From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ‘round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
This poem is in the public domain.
I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, eyes – I wonder if It weighs like Mine – Or has an Easier size. I wonder if They bore it long – Or did it just begin – I could not tell the Date of Mine – It feels so old a pain – I wonder if it hurts to live – And if They have to try – And whether – could They choose between – It would not be – to die – I note that Some – gone patient long – At length, renew their smile – An imitation of a Light That has so little Oil – I wonder if when Years have piled – Some Thousands – on the Harm – That hurt them early – such a lapse Could give them any Balm – Or would they go on aching still Through Centuries of Nerve – Enlightened to a larger Pain – In Contrast with the Love – The Grieved – are many – I am told – There is the various Cause – Death – is but one – and comes but once – And only nails the eyes – There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold – A sort they call "Despair" – There's Banishment from native Eyes – In sight of Native Air – And though I may not guess the kind – Correctly – yet to me A piercing Comfort it affords In passing Calvary – To note the fashions – of the Cross – And how they're mostly worn – Still fascinated to presume That Some – are like my own –
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
This poem is in the public domain.
The whirring internal machine, its gears
grinding not to a halt but to a pace that emits
a low hum, a steady and almost imperceptible
hum: the Greeks would not have seen it this way.
Simply put, it was a result of black bile,
the small fruit of the gall bladder perched
under the liver somehow over-ripened
and then becoming fetid. So the ancients
would have us believe. But the overly-emotional
and contrarian Romans saw it as a kind of mourning
for one’s self. I trust the ancients but I have never
given any of this credence because I cannot understand
how one does this, mourn one’s self.
Down by the shoreline—the Pacific
wrestling with far more important
philosophical issues—I recall the English notion
of it being a wistfulness, something John Donne
wore successfully as a fashion statement.
But how does one wear wistfulness well
unless one is a true believer?
The humors within me are unbalanced,
and I doubt they were ever really in balance
to begin with, ever in that rare but beautiful
thing the scientists call equilibrium.
My gall bladder squeezes and wrenches,
or so I imagine. I am wistful and morose
and I am certain black bile is streaming
through my body as I walk beside this seashore.
The small birds scrambling away from the advancing
surf; the sun climbing overhead shortening shadows;
the sound of the waves hushing the cries of gulls:
I have no idea where any of this ends up.
To be balanced, to be without either
peaks or troughs: do tell me what that is like…
This contemplating, this mulling over, often leads
to a moment a few weeks from now,
the one in which everything suddenly shines
with clarity, where my fingers race to put down
the words, my fingers so quick on the keyboard
it will seem like a god-damned miracle.
Copyright © 2020 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.