Poetry and Poets: October 2003 Archives

Another Poem for the Day


Ms. Peony Moss offers "You, Andrew Marvell" by Archibald MacLeish, which I know I have read and which I largely remember for the title it gave to a science fiction story some time ago (I don't recall the author--perhaps Michael Bishop?) "And strange at Ecbatan the trees."

Go to her place and read it. I place it below so that I may return and savor it also in my commonplace book--thank you so much for this Ms. Moss.

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While I consider carefully the particulars of my indictment yesterday by recent circumstances and only secondarily by Ms. Paglia, the final October Poem. Nothing particularly autumnal about it, but a long-time favorite and a cache of wonderful phrases. (I particularly like the "vaster than empires and more slow," when critiquing the amount of time it can take some members of my household to prepare themselves. She is always quick to remind me, "The grave's a fine and private place.")

To His Coy Mistress
Andrew Marvell

            Had we but world enough, and time,
            This coyness, lady, were no crime.
            We would sit down and think which way
            To walk, and pass our long love's day;
            Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
            Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
            Of Humber would complain. I would
            Love you ten years before the Flood;
            And you should, if you please, refuse
            Till the conversion of the Jews.
            My vegetable love should grow
            Vaster than empires, and more slow.
            An hundred years should go to praise
            Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
            Two hundred to adore each breast,
            But thirty thousand to the rest;
            An age at least to every part,
            And the last age should show your heart.
            For, lady, you deserve this state,
            Nor would I love at lower rate.

                  But at my back I always hear
            Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
            And yonder all before us lie
            Deserts of vast eternity.
            Thy beauty shall no more be found,
            Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
            My echoing song; then worms shall try
            That long preserv'd virginity,
            And your quaint honour turn to dust,
            And into ashes all my lust.
            The grave's a fine and private place,
            But none I think do there embrace.

                  Now therefore, while the youthful hue
            Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
            And while thy willing soul transpires
            At every pore with instant fires,
            Now let us sport us while we may;
            And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
            Rather at once our time devour,
            Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
            Let us roll all our strength, and all
            Our sweetness, up into one ball;
            And tear our pleasures with rough strife
            Thorough the iron gates of life.
            Thus, though we cannot make our sun
            Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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October Poem--T.S. Eliot--Preludes


T. S. Eliot


            The winter evening settles down
            With smell of steaks in passageways.
            Six o'clock.
            The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
            And now a gusty shower wraps
            The grimy scraps
            Of withered leaves about your feet
            And newspapers from vacant lots;
            The showers beat
            On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
            And at the corner of the street
            A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
            And then the lighting of the lamps.

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Another Puritan (a sure winner in Erik's book :-), but a magnificent and much neglected poet. I've been hard-pressed to find much of his stuff on the web or in print. It's a shame. He has a series of meditations on Biblical Texts that are unmatched by just about anything from the time period. Note in the poem an extremely elaborate conceit that takes a while to settle into its proper outlines.

A couple of hints--

hasp--can mean many things but the most likely reading here is "to confine" or "to encompass."

fustian--can mean a cloth or bombastic language, so this initially threw me until I recalled that as an adjective it may also mean worthless, petty, pretentious; however, another intriguing reading is "made-up or imaginary"

Enjoy the poem--it is quite rich.

Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold
Edward Taylor

The Bear that breathes the Northern blast
Did numb, Torpedo-like,a Wasp
Whose stiffened limbs encramped, lay bathing
In Sol's warm breath and shine as saving,
Which with her hands she chafes and stands
Rubbing her Legs, Shanks, Thighs, and hands.
Her petty toes, and fingers' ends
Nipped with this breath, she out extends
Unto the Sun, in great desire
To warm her digits at that fire.
Doth hold her Temples in this state
Where pulse doth beat, and head doth ache.
Doth turn, and stretch her body small,
Doth Comb her velvet Capital.
As if her little brain pan were
A Volume of Choice precepts clear.
As if her satin jacket hot
Contained Apothecary's Shop
Of Nature's receipts, that prevails
To remedy all her sad ails,
As if her velvet helmet high
Did turret rationality.
She fans her wing up to the Wind
As if her Pettycoat were lined,
With reason's fleece, and hoists sails
And humming flies in thankful gales
Unto her dun Curled palace Hall
Her warm thanks offering for all.

