Megan McArdle has a post where she asks people for poems they like. A good idea. So I am stealing it.

I put two on there, see below.

Please add your own, though the entire Iliad, for example, should be represented by a choice selection, etc.

Boats in a Fog
Robinson Jeffers

Sports and gallantries, the stage, the arts, the antics
of dancers, the exuberant voices of music,
Have charm for children but lack nobility; it is bitter
That makes beauty; the mind
Knows, grown adult.
A sudden fog-drift muffled the ocean,
A throbbing of engines moved in it,
At length, a stone’s throw out, between the rocks and
the vapor,
One by one moved shadows
Out of the mystery, shadows, fishing-boats, trailing
each other,
Following the cliffs for guidance,
Holding a difficult path between the peril of the sea-
And the foam on the shore granite.
One by one, trailing their leader, six crept by me,
Out of the vapor and into it,
The throb of their engines subdued by the fog, patient
and cautious,
Coasting all round the peninsula
Back to the buoys in Monterey Harbor. A flight of
Is nothing lovelier to look at;
The flight of the planets is nothing nobler;
all the arts lose virtue
Against the essential reality
Of creatures going about their business among the
Earnest elements of nature.

Vitae Lampada
(“They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

The sand of the desert is sodden red, —
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938)

27 thoughts on “Poetry”

  1. Now that you said it I just have to use the Iliad.

    Who are you, young gallant stranger?
    Never before have I seen you in battle
    In the test that brings men honor.
    But here you stand now
    Far in front of everyone
    With heart enough to risk my beam of spear.

    (google just told me I’ve corrupted it a bit
    over the years, but that’s how I remember it).

  2. Ozymandias

    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 lip
    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.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley

  3. Kubla Khan or, a Vision In a Dream: A Fragment

    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
    So twice five miles of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round:
    And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
    Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
    And here were forests ancient as the hills,
    Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

    But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
    Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
    A savage place! as holy and enchanted
    As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
    By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
    And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
    As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
    A mighty fountain momently was forced:
    Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
    Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
    Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
    And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
    It flung up momently the sacred river.
    Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
    Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
    Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
    And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
    And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
    Ancestral voices prophesying war!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
    It was a miracle of rare device,
    A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer (6)
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian (7) maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
    That with music loud and long,
    I would build that dome in air,
    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice, (8)
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  4. From Macbeth:

    Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from dat to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    W. Shakespeare

  5. I’m not much for poetry at all, with perhaps the exception of Frost and McCord. But if Tatyana is reading, she’ll get this one right away (it’s a Tsvetayeva “A Rich Man Fell in Love with a Poor Girl):

    Полюбил богатый бедную (М. Цветаева)

    Полюбил богатый — бедную,
    Полюбил ученый — глупую,
    Полюбил румяный — бледную,
    Полюбил хороший — вредную:
    Золотой — полушку медную.

    Где, купец, твое роскошество?
    “Во дырявом во лукошечке!” –
    Где, гордец, твои учености?
    “Под подушкой у девчоночки,
    Под подушкой у девчоночки!”

    Где, красавец, щеки алые?
    “За ночь черную — растаяли”. –
    Крест серебряный с цепочкою?
    “У девчонки под сапожками!”

    Не люби, богатый, — бедную,
    Не люби, ученый, — глупую,
    Не люби, румяный, — бледную,
    Не люби, хороший, — вредную.
    Золотой — полушку медную!

    The rich man loved a poor woman,
    The scholar loved a dumb woman,
    The ruddy man loved a pale woman,
    The kind man loved a bad woman,
    And the gold a copper coin.

    “Where, merchant, is your wealth all?”
    “In a wallet that’s full of holes!”

    “Where, proud one, is what you know?”
    “Under a girl’s pillow.”

    “Where are your red cheeks, gorgeous sight?”
    “Whitened down in the black night.”

    “Where is the cross with silver chain?”
    “Under the girl’s boots again.”

    Rich man don’t love a poor woman,
    Scholar don’t love a dumb woman,
    Ruddy man don’t love a pale woman,
    Kind man don’t love a bad woman,
    And the gold a copper coin.

