After dark vapors have oppress'd our plains
   For a long dreary season, comes a day
   Born of the gentle South, and clears away
From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
The anxious month, relieved of its pains,
   Takes as a long-lost right the feel of May;
   The eyelids with the passing coolness play
Like rose leaves with the drip of Summer rains.
The calmest thoughts came round us; as of leaves
   Budding—fruit ripening in stillness—Autumn suns
Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves—
Sweet Sappho's cheek—a smiling infant's breath— 
   The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs—
A woodland rivulet—a Poet's death.

This poem is in the public domain.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

                 *

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

                  *

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Copyright © by the Estate of Archibald MacLeish and reprinted by permission of the Estate.

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.”

This poem is in the public domain.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

This poem is in the public domain.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

This poem is in the public domain.

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

This poem is in the public domain.

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?

This poem is in the public domain.

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens
 

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

From Collected Poems: 1939-1962, Volume II by William Carlos Williams, published by New Directions Publishing Corp. © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

I've fond anticipation of a day
O'erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat's long sway.

For, lest o'ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We'll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy's transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.

First published in Poems (1909). This poem is in the public domain.

The little white clouds are racing over the sky,
   And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,
   The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch
Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.

A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,
   The odour of leaves, and of grass, and of newly upturned earth,
   The birds are singing for joy of the Spring's glad birth,
Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.

And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
   And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
   And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.

And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love
   Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,
   And the gloom of the wych-elm's hollow is lit with the iris sheen
Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.

See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,
   Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,
   And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!
The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

High-heels were struggling with a full-length dress
So that, between the wind and the terrain,
At times a shining stocking would be seen,
And gone too soon. We liked that foolishness.

Also, at times a jealous insect's dart
Bothered out beauties. Suddenly a white
Nape flashed beneath the branches, and this sight
Was a delicate feast for a young fool's heart.

Evening fell, equivocal, dissembling,
The women who hung dreaming on our arms
Spoke in low voices, words that had such charms
That ever since our stunned soul has been trembling.

Les Ingénus

Les hauts talons luttaient avec les longues jupes,
En sorte que, selon le terrain et le vent,
Parfois luisaient des bas de jambes, trop souvent
Interceptés--et nous aimions ce jeu de dupes.

Parfois aussi le dard d'un insecte jaloux
Inquiétait le col des belles sous les branches,
Et c'était des éclairs soudains de nuques blanches,
Et ce régal comblait nos jeunes yeux de fous.

Le soir tombait, un soir équivoque d'automne:
Les belles, se pendant rêveuses à nos bras,
Dirent alors des mots si spécieux, tout bas,
Que notre âme depuis ce temps tremble et s'étonne.

Translation from Modern Poets of France: A Bilingual Anthology, edited and translated by Louis Simpson, published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From the French of the Vidame de Chartres

When the fields catch flower
   And the underwood is green,
And from bower unto bower
   The songs of the birds begin,
   I sing with sighing between.
When I laugh and sing,
   I am heavy at heart for my sin;
I am sad in the spring
   For my love that I shall not win,
For a foolish thing.

This profit I have of my woe,
   That I know, as I sing,
I know he will needs have it so
   Who is master and king,
   Who is lord of the spirit of spring.
I will serve her and will not spare
   Till her pity awake
Who is good, who is pure, who is fair,
   Even her for whose sake
Love hath ta'en me and slain unaware.

O my lord, O Love,
   I have laid my life at thy feet;
Have thy will thereof,
   Do as it please thee with it,
   For what shall please thee is sweet.
I am come unto thee
   To do thee service, O Love;
Yet cannot I see
   Thou wilt take any pity thereof,
Any mercy on me.

But the grace I have long time sought
   Comes never in sight,
If in her it abideth not,
   Through thy mercy and might,
   Whose heart is the world's delight.
Thou hast sworn without fail I shall die,
   For my heart is set
On what hurts me, I wot not why,
   But cannot forget
What I love, what I sing for and sigh.

She is worthy of praise,
   For this grief of her giving is worth
All the joy of my days
   That lie between death's day and birth,
   All the lordship of things upon earth.
Nay, what have I said?
   I would not be glad if I could;
My dream and my dread
   Are of her, and for her sake I would
That my life were fled.

Lo, sweet, if I durst not pray to you,
   Then were I dead;
If I sang not a little to say to you,
   (Could it be said)
   O my love, how my heart would be fed;
Ah sweet who hast hold of my heart,
   For thy love's sake I live,
Do but tell me, ere either depart,
   What a lover may give
For a woman so fair as thou art.

The lovers that disbelieve,
   False rumours shall grieve
And evil-speaking shall part.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 6, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

There were four apples on the bough,
Half gold half red, that one might know
The blood was ripe inside the core;
The colour of the leaves was more
Like stems of yellow corn that grow
Through all the gold June meadow’s floor.

The warm smell of the fruit was good
To feed on, and the split green wood,
With all its bearded lips and stains
Of mosses in the cloven veins,
Most pleasant, if one lay or stood
In sunshine or in happy rains.

There were four apples on the tree,
Red stained through gold, that all might see
The sun went warm from core to rind;
The green leaves made the summer blind
In that soft place they kept for me
With golden apples shut behind.

The leaves caught gold across the sun,
And where the bluest air begun,
Thirsted for song to help the heat;
As I to feel my lady’s feet
Draw close before the day were done;
Both lips grew dry with dreams of it.

In the mute August afternoon
They trembled to some undertune
Of music in the silver air;
Great pleasure was it to be there
Till green turned duskier and the moon
Coloured the corn-sheaves like gold hair.

That August time it was delight
To watch the red moons wane to white
’Twixt grey seamed stems of apple-trees;
A sense of heavy harmonies
Grew on the growth of patient night,
More sweet than shapen music is.

But some three hours before the moon
The air, still eager from the noon,
Flagged after heat, not wholly dead;
Against the stem I leant my head;
The colour soothed me like a tune,
Green leaves all round the gold and red.

I lay there till the warm smell grew
More sharp, when flecks of yellow dew
Between the round ripe leaves had blurred
The rind with stain and wet; I heard
A wind that blew and breathed and blew,
Too weak to alter its one word.

The wet leaves next the gentle fruit
Felt smoother, and the brown tree-root
Felt the mould warmer: I too felt
(As water feels the slow gold melt
Right through it when the day burns mute)
The peace of time wherein love dwelt.

There were four apples on the tree,
Gold stained on red that all might see
The sweet blood filled them to the core:
The colour of her hair is more
Like stems of fair faint gold, that be
Mown from the harvest’s middle floor.

This poem is in the public domain.

Before our lives divide for ever, 
      While time is with us and hands are free, 
(Time, swift to fasten and swift to sever 
      Hand from hand, as we stand by the sea) 
I will say no word that a man might say 
Whose whole life's love goes down in a day; 
For this could never have been; and never, 
      Though the gods and the years relent, shall be. 


Is it worth a tear, is it worth an hour, 
      To think of things that are well outworn? 
Of fruitless husk and fugitive flower, 
      The dream foregone and the deed forborne? 
Though joy be done with and grief be vain, 
Time shall not sever us wholly in twain; 
Earth is not spoilt for a single shower; 
      But the rain has ruined the ungrown corn. 


It will grow not again, this fruit of my heart, 
      Smitten with sunbeams, ruined with rain. 
The singing seasons divide and depart, 
      Winter and summer depart in twain. 
It will grow not again, it is ruined at root, 
The bloodlike blossom, the dull red fruit; 
Though the heart yet sickens, the lips yet smart, 
      With sullen savour of poisonous pain. 


I have given no man of my fruit to eat; 
      I trod the grapes, I have drunken the wine. 
Had you eaten and drunken and found it sweet, 
      This wild new growth of the corn and vine, 
This wine and bread without lees or leaven, 
We had grown as gods, as the gods in heaven, 
Souls fair to look upon, goodly to greet, 
      One splendid spirit, your soul and mine. 


In the change of years, in the coil of things, 
      In the clamour and rumour of life to be, 
We, drinking love at the furthest springs, 
      Covered with love as a covering tree, 
We had grown as gods, as the gods above, 
Filled from the heart to the lips with love, 
Held fast in his hands, clothed warm with his wings, 
      O love, my love, had you loved but me! 


We had stood as the sure stars stand, and moved 
      As the moon moves, loving the world; and seen 
Grief collapse as a thing disproved, 
      Death consume as a thing unclean. 
Twain halves of a perfect heart, made fast 
Soul to soul while the years fell past; 
Had you loved me once, as you have not loved; 
      Had the chance been with us that has not been. 


I have put my days and dreams out of mind, 
      Days that are over, dreams that are done. 
Though we seek life through, we shall surely find 
      There is none of them clear to us now, not one. 
But clear are these things; the grass and the sand, 
Where, sure as the eyes reach, ever at hand, 
With lips wide open and face burnt blind, 
      The strong sea-daisies feast on the sun. 


The low downs lean to the sea; the stream, 
      One loose thin pulseless tremulous vein, 
Rapid and vivid and dumb as a dream, 
      Works downward, sick of the sun and the rain; 
No wind is rough with the rank rare flowers; 
The sweet sea, mother of loves and hours, 
Shudders and shines as the grey winds gleam, 
      Turning her smile to a fugitive pain. 


Mother of loves that are swift to fade, 
      Mother of mutable winds and hours. 
A barren mother, a mother-maid, 
      Cold and clean as her faint salt flowers. 
I would we twain were even as she, 
Lost in the night and the light of the sea, 
Where faint sounds falter and wan beams wade, 
      Break, and are broken, and shed into showers. 


The loves and hours of the life of a man, 
      They are swift and sad, being born of the sea. 
Hours that rejoice and regret for a span, 
      Born with a man's breath, mortal as he; 
Loves that are lost ere they come to birth, 
Weeds of the wave, without fruit upon earth. 
I lose what I long for, save what I can, 
      My love, my love, and no love for me! 


It is not much that a man can save 
      On the sands of life, in the straits of time, 
Who swims in sight of the great third wave 
      That never a swimmer shall cross or climb. 
Some waif washed up with the strays and spars 
That ebb-tide shows to the shore and the stars; 
Weed from the water, grass from a grave, 
      A broken blossom, a ruined rhyme. 


