756. Drinking Song, by Ts'ao Ts'ao

Drinking, I sing of peace and of equality:

The tax collector knocks at no gate;
all rulers are virtuous and bright,
and their arms and legs, the ministers, are kind.

The people are well mannered, yielding without
foregoing litigation.

Three years' tilling makes nine years' provisions—
granaries overflow.
Our elders' backs are freed from loads.
Each fecund rain
contributes to the harvest.

Our fastest horses are withdrawn from war
to carry fertilizer.

Those who hold land or titles
show genuine affection for people,
promoting or demoting by merit,
attending like fathers or brothers.

receive a fitting punishment.
No one keeps what's found beside the road.
The prisons are all empty.
Midwinter courts have no criminals to try.

People of eight or ninety
live out their lives quite naturally.

Great virtue impermeates it all—
even trees and plants and tiny things that crawl.

(trans Sam Hamill)

Source: Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese

757. The Song of Wandering Aengus, by W. B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats

758. VI from the Divan of Hafiz

A flower-tinted cheek, the flowery close
Of the fair earth, these are enough for me—
Enough that in the meadow wanes and grows
The shadow of a graceful cypress-tree.
I am no lover of hypocrisy;
Of all the treasures that the earth can boast,
A brimming cup of wine I prize the most—
                           This is enough for me!

To them that here renowned for virtue live,
A heavenly palace is the meet reward;
To me, the drunkard and the beggar, give
The temple of the grape with red wine stored!
Beside a river seat thee on the sward;
It floweth past—so flows thy life away,
So sweetly, swiftly, fleets our little day—
                           Swift, but enough for me!

Look upon all the gold in the world's mart,
On all the tears the world hath shed in vain;
Shall they not satisfy thy craving heart?
I have enough of loss, enough of gain;
I have my Love, what more can I obtain?
Mine in the joy of her companionship
Whose healing lip is laid upon my lip—
                            This is enough for me!

I pray thee send not forth my naked soul
From its poor house to seek for Paradise;
Though heaven and earth before me God unroll,
Back to thy village still my spirit flies.
And, Hafiz, at the door of Kismet lies
No just complaint—a mind like water clear,
A song that swells and dies upon the ear,
                            These are enough for thee!

(trans Gertrude Bell)

Source: Poems of Hafiz

759. Untitled, by Vidya

Fate is a cruel
and proficient potter,
my friend. Forcibly
spinning the wheel
of anxiety, he lifts misfortune
like a cutting tool. Now
having kneaded my heart
like a lump of clay,
he lays it on his
wheel and gives a spin.
What he intends to produce
I cannot tell.

(trans Andrew Schelling)

Source: Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India

760. In the Reign of the Pharaoh Totmes, by Harry Martinson

Our overseer of the rowers is going to die soon.
Although the voyage has been long he uses the leather scourge
on our gashes and chafed sores.
He takes a beaker of fermented slave-woman's milk at the overseer's

He is going to die in Dendera. We rowers have decided.
Since we will have killed him, we will all be beheaded on the sand.

Everything is happening now as it must.
All our oars are thrashing towards Dendera.
The ship is forging ahead on the water as if on a thousand feet.

(trans Robin Fulton)

Source: Chickweed Wintergreen: Selected Poems

761. Epitaph on the Earl of Leicester, by Sir Walter Ralegh

Here lies the noble Warrior that never blunted a sword;
Here lies the noble Courtier that never kept his word;
Here lies his Excellency that governed all the state;
Here lies the Lord of Leicester that all the world did hate.

Source: The Rattle Bag: An Anthology of Poetry

762. Written in Dejection near Rome, by Robert Bly

What if these long races go on repeating themselves
century after century, living in houses painted light colors
on the beach,
black spiders,
having turned pale and fat,
men walking thoughtfully with their families,
of exhausted violin-bodies,
horrible eternities of sea pines!
Some men cannot help but feel it,
they will abandon their homes
to live on rafts tied together on the ocean;
those on shore will go inside tree trunks,
surrounded by bankers whose fingers have grown long and slender,
piercing through rotten bark for their food.

Source: The Light Around the Body, by Robert Bly

763. Outside the City, by Tu Fu

It is bitter cold, and late, and falling
Dew muffles my gaze into bottomless skies.
Smoke trails out over distant salt mines
Where snow-covered peaks cast shadows east.

Armies haunt my homeland still. And war
Drums throb in this distant place. A guest
Overnight in a river city, together with
Shrieking crows, my old friends, I return.