  6. I’m also partial to Lermontov’s “Borodino” because it gets the point across without going all Epic on you:


    «Скажи-ка, дядя, ведь не даром
    Москва, спаленная пожаром,
    Французу отдана?
    Ведь были ж схватки боевые?
    Да, говорят, еще какие!
    Не даром помнит вся Россия
    Про день Бородина!»

    — Да, были люди в наше время,
    Не то, что нынешнее племя:
    10 Богатыри — не вы!
    Плохая им досталась доля:
    Не многие вернулись с поля…
    Не будь на то господня воля,
    Не отдали б Москвы!

    15Мы долго молча отступали,
    Досадно было, боя ждали,
    Ворчали старики:
    «Что ж мы? на зимние квартиры?
    Не смеют что ли командиры
    20Чужие изорвать мундиры
    О русские штыки?»

    И вот нашли большое поле:
    Есть разгуляться где на воле!
    Построили редут.


    25У наших ушки на макушке!
    Чуть утро осветило пушки
    И леса синие верхушки —
    Французы тут-как-тут.

    Забил заряд я в пушку туго
    30И думал: угощу я друга!
    Постой-ка, брат, мусью!
    Что тут хитрить, пожалуй к бою;
    Уж мы пойдем ломить стеною,
    Уж постоим мы головою
    35 За родину свою!

    Два дня мы были в перестрелке.
    Что толку в этакой безделке?
    Мы ждали третий день.
    Повсюду стали слышны речи:
    40«Пора добраться до картечи!»
    И вот на поле грозной сечи
    Ночная пала тень.

    Прилег вздремнуть я у лафета,
    И слышно было до рассвета,
    45 Как ликовал француз.
    Но тих был наш бивак открытый:
    Кто кивер чистил весь избитый,
    Кто штык точил, ворча сердито,
    Кусая длинный ус.

    50И только небо засветилось,
    Всё шумно вдруг зашевелилось,
    Сверкнул за строем строй.
    Полковник наш рожден был хватом:
    Слуга царю, отец солдатам…
    55Да, жаль его: сражен булатом,
    Он спит в земле сырой.


    И молвил он, сверкнув очами:
    «Ребята! не Москва ль за нами?
    Умремте ж под Москвой,
    60Как наши братья умирали!»
    — И умереть мы обещали,
    И клятву верности сдержали
    Мы в бородинский бой.

    Ну ж был денек! Сквозь дым летучий
    65Французы двинулись как тучи,
    И всё на наш редут.
    Уланы с пестрыми значками,
    Драгуны с конскими хвостами,
    Все промелькнули перед нами,
    70 Все побывали тут.

    Вам не видать таких сражений!..
    Носились знамена как тени,
    В дыму огонь блестел,
    Звучал булат, картечь визжала,
    75Рука бойцов колоть устала,
    И ядрам пролетать мешала
    Гора кровавых тел.

    Изведал враг в тот день немало,
    Что значит русский бой удалый,
    80 Наш рукопашный бой!..
    Земля тряслась — как наши груди,
    Смешались в кучу кони, люди,
    И залпы тысячи орудий
    Слились в протяжный вой…

    85Вот смерклось. Были все готовы
    Заутра бой затеять новый
    И до конца стоять…
    Вот затрещали барабаны —
    И отступили басурманы.


    90Тогда считать мы стали раны,
    Товарищей считать.

    Да, были люди в наше время,
    Могучее, лихое племя:
    Богатыри — не вы.
    95Плохая им досталась доля:
    Не многие вернулись с поля.
    Когда б на то не божья воля,
    Не отдали б Москвы!


    Tell me, uncle, why
    Was Moscow horribly
    Burnt to the ground
    To rid the French from the town?
    What of that terrible fight,
    Yes, tell me of that!
    It’s not for nothing
    All Russia, remembers Borodino!

    Yes, these were people of our time,
    Much along the modern lines
    Heros — Not You!
    Terrible the toll
    Few returned to tell
    T’was God Himself replied:
    “Moscow shall be purified!”

    We stumbled long, along the quiet way
    Bitterly, horribly thirsty,
    Grumbling veterans:
    “What’s with us?
    Already, gone to winter quarters?
    T’was a time, our commanders
    Would laugh to scorn
    Their uniforms all torn
    On Russian bayonets!”

