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Claire

Poetic Wanderings

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Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake? 

Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake; 

Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn, 

Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn. 

  

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves        

Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves, 

Calling as he used to call, faint and far away, 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day. 

  

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June: 

All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon; 

Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist 

Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst. 

  

Merry, merry England is waking as of old, 

With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold: 

For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day. 

  

Love is in the greenwood building him a house 

Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs; 

Love it in the greenwood: dawn is in the skies; 

And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes. 

  

Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep: 

Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep? 

Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay, 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day. 

 

Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold, 

Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould, 

Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red, 

And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed. 

  

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together 

With quarter-staff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather; 

The dead are coming back again; the years are rolled away 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day. 

  

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows; 

All the heart of England hid in every rose 

Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap, 

Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep? 

  

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old 

And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold, 

Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep, 

Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep? 

  

Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen 

All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men; 

Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May, 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day; 

  

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash 

Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash; 

The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly; 

And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by. 

  

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves 

Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves: 

Calling as he used to call, faint and far away, 

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day. 

 

Alfred Noyes - 'Sherwood'

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The maiden so fair
In all her grace 
The gold leaf in her hair
And snow pedaled face
Night and day we sing 
In elegant song
A rhyme to our queen

      And look Oberon!!!!!

 

Titania by Anya

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The maidens came   

 When I was in my mother's bower;

I had all that I would.    

 

The bailey beareth the bell away;    

The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.

 

The silver is white, red is the gold;

The robes they lay in fold.    

 

The bailey beareth the bell away;    

The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.

 

And through the glass window shines the sun.

How could I love and I so young?    

 

The bailey beareth the bell away;    

The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.

 

Anonymous

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Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun:

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the travellers journey is done. 

 

Where the Youth pined away with desire,

And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow: 

Arise from their graves and aspire, 

Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

 

Ah! Sun-flower By William Blake

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Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.
 
But is there for the night a resting-place?
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
   You cannot miss that inn.
 
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.
 
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.

 

Christina Rosetti - 'Up-hill'

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more."

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more."

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    "Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
            Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as "Nevermore."

    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
            Then the bird said "Nevermore."

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of ‘Never—nevermore'."

    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
            She shall press, ah, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
            Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

    "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
            Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

    "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
            Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

    "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
            Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!



Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/the-raven-by-edgar-allan-poe

 

The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

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I love that poem! Sadly I can't read it now without thinking of The Simpson's parody of it for their very first Halloween special 

 

 

 

You have to admit though, it is good! 🤣🤣🤣

 

Apologies for the derailment, here is my poem...

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen 

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 gas-shells dropping softly behind.
 
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets 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
 
 

 

Edited by Apple

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We're foot—slog—slog—slog—sloggin’ over Africa!

Foot—foot—foot—foot—sloggin’ over Africa—

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)

            There’s no discharge in the war!

 

Seven—six—eleven—five—nine-an’-twenty mile to-day—       

Four—eleven—seventeen—thirty-two the day before—

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)

            There’s no discharge in the war!

 

Don’t—don’t—don’t—don’t—look at what’s in front of you.

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)       

Men—men—men—men—men go mad with watchin’ ’em,

            And there’s no discharge in the war!

 

Try—try—try—try—to think o’ something different—

Oh—my—God—keep—me from goin’ lunatic!

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!)       

            There’s no discharge in the war!

 

Count—count—count—count—the bullets in the bandoliers.

If—your—eyes—drop—they will get atop o’ you

(Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up and down again!)

            There’s no discharge in the war!       

 

We—can—stick—out—’unger, thirst, an’ weariness,

But—not—not—not—not the chronic sight of ’em—

Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again!

            An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

 

’Tain’t—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,       

But—night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million

Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.

            There’s no discharge in the war!

 

I—’ave—marched—six—weeks in ’Ell an’ certify

It—is—not—fire—devils—dark or anything,       

But boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again,

            An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

 

Rudyard Kipling - 'Boots'

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THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL

By Oscar Wilde

 

I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,

For blood and wine are red,

And blood and wine were on his hands

When they found him with the dead,

The poor dead woman whom he loved,

And murdered in her bed.

 

He walked amongst the trial men

In a suit of shabby grey;

A cricket cap was on his head,

And his step seemed light and gay;

But I never saw a man who looked

So wistfully at the day.