There will no man do for your sake, I think, 
      What I would have done for the least word said. 
I had wrung life dry for your lips to drink, 
      Broken it up for your daily bread: 
Body for body and blood for blood, 
As the flow of the full sea risen to flood 
That yearns and trembles before it sink, 
      I had given, and lain down for you, glad and dead. 


Yea, hope at highest and all her fruit, 
      And time at fullest and all his dower, 
I had given you surely, and life to boot, 
      Were we once made one for a single hour. 
But now, you are twain, you are cloven apart, 
Flesh of his flesh, but heart of my heart; 
And deep in one is the bitter root, 
      And sweet for one is the lifelong flower. 


To have died if you cared I should die for you, clung 
      To my life if you bade me, played my part 
As it pleased you — these were the thoughts that stung, 
      The dreams that smote with a keener dart 
Than shafts of love or arrows of death; 
These were but as fire is, dust, or breath, 
Or poisonous foam on the tender tongue 
      Of the little snakes that eat my heart. 


I wish we were dead together to-day, 
      Lost sight of, hidden away out of sight, 
Clasped and clothed in the cloven clay, 
      Out of the world's way, out of the light, 
Out of the ages of worldly weather, 
Forgotten of all men altogether, 
As the world's first dead, taken wholly away, 
      Made one with death, filled full of the night. 


How we should slumber, how we should sleep, 
      Far in the dark with the dreams and the dews! 
And dreaming, grow to each other, and weep, 
      Laugh low, live softly, murmur and muse; 
Yea, and it may be, struck through by the dream, 
Feel the dust quicken and quiver, and seem 
Alive as of old to the lips, and leap 
      Spirit to spirit as lovers use. 


Sick dreams and sad of a dull delight; 
      For what shall it profit when men are dead 
To have dreamed, to have loved with the whole soul's might, 
      To have looked for day when the day was fled? 
Let come what will, there is one thing worth, 
To have had fair love in the life upon earth: 
To have held love safe till the day grew night, 
      While skies had colour and lips were red. 


Would I lose you now? would I take you then, 
      If I lose you now that my heart has need? 
And come what may after death to men, 
      What thing worth this will the dead years breed? 
Lose life, lose all; but at least I know, 
O sweet life's love, having loved you so, 
Had I reached you on earth, I should lose not again, 
      In death nor life, nor in dream or deed. 


Yea, I know this well: were you once sealed mine, 
      Mine in the blood's beat, mine in the breath, 
Mixed into me as honey in wine, 
      Not time, that sayeth and gainsayeth, 
Nor all strong things had severed us then; 
Not wrath of gods, nor wisdom of men, 
Nor all things earthly, nor all divine, 
      Nor joy nor sorrow, nor life nor death. 


I had grown pure as the dawn and the dew, 
      You had grown strong as the sun or the sea. 
But none shall triumph a whole life through: 
      For death is one, and the fates are three. 
At the door of life, by the gate of breath, 
There are worse things waiting for men than death; 
Death could not sever my soul and you, 
      As these have severed your soul from me. 


You have chosen and clung to the chance they sent you, 
      Life sweet as perfume and pure as prayer. 
But will it not one day in heaven repent you? 
      Will they solace you wholly, the days that were? 
Will you lift up your eyes between sadness and bliss, 
Meet mine, and see where the great love is, 
And tremble and turn and be changed? Content you; 
      The gate is strait; I shall not be there. 


But you, had you chosen, had you stretched hand, 
      Had you seen good such a thing were done, 
I too might have stood with the souls that stand 
      In the sun's sight, clothed with the light of the sun; 
But who now on earth need care how I live? 
Have the high gods anything left to give, 
Save dust and laurels and gold and sand? 
      Which gifts are goodly; but I will none. 


O all fair lovers about the world, 
      There is none of you, none, that shall comfort me. 
My thoughts are as dead things, wrecked and whirled 
      Round and round in a gulf of the sea; 
And still, through the sound and the straining stream, 
Through the coil and chafe, they gleam in a dream, 
The bright fine lips so cruelly curled, 
      And strange swift eyes where the soul sits free. 


Free, without pity, withheld from woe, 
      Ignorant; fair as the eyes are fair. 
Would I have you change now, change at a blow, 
      Startled and stricken, awake and aware? 
Yea, if I could, would I have you see 
My very love of you filling me, 
And know my soul to the quick, as I know 
      The likeness and look of your throat and hair? 


I shall not change you. Nay, though I might, 
      Would I change my sweet one love with a word? 
I had rather your hair should change in a night, 
      Clear now as the plume of a black bright bird; 
Your face fail suddenly, cease, turn grey, 
Die as a leaf that dies in a day. 
I will keep my soul in a place out of sight, 
      Far off, where the pulse of it is not heard. 


Far off it walks, in a bleak blown space, 
      Full of the sound of the sorrow of years. 
I have woven a veil for the weeping face, 
      Whose lips have drunken the wine of tears; 
I have found a way for the failing feet, 
A place for slumber and sorrow to meet; 
There is no rumour about the place, 
      Nor light, nor any that sees or hears. 


I have hidden my soul out of sight, and said 
      "Let none take pity upon thee, none 
Comfort thy crying: for lo, thou art dead, 
      Lie still now, safe out of sight of the sun. 
Have I not built thee a grave, and wrought 
Thy grave-clothes on thee of grievous thought, 
With soft spun verses and tears unshed, 
      And sweet light visions of things undone? 


"I have given thee garments and balm and myrrh, 
      And gold, and beautiful burial things. 
But thou, be at peace now, make no stir; 
      Is not thy grave as a royal king's? 
Fret not thyself though the end were sore; 
Sleep, be patient, vex me no more. 
Sleep; what hast thou to do with her? 
      The eyes that weep, with the mouth that sings?" 


Where the dead red leaves of the years lie rotten, 
      The cold old crimes and the deeds thrown by, 
The misconceived and the misbegotten, 
      I would find a sin to do ere I die, 
Sure to dissolve and destroy me all through, 
That would set you higher in heaven, serve you 
And leave you happy, when clean forgotten, 
      As a dead man out of mind, am I. 


Your lithe hands draw me, your face burns through me, 
      I am swift to follow you, keen to see; 
But love lacks might to redeem or undo me; 
      As I have been, I know I shall surely be; 
"What should such fellows as I do?" Nay, 
My part were worse if I chose to play; 
For the worst is this after all; if they knew me, 
      Not a soul upon earth would pity me. 


And I play not for pity of these; but you, 
      If you saw with your soul what man am I, 
You would praise me at least that my soul all through 
      Clove to you, loathing the lives that lie; 
The souls and lips that are bought and sold, 
The smiles of silver and kisses of gold, 
The lapdog loves that whine as they chew, 
      The little lovers that curse and cry. 


There are fairer women, I hear; that may be; 
      But I, that I love you and find you fair, 
Who are more than fair in my eyes if they be, 
      Do the high gods know or the great gods care? 
Though the swords in my heart for one were seven, 
Should the iron hollow of doubtful heaven, 
That knows not itself whether night-time or day be, 
      Reverberate words and a foolish prayer? 


I will go back to the great sweet mother, 
      Mother and lover of men, the sea. 
I will go down to her, I and none other, 
      Close with her, kiss her and mix her with me; 
Cling to her, strive with her, hold her fast: 
O fair white mother, in days long past 
Born without sister, born without brother, 
      Set free my soul as thy soul is free. 


O fair green-girdled mother of mine, 
      Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain, 
Thy sweet hard kisses are strong like wine, 
      Thy large embraces are keen like pain. 
Save me and hide me with all thy waves, 
Find me one grave of thy thousand graves, 
Those pure cold populous graves of thine 
      Wrought without hand in a world without stain. 


I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships, 
      Change as the winds change, veer in the tide; 
My lips will feast on the foam of thy lips, 
      I shall rise with thy rising, with thee subside; 
Sleep, and not know if she be, if she were, 
Filled full with life to the eyes and hair, 
As a rose is fulfilled to the roseleaf tips 
      With splendid summer and perfume and pride. 


This woven raiment of nights and days, 
      Were it once cast off and unwound from me, 
Naked and glad would I walk in thy ways, 
      Alive and aware of thy ways and thee; 
Clear of the whole world, hidden at home, 
Clothed with the green and crowned with the foam, 
A pulse of the life of thy straits and bays, 
      A vein in the heart of the streams of the sea. 


Fair mother, fed with the lives of men, 
      Thou art subtle and cruel of heart, men say. 
Thou hast taken, and shalt not render again; 
      Thou art full of thy dead, and cold as they. 
But death is the worst that comes of thee; 
Thou art fed with our dead, O mother, O sea, 
But when hast thou fed on our hearts? or when, 
      Having given us love, hast thou taken away? 


O tender-hearted, O perfect lover, 
      Thy lips are bitter, and sweet thine heart. 
The hopes that hurt and the dreams that hover, 
      Shall they not vanish away and apart? 
But thou, thou art sure, thou art older than earth; 
Thou art strong for death and fruitful of birth; 
Thy depths conceal and thy gulfs discover; 
      From the first thou wert; in the end thou art. 


And grief shall endure not for ever, I know. 
      As things that are not shall these things be; 
We shall live through seasons of sun and of snow, 
      And none be grievous as this to me. 
We shall hear, as one in a trance that hears, 
The sound of time, the rhyme of the years; 
Wrecked hope and passionate pain will grow 
      As tender things of a spring-tide sea. 


Sea-fruit that swings in the waves that hiss, 
      Drowned gold and purple and royal rings. 
And all time past, was it all for this? 
      Times unforgotten, and treasures of things? 
Swift years of liking and sweet long laughter, 
That wist not well of the years thereafter 
Till love woke, smitten at heart by a kiss, 
      With lips that trembled and trailing wings? 


There lived a singer in France of old 
      By the tideless dolorous midland sea. 
In a land of sand and ruin and gold 
      There shone one woman, and none but she. 
And finding life for her love's sake fail, 
Being fain to see her, he bade set sail, 
Touched land, and saw her as life grew cold, 
      And praised God, seeing; and so died he. 


Died, praising God for his gift and grace: 
      For she bowed down to him weeping, and said 
"Live;" and her tears were shed on his face 
      Or ever the life in his face was shed. 
The sharp tears fell through her hair, and stung 
Once, and her close lips touched him and clung 
Once, and grew one with his lips for a space; 
      And so drew back, and the man was dead. 


