most dry should you drain
Your lips of the wine, your eyes of the frantic rain,
Till these be as the barren anchorite.

And then? O dear Sir, stumbling down the street,
Continue, till you come to wars and wounds;
Beat the air, Madam, till your house-clock sounds;
And if no Lethe flow beneath your casement,
And when ten years have not brought full effacement,
Philosophy was wrong, and you may meet.

Source: Selected Poems

886. 'The earth and heaven, so little known,' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The earth and heaven, so little known,
Are measured outwards from my breast.
I am the midst of every zone
And justify the East and West;

The unchanging register of change
My all-accepting fixed eye,
While all things else may stir and range
All else may whirl or dive or fly.

The swallow, favourite of the gale,
Will on the moulding strike and cling,
Unvalve or shut his vaned tail
And sheathe at once his leger wing.

He drops upon the wing again;
His little pennon is unfurled.
In motion is no weight or pain,
Nor permanence in the solid world.

There is a vapour stands in the wind;
It shapes itself in taper skeins:
You look again and cannot find,
Save in the body of the rains.

And these are spent and ended quite;
The sky is blue, and the winds pull
Their clouds with breathing edges white
Beyond the world; the streams are full

And millbrook-slips with pretty pace
Gallop along the meadow grass. —
O lovely ease in change of place!
I have desired, desired to pass...

Source: Poems and Prose

887. Last Hill in a Vista, by Louise Bogan

Come, let us tell the weeds in ditches
How we are poor, who once had riches,
And lie out in the sparse and sodden
Pastures that the cows have trodden,
The while an autumn night seals down
The comforts of the wooden town.

Come, let us counsel some cold stranger
How we sought safety, but loved danger.
So, with stiff walls about us, we
Chose this more fragile boundary:
Hills, where light poplars, the firm oak,
Loosen into a little smoke.

Source: The Blue Estuaries: Poems: 1923-1968

888. Evening: Ponte Al Mare, Pisa, by Percy Shelley


The sun is set; the swallows are asleep;
   The bats are flitting fast in the gray air;
The slow soft toads out of damp corners creep,
   And evening's breath, wandering here and there
Over the quivering surface of the stream,
Wakes not one ripple from its summer dream.


There is no dew on the grass to-night,
   Nor damp within the shadow of the trees;
The wind is intermitting, dry, and light;
   And in the inconstant motion of the breeze
The dust and straws are driven up and down,
And whirled about the pavement of the town.


Within the surface of the fleeting river
   The wrinkled image of the city lay,
Immovably unquiet, and forever
   It trembles, but it never fades away;
Go to the East...
You, being changed, will find it then as now.


The chasm in which the sun has sunk is shut
   By darkest barriers of cinereous cloud,
Like mountain over mountain huddled—but
   Growing and moving upwards in a crowd,
And over it a space of watery blue,
Which the keen evening star is shining through.

Source: The Complete Poems of Keats and Shelley

889. Lullaby, by Mike Puican

A line of angels will appear above you as a night light,
as the darkness moves slowly in your direction.
Thoughts will arrive without your consent; let them go.

Soon you will be standing in onion fields staring at the stars,
your dogs wet from chasing field rats. A chorus of fruit flies
will bore everyone with its small details. Go to sleep.

Tonight, the house's secrets will burst with confidence;
squirrels will rage from behind the drywall. In a few minutes,
the gun under our pillow will lose its meaning. Go to sleep.

The morning will be graced by the scents of flowers
and the sounds of a few notes of music above the sirens
which, like us, are about to become nothing.

Source: New England Review, Vol. 30, No. 3

890. Late May, by Tomas Transtromer

Apple trees and cherry trees in flower help the town to float
in the soft smudgy May night, white left-vests, thoughts go far away.
Stubborn grass and weeds beat their wings.
The mailbox shines calmly: what is written cannot be taken back.

A mild cooling wind goes through your shirt, feeling for the heart.
Apple trees and cherry trees laugh soundlessly at Solomon.
They blossom in my tunnel. And I need them
not to forget, but to remember.

(trans Robert Bly)