 

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky,

And at every drifting cloud that went

With sails of silver by.

 

I walked, with other souls in pain,

Within another ring,

And was wondering if the man had done

A great or little thing,

When a voice behind me whispered low,

"That fellow's got to swing."

 

Dear Christ! the very prison walls

Suddenly seemed to reel,

And the sky above my head became

Like a casque of scorching steel;

And, though I was a soul in pain,

My pain I could not feel.

 

I only knew what hunted thought

Quickened his step, and why

He looked upon the garish day

With such a wistful eye;

The man had killed the thing he loved,

And so he had to die.

 

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,

By each let this be heard,

Some do it with a bitter look,

Some with a flattering word,

The coward does it with a kiss,

The brave man with a sword!

 

Some kill their love when they are young,

And some when they are old;

Some strangle with the hands of lust,

Some with the hands of Gold:

The kindest use a knife, because

The dead so soon grow cold.

 

Some love too little, some too long,

Some sell, and others buy;

Some do the deed with many tears,

And some without a sigh:

For each man kills the thing he loves,

Yet each man does not die.

 

He does not die a death of shame

On a day of dark disgrace,

Nor have a noose about his neck,

Nor a cloth upon his face,

Nor drop feet foremost through the floor

Into an empty space.

 

He does not sit with silent men

Who watch him night and day;

Who watch him when he tries to weep,

And when he tries to pray;

Who watch him lest himself should rob

The prison of its prey.

 

He does not wake at dawn to see

Dread figures throng his room,

The shivering Chaplain robed in white,

The Sheriff stern with gloom,

And the Governor all in shiny black,

With the yellow face of Doom.

 

He does not rise in piteous haste

To put on convict-clothes,

While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes

Each new and nerve-twitched pose,

Fingering a watch whose little ticks

Are like horrible hammer-blows.

 

He does not know that sickening thirst

That sands one's throat, before

The hangman with his gardener's gloves

Slips through the padded door,

And binds one with three leather thongs,

That the throat may thirst no more.

 

He does not bend his head to hear

The burial office read,

Nor while the terror of his soul

Tells him he is not dead,

Cross his own coffin, as he moves

Into the hideous shed.

 

He does not stare upon the air

Through a little roof of glass

He does not pray with lips of clay

For his agony to pass;

Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek

The kiss of Caiaphas.

 

II

Six weeks the guardsman walked the yard,

In the suit of shabby grey

His cricket cap was on his head,

And his step seemed light and gay,

But I never saw a man who looked

So wistfully at the day.

 

I never saw a man who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

Which prisoners call the sky,

And at every wandering cloud that trailed

Its ravelled fleeces by.

 

He did not wring his hands, as do

Those witless men who dare

To try to rear the changeling hope

In the cave of black despair

He only looked upon the sun,

And drank the morning air.

 

He did not wring his hands nor weep,

Nor did he peek or pine,

But he drank the air as though it held

Some healthful anodyne;

With open mouth he drank the sun

As though it had been wine!

 

And I and all the souls in pain,

Who tramped the other ring,

Forgot if we ourselves had done

A great or little thing,

And watched with gaze of dull amaze

The man who had to swing.

 

For strange it was to see him pass

With a step so light and gay,

And strange it was to see him look

So wistfully at the day,

And strange it was to think that he

Had such a debt to pay.

 

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves

That in the spring-time shoot:

But grim to see is the gallows-tree,

With its alder-bitten root,

And, green or dry, a man must die

Before it bears its fruit!

 

The loftiest place is that seat of grace

For which all worldlings try

But who would stand in hempen band

Upon a scaffold high,

And through a murderer's collar take

His last look at the sky?

 

It is sweet to dance to violins

When Love and Life are fair

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes

Is delicate and rare

But it is not sweet with nimble feet

To dance upon the air!

 

So with curious eyes and sick surmise

We watched him day by day,

And wondered if each one of us

Would end the self-same way,

For none can tell to what red Hell

His sightless soul may stray.

 

At last the dead man walked no more

Amongst the trial men,

And I knew that he was standing up

In the black dock's dreadful pen,

And that never would I see his face

In God's sweet world again.