O brother, the gods were good to you. 
      Sleep, and be glad while the world endures. 
Be well content as the years wear through; 
      Give thanks for life, and the loves and lures; 
Give thanks for life, O brother, and death, 
For the sweet last sound of her feet, her breath, 
For gifts she gave you, gracious and few, 
      Tears and kisses, that lady of yours. 


Rest, and be glad of the gods; but I, 
      How shall I praise them, or how take rest? 
There is not room under all the sky 
      For me that know not of worst or best, 
Dream or desire of the days before, 
Sweet things or bitterness, any more. 
Love will not come to me now though I die, 
      As love came close to you, breast to breast. 


I shall never be friends again with roses; 
      I shall loathe sweet tunes, where a note grown strong 
Relents and recoils, and climbs and closes, 
      As a wave of the sea turned back by song. 
There are sounds where the soul's delight takes fire, 
Face to face with its own desire; 
A delight that rebels, a desire that reposes; 
      I shall hate sweet music my whole life long. 


The pulse of war and passion of wonder, 
      The heavens that murmur, the sounds that shine, 
The stars that sing and the loves that thunder, 
      The music burning at heart like wine, 
An armed archangel whose hands raise up 
All senses mixed in the spirit's cup 
Till flesh and spirit are molten in sunder — 
      These things are over, and no more mine. 


These were a part of the playing I heard 
      Once, ere my love and my heart were at strife; 
Love that sings and hath wings as a bird, 
      Balm of the wound and heft of the knife. 
Fairer than earth is the sea, and sleep 
Than overwatching of eyes that weep, 
Now time has done with his one sweet word, 
      The wine and leaven of lovely life. 


I shall go my ways, tread out my measure, 
      Fill the days of my daily breath 
With fugitive things not good to treasure, 
      Do as the world doth, say as it saith; 
But if we had loved each other — O sweet, 
Had you felt, lying under the palms of your feet, 
The heart of my heart, beating harder with pleasure 
      To feel you tread it to dust and death — 


Ah, had I not taken my life up and given 
      All that life gives and the years let go, 
The wine and honey, the balm and leaven, 
      The dreams reared high and the hopes brought low? 
Come life, come death, not a word be said; 
Should I lose you living, and vex you dead? 
I never shall tell you on earth; and in heaven, 
      If I cry to you then, will you hear or know? 

This poem is in the public domain.

I

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.


Last thing at night and only one
Man in the street,
And even he was gone complete
Into an absence as he stood
Beside the lamplight longitude.
He stood so long and still, it would
Take men in longer streets to find
What this was chewing in his mind.

From All the Poems of Muriel Spark by Muriel Spark. Copyright © 2004 by by Muriel Spark. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

Green apples dancing in a wash of sun—
Ripples of sense and fun—
A net of light that wavers as it weaves
The sunlight on the chattering leaves;
The half-dazed sound of feet,
And carriages that ripple in the heat.
The parasols like shadows of the sun
Cast wavering shades that run
Across the laughing faces and across
Hair with a bird-bright gloss.
The swinging greenery casts shadows dark,
Hides me that I may mark
How, buzzing in this dazzling mesh, my soul
Seems hardening it to flesh, and one bright whole.
O sudden feathers have a flashing sheen!
The sun’s swift javelin
The bird-songs seem, that through the dark leaves pass;
And life itself is but a flashing glass.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Amid this hot green glowing gloom	 
A word falls with a raindrop's boom...	 
  
Like baskets of ripe fruit in air	 
The bird-songs seem, suspended where	 
  
Those goldfinches—the ripe warm lights	         
Peck slyly at them—take quick flights.	 
  
My feet are feathered like a bird	 
Among the shadows scarcely heard;	 
  
I bring you branches green with dew	 
And fruits that you may crown anew	  
  
Your whirring waspish-gilded hair	 
Amid this cornucopia—	 
  
Until your warm lips bear the stains	 
And bird-blood leap within your veins.

This poem is in the public domain.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
    And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand,
    Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

This poem is in the public domain.

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate;
    For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

This poem is in the public domain.

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight:
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
        All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
        To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

A wood near Athens. A Fairy speaks.

Over hill, over dale, 
Thorough bush, thorough brier, 
Over park, over pale, 
Thorough flood, thorough fire, 
I do wander every where, 
Swifter than the moon's sphere; 
And I serve the fairy queen, 
To dew her orbs upon the green: 
The cowslips tall her pensioners be; 
In their gold coats spots you see; 
Those be rubies, fairy favours, 
In those freckles live their savours: 
I must go seek some dew-drops here 
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear. 
Farewell, thou lob of spirits: I'll be gone; 
Our queen and all her elves come here anon.

This poem is in the public domain.

The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walked on at the wind's will,--
I sat now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was,--
My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me,--
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

This poem is in the public domain.

Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees, your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh, that second thigh and that left leg.

From Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by John Ashbery. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

When the boy's head, full of raw torment,
Longs for hazy dreams to swarm in white,
Two charming older sisters come to his bed
With slender fingers and silvery nails.

They sit him at a casement window, thrown
Open on a mass of flowers basking in blue air,
And run the fine, intimidating witchcraft
Of their  fingers through his dew-dank hair.

He listens to their diffident, sing-song breath,
Smelling of elongated honey off the rose,
Broken now and then by a hiss: saliva sucked
Back from the lip, or a longing to be kissed.

He hears their dark eyelashes start in the sweet-
Smelling silence and, through his grey listlessness,
The crackle of small lice dying, beneath
The imperious nails of their soft, electric fingers.

The wine of Torpor wells up in him then
— Near on trance, a harmonica-sigh —
And in their slow caress he feels
The endless ebb and flow of a desire to cry.

Copyright © Jeremy Harding and John Sturrock, 2004. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.

I.

No one's serious at seventeen.
—On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
—You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds—the town is near—
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

—Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!—Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
—And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide, 
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
—And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.—Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
—Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
—No one's serious at seventeen 
When lindens line the promenade.

29 September 1870

From Rimbaud Complete by Arthur Rimbaud; translated, edited, and introduced by Wyatt Mason. Copyright © 2002 by Wyatt Mason. Reprinted by permission of the Modern Library. All rights reserved.

I've swallowed a terrific mouthful of poison.—Blessings three times over on the impulse that came to me!—My guts are on fire. The poison's violence twists my limbs, deforms me, knocks me down. I'm dying of thirst, I'm choking, I can't scream. It's hell, endless pain! Look how the fire flashes up! I'm burning nicely. Go on, demon!

I'd caught a glimpse of conversion to goodness and happiness, salvation. Can I describe the vision? Hell's atmosphere won't suffer hymns! There were millions of charming people, a sweet spiritual concert, strength and peace, noble ambitions, who knows?

Noble ambitions!

And this is still life!— What if damnation's everlasting! A man who wants to mutilate himself is pretty well damned, right? I think I'm in hell, therefore I am. It's the catechism come true. I'm the slave of my baptism. Parents, you've created my tortures and yours.—Poor nitwit! Hell can't wield power over pagans.— This is still life! Later on, the delights of damnation will be much deeper. A crime, quick, so I can plunge into nothingness in accordance with human law.

Shut up, will you shut up. .. ! There's disgrace and reproaches here—Satan who says the fire's contemptible, who says my temper's desperately silly.— Enough. .. ! Errors they're whispering to me, magic, misleading perfumes, childish music.—And to think I'm dealing in truth, I'm looking at justice: my reasoning powers are sane and sound, I'm ready for perfection. .. Pride.—My scalp is drying up. Help! Lord, I'm scared. I'm thirsty, so thirsty! O childhood, the grass, the rain, the lake water on stones, the moonlight when the hell struck twelve. . . . The devil's in the tower right now. Mary! Holy Virgin. . . !— Loathing for my blunder.

Out there, aren't those virtuous souls who are wishing me well. . . ? Come.. .. I've got a pillow over my mouth, they won't hear me, they're ghosts. Besides, no one ever thinks of others. Don't come near me. I smell of heresy, that's for sure.

No end to these hallucinations. It's exactly what I've always known: no more faith in history, principles forgotten. I'll keep quiet: poets and visionaries would be jealous. I'm a thousand times richer, let's be miserly like the sea.

Well now! the clock of life stopped a few minutes ago. I'm not in the world any more.— Theology's a serious thing, hell is certainly way down—and heaven's above.—Ecstasy, nightmare, sleep in a nest of flames.

How malicious one's outlook in the country. . . Satan—Old Scratch——goes running around with the wild grain. . . Jesus is walking on the blackberry bushes without bending them. .. Jesus used to walk on troubled waters. The lantern revealed him to us, standing, pale with long brownish hair, on the crest of an emerald wave. . . .

I'm going to unveil all the mysteries: religious mysteries or natural, death, birth, future, past, cosmogony, nothingness. I'm a master of hal— lucinations.

Listen...!

I've got all the talents!— There's no one here and there's someone: I wouldn't want to waste my treasure.—Do you want nigger songs, houri dances? Do you want me to disappear, to dive down for the ring? Do you want that? I'm going to make gold. . . remedies.

Then have faith in me, faith is soothing, it guides, it cures. Come, all of you—even the little children—and I'll comfort you, I'll spill out my heart for you,—the marvelous heart!—Poor men, workers! I don't ask for your prayers. With your trust alone, I'll be happy.

—And what about me? All of this doesn't make me miss the world much. I'm lucky not to suffer more. My life was nothing but lovely mistakes, it's too bad.

Bah! let's make every possible ugly face.

We're out of the world, for sure. Not even a sound. My touch has disappeared. Ah, my castle, my Saxony, my willow woods. Evenings, mornings, nights, days. . . I'm worn out!

I should have my hell for anger, my hell for conceit—and the hell of caresses: a concert of hells.

I'm dying of tiredness. It's the grave, horror of horrors, I'm going to the worms! Satan, you joker, you want to melt me down with your charms. I demand it, I demand it! a poke of the pitchfork, a drop of fire. Ah, to come back to life again! To feast my eyes on our deformities.

And that poison, that kiss a thousand times damned! My weakness, the world's cruelty! My God, mercy, hide me, I always misbehave!—I'm hidden and then again I'm not.

It's the fire flaring up again with its damned!

From A Season in Hell & Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Bertrand Mathieu (BOA Editions, 1991). Used by permission.

Black in the fog and in the snow,
Where the great air-hole windows glow,
With rounded rumps,

Upon their knees five urchins squat,
Looking down where the baker, hot,
The thick dough thumps.

