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 sepulchre
   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 her sepulchre there by the sea,
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850

Allah is merciful, Allah is kind,
His heart, in the tears of the earth, is enshrined;
                   He chains the desire
                   Of whirlwind and fire:
The Drought, the Simoon and their forces entire,
In the fast spreading shades of his pity, suspire;
                   It rains, it rains.

Allah is gracious, Allah is sweet,
The desert is flowering under his feet;
                   E’en the fires he fanned,
                   And the mountains they spanned,
And the caverns that groan under burdens of sand
Are dazed with the bounties that flow from his hand;
                   It rains, it rains!  

Allah’s all-seeing, Allah is wise,
The palm from the stone to praise him shall rise;
                   The deer in the dale,
                   The plant in the shale,
The bird in the nest, and the gull in the gale
Are joyously chanting, Hail, Allah, hail!
                   It rains, it rains!

Allah is mighty, Allah is great,
His hands all things resuscitate;
                   He burns the shroud,
                   He shakes the cloud,
And the dead of the earth with new life are endowed,
The bones of the earth are joyous and proud;
                   It rains, it rains!

From A Chant of Mystics (James T. White & Co., 1921) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.

It's an earth song,—
And I've been waiting long for an earth song. 
It's a spring song,—
And I've been waiting long for a spring song. 
    Strong as the shoots of a new plant 
    Strong as the bursting of new buds
    Strong as the coming of the first child from its mother's womb. 
It's an earth song, 
A body song, 
A spring song, 
I have been waiting long for this spring song. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

At midnight, in the month of June, 
I stand beneath the mystic moon. 
An opiate vapour, dewy, dim, 
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop, 
Upon the quiet mountain top, 
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley. 
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest; 
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take, 
And would not, for the world, awake. 
All Beauty sleeps!—and lo! where lies
(Her casment open to the skies)
Irene, with her Destinles! 

Oh, lady bright! can it be right—
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop—
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully—so fearfully—
Above the closed and fringéd lid
’Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold—
Some vault that oft hath flung its black
And wingéd pannels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls
Of her grand family funerals—

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portals she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone—
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.

This poem is in the public domain. Originally published in The Raven and Other Poems (Wiley and Putnam, 1846)

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—      
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—   
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—   
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—      
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep! 

This poem is in the public domain.

    She looked over his shoulder
       For vines and olive trees,
    Marble well-governed cities
       And ships upon untamed seas,
    But there on the shining metal
       His hands had put instead
    An artificial wilderness
       And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
   No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
   Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
   An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
   Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
   No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
   Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

    She looked over his shoulder
       For ritual pieties,
    White flower-garlanded heifers,
       Libation and sacrifice,
    But there on the shining metal
       Where the altar should have been,
    She saw by his flickering forge-light
       Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
   Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
   A crowd of ordinary decent folk
   Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
   That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
   And could not hope for help and no help came:
   What their foes liked to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

    She looked over his shoulder
       For athletes at their games,
    Men and women in a dance
       Moving their sweet limbs
    Quick, quick, to music,
       But there on the shining shield
    His hands had set no dancing-floor
       But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
   Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
   That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
   Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

    The thin-lipped armorer,
       Hephaestos, hobbled away,
    Thetis of the shining breasts
       Cried out in dismay
    At what the god had wrought
       To please her son, the strong
    Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
       Who would not live long.

From The Shield of Achilles by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1955 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

O’Driscoll drove with a song,
The wild duck and the drake,
From the tall and the tufted weeds
Of the drear Hart Lake.

And he saw how the weeds grew dark
At the coming of night tide,
And he dreamed of the long dim hair
Of Bridget his bride.

He heard while he sang and dreamed
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.

And he saw young men and young girls
Who danced on a level place
And Bridget his bride among them,
With a sad and a gay face.

The dancers crowded about him,
And many a sweet thing said,
And a young man brought him red wine
And a young girl white bread.

But Bridget drew him by the sleeve,
Away from the merry bands,
To old men playing at cards
With a twinkling of ancient hands.

The bread and the wine had a doom,
For these were the host of the air;
He sat and played in a dream
Of her long dim hair.

He played with the merry old men,
And thought not of evil chance,
Until one bore Bridget his bride
Away from the merry dance.

He bore her away in his arms,
The handsomest young man there,
And his neck and his breast and his arms
Were drowned in her long dim hair.

O’Driscoll scattered the cards
And out of his dream awoke:
Old men and young men and young girls
Were gone like drifting smoke;

But he heard high up in the air
A piper piping away,
And never was piping so sad,
And never was piping so gay.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem is in the public domain.