 

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm

We had crossed each other's way

But we made no sign, we said no word,

We had no word to say;

For we did not meet in the holy night,

But in the shameful day.

 

A prison wall was round us both,

Two outcast men we were

The world had thrust us from its heart,

And God from out His care

And the iron gin that waits for Sin

Had caught us in its snare.

 

III

In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,

And the dripping wall is high,

So it was there he took the air

Beneath the leaden sky,

And by each side a Warder walked,

For fear the man might die.

 

Or else he sat with those who watched

His anguish night and day;

Who watched him when he rose to weep,

And when he crouched to pray;

Who watched him lest himself should rob

Their scaffold of its prey.

 

The Governor was strong upon

The Regulations Act

The Doctor said that death was but

A scientific fact

And twice a day the Chaplain called,

And left a little tract.

 

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,

And drank his quart of beer

His soul was resolute, and held

No hiding-place for fear;

He often said that he was glad

The hangman's hands were near.

 

But why he said so strange a thing

No Warder dared to ask

For he to whom a watcher's doom

Is given as his task,

Must set a lock upon his lips,

And make his face a mask.

 

Or else he might be moved, and try

To comfort or console

And what should Human Pity do

Pent up in Murderer's Hole?

What word of grace in such a place

Could help a brother's soul?

 

With slouch and swing around the ring

We trod the Fools' Parade!

We did not care: we knew we were

The devil's own brigade

And shaven head and feet of lead

Make a merry masquerade.

 

We tore the tarry rope to shreds

With blunt and bleeding nails;

We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,

And cleaned the shining rails

And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,

And clattered with the pails.

 

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,

We turned the dusty drill

We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,

And sweated on the mill

But in the heart of every man

Terror was lying still.

 

So still it lay that every day

Crawled like a weed-clogged wave

And we forgot the bitter lot

That waits for fool and knave,

Till once, as we tramped in from work,

We passed an open grave.

 

With yawning mouth the yellow hole

Gaped for a living thing;

The very mud cried out for blood

To the thirsty asphalt ring

And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair

Some prisoner had to swing.

 

Right in we went, with soul intent

On Death and Dread and Doom

The hangman, with his little bag,

Went shuffling through the gloom

And each man trembled as he crept

Into his numbered tomb.

 

That night the empty corridors

Were full of forms of fear,

And up and down the iron town

Stole feet we could not hear,

And through the bars that hide the stars

White faces seemed to peer.

 

He lay as one who lies and dreams

In a pleasant meadow-land,

The watchers watched him as he slept,

And could not understand

How one could sleep so sweet a sleep

With a hangman close at hand.

 

But there is no sleep when men must weep

Who never yet have wept

So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—

That endless vigil kept,

And through each brain on hands of pain

Another's terror crept.

 

Alas! it is a fearful thing

To feel another's guilt!

For, right within, the sword of Sin

Pierced to its poisoned hilt,

And as molten lead were the tears we shed

For the blood we had not spilt.

 

The Warders with their shoes of felt

Crept by each padlocked door,

And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,

Gray figures on the floor,

And wondered why men knelt to pray

Who never prayed before.

 

All through the night we knelt and prayed,

Mad mourners of a corse!

The troubled plumes of midnight were

The plumes upon a hearse

And bitter wine upon a sponge

Was the savour of remorse.

 

The grey cock crew, the red cock crew,

But never came the day

And crooked shapes of Terror crouched,

In the corners where we lay

And each evil sprite that walks by night

Before us seemed to play.

 

They glided past, they glided fast,

Like travellers through a mist

They mocked the moon in a rigadoon

Of delicate turn and twist,

And with formal pace and loathsome grace

The phantoms kept their tryst.

 

With mop and mow, we saw them go,

Slim shadows hand in hand

About, about, in ghostly rout

They trod a saraband

And damned grotesques made arabesques,

Like the wind upon the sand!

 

With the pirouettes of marionettes,

They tripped on pointed tread

But with flutes of fear they filled the ear,

As their grisly masque they led,

And loud they sang, and long they sang,

For they sang to wake the dead.

 

"Oho!" they cried, "the world is wide,

But fettered limbs go lame!

And once, or twice, to throw the dice

Is a gentlemanly game,

But he does not win who plays with Sin

In the Secret House of Shame."