Lord, clear my misted sight that I
May hence view Thy Divinity,
Some sparks whereof Thou up dost hasp
Within this little downy Wasp
In whose small Corporation we
A school and a schoolmaster see,
Where we may learn, and easily find
A nimble Spirit bravely mind
Her work in every limb: and lace
It up neat with a vital grace,
Acting each part though ne'er so small
Here of this Fustian animal,
Till I enravished Climb into
The Godhead on this Ladder do,
Where all my pipes inspired upraise
An Heavenly music furred with praise.

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The Three Enemies
Christina Rosetti, 1851


"Sweet, thou art pale."
"More pale to see,
Christ hung upon the cruel tree
And bore His Father's wrath for me."

"Sweet, thou art sad."
"Beneath a rod
More heavy, Christ for my sake trod
The winepress of the wrath of God."

"Sweet, thou art weary."
"Not so Christ:
Whose mighty love of me suffic'd
For Strength, Salvation, Eucharist."

"Sweet, thou art footsore."
"If I bleed,
His feet have bled; yea in my need
His Heart once bled for mine indeed."


"Sweet, thou art young."
"So He was young
Who for my sake in silence hung
Upon the Cross with Passion wrung."

"Look, thou art fair."
"He was more fair
Than men, Who deign'd for me to wear
A visage marr'd beyond compare."

"And thou hast riches."
"Daily bread:
All else is His: Who, living, dead,
For me lack'd where to lay His Head."

"And life is sweet."
"It was not so
To Him, Whose Cup did overflow
With mine unutterable woe."


"Thou drinkest deep."
"When Christ would sup
He drain'd the dregs from out my cup:
So how should I be lifted up?"

"Thou shalt win Glory."
"In the skies,
Lord Jesus, cover up mine eyes
Lest they should look on vanities."

"Thou shalt have Knowledge."
"Helpless dust!
In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust:
Answer Thou for me, Wise and Just."

"And Might."--
"Get thee behind me. Lord,
Who hast redeem'd and not abhorr'd
My soul, oh keep it by Thy Word."

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Not the glorious seventeenth--but surely a highlight of the eighteenth. It's a shame so few read it these days and so few know its noble rhythms and pithy turns of phrase. In this brief excerpt for your pleasure there are no fewer than three really catchy phrases. Find the complete poem here.

from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray (1751)

            Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
                  The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
            Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
                  Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

            Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
                  The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
            To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
                  And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

            Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
                  Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
            Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
                  And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

            The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
                  To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
            Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
                  With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

            Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
                  Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
            Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
                  They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

            Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
                  Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
            With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
                  Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

            Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
                  The place of fame and elegy supply:
            And many a holy text around she strews,
                  That teach the rustic moralist to die.

            For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
                  This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
            Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
                  Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?

            On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
                  Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
            Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
                  Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

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A short excerpt from one of the great creepy-poems of all time.

The context--Death and his spouse Life-in-Death are casting dice for the lives of the crew of the ship on which the Ancient Mariner served. Death wins the majority, but LIfe-in-Death takes one:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip--
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

life in death.jpg.jpg

Wonderful illustration by Gustav Doré

Find the full version of the 1834 revision of the poem here

One last note--the context of the time makes this seem eerily appropriate. If we allow Ms. Shaivo to die in the name of the separate and equal balance of power, or of any number of things people seem to argue that she should die for, we will have killed the albatross, and it shall be hung about our necks, marking us.

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From my favorite Shakespeare play

from The Tempest
Ariel's Song
William Shakespeare

Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!
The watch-dogs bark.
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

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One of a sequence of seven poems, respectfully dedicated to Fr. Keyes and to all Missionaries of the Precious Blood in a belated tribute to their Founder St. Gaspar del Bufalo (October 21) and in honor of Father Keyes's upcoming anniversary of Ordination (Sunday, October 26--12th anniversary). Please pray for Father Keyes for the continued success of his mission and vocation.

from "La Corona"
John Donne

Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall—though she now be in extreme degree 
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly—be 
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul, 
And life by this death abled shall control 
Death, whom Thy death slew ; nor shall to me 
Fear of first or last death bring misery, 
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll. 
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified, 
But made that there, of which, and for which it was ; 
Nor can by other means be glorified. 
May then sin's sleep and death soon from me pass, 
That waked from both, I again risen may 
Salute the last and everlasting day. 