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

This poem is in the public domain.

The twilight’s inner flame grows blue and deep,
And in my Lesbos, over leagues of sea,
The temples glimmer moonwise in the trees.
Twilight has veiled the little flower face
Here on my heart, but still the night is kind
And leaves her warm sweet weight against my breast.
Am I that Sappho who would run at dusk
Along the surges creeping up the shore
When tides came in to ease the hungry beach,
And running, running, till the night was black,
Would fall forespent upon the chilly sand
And quiver with the winds from off the sea?
Ah, quietly the shingle waits the tides
Whose waves are stinging kisses, but to me
Love brought no peace, nor darkness any rest.
I crept and touched the foam with fevered hands
And cried to Love, from whom the sea is sweet,
From whom the sea is bitterer than death.
Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more
To thee, God’s daughter, powerful as God,
It is that thou hast made my life too sweet
To hold the added sweetness of a song.
There is a quiet at the heart of love,
And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.
I hold my peace, my Cleïs, on my heart;
And softer than a little wild bird’s wing
Are kisses that she pours upon my mouth.
Ah, never any more when spring like fire
Will flicker in the newly opened leaves,
Shall I steal forth to seek for solitude
Beyond the lure of light Alcæus’ lyre,
Beyond the sob that stilled Erinna’s voice.
Ah, never with a throat that aches with song,
Beneath the white uncaring sky of spring,
Shall I go forth to hide awhile from Love
The quiver and the crying of my heart.
Still I remember how I strove to flee
The love-note of the birds, and bowed my head
To hurry faster, but upon the ground
I saw two wingèd shadows side by side,
And all the world’s spring passion stifled me.
Ah, Love, there is no fleeing from thy might,
No lonely place where thou hast never trod,
No desert thou hast left uncarpeted
With flowers that spring beneath thy perfect feet.
In many guises didst thou come to me;
I saw thee by the maidens while they danced,
Phaon allured me with a look of thine,
In Anactoria I knew thy grace,
I looked at Cercolas and saw thine eyes;
But never wholly, soul and body mine,
Didst thou bid any love me as I loved.
Now I have found the peace that fled from me;
Close, close, against my heart I hold my world.
Ah, Love that made my life a lyric cry,
Ah, Love that tuned my lips to lyres of thine,
I taught the world thy music, now alone
I sing for one who falls asleep to hear.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?—

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot—
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

23–29 October 1962

From The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Used with permission.

Moon tonight,
Beloved . . .
When twilight
Has gathered together
The ends
Of her soft robe
And the last bird-call
Has died.
Moon tonight—
Cool as a forgotten dream,
Dearer than lost twilights
Among trees where birds sing
No more.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Slanting, driving, Summer rain
How you wash my heart of pain!
How you make me think of trees,
Ships and gulls and flashing seas!
In your furious, tearing wind,
Swells a chant that heals my mind;
And your passion high and proud,
Makes me shout and laugh aloud!

Autumn rains that start at dawn,
“Dropping veils of thinnest lawn,”
Soaking sod between dank grasses,
Sweeping golden leaves in masses,—
Blotting, blurring out the Past,
In a dream you hold me fast;
Calling, coaxing to forget
Things that are, for things not yet.

Winter tempest, winter rain,
Hurtling down with might and main,
You but make me hug my hearth,
Laughing, sheltered from your wrath.
Now I woo my dancing fire,
Piling, piling drift-wood higher.
Books and friends and pictures old,
Hearten while you pound and scold!

Pattering, wistful showers of Spring
Set me to remembering
Far-off times and lovers too,
Gentle joys and heart-break rue,—
Memories I’d as lief forget,
Were not oblivion sadder yet.
Ah! you twist my mind with pain,
Wistful, whispering April rain!

Summer, Autumn, Winter rain,
How you ease my heart of pain!
Whispering, wistful showers of Spring,
How I love the hurt you bring!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

A stranger in a stranger land,
    Too calm to weep, too sad to smile,
I take my harp of broken strings,
    A weary moment to beguile;
And tho no hope its promise brings,
    And present joy is not for me,
Still o’er that harp I love to bend,
    And feel its broken melody
With all my shattered feelings blend.

I love to hear its funeral voice
    Proclaim how sad my lot, how lone;
And when, my spirit wilder grows,
    To list its deeper, darker tone.
And when my soul more madly glows
    Above the wrecks that round it lie,
It fills me with a strange delight,
    Past mortal bearing, proud and high,
To feel its music swell to might.