They watch his white arm turn the bread,
Ere through an opening flaming red
The loaf he flings.

They hear the good bread baking, while
The chubby baker with a smile
An old tune sings.

Breathing the warmth into their soul,
They squat around the red air-hole,
As a breast warm.

And when, for feasters' midnight bout,
The ready bread is taken out,
In a cake's form;

And while beneath the blackened beams,
Sings every crust of golden gleams,
While the cricket brags,

The hole breathes warmth into the night,
And into them life and delight,
Under their rags,

And the urchins covered with hoar-frost,
On billows of enchantment tossed
Their little souls,

Glue to the grate their little rosy
Noses, singing through the cosy
Glowing holes,

But with low voices like a prayer,
Bending down to the light down there,
Where heaven gleams.

—So eager that they burst their breeches,
And in the winter wind that screeches
Their linen streams.

After Arthur Rimbaud's "Les Effarés." Translated in 1912. This poem is in the public domain.

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
    enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
    enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

English translation, translator's introduction, and translator's notes copyright © 2001 by Annemarie S. Kidder. Published 2001. All rights reserved.

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also 
Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,
Circe's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day's end.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o'er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays
Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven
Swartest night stretched over wretched men there.
The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;
Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour.
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death's-head;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and at the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the heards, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.
But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit.  And I cried in hurried speech:
"Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
Cam'st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?"

     And he in heavy speech:
"Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Circe's ingle.
Going down the long ladder unguarded,
I fell against the buttress,
Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, and inscribed:
A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows."

And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
"A second time? why? man of ill star,
Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
For soothsay."
     And I stepped back,
And he stong with the blood, said then: "Odysseus
Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
Lose all companions." And then Anticlea came.
Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.
And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outward and away
And unto Circe.
     Venerandam,
In the Creatan's phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, orichalchi, with golden
Girdles and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicida. So that:

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

I have tried to write Paradise

Do not move
      Let the wind speak
        that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I
        have made
Let those I love try to forgive
        what I have made.

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born.
  Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a 
  stirrer-up of strife.
  Eccovi!
  Judge ye!
  Have I dug him up again?
The scene in at his castle, Altaforte.  "Papiols" is his jongleur.
"The Leopard," the device of Richard (Cúur de Lion).

I

Damn it all!  all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come!  Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah!  when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.

II

In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth's foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav'n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God's swords clash.

III

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour's stour than a year's peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah!  there's no wine like the blood's crimson!

IV

And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing.

V

The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth's won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.

VI

Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"

VII

And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Peace!"

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

O my songs,
Why do you look so eagerly and so curiously into people's faces,
Will you find your lost dead among them?

This poem is in the public domain.

I looked and saw a sea
                               roofed over with rainbows,
In the midst of each
                               two lovers met and departed;
Then the sky was full of faces
                               with gold glories behind them.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho’ that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
’Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
But should it be—that dream eternally
Continuing—as dreams have been to me
In my young boyhood—should it thus be given,
’Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
For I have revell’d when the sun was bright
I’ the summer sky, in dreams of living light,
And loveliness,—have left my very heart
In climes of mine imagining, apart
From mine own home, with beings that have been
Of mine own thought—what more could I have seen?
’Twas once—and only once—and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass—some power
Or spell had bound me—’twas the chilly wind
Came o’er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit—or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly—or the stars—howe’er it was
That dream was as that night-wind—let it pass.
I have been happy, tho’ [but] in a dream.

I have been happy—and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid colouring of life
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love—and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

This poem is in the public domain.

I.

        Hear the sledges with the bells—
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II.

        Hear the mellow wedding bells,
                 Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
        Through the balmy air of night
        How they ring out their delight!
           From the molten-golden notes,
               And all in tune,
           What a liquid ditty floats
    To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
               On the moon!
         Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
         Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III.

         Hear the loud alarum bells—
                 Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
            Leaping higher, higher, higher,
            With a desperate desire,
         And a resolute endeavor
         Now—now to sit or never,
       By the side of the pale-faced moon.
            Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
            What a tale their terror tells
                  Of Despair!
       How they clang, and clash, and roar!
       What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
       Yet the ear it fully knows,
            By the twanging,
            And the clanging,
         How the danger ebbs and flows;
       Yet the ear distinctly tells,
            In the jangling,
            And the wrangling.
       How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
             Of the bells—
     Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
            Bells, bells, bells—
 In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV.

          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                    Rolls
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850. For other versions, please visit The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#B.

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll—
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
Our memories were treacherous and sere,—
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)—
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here)—
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn—
As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said: "She is warmer than Dian;
She rolls through an ether of sighs—
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies—
To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said: "Sadly this star I mistrust—
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:
Ah, hasten! —ah, let us not linger!
Ah, fly! —let us fly! -for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust—
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust—
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied: "This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendour is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty tonight!—
See!—it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright—
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom—
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said: "What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied: "Ulalume -Ulalume—
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere—
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: "It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed—I journeyed down here!—
That I brought a dread burden down here—
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

This poem is in the public domain.

  At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and the vertigo of death;
  the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena in submarine gardens;
  the laughter that sets on fire the rules and the holy commandments;
  the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
  the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
  for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-sorrow desert;
  the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipation of the self;
  the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors; the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
  the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the cave of thought;
  the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
  the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
  the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in love.


Syllables seeds.

From The Collected Poems 1957-1987. Copyright © 1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,  
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,  
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,  
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,  
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears, 
Or hope again for aught that I can say,  
The idle singer of an empty day.  
  
But rather, when aweary of your mirth,  
From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh,  
And, feeling kindly unto all the earth,  
Grudge every minute as it passes by,  
Made the more mindful that the sweet days die—  
—Remember me a little then I pray,  
The idle singer of an empty day.  
  
The heavy trouble, the bewildering care 
That weighs us down who live and earn our bread,  
These idle verses have no power to bear;  
So let me sing of names remembered,  
Because they, living not, can ne’er be dead,  
Or long time take their memory quite away 
From us poor singers of an empty day.  
  
Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,  
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?  
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme  
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate  
To those who in the sleepy region stay,  
Lulled by the singer of an empty day.  
  
Folk say, a wizard to a northern king  
At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show,
That through one window men beheld the spring,  
And through another saw the summer glow,  
And through a third the fruited vines a-row,  
While still, unheard, but in its wonted way,  
Piped the drear wind of that December day.
  
So with this Earthly Paradise it is,  
If ye will read aright, and pardon me,  
Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss  
Midmost the beating of the steely sea,  
Where tossed about all hearts of men must be;
Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay,  
Not the poor singer of an empty day.

This poem is in the public domain.

Love is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
   Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder
   And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
   These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

This poem is in the public domain.


Soon the rushlights will go out in the flesh
of sympathetic bodies once close to my own hand
and I will go to my hammock, thinking of little
except the numbness that alone makes bearable
the wind's twisting. I want atoms to separate
like hairs or dust onto the heads of my daughters.
I want to violate the edict that traps my hunger
in cages and away from her rough shoulder 
and once to be enough for this and all the loves
that flicker through my bedroom before sleep.
They keep me awake, and tonight they are fierce
as whips or as needles to make the skin crawl.
I want to drift like the poui in a southerly wind
and settle where I need to before the faces erode,
my appetite of iron caulking the egg-shell heart.

From The Blaze of the Poui by Mark McMorris. Copyright © 2003 by Mark McMorris. Reprinted by permission of the University of Georgia Press. All rights reserved.

     NOTHING




              of the memorable crisis
                       or might
                                  the event        have been accomplished in view of all results  null
                                                                                                                             human

                                                                                               WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE
                                                                        an ordinary elevation pours out absence

                                                                                                                 BUT THE PLACE
                                          some splashing below of water as if to disperse the empty act
                                                                                 abruptly which otherwise
                                                                            by its falsehood
                                                                      would have founded
                                                                                      perdition

                                           in these latitudes 
                                                           of indeterminate
                                                                      waves
                                                                           in which all reality dissolves

EXCEPT
           on high
                       PERHAPS
                                  as far as place            can fuse with the beyond

                                                                                        aside from the interest
                                                                                    marked out to it
                                                                                                           in general
                                                              by a certain obliquity through a certain declivity
                                                                                                               of fires
                                                                     toward
                                                                         what must be
                                                                              the Septentrion as well as North
  
                                                                                                             A CONSTELLATION

                                                                          cold from forgetfulness and desuetude
                                                                                                         not so much
                                                                                                 that it doesn't number
                                                                                on some vacant and superior surface
                                                                                                    the successive shock
                                                                                                            in the way of stars
                                                                                of a total account in the making

                                                         keeping vigil
                                                                    doubting
                                                                           rolling
                                                                                shining and meditating

                                                                                            before coming to a halt
                                                                                     at some terminus that sanctifies it


                                                                                  All Thought emits a Throw of the Dice

From Collected Poems (University of California Press, 1994) by Stéphane Mallarmé. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Orphan, I was wandering in black and with an eye vacant of family: at the quincunx, the tents of a fair were unfolded; did I experience the future and that I would take this form? I loved the odor of the vagabonds, and was drawn toward them, forgetting my comrades. No cry of a chorus clamoring through the canvas rift, nor distant tirade, the drama requiring the holy hour of the footlights, I wanted to speak with an urchin too unsteady in his wavering to figure forth among his people, in a nightcap cut like Dante's hood—who was already returning to himself, in the guise of a slice of bread and soft cheese, the snow of mountain peaks, the lily, or some other whiteness constitutive of internal wings: I would have begged him to admit me to his superior meal, which was quickly shared with some illustrious older boy who had sprung up against a nearby tent and was engaged in feats of strength and banalities consistent with the day. Naked, he pirouetted in what seemed to me the surprising nimbleness of his tights and moreover began: "Your parents? — I have none. — Go on, if you knew what a farce that is, a father...even the other week when he was off his soup, he still made faces as funny as ever, when the boss was flinging out smacks and kicks. My dear fellow!" and triumphantly raising a leg toward me with glorious ease, "Papa astounds us"; then, biting into the little one's chaste meal: "Your mama, maybe you don't have one, maybe you're alone? Mine eats rope and everyone claps his hands. you have no idea what funny people parents are, how they make you laugh." The show was heating up, he left: myself, I sighed, suddenly dismayed at not having parents.