 

No things of air these antics were,

That frolicked with such glee

To men whose lives were held in gyves,

And whose feet might not go free,

Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,

Most terrible to see.

 

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;

Some wheeled in smirking pairs;

With the mincing step of a demirep

Some sidled up the stairs

And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,

Each helped us at our prayers.

 

The morning wind began to moan,

But still the night went on

Through its giant loom the web of gloom

Crept till each thread was spun:

And, as we prayed, we grew afraid

Of the Justice of the Sun.

 

The moaning wind went wandering round

The weeping prison-wall

Till like a wheel of turning steel

We felt the minutes crawl

O moaning wind! what had we done

To have such a seneschal?

 

At last I saw the shadowed bars,

Like a lattice wrought in lead,

Move right across the whitewashed wall

That faced my three-plank bed,

And I knew that somewhere in the world

God's dreadful dawn was red.

 

At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,

At seven all was still,

But the sough and swing of a mighty wing

The prison seemed to fill,

For the Lord of Death with icy breath

Had entered in to kill.

 

He did not pass in purple pomp,

Nor ride a moon-white steed.

Three yards of cord and a sliding board

Are all the gallows' need

So with rope of shame the Herald came

To do the secret deed.

 

We were as men who through a fen

Of filthy darkness grope

We did not dare to breathe a prayer,

Or to give our anguish scope

Something was dead in each of us,

And what was dead was Hope.

 

For Man's grim Justice goes its way

And will not swerve aside

It slays the weak, it slays the strong,

It has a deadly stride

With iron heel it slays the strong,

The monstrous parricide!

 

We waited for the stroke of eight

Each tongue was thick with thirst

For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate

That makes a man accursed,

And Fate will use a running noose

For the best man and the worst.

 

We had no other thing to do,

Save to wait for the sign to come

So, like things of stone in a valley lone,

Quiet we sat and dumb

But each man's heart beat thick and quick,

Like a madman on a drum!

 

With sudden shock the prison-clock

Smote on the shivering air,

And from all the gaol rose up a wail

Of impotent despair,

Like the sound the frightened marshes hear

From some leper in his lair.

 

And as one sees most fearful things

In the crystal of a dream,

We saw the greasy hempen rope

Hooked to the blackened beam,

And heard the prayer the hangman's snare

Strangled into a scream.

 

And all the woe that moved him so

That he gave that bitter cry,

And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,

None knew so well as I

For he who lives more lives than one

More deaths than one must die.

 

IV

There is no chapel on the day

On which they hang a man

The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,

Or his face is far too wan,

Or there is that written in his eyes

Which none should look upon.

 

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,

And then they rang the bell,

And the Warders with their jingling keys

Opened each listening cell,

And down the iron stair we tramped,

Each from his separate Hell.

 

Out into God's sweet air we went,

But not in wonted way,

For this man's face was white with fear,

And that man's face was grey,

And I never saw sad men who looked

So wistfully at the day.

 

I never saw sad men who looked

With such a wistful eye

Upon that little tent of blue

We prisoners called the sky,

And at every careless cloud that passed

In happy freedom by.

 

But there were those amongst us all

Who walked with downcast head,

And knew that, had each got his due,

They should have died instead

He had but killed a thing that lived,

Whilst they had killed the dead.

 

For he who sins a second time

Wakes a dead soul to pain,

And draws it from its spotted shroud,

And makes it bleed again,

And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,

And makes it bleed in vain!

 

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb

With crooked arrows starred,

Silently we went round and round

The slippery asphalt yard;

Silently we went round and round,

And no man spoke a word.

 

Silently we went round and round,

And through each hollow mind

The memory of dreadful things

Rushed like a dreadful wind,

And Horror stalked before each man,

And Terror crept behind.

 

The warders strutted up and down,

And kept their herd of brutes,

Their uniforms were spick and span,

And they wore their Sunday suits,

But we knew the work they had been at,

By the quicklime on their boots.

 

For where a grave had opened wide,

There was no grave at all

Only a stretch of mud and sand

By the hideous prison-wall,

And a little heap of burning lime,

That the man should have his pall.

 

For he has a pall, this wretched man,

Such as few men can claim

Deep down below a prison-yard,

Naked for greater shame,

He lies, with fetters on each foot,

Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

 

And all the while the burning lime

Eats flesh and bone away,

It eats the brittle bone by night,

And the soft flesh by day,

It eats the flesh and bone by turns,

But it eats the heart always.