When beats my heart in doubt and awe,
    And Reason pales upon her throne,
Ah, then, when no kind voice can cheer
    The lot too desolate, too lone,
Its tones come sweet upon my ear,
    As twilight o’er some landscape fair:
As light upon the wings of night
    (The meteor flashes in the air,
The rising stars) its tones are bright.

And now by Sacramento’s stream,
    What mem’ries sweet its music brings—
The vows of love, its smiles and tears,
    Hang o’er this harp of broken strings.
It speaks, and midst her blushing fears
    The beauteous one before me stands!
Pure spirit in her downcast eyes,
    And like twin doves her folded hands!

It breathes again—and at my side
    She kneels, with grace divinely rare—
Then showering kisses on my lips,
    She hides our busses with her hair;
Then trembling with delight, she flings
    Her beauteous self into my arms,
As if o’erpowered, she sought for wings
    To hide her from her conscious charms!

It breathes once more, and bowed in grief,
    The bloom has left her cheek forever,
While, like my broken harp-strings now,
    Behold her form with feeling quiver!
She turns her face o’errun with tears,
    To him that silent bends above her,
And, by the sweets of other years,
    Entreats him still, oh, still to love her!

He loves her still—but darkness falls
    Upon his ruined fortunes now,
And ’t is his exile doom to flee.
    The dews, like death, are on his brow,
And cold the pang about his heart
    Oh, cease—to die is agony:
’T is more than death when loved ones part!

Well may this harp of broken strings
    Seem sweet to me by this lonely shore.
When like a spirit it breaks forth,
    And speaks of beauty evermore!
When like a spirit it evokes
    The buried joys of early youth,
And clothes the shrines of early love,
    With all the radiant light of truth!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

She felt alone
In that garden unfrequented,
Where the winds make moan
For blossom sweetly scented,
Perfumed but far away.
And as the sunset died,
Lost the last long twilight ray,
She felt so lone and cried.

Her face protesting revealed
The trace of promises and prayers unreturned,
Deep disillusions learned,
Sorrows silence-sealed.

And as she wept
Like a lost child
When the shadow of twilight crept
On the forest wild,
Not knowing the ground,
As tears and tear-drops falling,
Moistened the cheek of the night around,
I called, she heard me calling,
And longer cried in that garden frequented only
By her spirit loving and lovely.

From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc., 1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain. 

Silently without my window,
    Tapping gently at the pane,
    Falls the rain.
Through the trees sighs the breeze
    Like a soul in pain.
Here alone I sit and weep;
Thought hath banished sleep.

Wearily I sit and listen
    To the water's ceaseless drip.
    To my lip
Fate turns up the bitter cup,
    Forcing me to sip;
'Tis a bitter, bitter drink,
Thus I sit and think,—

Thinking things unknown and awful,
    Thoughts on wild, uncanny themes,
    Waking dreams.
Spectres dark, corpses stark,
    Show the gaping seams
Whence the cold and cruel knife
Stole away their life.

Bloodshot eyes all strained and staring,
    Gazing ghastly into mine;
    Blood like wine
On the brow—clotted now—
    Shows death's dreadful sign.
Lonely vigil still I keep;
Would that I might sleep!

Still, oh, still, my brain is whirling!
    Still runs on my stream of thought;
    I am caught
In the net fate hath set.
    Mind and soul are brought
To destruction's very brink;
Yet I can but think!

Eyes that look into the future, —
    Peeping forth from out my mind,
    They will find
Some new weight, soon or late,
On my soul to bind,
Crushing all its courage out,—
Heavier than doubt.

Dawn, the Eastern monarch's daughter,
    Rising from her dewy bed,
    Lays her head
'Gainst the clouds' sombre shrouds
    Now half fringed with red.
O'er the land she 'gins to peep;
Come, O gentle Sleep!

Hark! the morning cock is crowing;
    Dreams, like ghosts, must hie away;
    'Tis the day.
Rosy morn now is born;
    Dark thoughts may not stay.
Day my brain from foes will keep;
Now, my soul, I sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. 

I have a friend in ghostland—
   Early found, ah me, how early lost!—
Blood-red seaweeds drip along that coastland
   By the strong sea wrenched and tossed.
In every creek there slopes a dead man’s islet,
   And such an one in every bay;
All unripened in the unended twilight:
   For there comes neither night nor day.