(trans David Hinton)

Source: The Selected Poems of Tu Fu

764. Davey Brown Camp, by Edgar Bowers

Camping, around the fire at night, we sing
Songs our mothers taught us or songs we sang
At summer camp, in church, or in the army;
Then, from our sleeping bags, we name the stars.
All afternoon, quietly among the pines
That open their cones only in fire, we followed
The soar of condors down the loop of time.
Breakfast over, we climb the wilderness,
Hoping to see a lion on the fire road,
And it see us before it slips away.

Source: Collected Poems

765. Gravestones, by Vernon Watkins

Look down. The dead have life.
Their dreadful night accompanies our Springs.
Touch the next leaf:
Such darkness lives there, where a last grief sings.

Light blinds the whirling graves.
Lost under rainwet earth the letters run.
A finger grieves,
Touching worn names, bearing daughter and son.

Here the quick life was borne,
A fountain quenched, fountains with sufferings crowned.
Creeds of the bone
Summoned from darkness what no Sibyl found.

Truly the meek are blest
Past proud men's trumpets, for they stilled their fame
Till this late blast
Gave them their muted, and their truest name.

Sunk are the stones, green-dewed,
Blunted with age, touched by cool, listening grass.
Vainly these died,
Did not miraculous silence come to pass.

Yet they have lovers' ends,
Lose to hold fast, as violets root in frost.
With stronger hands
I see them rise through all that they have lost.

I take a sunflower down,
With light's first faith persuaded and entwined.
Break, buried dawn,
For the dead live, and I am of their kind.

Source: The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins

766. "A Little While," by Sara Teasdale

A little while when I am gone
      My life will live in music after me,
As spun foam lifted and borne on
      After the wave is lost in the full sea.

A while these nights and days will burn
     In song with the bright frailty of foam,
Living in light before they turn
      Back to the nothingness that is their home.

Source: Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale

767. The Serpent, by Theodore Roethke

There was a Serpent who had to sing.
There was. There was.
He simply gave up Serpenting.
Because. Because.

He didn't like his Kind of Life;
He couldn't find a proper Wife;
He was a Serpent with a soul;
He got no Pleasure down his Hole.
And so, of course, he had to Sing,
And Sing he did, like Anything!
The Birds, they were, they were Astounded;
And various Measures Propounded
To stop the Serpent's Awful Racket:
They bought a Drum. He wouldn't Whack it.
They sent,—you always send,—to Cuba
And got a Most Commodious Tuba;
They got a Horn, they got a Flute,
But Nothing would suit.
He said, "Look, Birds, all this is futile:
I do not like to Bang or Tootle."
And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note
That practically split the Top of his Throat.
"You see," he said, with a Serpent's Leer,
"I'm serious about my Singing Career!"
And the Woods Resounded with many a Shriek
As the Birds flew off to the End of Next Week.

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

768. Marriage in Two Moods, by Francis Thompson


Love that's loved from day to day
Loves itself into decay:
He that eats one daily fruit
Shrivels hunger at the root.
Daily pleasure grows a task;
Daily smiles become a mask.
Daily growth of unpruned strength
Expands to feebleness at length.
Daily increase thronging fast
Must devour itself at last.
Daily shining, even content,
Would with itself grow discontent;
And the sun's life witnesseth
Daily dying is not death.
So Love loved from day to day
Loves itself into decay.


Love to daily uses wed
Shall be sweetly perfected.
Life by repetition grows
Unto its appointed close:
Day to day fulfils one year—
Shall not Love by Love wax dear?
All piles by repetition rise—
Shall not then Love's edifice?
Shall not Love, too, learn his writ,
Like Wisdom, by repeating it?
By the oft-repeated use
All perfections gain their thews;
And so, with daily uses wed,
Love, too, shall be perfected.

Source: Complete Poems of Francis Thompson

769. Air Mail, by Tomas Transtromer

I carried the letter through the city
in search of a mail box.
In the great forest of stone and concrete
fluttered that lost butterly.

The stamp's flying carpet
the address's staggering letters
plus my sealed-in truth
at this moment floating above the ocean.

The Atlantic's crawling silver.
The banks of clouds. The fishing boat
like a spit-out olive pit.
And the pale scar of its wake.

Down here work goes slowly.
Often I steal a glance at the clock.
The shadows of the trees are black ciphers
in the greedy silence.

Truth is there on the ground
but no one dares to take it.
Truth lies on the street.
No one makes it his own.

(trans Samuel Charters)

Source: For the Living and the Dead

770. Only They Can Whisper Songs of Hope, by Jane Goodall

The world has need of them, those who stand upon the Bridge,
Who know the pain in the singing of a bird
And the beauty beyond a flower dying:
Who have heard the crystal harmony
Within the silence of a snow-peaked mountain—
For who but they can bring life's meaning
To the living dead?