 

For three long years they will not sow

Or root or seedling there

For three long years the unblessed spot

Will sterile be and bare,

And look upon the wondering sky

With unreproachful stare.

 

They think a murderer's heart would taint

Each simple seed they sow.

It is not true! God's kindly earth

Is kindlier than men know,

And the red rose would but glow more red,

The white rose whiter blow.

 

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!

Out of his heart a white!

For who can say by what strange way,

Christ brings His will to light,

Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore

Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?

 

But neither milk-white rose nor red

May bloom in prison air;

The shard, the pebble, and the flint,

Are what they give us there

For flowers have been known to heal

A common man's despair.

 

So never will wine-red rose or white,

Petal by petal, fall

On that stretch of mud and sand that lies

By the hideous prison-wall,

To tell the men who tramp the yard

That God's Son died for all.

 

Yet though the hideous prison-wall

Still hems him round and round,

And a spirit may not walk by night

That is with fetters bound,

And a spirit may but weep that lies

In such unholy ground,

 

He is at peace—this wretched man—

At peace, or will be soon

There is no thing to make him mad,

Nor does Terror walk at noon,

For the lampless Earth in which he lies

Has neither Sun nor Moon.

 

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:

They did not even toll

A requiem that might have brought

Rest to his startled soul,

But hurriedly they took him out,

And hid him in a hole.

 

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,

And gave him to the flies:

They mocked the swollen purple throat,

And the stark and staring eyes:

And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud

In which their convict lies.

 

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray

By his dishonoured grave

Nor mark it with that blessed Cross

That Christ for sinners gave,

Because the man was one of those

Whom Christ came down to save.

 

Yet all is well; he has but passed

To Life's appointed bourne

And alien tears will fill for him

Pity's long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.

 

V

I know not whether Laws be right,

Or whether Laws be wrong

All that we know who lie in gaol

Is that the wall is strong

And that each day is like a year,

A year whose days are long.

 

But this I know, that every Law

That men have made for Man,

Since first Man took his brother's life,

And the sad world began,

But straws the wheat and saves the chaff

With a most evil fan.

 

This too I know—and wise it were

If each could know the same—

That every prison that men build

Is built with bricks of shame,

And bound with bars lest Christ should see

How men their brothers maim.

 

With bars they blur the gracious moon,

And blind the goodly sun

And they do well to hide their Hell,

For in it things are done

That Son of God nor son of Man

Ever should look upon!

 

The vilest deeds like poison weeds

Bloom well in prison-air

It is only what is good in Man

That wastes and withers there

Pale anguish keeps the heavy gate,

And the warder is despair.

 

For they starve the little frightened child

Till it weeps both night and day

And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,

And gibe the old and grey,

And some grow mad, and all grow bad,

And none a word may say.

 

Each narrow cell in which we dwell

Is a foul and dark latrine,

And the fetid breath of living Death

Chokes up each grated screen,

And all, but Lust, is turned to dust

In humanity's machine.

 

The brackish water that we drink

Creeps with a loathsome slime,

And the bitter bread they weigh in scales

Is full of chalk and lime,

And Sleep will not lie down, but walks

Wild-eyed, and cries to time.

 

But though lean hunger and green thirst

Like asp with adder fight,

We have little care of prison fare,

For what chills and kills outright

Is that every stone one lifts by day

Becomes one's heart by night.

 

With midnight always in one's heart,

And twilight in one's cell,

We turn the crank, or tear the rope,

Each in his separate Hell,

And the silence is more awful far

Than the sound of a brazen bell.

 

And never a human voice comes near

To speak a gentle word

And the eye that watches through the door

Is pitiless and hard

And by all forgot, we rot and rot,

With soul and body marred.

 

And thus we rust Life's iron chain

Degraded and alone

And some men curse, and some men weep,

And some men make no moan

But God's eternal Laws are kind

And break the heart of stone.

 

And every human heart that breaks,

In prison-cell or yard,

Is as that broken box that gave

Its treasure to the Lord,

And filled the unclean leper's house

With the scent of costliest nard.

 

Ah! happy they whose hearts can break

And peace of pardon win!