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Thematically related to the discussion yesterday of choices made:

Links to more Patmore:

Poet's Corner

Old Poetry

The Child's Purchase

All Spirit

Complete: Angel in the House and Another, less aggravating version

Victories of Love--Gutenberg

The Toys
Coventry Patmore

            My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
            And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
            Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
            I struck him, and dismiss'd
            With hard words and unkiss'd,
            His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
            Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
            I visited his bed,
            But found him slumbering deep,
            With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
            From his late sobbing wet.
            And I, with moan,
            Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
            For, on a table drawn beside his head,
            He had put, within his reach,
            A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
            A piece of glass abraded by the beach
            And six or seven shells,
            A bottle with bluebells
            And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
            To comfort his sad heart.
            So when that night I pray'd
            To God, I wept, and said:
            Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath,
            Not vexing Thee in death,
            And Thou rememberest of what toys
            We made our joys,
            How weakly understood
            Thy great commanded good,
            Then, fatherly not less
            Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
            Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
            "I will be sorry for their childishness."

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October Poem--Milton--Sonnet XXIII


A finer, more eloquent lamentation and heartfelt expression of grief is hard to imagine. This belongs with Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband" as one of the great love poems (particularly considering it comes from Milton's hand).

Sonnet XXIII: Methought I Saw my Late Espoused Saint
John Milton

            Methought I saw my late espoused saint
                 Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
                 Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
                 Rescu'd from death by force, though pale and faint.
            Mine, as whom wash'd from spot of child-bed taint
                 Purification in the old Law did save,
                 And such as yet once more I trust to have
                 Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
            Came vested all in white, pure as her mind;
                 Her face was veil'd, yet to my fancied sight
                 Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
            So clear as in no face with more delight.
                 But Oh! as to embrace me she inclin'd,
                 I wak'd, she fled, and day brought back my night.

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Pardon the pun, but an utterly chlling view--and wonderful and beautiful.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream
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.

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So as not to try patience, nor subject reader to infinite scrolling, I post merely two excerpts of this magnificent poem. The subject is the danger of near occasion of sin and the execution is magnificent. Find the entire poem here. This poem should be carefully read and considered and I think in the repetoire of every home-schooler for later years--say grades 11 and 12. There are strong adult themes.

The Goblin Market

MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck'd cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries; -
All ripe together
In summer weather, -
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy."
. . .

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answer'd all together:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipp'd a precious golden lock,
She dropp'd a tear more rare than pearl,
Then suck'd their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow'd that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck'd and suck'd and suck'd the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck'd until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gather'd up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turn'd home alone.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Pluck'd from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.

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Another Poem--Shelley-Ozymandias


It's good to have a couple of poems--and I'll be away awhile contemplating other things so best to leave you with something to think about:

Percy Bysshe 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 lips, 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."

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Unhappily less remembered and recited than "The Owl and the Pussycat" but every bit worthy of the same:

The Jumblies
Edward Lear

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, `You'll all be drowned!'
They called aloud, `Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
`O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, `How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
`O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, `How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, `If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,---
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

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Some have complained of the amount of poetry on the site. Some have seen fit to stop reading. I am sorry that it so distresses them; however, it has put me back in touch with part of the reason I'm doing this anyway and given me great pleasure at revisiting old friends.

This poem in particular is nice to visit again. My first acquaintance with it was on the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer album Brain Salad Surgery where it is the fanfare to introduce the whole rather twisted affair. These words are a hymn sometimes sung in Anglican Churches and they are quite lovely:

from Milton
William Blake

              And did those feet in ancient time
              Walk upon England's mountains green?
              And was the holy Lamb of God
              On England's pleasant pastures seen?

              And did the Countenance Divine
              Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
              And was Jerusalem builded here
              Among these dark Satanic mills?

              Bring me my bow of burning gold:
            Bring me my arrows of desire:
            Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
            Bring me my chariot of fire.