From Collected Poems (University of California Press, 1994) by Stéphane Mallarmé. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

child sprung from
the two of us — showing
us our ideal, the way
— ours! father
and mother who
       sadly existing
survive him as
the two extremes —
badly coupled in him
and sundered
— from whence hi death — o-
bliterating this little child "self"

Copyright © 2005 by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Auster. From A Tomb for Anatole. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Press.

The tremulously mirrored clouds lie deep,
Enchanted towers bosomed in the stream,
And blossomed coronals of white-thorn gleam
Within the water where the willows sleep—
Still-imaged willow-leaves whose shadows steep
The far-reflected sky in dark of dream;
And glimpsed therein the sun-winged swallows seem
As fleeting memories to those who weep.

So mirrored in thy heart are all desires,
Eternal longings, Youth’s inheritance,
All hopes that token immortality,
All griefs whereto immortal grief aspires.
Aweary of the world’s reality,
I dream above the imaged pool, Romance.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

And who has seen the moon, who has not seen
Her rise from out the chamber of the deep,
Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber
Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw
Confession of delight upon the wave,
Littering the waves with her own superscription
Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us
Spread out and known at last, and we are sure
That beauty is a thing beyond the grave,
That perfect, bright experience never falls
To nothingness, and time will dim the moon
Sooner than our full consummation here
In this odd life will tarnish or pass away.

This poem is in the public domain.

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 all trades, 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.


This poem is in the public domain.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
   And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
   And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
   There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
   Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

This poem is in the public domain.

“Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα τι θελεις; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω.”

For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro

I. The Burial of the Dead

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

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

           Frisch weht der Wind
           Der Heimat zu,            
           Mein Irisch Kind,
           Wo weilest du?

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying: “Stetson!
“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”

 

II. A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished thone,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed.
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Clawed into words, then would be savagely still.

“My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

“What is the noise?”
                                 The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
                                        Nothing again nothing.
                                                              “Do
“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
“Nothing?”
                    I remember
                                        Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
                                                            But
O  O  O  O  that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”
“I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
“With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow?
“What shall we ever do?”
                                    The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.
And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don’t give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.
Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said,
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be alright, but I’ve never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don’t want children?
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

 

III. The Fire Sermon

The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse
Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck
And on the king my father’s death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix denfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc’d.
Tereu

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest.
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire,
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows one final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .

She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
“Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
Wide
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.
                       Weialala leia
                       Wallala leialala
Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores
Southwest wind
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
White towers
                       Weialala leia
                       Wallala leialala

“Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.”

“My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised ‘a new start.’
I made no comment. What should I resent?”

“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”
                       la la

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest

burning

 

IV. Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
                                       A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
                                       Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

 

V. What the Thunder Said

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
                                              If there were water
      And no rock
      If there were rock
      And also water
      And water
      A spring
      A pool among the rock
      If there were the sound of water only
      Not the cicada
      And dry grass singing
      But sound of water over a rock
      Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
      Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
      But there is no water

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that one on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London
Unreal

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home,
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder
DA
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
DA
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

                                    I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
em>Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince dAquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

          Shantih     shantih     shantih

 


Notes

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston’s book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.

 

I. The Burial of the Dead

Line 20. Cf. Ezekiel II, i.
23. Cf. Ecclesiastes XII, v.
31. V. Tristan und Isolde, I, verses 5–8.
42. Id. III, verse 24.
46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples of Emmaus in Part V. The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant appear later; also the “crowds of people,” and Death by Water is executed in Part IV. The Man with Three Staves (an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King himself.
60. Cf. Baudelaire:

“Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves
“Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.”

63. Cf. Inferno III, 55–57:

                          “si lunga tratta
“di gente, ch’io non avrei mai creduto
che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta.”

64. Cf. Inferno IV, 25–27:

“Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
“non avea pianto ma’ che de sospiri,
“che l’aura eterna facevan tremare.”

68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed.
74. Cf. The Dirge in Webster’s White Devil.
76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal.

 

II. A Game of Chess

77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, I. 190.
92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I, 726:

                          “dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.”

98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 140.
99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, Philomela.
100. Cf. Part III 1. 204.
115. Cf. Part III 1. 195.
118. Cf. Webster: “Is the wind in that door still?”
126. Cf. Part I, ll. 37, 48.
138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton’s Women Beware Women.

 

III. The Fire Sermon

176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion.
192. Cf. The Tempest, I, ii.
196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.
197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:

“When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear,
“A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring
“Actaeon to Diana in the spring,
“Where all shall see her naked skin. . .”

199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken; it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.
202. V. Verlaine, “Parsifal.”
210. The currants were quoted at a price “carriage and insurance free to London”; and the Bill of Lading etc. were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.
218. Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a “character,” is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest:

. . . Cum Iunone iocos et “maior vestra profecto est
Quam, quae contingit maribus,” dixisse, “voluptas.”
Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et “est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae,”
Dixit “ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
Nunc quoque vos feriam!” percussis anguibus isdem
Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire future dedit poenamque levavit honore.

221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho’s lines, but I had in mind the “longshore” or “dory” fisherman, who returns at nightfall.
253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.
257. V. The Tempest, as above.
264. The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren’s interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches: (P.S. King & Son Ltd.).
266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdämmerung, III, i: the Rhine-daughters.
279. V. Froude, Elizabeth Vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain: “In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river. (The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they should not be married if the queen pleased.”
293. Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:

“Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
“Siena mi fe’, disfecemi Maremma.”

307. V. St. Augustine’s Confessions: “to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears.”
308. The complete text of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren’s Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the occident.
312. From St. Augustine’s Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.

 

V. What the Thunder Said

In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston’s book) and the present decay of eastern Europe.

357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec Country. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America) “it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats. . . . Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequaled.” Its “water-dripping song” is justly celebrated.
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton’s): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
366-76. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos: “Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.”
401. “Datta, dayadhvam, damyata” (Give, sympathise, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the BrihadaranyakaUpanishad, 5, I. A translation is found in Deussen’s Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.
407. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V. vi:

                          “. . . they’ll remarry
“Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.”

411. Cf. Inferno, XXXIII, 46:

“ed io seniti chiavar l’uscio di sotto
all’orribile torre.”

Also F. H, Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346.
“My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it. . . . In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.”
424. V. Weston: From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.
427. V. Purgatorio, XXVI, 148.

“‘Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
‘que vos guida al som de l’escalina,
‘sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.’
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.”

428. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.
429. V. Gérard de Nerval, Sonnet “El Desdichado.”
431. V. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.
433. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. “The Peace which passeth understanding” is a feeble transition of the content of this word.

From The Waste Land (Boni & Liveright, 1922) by T.S. Eliot. This poem is in the public domain.

Twelve o'clock.	
Along the reaches of the street	
Held in a lunar synthesis,	
Whispering lunar incantations	
Dissolve the floors of memory	        
And all its clear relations,	
Its divisions and precisions.	
Every street lamp that I pass	
Beats like a fatalistic drum,	
And through the spaces of the dark	        
Midnight shakes the memory	
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.	
 
   Half-past one,	
The street-lamp sputtered,	
The street-lamp muttered,	        
The street-lamp said, "Regard that woman	
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door	
Which opens on her like a grin.	
You see the border of her dress	
Is torn and stained with sand,	        
And you see the corner of her eye	
Twists like a crooked pin."	
 
   The memory throws up high and dry	
A crowd of twisted things;	
A twisted branch upon the beach	        
Eaten smooth, and polished	
As if the world gave up	
The secret of its skeleton,	
Stiff and white.	
A broken spring in a factory yard,	        
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left	
Hard and curled and ready to snap.	
 
   Half-past two,	
The street-lamp said,	
"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,	        
Slips out its tongue	
And devours a morsel of rancid butter."	
So the hand of the child, automatic,	
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.	
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.	        
I have seen eyes in the street	
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,	
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,	
An old crab with barnacles on his back,	
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.	        
 
   Half-past three,	
The lamp sputtered,	
The lamp muttered in the dark.	
The lamp hummed:	
"Regard the moon,	        
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,	
She winks a feeble eye,	
She smiles into corners.	
She smooths the hair of the grass.	
The moon has lost her memory.	        
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,	
Her hand twists a paper rose,	
That smells of dust and eau de Cologne,	
She is alone	
With all the old nocturnal smells	        
That cross and cross across her brain."	
The reminiscence comes	
Of sunless dry geraniums	
And dust in crevices,	
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,	        
And female smells in shuttered rooms,	
And cigarettes in corridors	
And cocktail smells in bars.	
 
   The lamp said,	
"Four o'clock,	        
Here is the number on the door.	
Memory!	
You have the key,	
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair.	
Mount.	        
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,	
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."	
 
   The last twist of the knife.

This poem is in the public domain.

I

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

 

II

 

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

 

III

 

 

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

 

IV

 

 

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

From Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1920) by T. S. Eliot. This poem is in the public domain.

          Thou hast nor youth nor age
          But as it were an after dinner sleep
          Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,	
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.	
I was neither at the hot gates	
Nor fought in the warm rain	
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.	
My house is a decayed house,	
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,	
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,	
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;	
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.	
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,	
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.	
 
                    I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.	
 
Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:	
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,	
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year	
Came Christ the tiger
 
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,	
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk	
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero	
With caressing hands, at Limoges	
Who walked all night in the next room;
By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;	
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room	
Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp	
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles	
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house	
Under a windy knob.	
 
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now	
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors	
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now	
She gives when our attention is distracted	
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions	
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late	
What’s not believed in, or if still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon	
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with	
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think	
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices	
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.	
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.	
 
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last	
We have not reached conclusion, when I	
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly	
And it is not by any concitation	
Of the backward devils	
I would meet you upon this honestly.	
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.	
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it	
Since what is kept must be adulterated?	
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:	
How should I use it for your closer contact?
 
These with a thousand small deliberations	
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,	
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,	
With pungent sauces, multiply variety	
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do,
Suspend its operations, will the weevil	
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled	
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear	
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits	
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,	
And an old man driven by the Trades	
To a a sleepy corner.	
 
                    Tenants of the house,	
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

This poem is in the public domain.

     S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
     Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
     So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
     And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
     And should I then presume?
     And how should I begin?

          . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

          . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
     Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
     That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
     “That is not it at all,
     That is not what I meant, at all.”

          . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Published in 1915. This poem is in the public domain.

Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 
Of which vertú engendred is the flour; 
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth 
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 
And smale foweles maken melodye, 
That slepen al the nyght with open ye, 
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages, 
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, 
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; 
And specially, from every shires ende 
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, 
The hooly blisful martir for to seke, 
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. 


Bifil that in that seson on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, 
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage 
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, 
At nyght were come into that hostelrye 
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye 
Of sondry folk, by áventure y-falle 
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, 
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde. 
The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 
And wel we weren esed atte beste. 
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, 
So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, 
And made forward erly for to ryse, 
To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. 


But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space, 
Er that I ferther in this tale pace, 
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun 
To telle yow al the condicioun 
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, 
And whiche they weren and of what degree, 
And eek in what array that they were inne; 
And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne. 


A Knyght ther was, and that a worthy man, 
That fro the tyme that he first bigan 
To riden out, he loved chivalrie, 
Trouthe and honóur, fredom and curteisie. 
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre, 
And thereto hadde he riden, no man ferre, 
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse, 
And evere honóured for his worthynesse. 
At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne; 
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne 
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce. 
In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce,— 
No cristen man so ofte of his degree. 
In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be 
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye. 
At Lyeys was he, and at Satalye, 
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See 
At many a noble armee hadde he be. 


At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene, 
And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene 
In lyste thries, and ay slayn his foo. 
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also 
Somtyme with the lord of Palatye 
Agayn another hethen in Turkye; 
And evermoore he hadde a sovereyn prys. 
And though that he were worthy, he was wys, 
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde. 
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde, 
In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. 
He was a verray, parfit, gentil knyght. 


But for to tellen yow of his array, 
His hors weren goode, but he was nat gay; 
Of fustian he wered a gypon 
Al bismótered with his habergeon; 
For he was late y-come from his viage, 
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage. 


With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squiér, 
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler, 
With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse. 
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse. 
Of his statúre he was of evene lengthe, 
And wonderly delyvere and of greet strengthe. 
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie 
In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie, 
And born hym weel, as of so litel space, 
In hope to stonden in his lady grace. 
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede 
Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede. 
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day; 
He was as fressh as is the month of May. 
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde; 
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde; 
He koude songes make and wel endite, 
Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write. 
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale 
He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale. 
Curteis he was, lowely and servysáble, 
And carf biforn his fader at the table. 


A Yeman hadde he and servántz namo 
At that tyme, for hym liste ride soo; 
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene. 
A sheef of pecock arwes bright and kene, 
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily— 
Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly; 
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe— 
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe. 
A not-heed hadde he, with a broun viságe. 
Of woodecraft wel koude he al the uságe. 
Upon his arm he baar a gay bracér, 
And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler, 
And on that oother syde a gay daggere, 
Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere; 
A Cristophere on his brest of silver sheene. 
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene. 
A forster was he, soothly as I gesse. 


Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse, 
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy; 
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte Loy, 
And she was cleped madame Eglentyne. 
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne, 
Entuned in hir nose ful semely; 
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly, 
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, 
For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe. 
At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle: 
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, 
Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe. 
Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe 
Thát no drope ne fille upon hire brist; 
In curteisie was set ful muchel hir list. 
Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene 
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene 
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte. 
Ful semely after hir mete she raughte. 
And sikerly she was of greet desport, 
And ful plesáunt and amyable of port, 
And peyned hire to countrefete cheere 
Of court, and been estatlich of manere, 
And to ben holden digne of reverence. 
But for to speken of hire conscience, 
She was so charitable and so pitous 
She wolde wepe if that she saugh a mous 
Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. 
Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde 
With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel breed; 
But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed, 
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte; 
And al was conscience and tendre herte. 


Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was; 
Hire nose tretys, her eyen greye as glas, 
Hir mouth ful smal and ther-to softe and reed; 
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed; 
It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe; 
For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe. 
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war; 
Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar 
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, 
And ther-on heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, 
On which ther was first write a crowned A, 
And after, Amor vincit omnia. 


Another Nonne with hire hadde she, 
That was hire chapeleyne, and Preestes thre. 


A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, 
An outridere, that lovede venerie; 
A manly man, to been an abbot able. 
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable; 
And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere 
Gýnglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere, 
And eek as loude, as dooth the chapel belle, 
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle. 
The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit, 
By-cause that it was old and som-del streit,— 
This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, 
And heeld after the newe world the space. 
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen 
That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men, 
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees, 
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees,— 
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre. 
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre; 
And I seyde his opinioun was good. 
What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood, 
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure, 
Or swynken with his handes and labóure, 
As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served? 
Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved. 
Therfore he was a prikasour aright: 
Grehoundes he hadde, as swift as fowel in flight; 
Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare 
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare. 
I seigh his sleves y-púrfiled at the hond 
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond; 
And for to festne his hood under his chyn 
He hadde of gold y-wroght a curious pyn; 
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was. 
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas, 
And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt. 
He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt; 
His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed, 
That stemed as a forneys of a leed; 
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat. 
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat. 
He was nat pale, as a forpyned goost: 
A fat swan loved he best of any roost. 
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye. 


A Frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye, 
A lymytour, a ful solémpne man. 
In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan 
So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage. 
He hadde maad ful many a mariage 
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost. 
Unto his ordre he was a noble post. 
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he 
With frankeleyns over al in his contree, 
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun; 
For he hadde power of confessioun, 
As seyde hym-self, moore than a curát, 
For of his ordre he was licenciat. 
Ful swetely herde he confessioun, 
And plesaunt was his absolucioun. 
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce 
There as he wiste to have a good pitaunce; 
For unto a povre ordre for to yive 
Is signe that a man is wel y-shryve; 
For, if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt 
He wiste that a man was répentaunt; 
For many a man so hard is of his herte 
He may nat wepe al-thogh hym soore smerte. 
Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyéres 
Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres. 
His typet was ay farsed full of knyves 
And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves. 
And certeinly he hadde a murye note: 
Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote; 
Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris. 
His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys; 
Ther-to he strong was as a champioun. 
He knew the tavernes wel in every toun, 
And everich hostiler and tappestere 
Bet than a lazar or a beggestere; 
For unto swich a worthy man as he 
Acorded nat, as by his facultee, 
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce; 
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce 
Fór to deelen with no swich poraille, 
But al with riche and selleres of vitaille. 
And over-al, ther as profit sholde arise, 
Curteis he was and lowely of servyse. 
Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous. 
He was the beste beggere in his hous; 
[And yaf a certeyn ferme for the graunt, 
Noon of his brethren cam ther in his haunt;] 
For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho, 
So plesaunt was his In principio, 
Yet wolde he have a ferthyng er he wente: 
His purchas was wel bettre than his rente. 
And rage he koude, as it were right a whelpe. 
In love-dayes ther koude he muchel helpe, 
For there he was nat lyk a cloysterer 
With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scolér, 
But he was lyk a maister, or a pope; 
Of double worstede was his semycope, 
That rounded as a belle, out of the presse. 
Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse, 
To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge; 
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe, 
His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght 
As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght. 
This worthy lymytour was cleped Hubérd. 


A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, 
In motteleye, and hye on horse he sat; 
Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat; 
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly. 
His resons he spak ful solémpnely, 
Sownynge alway thencrees of his wynnyng. 
He wolde the see were kept for any thing 
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle. 
Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. 
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette; 
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette, 
So estatly was he of his gouvernaunce, 
With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce. 
For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle, 
But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle. 


A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, 
That unto logyk hadde longe y-go. 
As leene was his hors as is a rake, 
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, 
But looked holwe, and ther-to sobrely. 
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy; 
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice, 
Ne was so worldly for to have office; 
For hym was lévere háve at his beddes heed 
Twénty bookes, clad in blak or reed, 
Of Aristotle and his philosophie, 
Than robes riche, or fíthele, or gay sautrie. 
But al be that he was a philosophre, 
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; 
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente 
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente, 
And bisily gan for the soules preye 
Of hem that yaf hym wher-with to scoleye. 
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede. 
Noght o word spak he moore than was neede; 
And that was seyd in forme and reverence, 
And short and quyk and ful of hy senténce. 
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche; 
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche. 


A Sergeant of the Lawe, war and wys, 
That often hadde been at the Parvys, 
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence. 
Discreet he was, and of greet reverence— 
He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise. 
Justice he was ful often in assise, 
By patente, and by pleyn commissioun. 
For his science and for his heigh renoun, 
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon. 
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon: 
Al was fee symple to hym in effect; 
His purchasyng myghte nat been infect. 
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas, 
And yet he semed bisier than he was. 
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle 
That from the tyme of kyng William were falle. 
Ther-to he koude endite and make a thyng, 
Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng; 
And every statut koude he pleyn by rote. 
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote, 
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale; 
Of his array telle I no lenger tale. 


A Frankeleyn was in his compaignye. 
Whit was his berd as is the dayesye; 
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. 
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn; 
To lyven in delit was evere his wone, 
For he was Epicurus owene sone, 
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit 
Was verraily felicitee parfit. 
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he; 
Seint Julian he was in his contree. 
His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon; 
A bettre envyned man was nowher noon. 
Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous, 
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous, 
It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke, 
Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke, 
After the sondry sesons of the yeer; 
So chaunged he his mete and his soper. 
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe, 
And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe. 
Wo was his cook but if his sauce were 
Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere. 
His table dormant in his halle alway 
Stood redy covered al the longe day. 
At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire; 
Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire. 
An anlaas, and a gipser al of silk, 
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk. 
A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour; 
Was nowher such a worthy vavasour. 


An Haberdasshere, and a Carpenter, 
A Webbe, a Dyere, and a Tapycer,— 
And they were clothed alle in o lyveree 
Of a solémpne and a greet fraternitee. 
Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was; 
Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras, 
But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel 
Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel. 
Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys 
To sitten in a yeldehalle, on a deys. 
Éverich, for the wisdom that he kan, 
Was shaply for to been an alderman; 
For catel hadde they ynogh and rente, 
And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente, 
And elles certeyn were they to blame. 
It is ful fair to been y-cleped Madame, 
And goon to vigilies al bifore, 
And have a mantel roialliche y-bore. 