Unripe harvest there hath none to reap it
   From the watery misty place;
Unripe vineyard there hath none to keep it
   In unprofitable space.
Living flocks and herds are nowhere found there;
   Only ghosts in flocks and shoals:
Indistinguished hazy ghosts surround there
   Meteors whirling on their poles;
Indistinguished hazy ghosts abound there;
   Troops, yea swarms, of dead men’s souls.—

Have they towns to live in?—
   They have towers and towns from sea to sea;
Of each town the gates are seven;
   Of one of these each ghost is free.
Civilians, soldiers, seamen,
   Of one town each ghost is free:
They are ghastly men those ghostly freemen:
   Such a sight may you not see.—

How know you that your lover
   Of death’s tideless waters stoops to drink?—
Me by night doth mouldy darkness cover,
   It makes me quake to think:
All night long I feel his presence hover
   Thro’ the darkness black as ink.

Without a voice he tells me
   The wordless secrets of death’s deep:
If I sleep, his trumpet voice compels me
   To stalk forth in my sleep:
If I wake, he hunts me like a nightmare;
   I feel my hair stand up, my body creep:
Without light I see a blasting sight there,
   See a secret I must keep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I cannot live with You – 
It would be Life – 
And Life is over there – 
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to – 
Putting up
Our Life – His Porcelain – 
Like a Cup – 

Discarded of the Housewife – 
Quaint – or Broke – 
A newer Sevres pleases – 
Old Ones crack – 

I could not die – with You – 
For One must wait
To shut the Other’s Gaze down – 
You – could not – 

And I – could I stand by
And see You – freeze – 
Without my Right of Frost – 
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise – with You – 
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus’ – 
That New Grace

Glow plain – and foreign
On my homesick Eye – 
Except that You than He
Shone closer by – 

They’d judge Us – How – 
For You – served Heaven – You know,
Or sought to – 
I could not – 

Because You saturated Sight – 
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be – 
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame – 

And were You – saved – 
And I – condemned to be
Where You were not – 
That self – were Hell to Me – 

So We must meet apart – 
You there – I – here – 
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer – 
And that White Sustenance – 
Despair – 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

One need not be a chamber—to be haunted—
One need not be a House—
The Brain—has Corridors surpassing 
Material Place—

Far safer, of a Midnight—meeting 
External Ghost—
Than an Interior—confronting—
That cooler—Host—

Far safer, through an Abbey—gallop—
The Stones a’chase—
Than moonless—One’s A’self encounter—
In lonesome place—

Ourself—behind Ourself—Concealed—
Should startle—most—
Assassin—hid in Our Apartment—
Be Horror’s least—

The Prudent—carries a Revolver—
He bolts the Door, 
O’erlooking a Superior Spectre
More near—

From The Poems of Emily Dickinson Variorum Edition, ed. R. W. Franklin, 3 vols (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1998). 

If I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;
If birds should build as early,
And bees as bustling go,—
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
’T is sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with daisies lie,
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It makes the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.

This poem is in the public domain.

The night was made for rest and sleep, 
For winds that softly sigh; 
It was not made for grief and tears; 
So then why do I cry? 

The wind that blows through leafy trees
Is soft and warm and sweet; 
For me the night is a gracious cloak 
To hide my soul’s defeat. 

Just one dark hour of shaken depths, 
Of bitter black despair—
Another day will find me brave,
And not afraid to dare. 


From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
     And he said:
     Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
     Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
     And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
     And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
     And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

     Much of your pain is self-chosen.
     It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
     Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
     For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
     And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears. 

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

This poem is in the public domain.

On such a day as this I think,
      On such as day as this,
When earth and sky and nature’s whole
      Are clad in April’s bliss;
And balmy zephyrs gently waft
      Upon your cheek a kiss;
Sufficient is it just to live
      On such a day as this.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

I cannot hold my peace, John Keats;
There never was a spring like this;
It is an echo, that repeats
My last year’s song and next year’s bliss.
I know, in spite of all men say
Of Beauty, you have felt her most.
Yea, even in your grave her way
Is laid. Poor, troubled, lyric ghost,
Spring never was so fair and dear
As Beauty makes her seem this year.

I cannot hold my peace, John Keats;
I am as helpless in the toil
Of spring as any lamb that bleats
To feel the solid earth recoil
Beneath his puny legs. Spring beats
Her tocsin call to those who love her,
And lo! the dogwood petals cover
Her breast with drifts of snow, and sleek
White gulls fly screaming to her, and hover
About her shoulders, and kiss her cheek,
While white and purple lilacs muster
A strength that bears them to a cluster
Of color and odor; for her sake
All things that slept are now awake.

