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Poetic Wanderings

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Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds:
But never till to-night, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
Incenses them to send destruction.


Shakespeare, Julius Caesar I/iii

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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 Ægean, 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.
Matthew Arnold - 'Dover Beach'

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I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


W.B.Yeats, "The Song of Wandering Aengus"

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Our tongues were made to bless the Lord,
And not speak ill of men:
When others give a railing word,
We must not rail again.

Cross words and angry names require
To be chastised at school;
And he's in danger of hell-fire
That calls his brother fool.

But lips that dare be so profane
To mock, and jeer, and scoff
At holy things, or holy men,
The Lord shall cut them off.

When children, in their wanton play,
Served old Elisha so,
And bade the prophet go his way,
"Go up, thou bald head, go!"

God quickly stopped their wicked breath;
And sent two raging bears,
That tore them limb from limb to death,
With blood, and groans, and tears.

Great God! How terrible art thou
To sinners e'er so young:
Grant me thy grace, and teach me how
To tame and rule my tongue. 
Against Scoffing and Calling Names by Isaac Watts


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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all out exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half heard, in the stillness

Between the two waves of the sea.

Quick now, here, now, always--

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of things shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.


T.S. Eliot - from 'Little Gidding'

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'Ithin the woodlands, flow'ry gleaded,

By the woak tree's mossy moot,

The sheenen grass-bleades, timber-sheaded,

Now do quiver under voot;

An' birds do whissle over head,

An' water's bubblen in its bed,

An' there vor me the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


When leaves that leately wer a-springen

Now do feade 'ithin the copse,

An' painted birds do hush their zingen

Up upon the timber's tops;

An' brown-leav'd fruit's a-turnen red,

In cloudless zunsheen, over head,

Wi' fruit vor me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


Let other vo'k meake money vaster

In the air o' dark-room'd towns,

I don't dread a peevish measter;

Though noo man do heed my frowns,

I be free to goo abrode,

Or teake agean my hwomeward road

To where, vor me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.


My Orcha'd in Linden Lea by William Barnes

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I'll go no more:
I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on't again I dare not.


Infirm of purpose!
Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures: 'tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,
I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
For it must seem their guilt.


Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas in incarnadine,
Making the green one red.


Shakespeare, Macbeth II/ii

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Passage, immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!

Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!

Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!     

Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?

Have we not grovel’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?

Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only,

Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,     

For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,

And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.


O my brave soul!

O farther farther sail!

O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?     

O farther, farther, farther sail!


Walt Whitman - from 'Passage to India'

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Salt off the sea whets
the blades of four winds.
They peel acres
of locked rock, pare down
a rind of shrivelled ground;
bull-noses are chiselled
on cliffs.

Islanders too 
are for sculpting. Note
the pointed scowl, the mouth 
carved as upturned anchor
and the polished head
full of drownings.

he comes now, a hard pen
scraping in his head;
the nib filed on a salt wind
and dipped in the keening sea.


Synge On Aran by Seamus Heaney

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                                 Frailty, thy name is woman!-
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears - why she, even she
(O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn'd longer) married with my uncle;
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!


Shakespere, Hamlet I/ii

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Of the dark past

A child is born;

With joy and grief

My heart is torn.


Calm in his cradle

The living lies.

May love and mercy

Unclose his eyes!


Young life is breathed

On the glass;

The world that was not

Comes to pass.


A child is sleeping:

An old man gone.

O, father forsaken,

Forgive your son!


James Joyce - 'Ecce Puer'

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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?
The Second Coming by W B Yeats


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Meg, I'm not much of a poetry fan, but I love this poem.  The imagery is so dire.  

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Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb –
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.

Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
Convent-child, Pope,
They chose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-levelled sands.

So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again –
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
With a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.