            I will not cease from mental fight,
            Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
            Till we have built Jerusalem
            In England's green and pleasant land.

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Poetry and Life

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Mr. O'Rama asks a question that I will probably need to think more about:

Do some, for whatever reason, have a higher “minimum daily requirement” of art? Of plays, music, books, theatre, film, paintings, architecture, poems?

I think of the Little Way of St. Therese and wonder: If we could see life as it truly is, as spiritual warfare in which our most insignificant actions have rippling effects -then would not our lives be infused with meaning and art be, extraneous? What need has the soldier on the field of battle for novels when his own life is the stuff of legend?

I do not know the answer, but I do know how I feel. Art is one of the great battlegrounds for hearts and minds. Poetry, literature, music, art, cinema, all vie for attention both as entertainment and as edification. I don't know that walking through the National Gallery of Art actually qualifies for "entertainment" or even really "diversion." I think experiencing art is another way of experiencing a portion of God's creative capacity as doled out in His creation.

I suppose we must take very seriously the question of whether some need Art or whether Art makes life more "real" or more "lived" as I must believe it does. I seriously doubt that the Holy Father would have wasted the time in writing a Letter specifically to Artists if he did not consider the matter vitally important.

Yes, if we visualize all life as a spiritual battleground much of this is true. But if we look at life that way, are we not also missing part of the message? Is life MERELY a spiritual battleground. Isn't it also the time during which we come to awareness of the glory and the grandeur of God. And isn't Art one of the ways in which we can do that? I have seen a great many moving sunsets and sat beside lakes, streams, waterfulls, and rills. I have paddled among rias and aits and even kayaked up the Potomac to Great Falls to take measurements near Difficult Run. I have walked the paths of Hocking Hills and had the great Serpent Mound all to myself for days on end and all of these things are great and glorious. And I have read a poem by Hopkins and been a thousand times more moved and transported than many of these other things have done. I can recite from memory hundreds of poems, thousands of fragments, but only one natural impression has remained so indelibly impressed upon me. Not that all those things I mentioned before are not beautiful, but that beauty in its different forms speaks to different people. "My Father's House has many mansions." I cannot imagine life without art. I am uncertain whether I would have come to know God as well as I hope I do without Caravaggio and Monet, Palestrina and Debussy, Dante and Joyce.

So I think the answer is, yes. For some art is a necessity--it is the lifeline through which God communicates some portion of His grace and presence. Some seem to get it from fishing, others through sports, still others from gardening and simple daily tasks. For some of us it is in the words we use every day. And that does seem apropos as we are told, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . ."

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About this, at least, there can be no doubt of its autumnal and Octembral appropriateness.

William Cullen Bryant

  TO HIM who in the love of Nature holds  
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks  
A various language; for his gayer hours  
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile  
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides          
Into his darker musings, with a mild  
And healing sympathy, that steals away  
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts  
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight  
Over thy spirit, and sad images   
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,  
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,  
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—  
Go forth under the open sky, and list  
To Nature's teachings, while from all around—   
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—  
Comes a still voice—Yet a few days, and thee  
The all-beholding sun shall see no more  
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,  
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,   
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist  
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim  
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,  
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up  
Thine individual being, shalt thou go   
To mix forever with the elements;  
To be a brother to the insensible rock,  
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain  
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak  
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.  
  Yet not to thine eternal resting-place  
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish  
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down  
With patriarchs of the infant world,—with kings,  
The powerful of the earth,—the wise, the good,   
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,  
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills  
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales  
Stretching in pensive quietness between;  
The venerable woods—rivers that move   
In majesty, and the complaining brooks  
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,  
Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste,—  
Are but the solemn decorations all  
Of the great tomb of man! The golden sun,  
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,  
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,  
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread  
The globe are but a handful to the tribes  
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings   
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,  
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods  
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,  
Save his own dashings,—yet the dead are there:  
And millions in those solitudes, since first  
The flight of years began, have laid them down  
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.  
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw  
In silence from the living, and no friend  
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe   
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh  
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care  
Plod on, and each one as before will chase  
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave  
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come   
And make their bed with thee. As the long train  
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,  
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes  
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,  
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—   
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side  
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.  
  So live, that when thy summons comes to join  
The innumerable caravan which moves  
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take   
His chamber in the silent halls of death,  
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,  
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed  
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave  
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch   
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

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You probably don't think of this much in the context of autumn and fall and October, however, I think it a perfect fit for some of the melancholy many feel about this time--it's a great song for the falling of the leaves.