And you and I, shall we lie still,
John Keats, while Beauty summons us?
Somehow I feel your sensitive will
Is pulsing up some tremulous
Sap road of a maple tree, whose leaves
Grow music as they grow, since your
Wild voice is in them, a harp that grieves
For life that opens death’s dark door.
Though dust, your fingers still can push
The Vision Splendid to a birth,
Though now they work as grass in the hush
Of the night on the broad sweet page of the earth.

“John Keats is dead,” they say, but I
Who hear your full insistent cry
In bud and blossom, leaf and tree,
Know John Keats still writes poetry.
And while my head is earthward bowed
To read new life sprung from your shroud,
Folks seeing me must think it strange
That merely spring should so derange
My mind. They do not know that you,
John Keats, keep revel with me, too.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

The spring has many sounds:
Roller skates grind the pavement to noisy dust.
Birds chop the still air into small melodies.
The wind forgets to be the weather for a time
And whispers old advice for summer.
The sea stretches itself
And gently creaks and cracks its bones….

The spring has many silences:
Buds are mysteriously unbound
With a discreet significance,
And buds say nothing.

There are things that even the wind will not betray.
Earth puts her finger to her lips
And muffles there her quiet, quick activity….

Do not wonder at me
That I am hushed
This April night beside you.

The spring has many silences.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

After the winter rain, 
   Sing, robin! Sing, swallow!
Grasses are in the lane, 
   Buds and flowers will follow.

Woods shall ring, blithe and gay,
   With bird-trill and twitter,
Though the skies weep to-day, 
   And the winds are bitter. 

Though deep call unto deep
   As calls the thunder, 
And white the billows leap
   The tempest under;

Softly the waves shall come
   Up the long, bright beaches, 
With dainty, flowers of foam
   And tenderest speeches …

After the wintry pain, 
   And the long, long sorrow, 
Sing, heart!—for thee again
   Joy comes with the morrow.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.


She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.


One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.


And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written June 12, 1814. This poem is in the public domain.

And now the sun in tinted splendor sank,
  The west was all aglow with crimson light;
The bay seemed like a sheet of burnished gold,
  Its waters glistened with such radiance bright.

At anchor lay the yachts with snow-white sails,
  Outlined against the glowing, rose-hued sky.
No ripple stirred the waters’ calm repose
  Save when a tiny craft sped lightly by.

Our boat was drifting slowly, gently round,
  To rest secure till evening shadows fell;
No sound disturbed the stillness of the air,
  Save the soft chiming of the vesper bell.

Yes, drifting, drifting; and I thought that life,
  When nearing death, is like the sunset sky:
And death is but the slow, sure drifting in
  To rest far more securely, by and by.

Then let me drift along the Bay of Time,
  Till my last sun shall set in glowing light;
Let me cast anchor where no shadows fall,
  Forever moored within Heaven’s harbor bright.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Oh science sequestered much,
And by wisdom’s gentler touch,
         Accelerated more!
Did not they voice give the command
That man must venture from his strand
In quest of other distant land,
         Or was it ancient lore?

For sure into his peaceful breast,
Thou breathed the spirit of unrest,
         And bade him search the skies:
Thou pictured earth a moving sphere
Whose revolutions make the year,
And whispered to his listening ear,
          “Search heaven and be wise.”

Thy presence round him, charming fell.
And break did it the magic spell
         That ignorance had wrought:
And plain did seem the merry race
Of myriad planets thrown in space—
Just how each kept in his place,
         Has fostered wondrous thought.

And oft the would-be infidel
Has list the story that you tell
         And wisely gave a nod;
For now the planet checkered sky
And tangle comments hissing by
Have seized and borne his thoughts on high,
         Acknowledging a God.

No day has dawned, no sunbeam shone,
Where thought of man has not yet gone:
         And the rugged panoply,
Encasing of his mental frame,
Doth burst with unbounding fame
And conquers heaven in thy name,
         Science of the canopy.

Ah! could the Alexander brave
Be resurrected from his grave?
         Weep he would no more,
That no worlds to conquer still
He had; for science would fulfil
The very letter of his will,
         Of worlds, would give him more.

From Jessamine (Self published, 1900) by James Thomas Franklin. Copyright © 1900 by James Thomas Franklin. This poem is in the public domain.

There is snow, now—
A thing of silent creeping—
And day is strange half-night . . .
And the mountains have gone, softly murmuring something . . .