A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones, 
To boille the chiknes with the marybones, 
And poudre-marchant tart, and galyngale. 
Wel koude he knowe a draughte of Londoun ale. 
He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye, 
Máken mortreux, and wel bake a pye. 
But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, 
That on his shyne a mormal hadde he; 
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste. 


A Shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste; 
For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe. 
He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe, 
In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. 
A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he 
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun. 
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun; 
And certeinly he was a good felawe. 
Ful many a draughte of wyn hadde he y-drawe 
Fro Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep. 
Of nyce conscience took he no keep. 
If that he faught and hadde the hyer hond, 
By water he sente hem hoom to every lond. 
But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes, 
His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides, 
His herberwe and his moone, his lode-menage, 
Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage. 
Hardy he was and wys to undertake; 
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake. 
He knew alle the havenes, as they were, 
From Gootlond to the Cape of Fynystere, 
And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne. 
His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne. 


With us ther was a Doctour of Phisik; 
In all this world ne was ther noon hym lik, 
To speke of phisik and of surgerye; 
For he was grounded in astronomye. 
He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel 
In houres, by his magyk natureel. 
Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent 
Of his ymáges for his pacient. 
He knew the cause of everich maladye, 
Were it of hoot, or cold, or moyste, or drye, 
And where they engendred and of what humour. 
He was a verray, parfit praktisour; 
The cause y-knowe, and of his harm the roote, 
Anon he yaf the sike man his boote. 
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries 
To sende him drogges and his letuaries; 
For ech of hem made oother for to wynne, 
Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne. 
Wel knew he the olde Esculapius, 
And De{"y}scorides, and eek Rufus, 
Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galyen, 
Serapion, Razis, and Avycen, 
Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn, 
Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn. 
Of his diete mesurable was he, 
For it was of no superfluitee, 
But of greet norissyng and digestíble. 
His studie was but litel on the Bible. 
In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al, 
Lyned with taffata and with sendal. 
And yet he was but esy of dispence; 
He kepte that he wan in pestilence. 
For gold in phisik is a cordial; 
Therfore he lovede gold in special. 


A Good Wif was ther of biside Bathe, 
But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe. 
Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt 
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. 
In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon 
That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon; 
And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she 
That she was out of alle charitee. 
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground; 
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound 
That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. 
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, 
Ful streite y-teyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe. 
Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. 
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve; 
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve, 
Withouten oother compaignye in youthe; 
But ther-of nedeth nat to speke as nowthe. 
And thries hadde she been at Jérusalem; 
She hadde passed many a straunge strem; 
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne, 
In Galice at Seint Jame, and at Coloigne. 
She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. 
Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. 
Upon an amblere esily she sat, 
Y-wympled wel, and on hir heed an hat 
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; 
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large, 
And on hire feet a paire of spores sharpe. 
In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe; 
Of remedies of love she knew per chauncé, 
For she koude of that art the olde daunce. 


A good man was ther of religioun, 
And was a povre Person of a Toun; 
But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk. 
He was also a lerned man, a clerk, 
That Cristes Gospel trewely wolde preche; 
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche. 
Benygne he was, and wonder diligent, 
And in adversitee ful pacient; 
And swich he was y-preved ofte sithes. 
Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes, 
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute, 
Unto his povre parisshens aboute, 
Of his offrýng and eek of his substaunce; 
He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce. 
Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder, 
But he ne lafte nat, for reyn ne thonder, 
In siknesse nor in meschief to visíte 
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite, 
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf. 
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf, 
That first he wroghte and afterward he taughte. 
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte; 
And this figure he added eek therto, 
That if gold ruste, what shal iren doo? 
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste, 
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste; 
And shame it is, if a prest take keep, 
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep. 
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive 
By his clennesse how that his sheep sholde lyve. 
He sette nat his benefice to hyre 
And leet his sheep encombred in the myre, 
And ran to Londoun, unto Seinte Poules, 
To seken hym a chaunterie for soules, 
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde; 
But dwelte at hoom and kepte wel his folde, 
So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie; 
He was a shepherde, and noght a mercenarie. 
And though he hooly were and vertuous, 
He was to synful man nat despitous, 
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne, 
But in his techyng díscreet and benygne. 
To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse, 
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse. 
But it were any persone obstinat, 
What so he were, of heigh or lough estat, 
Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys. 
A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys. 
He waited after no pompe and reverence, 
Ne maked him a spiced conscience; 
But Cristes loore and his apostles twelve 
He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve. 


With hym ther was a Plowman, was his brother, 
That hadde y-lad of dong ful many a fother; 
A trewe swynkere and a good was he, 
Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee. 
God loved he best, with al his hoole herte, 
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte. 
And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve. 
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve, 
For Cristes sake, for every povre wight, 
Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght. 
His tithes payede he ful faire and wel, 
Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel. 
In a tabard he rood upon a mere. 


Ther was also a Reve and a Millere, 
A Somnour and a Pardoner also, 
A Maunciple, and myself,—ther were namo. 


The Millere was a stout carl for the nones; 
Ful byg he was of brawn and eek of bones. 
That proved wel, for over-al, ther he cam, 
At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram. 
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre; 
Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre, 
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed. 
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed, 
And therto brood, as though it were a spade. 
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade 
A werte, and thereon stood a toft of herys, 
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys; 
His nosethirles blake were and wyde. 
A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his syde. 
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys; 
He was a janglere and a goliardeys, 
And that was moost of synne and harlotries. 
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries; 
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee. 
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. 
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne, 
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne. 


A gentil Maunciple was ther of a temple, 
Of which achátours myghte take exemple 
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille; 
For, wheither that he payde or took by taille, 
Algate he wayted so in his achaat 
That he was ay biforn and in good staat. 
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace, 
That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace 
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men? 
Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten, 
That weren of lawe expert and curious, 
Of whiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous 
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond 
Of any lord that is in Engelond, 
To maken hym lyve by his propre good, 
In honour dettelees, but if he were wood, 
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire; 
And able for to helpen al a shire 
In any caas that myghte falle or happe; 
And yet this Manciple sette hir aller cappe 


The Reve was a sclendre colerik man. 
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; 
His heer was by his erys round y-shorn; 
His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn. 
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene, 
Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene. 
Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne; 
Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne. 
Wel wiste he, by the droghte and by the reyn, 
The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn. 
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye, 
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye, 
Was hoolly in this reves governyng; 
And by his covenant yaf the rekenyng 
Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age; 
There koude no man brynge hym in arrerage. 
There nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne, 
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne; 
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth. 
His wonyng was ful fair upon an heeth; 
With grene trees shadwed was his place. 
He koude bettre than his lord purchace; 
Ful riche he was a-stored pryvely. 
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly, 
To yeve and lene hym of his owene good, 
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood. 
In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster; 
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter. 
This Reve sat upon a ful good stot, 
That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot. 
A long surcote of pers upon he hade, 
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade. 
Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle, 
Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle. 
Tukked he was as is a frere, aboute. 
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route. 


A Somonour was ther with us in that place, 
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face, 
For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe. 
As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe, 
With scaled browes blake and piled berd,— 
Of his visage children were aferd. 
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon, 
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon, 
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte, 
That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white, 
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes. 
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes, 
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood. 
Thanne wolde he speke, and crie as he were wood. 
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn, 
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn. 
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre, 
That he had lerned out of som decree,— 
No wonder is, he herde it al the day; 
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay 
Kan clepen "Watte" as wel as kan the pope. 
But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope, 
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie; 
Ay "Questio quid juris" wolde he crie. 
He was a gentil harlot and a kynde; 
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde. 
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn 
A good felawe to have his concubyn 
A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle; 
And prively a fynch eek koude he pulle. 
And if he foond owher a good felawe, 
He wolde techen him to have noon awe, 
In swich caas, of the erchedekenes curs, 
But if a mannes soule were in his purs; 
For in his purs he sholde y-punysshed be: 
"Purs is the erchedekenes helle," seyde he. 
But wel I woot he lyed right in dede. 
Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede, 
For curs wol slee, right as assoillyng savith; 
And also war him of a Significavit. 
In daunger hadde he at his owene gise 
The yonge girles of the diocise, 
And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed. 
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed, 
As greet as it were for an ale-stake; 
A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake. 


With hym ther rood a gentil Pardoner 
Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer, 
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome. 
Ful loude he soong, "Com hider, love, to me!" 
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun; 
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun. 
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex, 
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex; 
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde, 
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde. 
But thynne it lay, by colpons, oon and oon; 
But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon, 
For it was trussed up in his walét. 
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; 
Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. 
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare. 
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe. 
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe, 
Bret-ful of pardoun, comen from Rome al hoot. 
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot. 
No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have, 
As smothe it was as it were late y-shave; 
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare. 
But of his craft, fro Berwyk into Ware, 
Ne was ther swich another pardoner; 
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer, 
Which that, he seyde, was Oure Lady veyl; 
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl 
That Seinte Peter hadde, whan that he wente 
Upon the see, til Jesu Crist hym hente. 
He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones, 
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond 
A povre person dwellynge upon lond, 
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye 
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye; 
And thus with feyned flaterye and japes 
He made the person and the peple his apes. 
But trewely to tellen atte laste, 
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste; 
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie, 
But alderbest he song an offertorie; 
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe, 
He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge 
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude; 
Therefore he song the murierly and loude. 


Now have I toold you shortly, in a clause, 
Thestaat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause 
Why that assembled was this compaignye 
In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye 
That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle. 
But now is tyme to yow for to telle 
How that we baren us that ilke nyght, 
Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght; 
And after wol I telle of our viage 
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage. 


But first, I pray yow, of youre curteisye, 
That ye narette it nat my vileynye, 
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere, 
To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere, 
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely. 
For this ye knowen al-so wel as I, 
Whoso shal telle a tale after a man, 
He moot reherce, as ny as evere he kan, 
Everich a word, if it be in his charge, 
Al speke he never so rudeliche and large; 
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe, 
Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe. 
He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother; 
He moot as wel seye o word as another. 
Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ, 
And wel ye woot no vileynye is it. 
Eek Plato seith, whoso kan hym rede, 
"The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede." 


Also I prey yow to foryeve it me, 
Al have I nat set folk in hir degree 
Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde; 
My wit is short, ye may wel understonde. 