Music when Soft Voices Die (To --)
Percy Bysshe Shelley

                Music, when soft voices die,
              Vibrates in the memory--
              Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
              Live within the sense they quicken.

                Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
              Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
              And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
              Love itself shall slumber on.

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In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

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I particularly relish putting Poe up in October because Harold Bloom thinks so little of him. And I happen to think that Bloom has blinders on when it comes to certain genres and writers.

The City in the Sea
Edgar Allan Poe

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently--
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free--
Up domes--up spires--up kingly halls--
Up fanes--up Babylon-like walls--
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers--
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathéd friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.

There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol's diamond eye--
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass--
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea--
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave--there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide--
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow--
The hours are breathing faint and low--
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

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Wreck of the Hesperus
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane.

"Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
Oh say, what may it be?"
"'T is a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns,
Oh say, what may it be?"
"Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light,
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That savèd she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

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Yesterday-A Poem NOT about April


Several times in recent date I have read of a poem categorized as being about "april being the cruelest month." In most cases the person quoting the line wished to disagree in one way or another and to say why some other month is more cruel. (Usually my favorite--October, but then chacun á son goût.) However, the poem they are quoting isn't really about April being the cruelest month, although that is the first line after the epigraph. It is in fact probably the most important poem of the 20th Century and the harbinger and measure of the modernist movement:

from The Waste Land
T. S. Eliot


APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.

You can see from the context that what is happening is that we are being introduced to one stream-of-consciousness in a multiplicity. April is the context because it springs from this consciousness. However, April is cited as cruel because of its forced resurrection which mixes "memory with desire." It forces us out of ourselves and into the light when we had long lain dormant.

But the poem is not about April, and Eliot did eventually come to terms with the despair he so neatly chronicles by joining the Church of England. And really the only reason for this post is not to correct anything or make any real point at all--it simply gave me sufficient excuse to quote an excerpt from a poem I love and I love to talk about.

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John Keats is one of the all-time great poets and the following ode with its unusual and langorous construction is truly a highlight of his work.

To Autumn John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Alfred Noyes, author of "The Highwayman" converted to Catholicism after the death of his first wife. He was author of several mutli-volume epic poems and has a longish piece at CIN on St. John the Evangelist.

The Highwayman

Alfred Noyes

Part One
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say-

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Part Two
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching-
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say-
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till here fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs
ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did
not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up strait and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him-with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding-
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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This is my October poem for the day. I recall that Dylan did not much care for narrative poems, and for the most part that represents a sound poetic judgment. The following is not exemplary poetry, but it does make for a slightly chilling read in the right atmosphere.

The Listeners
Walter de la Mare

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

I particularly like the image of the last two lines--"how the silence surged softly backward," closing like a curtain, once again cutting the listeners off from contact with the outside world. This is the same world, same atmosphere as that wonderful film The Others.

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What better poem for absent friends?

The Lime-tree Bower my Prison
[Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London]
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

              Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
              This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
              Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
              Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
              Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
              Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
              On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
              Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
              To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
            The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
            And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
            Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
            Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
            Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
            Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
            Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
            Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
            That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
            Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
            Of the blue clay-stone.
                             Now, my friends emerge
            Beneath the wide wide Heaven--and view again
            The many-steepled tract magnificent
            Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
            With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
            The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
            Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
            In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
            My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
            And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
            In the great City pent, winning thy way
            With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
            And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
            Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
            Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
            Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
            Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
            And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
            Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
            Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
            On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
            Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
            As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
            Spirits perceive his presence.
                             A delight
            Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
            As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
            This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
            Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
            Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
            Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
            The shadow of the leaf and stem above
            Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
            Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
            Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
            Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
            Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
            Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
            Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
            Yet still the solitary humble-bee
            Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
            That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
            No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
            No waste so vacant, but may well employ
            Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
            Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
            'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
            That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
            With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
            My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
            Beat its straight path along the dusky air
            Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
            (Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
            Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
            While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
            Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
            For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
            No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

And so I would say to absent friends, "No sound is dissonant which tells of life."