And I remember pale days, 
Pale as the half-night . . . and as strange and sad.

I remember times in this room
When but to glance thru an opened window
Was to be filled with an ageless crying wonder:
The grand slope of the meadows,
The green rising of the hills,
And then far-away slumbering mountains—
Dark, fearful, old—
Older than old, rusted, crumbling rock,
Those mountains . . .
But sometimes came a strange thing
And theirs was the youth of a cloudlet flying,
Sunwise, flashing . . .

                  And such is the wisdom of the mountains!
                  Knowing it nothing to be old,
                  And nothing to be young!

There is snow, now—
A silent creeping . . .

And I have walked into the mountains,
Into canyons that gave back my laughter,
And the lover-girl’s laughter . . .
And at dark,
When our skin twinged to the night-wind,
Built us a great marvelous fire
And sat in quiet,
Carefully sipping at scorching coffee . . .

But when a coyote gave to the night
A wail of all the bleeding sorrow,
All the dismal, grey-eyed pain
That those slumbering mountains had ever known—
Crept close to each other
And close to the fire—
Then hastily doused the fire
And fled (giving many excuses)
With tightly-clasping hands.

Snow, snow, snow—
A thing of silent creeping

And once,
On a night of screaming chill,
I went to climb a mountain’s cold, cold body
With a boy whose eyes had the ancient look of the mountains,
And whose heart the swinging dance of a laughter-child . . .
Our thighs ached
And lungs were fired with frost and heaving breath—
The long, long slope—
A wind mad and raging . . .
Then—the top!

                  There should have been . . . something . . .
                  But there was silence, only—
                  Quiet after the wind’s frenzy,
                  Quiet after all frenzy—
                  And more mountains,
                  Endlessly into the night . . .

                  And such is the wisdom of mountains!
                  Knowing how great is silence,
                  How nothing is greater than silence!

And so they are gone, now,
And they murmured something as they went—
Something in the strange half-night . . .

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

I snatch at my eagle plumes and long hair.
A hand cut my hair; my robes did deplete.
Left heart all unchanged; the work incomplete.
These favors unsought, I’ve paid since with care.
Dear teacher, you wished so much good to me,
That though I was blind, I strove hard to see.
Had you then, no courage frankly to tell
Old-race problems, Christ e’en failed to expel?

My light has grown dim, and black the abyss
That yawns at my feet. No bordering shore;
No bottom e’er found my hopes sunk before.
Despair I of good from deeds gone amiss.
My people, may God have pity on you!
The learning I hoped in you to imbue
Turns bitterly vain to meet both our needs.
No Sun for the flowers, vain planting seeds.

I’ve lost my long hair; my eagle plumes too.
From you my own people, I’ve gone astray.
A wanderer now, with no where to stay.
The Will-o-the-wisp learning, it brought me rue.
It brings no admittance. Where I have knocked
Some evil imps, hearts, have bolted and locked.
Alone with the night and fearful Abyss
I stand isolated, life gone amiss.

Intensified hush chills all my proud soul.
Oh, what am I? Whither bound thus and why?
Is there not a God on whom to rely?
A part of His Plan, the atoms enroll?
In answer, there comes a sweet Voice and clear,
My loneliness soothes with sounding so near.
A drink to my thirst, each vibrating note.
My vexing old burdens fall far remote.

“Then close your sad eyes. Your spirit regain.
Behold what fantastic symbols abound,
What wondrous host of cosmos around.
From silvery sand, the tiniest grain
To man and the planet, God’s at the heart.
In shifting mosaic, souls doth impart.
His spirits who pass through multiformed earth
Some lesson of life must learn in each birth.”

Divinely the Voice sang. I felt refreshed.
And vanished the night, abyss and despair.
Harmonious kinship made all things fair.
I yearned with my soul to venture unleashed.
Sweet freedom. There stood in waiting, a steed
All prancing, well bridled, saddled for speed.
A foot in the stirrup! Off with a bound!
As light as a feather, making no sound.

Through ether, long leagues we galloped away.
An angry red river, we shyed in dismay,
For here were men sacrificed (cruel deed)
To reptiles and monsters, war, graft, and greed.
A jungle of discord drops in the rear.
By silence is quelled suspicious old fear,
And spite-gnats’ low buzz is muffled at last.
Exploring the spirit, I must ride fast.

Away from these worldly ones, let us go,
Along a worn trail, much travelled and—Lo!
Familiar the scenes that come rushing by.
Now billowy sea and now azure sky.
Amid that enchanted spade, as they spun
Sun, moon, and the stars, their own orbits run!
Great Spirit, in realms so infinite reigns;
And wonderful wide are all His domains.