    T’was a great field they found:
    We saw them charging all around!
    They built themselves a fort.
    Our ears resounding the report!
    The morrow saw their gunners
    Blue-green forest thunder —
    Frenchmen hither and thither.

    I jammed the charge in my gun
    I thought: here’s one, my friend!
    Good hunting, brother mine!
    Takes brains to win a battle
    Let’s use our heads to break that wall
    The Motherland calls!

    Two days they shot up our tents
    What utter nonsense!
    Then came the third day
    We heard our brothers day
    “Get your shot and powder!”
    Midst the terrible glower
    Of lurid, nightly shadow-play.

    Whilst slumbering ‘neath my cannon
    The dawn comes rumbling in
    Frenchmen seek Salvation
    Comes stealthily upon them
    As finely sharpened steel
    The angry winter kill
    The finely sharpened quill.

    A brilliant sky
    All was stirring suddenly
    Like meteors in the sky
    Our noble colonel gallantly
    Served father, czar, country
    Such a pity
    His blood’s upon me.

    So he said, his eyes afire
    “My Children! Is Moscow clear?
    For Moscow we must die
    It is our destiny!”
    And then we swore our oath
    And we held to our troth
    Borodino, Moscow’s wrath.

    Then came the day!
    Swirling smoke at play
    The French were as mist
    All encircling, intermixed
    Tatooed Ulany, horse-tailed dragoons
    A flashing circus in bright pantaloons!

    You’ve never seen a battle!…
    Shadow banners flowing
    Midst the smokey fires glowing
    Whilst the sound of shot and steel
    Greased the palm I scarcely feel
    And there’s nowhere left to fly
    Bloody bodies piled high.

    The enemy’s out in force
    We Russians shall do worse
    We’ll fight them tooth and nail
    Like an earthquake — see they quail!
    Buried to our necks in gore
    Horses, people by the score
    Thousands make a stunning roar…

    But I survived.

    Yes, these were people of our time
    An awesome, noble line
    Heroes — Not You.
    Terrible the toll
    Few returned to tell
    The Lord himself replied
    “Moscow shall be purified!”

    © Copyright Jerome Raymond Kraus 2006

  7. ‘The Bait’

    Comelive with me, and be my love,
    And we will some new pleasures prove
    Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
    With silken lines and silver hooks.

    There will the river whisp’ring run
    Warm’d by thy eyes, more than the sun ;
    And there th’ enamour’d fish will stay,
    Begging themselves they may betray.

    When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
    Each fish, which every channel hath,
    Will amorously to thee swim,
    Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

    If thou, to be so seen, be’st loth,
    By sun or moon, thou dark’nest both,
    And if myself have leave to see,
    I need not their light, having thee.

    Let others freeze with angling reeds,
    And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
    Or treacherously poor fish beset,
    With strangling snare, or windowy net.

    Let coarse bold hands from slimy nest
    The bedded fish in banks out-wrest ;
    Or curious traitors, sleeve-silk flies,
    Bewitch poor fishes’ wand’ring eyes.

    For thee, thou need’st no such deceit,
    For thou thyself art thine own bait :
    That fish, that is not catch’d thereby,
    Alas ! is wiser far than I.

    John Donne

    Had to throw this in the mix…
    This is my favorite love poem, for it’s intricate but poignant intertwining of love and deceit.

  8. To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause: there’s the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life;
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
    The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
    The insolence of office and the spurns
    That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus make
    With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death,
    The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
    No traveller returns, puzzles the will
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    And enterprises of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!
    The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
    Be all my sins remember’d.

  9. “What is translation? On a platter
    a poet’s pale and glaring head.
    A parrot’s screech, a monkey’s chatter
    and profanation of the dead.”

    Vladimir Nabokov “On Translating Eugene Onegin

    (Read the whole translation if you have time, highly idiosyncratic but fascinating.)