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Another guilty poetic treasure

Annabel Lee
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason
(as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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From St. Robert Southwell


Today is simply a day for poetry.

A Child My Choice
St. Robert Southwell

Let folly praise that fancy loves, I praise and love that Child
Whose heart no thought, whose tongue no word, whose hand no deed defiled.

I praise Him most, I love Him best, all praise and love is His;
While Him I love, in Him I live, and cannot live amiss.

Love's sweetest mark, laud's highest theme, man's most desired light,
To love Him life, to leave Him death, to live in Him delight.

He mine by gift, I His by debt, thus each to other due;
First friend He was, best friend He is, all times will try Him true.

Though young, yet wise; though small, yet strong; though man, yet God He is:
As wise, He knows; as strong, He can; as God, He loves to bless.

His knowledge rules, His strength defends, His love doth cherish all;
His birth our joy, His life our light, His death our end of thrall.

Alas! He weeps, He sighs, He pants, yet do His angels sing;
Out of His tears, His sighs and throbs, doth bud a joyful spring.

Almighty Babe, whose tender arms can force all foes to fly,
Correct my faults, protect my life, direct me when I die!

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A psalm of tremendous consolation:

Psalm 139
Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, 1599

      O LORD, O Lord, in me there lieth nought
    But to thy search revealed lies,
            For when I sit
            Thou markest it;
    No less thou notest when I rise;
Yea, closest closet of my thought
    Hath open windows to thine eyes.
Thou walkest with me when I walk;
    When to my bed for rest I go,
            I find thee there,
            And everywhere:
    Not youngest thought in me doth grow,
No, not one word I cast to talk
    But yet unuttered thou dost know.
If forth I march, thou goest before,
    If back I turn, thou com'st behind:
            So forth nor back
            Thy guard I lack,
    Nay on me too, thy hand I find.
Well I thy wisdom may adore,
    But never reach with earthy mind.
To shun thy notice, leave thine eye,
    O whither might I take my way?
            To starry sphere?
            Thy throne is there.
    To dead men's undelightsome stay?
There is thy walk, and there to lie
    Unknown, in vain I should assay.
O sun, whom light nor flight can match,
    Suppose thy lightful flightful wings
            Thou lend to me,
            And I could flee
    As far as thee the evening brings:
Even led to west he would me catch,
    Nor should I lurk with western things.
Do thou thy best, O secret night,
    In sable veil to cover me:
            Thy sable veil
            Shall vainly fail;
    With day unmasked my night shall be,
For night is day, and darkness light,
    O father of all lights, to thee.
Each inmost piece in me is thine:
    While yet I in my mother dwelt,
            All that me clad
            From thee I had.
    Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine
    So inly them my thoughts have felt.
Thou, how my back was beam-wise laid,
    And raft'ring of my ribs, dost know;
            Know'st every point
            Of bone and joint,
    How to this whole these parts did grow,
In brave embroid'ry fair arrayed,
    Though wrought in shop both dark and low.
Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
    Thy all and more beholding eye
            My shapeless shape
            Could not escape:
    All these time framed successively
Ere one had being, in the book
    Of thy foresight enrolled did lie.
My God, how I these studies prize,
    That do thy hidden workings show!
            Whose sum is such
            No sum so much,
    Nay, summed as sand they sumless grow.
I lie to sleep, from sleep I rise,
    Yet still in thought with thee I go.
My God, if thou but one wouldst kill,
    Then straigh would leave my further chase
            This cursed brood
            Inured to blood,
    Whose graceless taunts at thy disgrace
Have aimed oft; and hating still
    Would with proud lies thy truth outface.
Hate not I them, who thee do hate?
    Thine, Lord, I will the censure be.
            Detest I not
            The cankered knot
    Whom I against thee banded see?
O Lord, thou know'st in highest rate
    I hate them all as foes to me.
Search me, my God, and prove my heart,
    Examine me, and try my thought;
            And mark in me
            If ought there be
    That hath with cause their anger wrought.
If not (as not) my life's each part,
    Lord, safely guide from danger brought.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Poetry and Poets category from October 2003.

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