Hark! Here in the Spirit-world, He doth hold
A village of Indians, camped as of old.
Earth-legends by their fires, some did review,
While flowers and trees more radiant grew.
“Oh, You were all dead! In Lethe you were tossed!”
I cried, “Every where ’twas told you were lost!
Forsooth, they did scan your footprints on sand.
Bereaved, I did mourn your fearful sad end.”

Then spoke One of the Spirit Space, so sedate.
“My child, We are souls, forever and aye.
The signs in our orbits point us the way.
Like planets, we do not tarry nor wait.
Those memories dim, from Dust to the Man,
Called Instincts, are trophies won while we ran.
Now various stars where loved ones remain
Are linked to our hearts with Memory-chain.”

“In journeying here, the Aeons we’ve spent
Are countless and strange. How well I recall
Old Earth trails: the River Red; above all
The Desert sands burning us with intent.
All these we have passed to learn some new thing.
Oh hear me! Your dead doth lustily sing!
‘Rejoice! Gift of Life pray waste not in wails!
            The maker of Souls forever prevails!’”

Direct from the Spirit-world came my steed.
The phantom has place in what was all planned.
He carried me back to God and the land
Where all harmony, peace and love are the creed.
In triumph, I cite my Joyous return.
The smallest wee creature I dare not spurn.
I sing “Gift of Life, pray waste not in wails!
The Maker of Souls forever prevails!”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.


Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger. I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forgot that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar. When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the One in the play of the many.


No more noisy, loud words from me, such is my master’s will. Henceforth I deal in whispers. The speech of my heart will be carried on in murmurings of a song.

Men hasten to the King’s market. All the buyers and sellers are there. But I have my untimely leave in the middle of the day, in the thick of work.

Let then the flowers come out in my garden, though it is not their time, and let the midday bees strike up their lazy hum.

Full many an hour have I spent in the strife of the good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate of the empty days to draw my heart on to him, and I know not why is this sudden call to what useless inconsequence!


On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.

Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange smell in the south wind.

That vague fragrance made my heart ache with longing, and it seemed to me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.

I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.


By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this world. But it is otherwise with thy love, which is greater than theirs, and thou keepest me free. Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone. But day passes by after day and thou are not seen.

If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart—thy love for me still waits for my love.


I was not aware of the moment when I first crossed the threshold of this life. What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery like a bud in the forest at midnight? When in the morning I looked upon the light I felt in a moment that I was no stranger in this world, that the inscrutable without name and form had taken me in its arms in the form of my own mother. Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me. And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well. The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away to find in the very next moment its consolation in the left one.


Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well. Oh, thou beautiful, there in the nest it is thy love that encloses the soul with colours and sounds and odours. There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth. And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.

But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the soul to take her flight in, reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no day nor night, nor form nor colour, and never never a word.

This poem is in the public domain.

The ringèd moon sits eerily 
Like a mad woman in the sky,
Dropping flat hands to caress
The far world’s shaggy flanks and breast,
Plunging white hands in the glade
Elbow deep in leafy shade
Where birds sleep in each silent brake
Silverly, there to wake
The quivering loud nightingales 
Whose cries like scattered silver sails
Spread across the azure sea.
Her hands also caress me:
My keen heart also does she dare;
While turning always through the skies
Her white feet mirrored in my eyes 
Weave a snare about my brain
Unbreakable by surge or strain,
For the moon is mad, for she is old,
And many’s the bead of a life she’s told;
And many’s the fair one she’s seen wither:
They pass, they pass, and know not whither.

The hushèd earth, so calm, so old,
Dreams beneath its heath and wold—
And heavy scent from thorny hedge 
Paused and snowy on the edge 
Of some dark ravine, from where
Mists as soft and thick as hair
Float silver in the moon.

Stars sweep down—or are they stars?—
Against the pines’ dark etchèd bars.
Along a brooding moon-wet hill
Dogwood shine so cool and still,
Like hands that, palm up, rigid lie
In invocation to the sky
As they spread there, frozen white,
Upon the velvet of the night.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Her eyes?   Dark pools of deepest shade,
    Like sylvan lakes that lie
In some sequestered forest glade
    Beneath a starry sky.

Her cheeks?   The ripened chestnut’s hue,—
    Rich autumn’s sun-kissed brown!
Caressed by sunbeams dancing through
    Red leaves that flutter down.