  10. The Second Coming
    by W. B. Yeats

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  11. General William Booth Enters into Heaven

    Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931)

    BOOTH 1 led boldly with his big bass drum—
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
    The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
    Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
    Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,
    Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale—
    Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail:—
    Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,
    Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)


    Every slum had sent its half-a-score
    The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.)
    Every banner that the wide world flies
    Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.
    Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang,
    Tranced, fanatical, they shrieked and sang:—
    “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
    Hallelujah! It was queer to see
    Bull-necked convicts with that land make free.
    Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare,
    On, on upward thro’ the golden air!
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

    (Bass drum slower and softer)

    Booth died blind and still by Faith he trod,
    Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God.
    Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief,
    Eagle countenance in sharp relief,
    Beard a-flying, air of high command
    Unabated in that holy land.

    (Sweet flute music)

    Jesus came from out the court-house door,
    Stretched his hands above the passing poor.
    Booth saw not, but led his queer ones there
    Round and round the mighty court-house square.
    Yet in an instant all that blear review
    Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new.
    The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled
    And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.

    (Bass drum louder)

    Drabs and vixens in a flash made whole!
    Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl!
    Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean,
    Rulers of empires and of forests green!

    (Grand chorus of all instruments. Tambourines to the foreground)

    The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
    But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
    O, shout Salvation! It was good to see
    Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.
    The banjos rattled and the tambourines
    Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.

    (Reverently sung, no instruments)

    And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer
    He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air.
    Christ came gently with a robe and crown
    For Booth the soldier, while the throng knelt down.
    He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,
    And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.
    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

  12. ….

    “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax —
    Of cabbages–and kings–
    And why the sea is boiling hot–
    And whether pigs have wings.”


    Lewis Carrol, one stanza of the poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Through The Looking Glass.

    The poem quite amuses me, but then I’m a simple person. It occurs to me that some blooger (Jon could be one) should have the quote on the masthead.

  13. Er, after my handle in my last post I see “your comment is awaiting moderation”. I have, on rare occasion, been immoderate but Carroll’s little ditty is a flamer?

    Seriously, I suppose using 4 periods before and after the poem causes (?) some sort of editing option (?). In this context what does “moderation” mean?

  14. “Moderation” means that comments containing suspect words or phrases are automatically placed into limbo until a blog administrator approves or rejects them. I may deactivate moderation because it erroneously flags too many legitimate comments. (I think the problem in your case was the word, “shoes”.)

  15. Yes, John, I am indeed reading.

    That particular poem wouldn’t be my all-time -favorite Tzvetaeva’s, by thank you for a reminder.

    And Lermontov…what they hammered in your head in 5th grade, stays there! Especially if you’ve been taught the old way: memorizing actual poem instead of a summary in a textbook.

    As to my own favorite poem – at the moment it’s this one.

  16. Donne is always both beautiful and witty; I especially like:

    A Valediction: Forbiding Mourning

    As virtuous men pass mildly away,
    And whisper to their souls, to go,
    Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    “The breath goes now,” and some say, “No:”

    So let us melt, and make no noise,
    No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
    ‘Twere profanation of our joys
    To tell the laity our love.

    Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant;
    But trepidation of the spheres,
    Though greater far, is innocent.

    Dull sublunary lovers’ love
    (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
    Absence, because it doth remove
    Those things which elemented it.

    But we by a love so much refin’d,
    That ourselves know not what it is,
    Inter-assured of the mind,
    Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

    Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
    A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to airy thinness beat.

    If they be two, they are two so
    As stiff twin compasses are two;
    Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if the’ other do.

    And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet when the other far doth roam,
    It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home.

    Such wilt thou be to me, who must
    Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just,
    And makes me end, where I begun.

    And he’s there for all the important things: seduction, marriage, and religion. The intertwined form and content in this makes it a great learning tool, but, then, it works after that as well:

    Holy Sonnet XIV:

    Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God

    Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
    As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
    That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
    Your force, to breake, blow, burn and make me new.
    I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
    Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
    Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
    But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
    Yet dearley’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
    But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
    Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe,
    Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
    Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

  17. W.B. Yeats “The Wild Swans at Coole” 1919

    A Deep-sworn Vow

    OTHERS because you did not keep
    That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;
    Yet always when I look death in the face,
    When I clamber to the heights of sleep,
    Or when I grow excited with wine,
    Suddenly I meet your face.