Greet chiere made oure Hoost us everichon, 
And to the soper sette he us anon, 
And served us with vitaille at the beste: 
Strong was the wyn and wel to drynke us leste. 


A semely man Oure Hooste was with-alle 
For to been a marchal in an halle. 
A large man he was with eyen stepe, 
A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe; 
Boold of his speche, and wys, and well y-taught, 
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught. 
Eek thereto he was right a myrie man, 
And after soper pleyen he bigan, 
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges, 
Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges; 
And seyde thus: "Now, lordynges, trewely, 
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely; 
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye, 
I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye 
At ones in this herberwe as is now. 
Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how; 
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght, 
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght. 


"Ye goon to Canterbury—God yow speede, 
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede! 
And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye, 
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye; 
For trewely confort ne myrthe is noon 
To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon; 
And therfore wol I maken yow disport, 
As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort. 
And if you liketh alle, by oon assent, 
For to stonden at my juggement, 
And for to werken as I shal yow seye, 
To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye, 
Now, by my fader soule, that is deed, 
But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed! 
Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche." 


Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche; 
Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys, 
And graunted hym withouten moore avys, 
And bad him seye his verdit, as hym leste. 


"Lordynges," quod he, "now herkneth for the beste; 
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn; 
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn, 
That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye 
In this viage, shal telle tales tweye, 
To Caunterbury-ward, I mene it so, 
And homward he shal tellen othere two, 
Of aventúres that whilom han bifalle. 
And which of yow that bereth hym beste of alle, 
That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas 
Tales of best sentence and moost solaas, 
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost, 
Heere in this place, sittynge by this post, 
Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury. 
And, for to make yow the moore mury, 
I wol myselven gladly with yow ryde, 
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde; 
And whoso wole my juggement withseye 
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye. 
And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so, 
Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo, 
And I wol erly shape me therfore." 


This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore 
With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also 
That he wolde vouche-sauf for to do so, 
And that he wolde been oure governour, 
And of our tales juge and réportour, 
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris; 
And we wol reuled been at his devys 
In heigh and lough; and thus, by oon assent, 
We been acorded to his juggement. 
And therupon the wyn was fet anon; 
We dronken, and to reste wente echon, 
Withouten any lenger taryynge. 


Amorwe, whan that day gan for to sprynge, 
Up roos oure Hoost and was oure aller cok, 
And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok; 
And forth we riden, a litel moore than paas, 
Unto the wateryng of Seint Thomas; 
And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste, 
And seyde, "Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste: 
Ye woot youre foreward and I it yow recorde. 
If even-song and morwe-song accorde, 
Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale. 
As ever mote I drynke wyn or ale, 
Whoso be rebel to my juggement 
Shal paye for all that by the wey is spent. 
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne; 
He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne. 
Sire Knyght," quod he, "my mayster and my lord 
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord. 
Cometh neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse. 
And ye, sire Clerk, lat be your shamefastnesse, 
Ne studieth noght. Ley hond to, every man." 


Anon to drawen every wight bigan, 
And, shortly for to tellen as it was, 
Were it by áventúre, or sort, or cas, 
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the Knyght, 
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght; 
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun, 
By foreward and by composicioun, 
As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo? 
And whan this goode man saugh that it was so, 
As he that wys was and obedient 
To kepe his foreward by his free assent, 
He seyde, "Syn I shal bigynne the game, 
What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name! 
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye." 
And with that word we ryden forth oure weye; 
And he bigan with right a myrie cheere 
His tale anon, and seyde in this manére.

This poem is in the public domain.

Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky.

Not a sitting room, but El Florida where
I sat alone for hours with butterflies
frozen on the polyester curtains
and faces of Lladró figurines: sad angels,
clowns, and princesses with eyes glazed
blue and gray, gazing from behind
the glass doors of the wall cabinet.

Not a TV room, but where I watched
Creature Featureas a boy, clinging
to my brother, safe from vampires
in the same sofa where I fell in love
with Clint Eastwood and my Abuelo
watching westerns, or pitying women
crying in telenovelas with my Abuela.

Not a family room, but the room where
my father twirled his hair while listening
to 8-tracks of Elvis, and read Nietzsche
and Kant a few months before he died,
where my mother learned to dance alone
as she swept, and I learned Salsa pressed
against my Tía Julia's enormous breasts.

At the edge of the city, in the company
of crickets, beside the empty clothesline,
telephone wires and the moon, tonight
my life is an old friend sitting with me 
not in the living room, but in the light
of El Florida, as quiet and necessary
as any star shining above it.

From Looking for The Gulf Hotel by Richard Blanco. Copyright © 2012 by Richard Blanco. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press and Stuart Bernstein Representation for Artists. All rights reserved.

(I)

February, peeved at Paris, pours 
a gloomy torrent on the pale lessees 
of the graveyard next door and a mortal chill
on tenants of the foggy suburbs too.

The tiles afford no comfort to my cat 
that cannot keep its mangy body still; 
the soul of some old poet haunts the drains 
and howls as if a ghost could hate the cold.

A churchbell grieves, a log in the fireplace smokes
and hums falsetto to the clock's catarrh, 
while in a filthy reeking deck of cards

inherited from a dropsical old maid,
the dapper Knave of Hearts and the Queen of Spades 
grimly disinter their love affairs.

(II)

Souvenirs?
More than if I had lived a thousand years!

No chest of drawers crammed with documents, 
love-letters, wedding-invitations, wills,
a lock of someone's hair rolled up in a deed, 
hides so many secrets as my brain.
This branching catacombs, this pyramid 
contains more corpses than the potter's field:
I am a graveyard that the moon abhors,
where long worms like regrets come out to feed
most ravenously on my dearest dead.
I am an old boudoir where a rack of gowns, 
perfumed by withered roses, rots to dust; 
where only faint pastels and pale Bouchers 
inhale the scent of long-unstoppered flasks.

Nothing is slower than the limping days 
when under the heavy weather of the years
Boredom, the fruit of glum indifference, 
gains the dimension of eternity . . . 
Hereafter, mortal clay, you are no more
than a rock encircled by a nameless dread,
an ancient sphinx omitted from the map, 
forgotten by the world, and whose fierce moods 
sing only to the rays of setting suns.

(III)

I'm like the king of a rainy country, rich 
but helpless, decrepit though still a young man 
who scorns his fawning tutors, wastes his time 
on dogs and other animals, and has no fun; 
nothing distracts him, neither hawk nor hound 
nor subjects starving at the palace gate. 
His favorite fool's obscenities fall flat
—the royal invalid is not amused—
and ladies in waiting for a princely nod 
no longer dress indecently enough 
to win a smile from this young skeleton.
The bed of state becomes a stately tomb. 
The alchemist who brews him gold has failed 
to purge the impure substance from his soul, 
and baths of blood, Rome's legacy recalled 
by certain barons in their failing days, 
are useless to revive this sickly flesh 
through which no blood but brackish Lethe seeps.

(IV)

When skies are low and heavy as a lid
over the mind tormented by disgust,
and hidden in the gloom the sun pours down 
on us a daylight dingier than the dark;

when earth becomes a trickling dungeon where 
Trust like a bat keeps lunging through the air,
beating tentative wings along the walls 
and bumping its head against the rotten beams;

when rain falls straight from unrelenting clouds, 
forging the bars of some enormous jail, 
and silent hordes of obscene spiders spin 
their webs across the basements of our brains;

then all at once the raging bells break loose,
hurling to heaven their awful caterwaul, 
like homeless ghosts with no one left to haunt 
whimpering their endless grievances.

—And giant hearses, without dirge or drums, 
parade at half-step in my soul, where Hope, 
defeated, weeps, and the oppressor Dread 
plants his black flag on my assenting skull.

Originally appeared in Les Fleurs du Mal, translated by Richard Howard and published by David R. Godine. © 1982 by Richard Howard. Reprinted in Other Worlds Than This, published by Rutgers University Press, 1994. Used with permission of Rutgers University Press. All rights reserved.

When you go to sleep, my gloomy beauty, below a black marble monument, when from alcove and manor you are reduced to damp vault and hollow grave;

     when the stone—pressing on your timorous chest and sides already lulled by a charmed indifference—halts your heart from beating, from willing, your feet from their bold adventuring,

     then the tomb, confidant to my infinite dream (since the tomb understands the poet always), through those long nights in which slumber is banished,

     will say to you: “What does it profit you, imperfect courtesan, not to have known what the dead weep for?” —And the worm will gnaw at your hide like remorse.

Keith Waldrop, “Posthumous Remorse,” The Flowers of Evil, copyright © 2006 by Keith Waldrop. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission.

Child, Sister, think how sweet to go out there and live together! To love at leisure, love and die in that land that resembles you! For me, damp suns in disturbed skies share mysterious charms with your treacherous eyes as they shine through tears.

     There, there’s only order, beauty: abundant, calm, voluptuous.

     Gleaming furniture, polished by years passing, would ornament our bedroom; rarest flowers, their odors vaguely mixed with amber; rich ceilings; deep mirrors; an Oriental splendor—everything there would address our souls, privately, in their sweet native tongue.

     There, there’s only order, beauty: abundant, calm, voluptuous.

     See on these canals those sleeping boats whose mood is vagabond; it’s to satisfy your least desire that they come from the world’s end. —Setting suns reclothe fields, the canals, the whole town, in hyacinth and gold; the world falling asleep in a warm light.

     There, there’s only order, beauty: abundant, calm, voluptuous.

Keith Waldrop, "Invitation to a Voyage," The Flowers of Evil, copyright © 2006 by Keith Waldrop. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission.

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

 

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

 

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

This poem is in the public domain.

Blondin made a fortune walking back and forth
over Niagara Falls on a tightrope—blindfolded,
or inside a sack, or pushing a wheelbarrow, or perched on stilts,
or lugging a man on his back.  Once, halfway across,
he sat down to cook and eat an omelette.
 
Houdini, dumped into Lake Michigan chained
and locked in a weighted trunk, swam back to the boat
a few moments later.  He could swallow more than a hundred needles
and some thread, then pull from between his lips
the needles dangling at even intervals.
 
I can close my eyes and see your house
explode in a brilliant flash, silently,
with a complete absence of vibration. And when I open them again,
my heart in my mouth, everything is standing
just as before, but not as if nothing had happened.

Reprinted with permission from Ausable Press.