Her form?   A slender pine that sways
    Before the murmuring breeze
In summer, when the south wind plays
    Soft music through the trees.

Herself?   A laughing, joyous sprite
    Who smiles from dawn till dark,
As lovely as a summer night
    And carefree as a lark.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

Softly blow lightly
O twilight breeze
Scarcely bend slightly
O silver trees:
Night glides slowly down hill . . down stream
Bringing a myriad star-twinkling dream. . . . .
Softly blow lightly
O twilight breeze
Scarcely bend slightly
O silver trees:
Night will spill sleep in your day weary eye
While a soft yellow moon steals down the sky. . . .
Softly blow
Scarcely bend
So . . . . !
Lullaby. . . . . . . .

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made eternally to weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark
White stars is no less lovely, being dark;
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

I once beheld the end of time!
   Its stream had ceased to be.
The drifting years, all soiled with crime,
   Lay in a filthy sea.

The prospect o’er the reeking waste
   Was plain from where I stood.
From shore to shore the wreckage faced
   The surface of the flood.

There all that men were wont to prize
   When time was flowing on,
Seemed here to sink and there to rise
   In formless ruin blown.

In slimy undulations roiled
   The glory of the brave;
The scholar’s fame, the rich man’s gold,
   Alike were on the wave.

There government, a monstrous form
   (The sea groaned ’neath the load),
A helpless mass blown by the storm,
   On grimy billows rode.

The bodies of great syndicates
   And corporations, trusts,
Proud combinations, and e’en states,
   All beasts of savage lusts,

With all the monsters ever bred
   In civilization’s womb,
Lay scattered, floating, dead,
   Throughout that liquid tomb.

It was the reign of general death,
   Wide as the sweep of eye,
Save two vile ghosts that still drew breath
   Because they could not die.

Ambition climbed above the waves
   From wreck to wreck he strove.
And as they sank to watery waves,
   He on to glory rode.

And there was Greed—immortal Greed—
   Just from the shores of time.
Of all hell’s hosts he took the lead,
   A monarch of the slime.

He neither sank below nor rose
   Above the brewing flood;
But swam full length, down to his nose,
   And steered where’er he would.

Whatever wreckage met his snout
   He swallowed promptly down—
Or floating empire, or redoubt,
   Or drifting heathen town.

And yet, it seemed in all that streaming waste
There nothing so much gratified his taste
As foetid oil in subterranean tanks,
And cliffs of coal untouched in nature’s banks,
Or bits of land where cities might be built,
As foraging plats for vileness and guilt;
Or fields of asphalt, soft as fluent salve
Or anything the Indian asked to have.

I once beheld the end of time!
   Its stream had run away;
The years all drifted down in slime,
   In filth dishonored lay.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

An Indian Grandmother’s Parable

Many times in my life I have heard the white sages,
Who are learned in the knowledge and lore of past ages,
Speak of my people with pity, say, “Gone is their hour
Of dominion. By the strong wind of progress their power,
Like a rose past its brief time of blooming, lies shattered;
Like the leaves of the oak tree its people are scattered.”
This is the eighty-first autumn since I can remember.
Again fall the leaves, born in April and dead by December;
Riding the whimsied breeze, zigzagging and whirling,
Coming to earth at last and slowly upcurling,
Withered and sapless and brown, into discarded fragments,
Of what once was life; dry, chattering parchments
That crackle and rustle like old women’s laughter
When the merciless wind with swift feet coming after
Will drive them before him with unsparing lashes
’Til they are crumbled and crushed into forgotten ashes;
Crumbled and crushed, and piled deep in the gulches and hollows,
Soft bed for the yet softer snow that in winter fast follows
But when in the spring the light falling
Patter of raindrops persuading, insistently calling,
Wakens to life again forces that long months have slumbered,
There will come whispering movement, and green things unnumbered
Will pierce through the mould with their yellow-green, sun-searching fingers,
Fingers—or spear-tips, grown tall, will bud at another year’s breaking,
One day when the brooks, manumitted by sunshine, are making
Music like gold in the spring of some far generation. 
And up from the long-withered leaves, from the musty stagnation,
Life will climb high to the furthermost leaflets.
The bursting of catkins asunder with greed for the sunlight; the thirsting
Of twisted brown roots for earth-water; the gradual unfolding
Of brilliance and strength in the future, earth’s bosom is holding
Today in those scurrying leaves, soon to be crumpled and broken.
Let those who have ears hear my word and be still. I have spoken.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.