Source: Selected Poems, 1954-1986

891. Hendecasyllabics, by Algernon Charles Swinburne

In the month of the long decline of roses
I, beholding the summer dead before me,
Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent,
Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark
Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions
Half divided the eyelids of the sunset;
Till I heard as it were a noise of waters
Moving tremulous under feet of angels
Multitudinous, out of all the heavens;
Knew the fluttering wind, the fluttered foliage,
Shaken fitfully, full of sound and shadow;
And saw, trodden upon by noiseless angels,
Long mysterious reaches fed with moonlight,
Sweet sad straits in a soft subsiding channel,
Blown about by the lips of winds I knew not,
Winds not born in the north nor any quarter,
Winds not warm with the south nor any sunshine;
Heard between them a voice of exultation,
"Lo, the summer is dead, the sun is faded,
Even like as a leaf the year is withered,
All the fruits of the day from all her branches
Gathered, neither is any left to gather.
All the flowers are dead, the tender blossoms,
All are taken away; the season wasted,
Like an ember among the fallen ashes.
Now with light of the winter days, with moonlight,
Light of snow, and the bitter light of hoarfrost,
We bring flowers that fade not after autumn,
Pale white chaplets and crowns of latter seasons,
Fair false leaves (but the summer leaves were falser),
Woven under the eyes of stars and planets
When low light was upon the windy reaches
Where the flower of foam was blown, a lily
Dropt among the sonorous fruitless furrows
And green field of the sea that make no pasture:
Since the winter begins, the weeping winter,
All whose flowers are tears, and round his temples
Iron blossom of frost is bound for ever."

Source: Major Poems and Selected Prose

892. View with a Grain of Sand, by Wislawa Szymborska

We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect, or apt.

Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn't feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it, it is no different from falling on anything else
with no assurance that it has finished falling
or that it is falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn't view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.

The lake's floor exists floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
Its water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes.
A second second.
A third.
But they're three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like a courier with urgent news.
But that's just our simile.
The character is invented, his haste is make-believe,
his news inhuman.

(trans Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Source: Poems New and Collected

893. Early Winter, by Weldon Kees

Memory of summer is winter's consciousness.
Sitting or walking or merely standing still,
Earning a living or watching the snow fall,
I am remembering the sun on sidewalks in a warmer place,
A small hotel and a dead girl's face;
I think of these in this higher altitude, staring West.

But the room is cold, the words in the books are cold;
And the question of whether we get what we ask for
Is absurd, unanswered by the sound of an unlatched door
Rattling in wind, or the sound of snow on roofs, or glare
Of the winter sun. What we have learned is not what we were told.
I watch the snow, feel for the heartbeat that is not there.

Source: The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees

894. I Have Longed to Move Away, by Dylan Thomas

I have longed to move away
From the hissing of the spent lie
And the old terrors' continual cry
Growing more terrible as the day
Goes over the hill into the deep sea;
I have longed to move away
From the repetition of salutes,
From there are ghosts in the air
And ghostly echoes on paper,
And the thunder of calls and notes.

I have longed to move away but am afraid;
Some life, yet unspent, might explode
Out of the old lie burning on the ground,
And, crackling into the air, leave me half-blind.
Neither by night's ancient fear,
The parting of hat from hair,
Pursed lips at the receiver,
Shall I fall to death's feather.
By these I would not care to die,
Half convention and half lie.

Source: Collected Poems

895. The Limits of Man, by J.W. von Goethe

When the All-holy
Father Eternal,
With indifferent hand,
From clouds rolling o'er us,
Sows his benignant
Lightnings around us,
Humbly I kiss the
Hem of his garment,
Filled with the awe of
A true-hearted child.

For with Gods must
Never a mortal
Measure himself.
If he mounts upwards,
Till his head
Touch the star-spangled heavens,
His unstable feet
Feel no ground beneath them;
Winds and wild storm-clouds
Make him their plaything;—

Or if, with sturdy,
Firm-jointed bones, he
Treads the solid, unwavering
Floor of the earth; yet
Reaches he not
Commonest oaks, nor
E'en with the vine may
Measure his greatness.

What doth distinguish
Gods from us mortals?
That they before them
See waves without number,
One infinite stream;
But we, short-sighted,
One wavelet uplifts us,
One wavelet o'erwhelms us
In fathomless night.

A little ring
Encircles our life here;
And race after race are
Constantly added,
To lengthen the chain
Of Being forever.

(trans John S. Dwight)

Source: The Goethe Treasury: Selected Prose and Poetry

896. From What We Know, by Avvaiyar

Can anyone make a bird's nest, a beehive, a spider's web,
A hill for the ants that chew wood?
                                                    Don't speak of strengths
With strong words, my friends. For everyone,
Something comes easy.

(trans Thomas H. Pruiksma)

Source: Give, Eat, and Live: Poems of Avvaiyar

897. Interval, by Edward Thomas

Gone the wild day.
A wilder night
Coming makes way
For brief twilight.

Where the firm soaked road
Mounts beneath pines
To the high beech wood
It almost shines.

The beeches keep
A stormy rest,
Breathing deep
Of wind from the west.

The wood is black,
With a misty steam.
Above it the rack
Breaks for one gleam.

But the woodman's cot
By the ivied trees
Awakens not
To light or breeze.

It smokes aloft
It hunches soft
Under storm's wing.

It has no care
For gleam or gloom:
It stays there
While I shall roam,

Die and forget
The hill of trees,
The gleam, the wet,
This roaring peace.

Source: Poems of Edward Thomas

898. God's Grandeur, by Gerald Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
      It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
      It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
      And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
      And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
      There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
      Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
      World broods with warm breast with ah! bright wings.

Source: Poems and Prose