Oh, the world needs those standing on the Bridge,
For they know how Eternity reaches to earth
In the wind that brings music to the leaves
Of the forest: in the drops of rain that caress
The sleeping life of the desert: in the sunbeams
Of the first spring day in an alpine meadow.
Only they can blow the dust from the seeing eyes
Of those who are blind.

Yet pity them! those who stand on the Bridge.
For they, having known utter Peace,
Are moved by an ancient compasssion
To reach back to those who cry out
From a world which has lost its meaning:
A world where the atom—the clay of the Sculptor—
Is torn apart, in the name of science,
For the destruction of Love.

And so they stand there on the Bridge
Torn by the anguish of free will:
Yearning with unshed tears
To go back—to return
To the starlight of their beginnings
To the utter peace
Of the unfleshed spirit.
Yet only they can whisper songs of hope
To those who struggle, helpless, towards light.

Oh, let them not desert us, those on the Bridge,
Those who have known Love in the freedom
Of the night sky and know the meaning
Of the moon's existence beyond
Man's fumbling footsteps into space.
For they know the Eternal Power
That encompasses life's beginnings
And gathers up its endings,
And lays them, like Joseph's coat,
On the never changing, always moving canvas
That stretches beyond the Universe
And is contained in the eye
Of a little frog.

Source: Reason for Hope

771. Why, Then, Complain, by Vernon Watkins

Why, then, complain of evil days
If days you knew before were good?
That is a shallow kind of praise
Which cannot thrive on bitter food.

I know too great a recompense
For any tempest to destroy.
When joy has lost its last defence,
Then is the time to learn of joy.

Let discord beat about my ears,
I know too well what time may bring,
Nor can it touch the truest tears,
Such is the secret of their spring.

Source:  The Collected Poems of Vernon Watkins

772. "the patience of the universe," by Lucille Clifton

the patience
of the universe
is not without
an end

so might it
turn its back

so might it
walk away

leaving you alone
in the world you leave
your children

Source: The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

773. Verses from 1936, by Karel Capek

When this century collapses, dead at last,
and its sleep within the dark tomb has begun,
come, look down upon us, world, file past
and be ashamed of what our age has done.

Inscribe our stone, that everyone may see
what this dead era valued most and best:
science, progress, work, technology
and death—but death we prized above the rest.

We set new records, measuring men and deeds
in terms of greatness; thus we tempted fate.
In keeping with the greatness of our needs,
our heroes and our gangsters, too, were great.

The 20th century, buried; nonetheless,
world, see what eras yet to come will gain:
Great new records, great inventions. Wretchedness.
Dictators. War. A ruined town in Spain.

(translator unknown; the poem is quoted in a biography, and its actual title is also unknown)

Source: Karel Capek: Life and Work

774. More than Sixty, by Jack Gilbert

Out of money, so I'm sitting in the shade
of my farmhouse cleaning the lentils
I found in the back of the cupboard.
Listening to the cicada in the fig tree
mix with the cooing doves on the roof.
I look up when I hear a goat hurt far down
the valley and discover the sea
exactly the same blue I used to paint it
with my watercolors as a child.
So what, I think happily. So what!

Source: Collected Poems

775. The Condor, by Loren Eiseley

The great bird moves its feathers on the air
like fingers playing on an instrument,
the instrument of wind; it climbs and scarcely moves
                                while steady thermals push
                                its giant wings still higher till it soars
beyond my sight completely, though it peers
               through strange red eyes
               upon my face below.
Its kind is dying from the earth; its wings
               create a foolish envy among men.
Its shadow knew the mammoth and he passed,
               floated above the sabertooth, now gone,
               saw the first spearmen on the bison's track,
               banked sharply, went its way alone.
Its eyes are larger than its searching brain;
               the creature sees like a satellite,
               but exists within
               an ice-world now dead. This bird cannot
               understand rifles, multiply its eggs,
               one hidden on a cliff face all it has.
Its shadow is now passing from the earth
               just as the mammoth's shadow at high noon.
Something has gone with each of them, the sky
               is out of balance with the tipping poles.
               No huge, tusked beast is marching with the ice,
no aerial shadow tracks the passing years.
               Only below the haze grows deeper still,
               only the buildings edge up through the murk.
Planes fly, and sometimes crash, but no black wing will write
               the end of man, as man's end should be written
               by all the condor wings beneath high heaven.

Source: The Innocent Assassins: Poems