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Poetic Wanderings

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If – E. E. Cummings



If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,
Life would be delight,—
But things couldn’t go right
For in such a SAD plight
I wouldn’t be I.

If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I’d be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn’t be you.

If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,—
Yet they’d all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn’t be we.


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The Walrus and the Carpenter - Lewis Carroll


The sun was shining on the sea,

      Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
      The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
      The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
      Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
      After the day was done —
"It's very rude of him," she said,
      "To come and spoil the fun."

The sea was wet as wet could be,
      The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
      No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
      There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
      Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
      Such quantities of sand:
If this were only cleared away,'
      They said, it would be grand!'

If seven maids with seven mops
      Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
      That they could get it clear?'
I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
      And shed a bitter tear.

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Discordants: II - Conrad Aiken


My heart has become as hard as a city street,

The horses trample upon it, it sings like iron,

All day long and all night long they beat,

They ring like the hooves of time.


My heart has become as drab as a city park,

The grass is worn with the feet of shameless lovers,

A match is struck, there is kissing in the dark,

The MOON comes, pale with sleep.


My heart is torn with the sound of raucous voices,

they shout from the slums, from the streets, from the crowded places,

And tunes from a hurdy-gurdy that coldly rejoices

Shoot arrows into my heart.


O my belovèd, sleeping so far from me,

Walking alone in sunlight, or in blue moonlight,

Are you alive there, far across that sea,

Or were you only a dream?

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Wilfred Owen -  Dulce et Decorum Est



Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots  
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmet just in time
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . 
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 

Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud  
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest  
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.


Love this version despite the mmms and mistakes. Very relevant on the 100th anniversary. History as mentioned on other threads is very important.

Edited by Clavain

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Thank you for posting that video, Clavain. It was lovely.



The Imprint - Anna de Noailles, translated by Walter Wykes


I will cling so stubbornly to life,

I will clutch it so fiercely

That before the sweetness of this day fades

I will warm it forever with my touch.


The endless sea which touches all countries

Will carry on its fickle waves

The taste of my pain, BITTER and salty,

And tossing like a boat.


I will leave in the hills a bit of myself--

The heat of my eyes which saw them bloom;

And cicadas, nesting on thorny branches,

Will sing out the shrill cry of my desire.


In fresh spring fields infant buds

And soft grass escaping from the earth

Will feel, like wings that flutter and pulse,

The shadow of my hands which stroked them once.


Nature, my joy in life and my domain,

Will breathe my lasting essence into the air,

And upon the gloom of human suffering

I will imprint the shape of my distinctive heart.

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Virtue - George Herbert
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky;
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night,
         For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye;
Thy root is ever in its grave,
         And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My music shows ye have your closes,
         And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
         Then chiefly lives.
Edited by Heather

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From Fireflies in the Garden by Robert Frost


Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,


And here on earth come emulating flies,


That though they never equal stars in size,


(And they were never really stars at heart)


Achieve at times a very star-like start.


Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Edited by momac

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Light of Love - Elizabeth Coatsworth


Nay, bury her in her cloak; she was not one

To PRISON in a coffin. At her head,

When you have strewn the earth with forest leaves,

Pile apricots and peaches, apples red,

Plums, oranges and grapes in one sweet heap--

There where shall hover breathless-humming bees,

And birds that taste, then sit and preen their wings.

And at the foot, I ask that you leave these--

Her slippers. Then some shepherdess may try

In vain to put them on; or little fay,

Knotting her long green hair, steal near to glance.

So may she know that I forget today,

And think of her as when she used to dance.

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Turkeys - John Clare


The turkeys wade the close to catch the bees
In the old border full of maple trees
And often lay away and breed and come
And bring a brood of chelping chickens home.
The turkey gobbles loud and drops his rag
And struts and sprunts his tail and then lets drag
His wing on ground and makes a huzzing noise,
Nauntles at passer-bye and drives the boys
And bounces up and flies at passer-bye.
The old dog snaps and grins nor ventures nigh.
He gobbles loud and drives the boys from play;
They throw their sticks and kick and run away.

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One, two, buckle my shoe - traditional  


One, two,

Buckle my shoe;

Three, four,

Open the door;

Five, six,

Pick up sticks;

Seven, eight,

Lay them straight:

Nine, ten,

A big, fat hen;

Eleven, twelve,

Dig and delve;

Thirteen, fourteen,

Maids a-courting;

Fifteen, sixteen,

Maids in the kitchen;

Seventeen, eighteen,

Maids a-waiting

Nineteen, twenty,

My plate's empty.

