Poor, impious Soul! that fixes its high hopes
In the dim distance, on a throne of clouds,
And from the morning's mist would make the ropes
To draw it up amid acclaim of crowds—
Beware! That soaring path is lined with shrouds;
And he who braves it, though of sturdy breath,
May meet, half way, the avalanche and death!
O poor young Soul!—whose year-devouring glance
Fixes in ecstasy upon a star,
Whose feverish brilliance looks a part of earth,
Yet quivers where the feet of angels are,
And seems the future crown in realms afar—
Beware! A spark thou art, and dost but see
Thine own reflection in Eternity!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
[ A ]
Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.
I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.
I did not know what was happening in my heart.
It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.
The sound was passing northward.
[ B ]
Tell me a story.
In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.
Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.
The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.
Tell me a story of deep delight.
From New and Selected Poems 1923-1985 by Robert Penn Warren, published by Random House. Copyright © 1985 by Robert Penn Warren. Used by permission of William Morris Agency, Inc., on behalf of the author.
I cannot sing, because when a child,
My mother often hushed me.
The others she allowed to sing,
No matter what their melody.
And since I’ve grown to manhood
All music I applaud,
But have no voice for singing,
So I write my songs to God.
I have ears and know the measures,
And I’ll write a song for you,
But the world must do the singing
Of my sonnets old and new.
Now tell me, world of music,
Why I cannot sing one song?
Is it because my mother hushed me
And laughed when I was wrong?
Although I can write music,
And tell when harmony’s right,
I will never sing better than when
My song was hushed one night.
Fond mothers, always be careful;
Let the songs be poorly sung.
To hush the child is cruel;
Let it sing while it is young.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Oh, a hidden power is in my breast,
A power that none can fathom;
I call the tides from seas of rest,
They rise, they fall, at my behest;
And many a tardy fisher’s boat,
I’ve torn apart and set afloat,
From out their raging chasm.
For I’m an enchantress, old and grave;
Concealed I rule the weather;
Oft set I, the lover’s heart a blaze,
With hidden power of my fulgent rays,
Or seek I the souls of dying men,
And call the sea-tides from the fen,
And drift them out together.
I call the rain from the mountain’s peak,
And sound the mighty thunder;
When I wax and wane from week to week,
The heavens stir, while vain men seek,
To solve the myst’ries that I hold,
But a bounded portion I unfold,
So nations pass and wonder.
Yea, my hidden strength no man may know;
Nor myst’ries be expounded;
I’ll cause the tidal waves to flow,
And I shall wane, and larger grow,
Yet while man rack his shallow brain,
The secrets with me still remain,
He seeks in vain, confounded.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.