How else may man make straight his plan

And cleanse his soul from Sin?

How else but through a broken heart

May Lord Christ enter in?

 

And he of the swollen purple throat,

And the stark and staring eyes,

Waits for the holy hands that took

The thief to paradise;

And a broken and a contrite heart

The Lord will not despise.

 

The man in red who reads the law

Gave him three weeks of life,

Three little weeks in which to heal

His soul of his soul's strife,

And cleanse from every blot of blood

The hand that held the knife.

 

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,

The hand that held the steel

For only blood can wipe out blood,

And only tears can heal

And the crimson stain that was of Cain

Became Christ's snow-white seal.

 

VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town

There is a pit of shame,

And in it lies a wretched man

Eaten by teeth of flame,

In a burning winding-sheet he lies,

And his grave has got no name.

 

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,

In silence let him lie

No need to waste the foolish tear,

Or heave the windy sigh

The man had killed the thing he loved,

And so he had to die.

 

And all men kill the thing they love,

By all let this be heard,

Some do it with a bitter look,

Some with a flattering word,

The coward does it with a kiss,

The brave man with a sword.

 

 

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To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer wandering here and there
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.

He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.

 

William Blake - from 'Augeries of Innocence'

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If we were in infinity, we would be everywhere,

even inside ourselves, as taste resides in the walnut,

and the walnut resides in the shell.

Then we would thrive inside the subjunctive,

where nothing happens but dreams of being,

as paradise dreams of its inferno,

the inferno of cotton candy.

If only the world had ripened, like a pear,

it might have melted the mirror in me,

delivering its softness to the hard road of the mind,

sixty miles from town.

              And if our grammar were even to our heat,

comma, conditional phrase, comma,

we’d be addicted to the sentence,

sentenced to an exile that sees, hears, and thinks,

and is often mistaken for love.

              Trees are chronologies;

every leaf shines, and in turning over it winks an eye:

if, if, and then. The world is possible meaning;

the world is possible, meaning:

I might have been an elf, had I been elfin.

But I am not an elf. I am a giant with tiny hands:

would, could, and should.

Had I been winged, I might have flown

from industrial field to pastoral alley

on great woollen wings, with the blue face of a bee.

Then it would have been said, “He is repairing to his persona,”

or “He is retiring to his future.”

I’ll copy this by way of the stars, reflective.

Get back to me by facsimile or dream of climbing a night ladder

to the place of ideal size, near a town of simple affection.

If we had been born, lived our lives, and died,

we might have existed. On the side of darkness, infinity;

on the other, a sixty watt bulb.

 

Darkness of the Subjunctive By Paul Hoover

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maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

 

e.e.cummings - 'maggie and milly and molly and may'

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When the corn’s all cut and the bright stalks shine 

   Like the burnished spears of a field of gold; 

When the field-mice rich on the nubbins dine, 

   And the frost comes white and the wind blows cold; 

Then its heigho fellows and hi-diddle-diddle, 

For the time is ripe for the corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

And you take a stalk that is straight and long, 

   With an expert eye to its worthy points, 

And you think of the bubbling strains of song 

   That are bound between its pithy joints— 

Then you cut out strings, with a bridge in the middle, 

With a corn-stalk bow for a corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

Then the strains that grow as you draw the bow 

   O’er the yielding strings with a practiced hand! 

And the music’s flow never loud but low 

   Is the concert note of a fairy band. 

Oh, your dainty songs are a misty riddle 

To the simple sweets of the corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

When the eve comes on and our work is done 

   And the sun drops down with a tender glance, 

With their hearts all prime for the harmless fun, 

   Come the neighbor girls for the evening’s dance, 

And they wait for the well-known twist and twiddle, 

More time than tune—from the corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

Then brother Jabez takes the bow, 

   While Ned stands off with Susan Bland, 

Then Henry stops by Milly Snow 

   And John takes Nellie Jones’s hand, 

While I pair off with Mandy Biddle, 

And scrape, scrape, scrape goes the corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

“Salute your partners,” comes the call, 

   “All join hands and circle round,” 

“Grand train back,” and “Balance all,” 

   Footsteps lightly spurn the ground, 

“Take your lady and balance down the middle” 

To the merry strains of the corn-stalk fiddle. 