Edited by Heather

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All You Who Sleep Tonight - Vikram Seth


All you who sleep tonight

Far from the ones you love,

No hand to left or right

And emptiness above -


Know that you aren't alone

The whole world shares your tears,

Some for TWO nights or one,

And some for all their years. 

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Tears, idle tears - Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

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From One Who Stays - Amy Lowell


How empty seems the town now you are gone!

A wilderness of sad streets, where gaunt walls

Hide nothing to desire; sunshine falls

Eery, distorted, as it long had shone

On white, dead faces tombed in halls of stone.

The whir of motors, stricken through with calls

Of playing boys, floats up at intervals;

But all these noises blur to one long moan.

What quest is worth pursuing? And how STRANGE

That other men still go accustomed ways!

I hate their interest in the things they do.

A spectre-horde repeating without change

An old routine. Alone I know the days

Are still-born, and the world stopped, lacking you.

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Astrophil and Stella 30 - Sir Philip Sidney


With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb’st the skies!

How silently, and with how wan a face!

What! may it be that even in heavenly place

That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?

Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes

Can judge of love, thou feel’st a lover’s case:

I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace

To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.

Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,

Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?

Are beauties there as proud as here they be?

Do they above love to be loved, and yet

    Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?

    Do they call ‘virtue’ there—ungratefulness?

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The Secret - John Clare


I loved thee, though I told thee not,

Right earlily and long,

Thou wert my joy in every spot,

My theme in every song.


And when I saw a stranger face

Where beauty held the claim,

I gave it like a secret GRACE

The being of thy name.


And all the charms of face or voice

Which I in others see

Are but the recollected choice

Of what I felt for thee.

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Let Beauty awake - Robert Louis Stevenson


Let Beauty awake in the morn from beautiful dreams,

Beauty awake from rest!

Let Beauty awake

For Beauty's sake

In the hour when the birds awake in the brake

And the stars are bright in the west!


Let Beauty awake in the eve from the slumber of day,

Awake in the crimson eve!

In the day's dusk end

When the shades ascend,

Let her wake to the kiss of a tender friend

To render again and receive!


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The Bustle In a House - Emily Dickinson


The bustle in a house

The morning after death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted upon earth, --


The sweeping up the heart,

And putting love away

We shall not want to use AGAIN

Until eternity.

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Alfred Lord Tennyson, Tithonus


The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.



A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes

A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew'd.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro' the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.


         Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.


         Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark EARTH be true?
'The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.'



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America - Claude McKay


Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,

And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,

Stealing my breath of life, I will confess

I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!

Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,

Giving me strength erect against her hate.

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.

Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,

I stand within her walls with not a shred

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.

Darkly I gaze into the DAYS ahead,

And see her might and granite wonders there,

Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. 

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Well I remember - Walter Savage Landor


Well I remember how you smiled
To see me write your name upon
The soft sea-sand . . . "O! what a child!
You think you're writing upon stone!"

I have since written what no tide
Shall ever wash away, what men
Unborn shall read o'er ocean wide
And find Ianthe's name again.

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Ebb - Edna St. Vincent Millay


I know what my heart is like

Since your love died:

It is like a hollow ledge

Holding a little pool

Left there by the TIDE,

A little tepid pool,

Drying inward from the edge.

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The Way through the Woods - Rudyard Kipling


They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.


Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

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On Raglan Road - Patrick Kavanagh


On Raglan ROAD on an autumn day I met her first and knew

That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;

I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,

And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.


On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge

Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,

The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -

O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.


I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known

To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone

And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.

With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May.


On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now

Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow

That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -

When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

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The Wise Men - G.K. Chesterton


Step softly, under snow or rain,
    To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
    That we may lose the way.


Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
    On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
    And we know all things but the truth.


We have gone round and round the hill
    And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
    The furies the Eumenides.


The gods of violence took the veil
    Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
    And calls himself Eternity.


Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
    With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
    That we may stray from it.


The world grows terrible and white,
    And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
    And something much too plain to say.


The Child that was ere worlds begun
    (…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
    Is playing with a little hay.


The house from which the heavens are fed,
    The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
    And Honour is as hard as stone.


Go humbly, humble are the skies,
    And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
    That we may travel far.


Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
    To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
    For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
    Through the snow and rain.

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