Philip Larkin, "How To Sleep"

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Side by side, their faces blurred,   
The earl and countess lie in stone,   
Their proper habits vaguely shown   
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,   
And that faint hint of the absurd—   
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque    
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still   
Clasped empty in the other; and   
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,   
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.   
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace   
Thrown off in helping to prolong   
The Latin names around the base.
They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,   
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they


Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths   
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright   
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths   
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.   
Now, helpless in the hollow of   
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins   
Above their scrap of history,   
Only an attitude remains:


Time has transfigured them into   
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be   
Their final blazon, and to prove   
Our almost-instinct almost true:   
What will survive of us is love.
Philip Larkin - 'An Arundel Tomb'
Edited by Heather

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This blue-eyed hag was hither brought with child
And here was left by the sailors. Thou, my slave,
As thou report'st thyself, wast then her servant;
And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands,
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there; where thou didst vent thy groans
As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was this island—
Save for the son that she did litter here,
A freckled whelp hag-born—not honour'd with
A human shape.


Shakespeare, The Tempest I/ii

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Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com'st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me?
Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws
To cast thee up again. What may this mean
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel,
Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous, and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? What should we do?


William Shakespeare - Hamlet I/iv

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Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!

Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?

Nephews--sons mine . . . ah God, I know not! Well--

She, men would have to be your mother once,

Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!

What's done is done, and she is dead beside,

Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,

And as she died so must we die ourselves,

And thence ye may perceive the world's a dream.

Life, how and what is it? As here I lie

In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,

Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask

Do I live, am I dead?" Peace, peace seems all.

Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace;

And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought

With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:

--Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;

Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South

He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!

Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence

One sees the pulpit o' the epistle-side,

And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,

And up into the aery dome where live

The angels, and a sunbeam's sure to lurk

And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,

And 'neath my tabernacle take my rest,

With those nine columns round me, two and two,

The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:

Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe

As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.

--Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone,

Put me where I may look at him! True peach,

Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!


 A small portion of: The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Prated’s Church, Rome. by Robert Browning

- another of Browning's poems hinting at an interesting back-story

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Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
       And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
       Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
       He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose,
       Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
       The bosom of his Father and his God.

Thomas Gray - from 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard'

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No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
       Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
       By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
               Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
       Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
               Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
       For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
               And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
John KEATS, "Ode on Melancholy"

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I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
William Wordsworth - 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud'

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I love the stillness of the wood:
      I love the music of the rill:
I love to couch in pensive mood
      Upon some silent hill.
Scarce heard, beneath you arching trees,
      The silver-crested ripples pass;
And, like a mimic brook, the breeze
      Whispers among the grass.
Here from the world I win release,
      Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
Break in to mar the holy peace
      Of this great solitude.
first three stanzas of Solitude by Lewis Carroll

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For ever and anon comes indigestion
       (Not the most 'dainty Ariel') and perplexes
Our soarings with another sort of question.
       And that which after all my spirit vexes
Is that I find no spot where Man can rest eye on
       Without confusion of the sorts and sexes,
Of being, stars, and this unriddled wonder,
The world, which at the worst's a glorious blunder,
If it be chance, or if it be according
       To the old Text, still better. Lest it should
Turn out so, we'll say nothing 'gainst the wording,
       As several people think such hazards rude.
They're right; our days are too brief for affording
       Space to dispute what no one ever could
Decide, and everybody one day will
Know very clearly—or at least lie still.
And therefore will I leave off metaphysical
       Discussion, which is neither here nor there.
If I agree that what is, is; then this I call
       Being quite perspicuous and extremely fair.
The truth is, I've grown lately rather phthisical.
       I don't know what the reason is—the air
Perhaps; but as I suffer from the shocks
Of illness, I grow much more orthodox.
Lord BYRON, Don Juan, canto XI
Edited by jfp

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The world's a stage. The light is in one's eyes.
The Auditorium is extremely dark.
The more dishonest get the larger rise;
The more offensive make the greater mark.
The women on it prosper by their shape,
Some few by their vivacity. The men,
By tailoring in breeches and in cape.
The world's a stage — I say it once again.

The scenery is very much the best
Of what the wretched drama has to show,
Also the prompter happens to be dumb.
We drink behind the scenes and pass a jest
On all our folly; then, before we go
Loud cries for " Author " ... but he doesn't come.


Hilaire Belloc - 'Sonnet 29'

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