 

So the night goes on and the dance is o’er, 

   And the merry girls are homeward gone,   

But I see it all in my sleep once more, 

   And I dream till the very break of dawn 

Of an impish dance on a red-hot griddle 

To the screech and scrape of a corn-stalk fiddle. 
 

The Corn-Stalk Fiddle

BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

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My father, he was a mountaineer,
His fist was a knotty hammer;
He was quick on his feet as a running deer,
And he spoke with a Yankee stammer.

My mother, she was merry and brave,
And so she came to her labor,
With a tall green fir for her doctor grave
And a stream for her comforting neighbor.

And some are wrapped in the linen fine,
And some like a godling's scion;
But I was cradled on twigs of pine
And the skin of a mountain lion.

And some remember a white, starched lap
And a ewer with silver handles;
But I remember a coonskin cap
And the smell of bayberry candles.

The cabin logs, with the bark still rough,
And my mother who laughed at trifles,
And the tall, lank visitors, brown as snuff,
With their long, straight squirrel-rifles.

I can hear them dance, like a foggy song,
Through the deepest one of my slumbers,
The fiddle squeaking the boots along
And my father calling the numbers.

The quick feet shaking the puncheon-floor,
And the fiddle squealing and squealing,
Till the dried herbs rattled above the door
And the dust went up to the ceiling.

There are children lucky from dawn till dusk,
But never a child so lucky!
For I cut my teeth on "Money Musk"
In the Bloody Ground of Kentucky!
 

When I grew tall as the Indian corn,
My father had little to lend me,
But he gave me his great, old powder-horn
And his woodsman's skill to befriend me.

With a leather shirt to cover my back,
And a redskin nose to unravel
Each forest sign, I carried my pack
As far as a scout could travel.

Till I lost my boyhood and found my wife,
A girl like a Salem clipper!
A woman straight as a hunting-knife
With as eyes as bright as the Dipper!

We cleared our camp where the buffalo feed,
Unheard-of streams were our flagons;
And I sowed my sons like the apple-seed
On the trail of the Western wagons.

They were right, tight boys, never sulky or slow,
A fruitful, a goodly muster.
The eldest died at the Alamo.
The youngest fell with Custer.

The letter that told it burned my hand.
Yet we smiled and said, "So be it!"
But I could not live when they fenced the land,
For it broke my heart to see it.

I saddled a red, unbroken colt
And rode him into the day there;
And he threw me down like a thunderbolt
And rolled on me as I lay there.

The hunter's whistle hummed in my ear
As the city-men tried to move me,
And I died in my boots like a pioneer
With the whole wide sky above me.

Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil,
Like the seed of a prairie-thistle;
It has washed my bones with honey and oil
And picked them clean as a whistle.

And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring,
And my sons, like the wild-geese flying;
And I lie and hear the meadow-lark sing
And have much content in my dying.

Go play with the towns you have built of blocks,
The towns where you would have bound me!
I sleep in my earth like a tired fox,
And my buffalo have found me.
 
Stephen Vincent Benét -  'The Ballad of William Sycamore (1790-1871)'
 

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I am a feather on the bright sky

I am the blue horse that runs in the plain

I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water

I am the shadow that follows a child

I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows

I am an eagle playing with the wind

I am a cluster of bright beads

I am the farthest star

I am the cold of dawn

I am the roaring of the rain

I am the glitter on the crust of the snow

I am the long track of the moon in a lake

I am a flame of four colors

I am a deer standing away in the dusk

I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche

I am an angle of geese in the winter sky

I am the hunger of a young wolf

I am the whole dream of these things

 

You see, I am alive, I am alive

I stand in good relation to the earth

I stand in good relation to the gods

I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful

I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte

You see, I am alive, I am alive

 

The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee

BY N. SCOTT MOMADAY

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This is a sacred city, built of marvellous earth.

Life was lived nobly there to give such Beauty birth.

Beauty was in this brain and in this eager hand.

Death is so blind and dumb, death does not understand.

 

Death drifts the brain with dust and soils the young limbs' glory.

Death makes justice a dream and strength a traveller's story.

Death drives the lovely soul to wander under the sky.

Death opens unknown doors. It is most grand to die.

 

John Masefield - 'By a Bier-side'

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