    Yeats “New Poems” 1938

    The Municipal Gallery Re-visited


    Mancini’s portrait of Augusta Gregory,
    ‘Greatest since Rembrandt,’ according to John Synge;
    A great ebullient portrait certainly;
    But where is the brush that could show anything
    Of all that pride and that humility?
    And I am in despair that time may bring
    Approved patterns of women or of men
    But not that selfsame excellence again.


    (An image out of Spenser and the common tongue).
    John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
    All that we did, all that we said or sang
    Must come from contact with the soil, from that
    Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
    We three alone in modern times had brought
    Everything down to that sole test again,
    Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.


    And here’s John Synge himself, that rooted man,
    ‘Forgetting human words,’ a grave deep face.
    You that would judge me, do not judge alone
    This book or that, come to this hallowed place
    Where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon;
    Ireland’s history in their lineaments trace;
    Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
    And say my glory was I had such friends.

    (More the enjoyment of these two poems one has actually seen the wild swans at Coole Park or has viewed these portraits of Augusta Gregory and John Synge. I followed Yeats all over Ireland with his collected poems in hand.)

  18. Yeats has always been my favorite (I almost switched to an English major so I could focus on his work). The Tower is perhaps the greatest single book of poetry in the English language.

    However, my exploration of poetry began with an old copy of the collected works of Poe I found on my father’s bookshelf when I was a child. The Raven was great and all, but what really got me hooked was Dreamland, which, for all its adolescent gloominess, is still one of my favorites:

    By a route obscure and lonely,
    Haunted by ill angels only,
    Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
    On a black throne reigns upright,
    I have reached these lands but newly
    From an ultimate dim Thule-
    From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
        Out of SPACE- out of TIME.

    Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
    And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
    With forms that no man can discover
    For the tears that drip all over;
    Mountains toppling evermore
    Into seas without a shore;
    Seas that restlessly aspire,
    Surging, unto skies of fire;
    Lakes that endlessly outspread
    Their lone waters- lone and dead,-
    Their still waters- still and chilly
    With the snows of the lolling lily.

    By the lakes that thus outspread
    Their lone waters, lone and dead,-
    Their sad waters, sad and chilly
    With the snows of the lolling lily,-
    By the mountains- near the river
    Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,-
    By the grey woods,- by the swamp
    Where the toad and the newt encamp-
    By the dismal tarns and pools
        Where dwell the Ghouls,-
    By each spot the most unholy-
    In each nook most melancholy-
    There the traveller meets aghast
    Sheeted Memories of the Past-
    Shrouded forms that start and sigh
    As they pass the wanderer by-
    White-robed forms of friends long given,
    In agony, to the Earth- and Heaven.

    For the heart whose woes are legion
    ‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region-
    For the spirit that walks in shadow
    ‘Tis- oh, ’tis an Eldorado!
    But the traveller, travelling through it,
    May not- dare not openly view it!
    Never its mysteries are exposed
    To the weak human eye unclosed;
    So wills its King, who hath forbid
    The uplifting of the fringed lid;
    And thus the sad Soul that here passes
    Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

    By a route obscure and lonely,
    Haunted by ill angels only,
    Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
    On a black throne reigns upright,
    I have wandered home but newly
    From this ultimate dim Thule.

  19. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
    how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
    express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
    in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
    world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
    what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
    me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
    you seem to say so.

  20. An Irish Airman foresees his Death
    W.B. Yeats

    I know that I shall meet my fate
    Somewhere among the clouds above;
    Those that I fight I do not hate
    Those that I guard I do not love;
    My country is Kiltartan Cross,
    My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
    No likely end could bring them loss
    Or leave them happier than before.
    Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
    Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
    A lonely impulse of delight
    Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
    I balanced all, brought all to mind,
    The years to come seemed waste of breath,
    A waste of breath the years behind
    In balance with this life, this death.

  21. In Memorium (Easter 1915) by Edward Thomas

    The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
    This Eastertide call into mind the men,
    Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
    Have gathered them and will do never again.

  22. Along the shore the cloud waves break,
    The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
    The shadows lengthen
    In Carcosa.

    Strange is the night where black stars rise,
    And strange moons circle through the skies
    But stranger still is
    Lost Carcosa.

    Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
    Where flap the tatters of the King,
    Must die unheard in
    Dim Carcosa.

    Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
    Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
    Shall dry and die in
    Lost Carcosa.

    Cassilda’s Song in “The King in Yellow,” Act i, Scene 2.

  23. Lex, you do realize that after excerpting from The King in Yellow, all who read this post will be that much less sane. I for one have little sanity to spare, so be careful, lest we all end up staring at Aldebaran barking at Him Who Is Not to be Named

    by Dylan Thomas

    Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
    About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
    The night above the dingle starry,
    Time let me hail and climb
    Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
    And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
    And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
    Trail with daisies and barley
    Down the rivers of the windfall light.

    And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
    About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
    In the sun that is young once only,
    Time let me play and be
    Golden in the mercy of his means,
    And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
    Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
    And the sabbath rang slowly
    In the pebbles of the holy streams.

    All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
    Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
    And playing, lovely and watery
    And fire green as grass.
    And nightly under the simple stars
    As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
    All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
    Flying with the ricks, and the horses
    Flashing into the dark.

    And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
    With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
    Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
    The sky gathered again
    And the sun grew round that very day.
    So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
    In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
    Out of the whinnying green stable
    On to the fields of praise.

    And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
    Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
    In the sun born over and over,
    I ran my heedless ways,
    My wishes raced through the house high hay
    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
    In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
    Before the children green and golden
    Follow him out of grace.

    Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
    Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
    In the moon that is always rising,
    Nor that riding to sleep
    I should hear him fly with the high fields
    And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

  25. On Baseball and Writing
    Marianne Moore

    Fanaticism? No.Writing is exciting
    and baseball is like writing.
    You can never tell with either
    how it will go
    or what you will do;
    generating excitement–
    a fever in the victim–
    pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
    Victim in what category?
    Owlman watching from the press box?
    To whom does it apply?
    Who is excited? Might it be I?

    It’s a pitcher’s battle all the way–a duel–
    a catcher’s, as, with cruel
    puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
    back to plate.(His spring
    de-winged a bat swing.)
    They have that killer instinct;
    yet Elston–whose catching
    arm has hurt them all with the bat–
    when questioned, says, unenviously,
    “I’m very satisfied.We won.”
    Shorn of the batting crown, says, “We”;
    robbed by a technicality.

    When three players on a side play three positions
    and modify conditions,
    the massive run need not be everything.
    “Going, going . . . “Is
    it?Roger Maris
    has it, running fast.You will
    never see a finer catch.Well . . .
    “Mickey, leaping like the devil”–why
    gild it, although deer sounds better–
    snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
    one-handing the souvenir-to-be
    meant to be caught by you or me.

    Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
    he could handle any missile.
    He is no feather. “Strike! . . . Strike two!”
    Fouled back. A blur.
    It’s gone.You would infer
    that the bat had eyes.
    He put the wood to that one.
    Praised, Skowron says, “Thanks, Mel.
    I think I helped a little bit.”
    All business, each, and modesty.
    Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
    In that galaxy of nine, say which
    won the pennant?Each.It was he.

    Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
    by Boyer, finesses in twos–
    like Whitey’s three kinds of pitch and pre-
    with pick-off psychosis.
    Pitching is a large subject.
    Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
    catch your corners–even trouble
    Mickey Mantle.(“Grazed a Yankee!
    My baby pitcher, Montejo!”
    With some pedagogy,
    you’ll be tough, premature prodigy.)

    They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.Trying
    indeed!The secret implying:
    “I can stand here, bat held steady.”
    One may suit him;
    none has hit him.
    Imponderables smite him.
    Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
    require food, rest, respite from ruffians.(Drat it!
    Celebrity costs privacy!)
    Cow’s milk, “tiger’s milk,” soy milk, carrot juice,
    brewer’s yeast (high-potency–
    concentrates presage victory

    sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez–
    deadly in a pinch.And “Yes,
    it’s work; I want you to bear down,
    but enjoy it
    while you’re doing it.”
    Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
    if you have a rummage sale,
    don’t sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
    Studded with stars in belt and crown,
    the Stadium is an adastrium.
    O flashing Orion,
    your stars are muscled like the lion.

    Pied Beauty
    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Glory be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.

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