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Poetic Wanderings


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Labour is blossoming or dancing where

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.

Nor beauty born out of its own despair,

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

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Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?

Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy;

Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,

Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?

If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,

By unions married, do offend thine ear,

They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds

In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear:

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,

Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,

Resembling sire, and child, and happy mother,

Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:

Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,

Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'



Shakespeare - Sonnet 8

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’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap;


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.


The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.


More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”


As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and Saint Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.


He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.


His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.


He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.


He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,

Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear ;

Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed

As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.

Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !

My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;

The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,

For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.

With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

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Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

"Now they are all on their knees,"

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.


So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

"Come; see the oxen kneel


"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,"

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.

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Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues;

Give the glory to the Lord,

And the Lamb.

Nations, and languages,

And every Creature

In which is the breath of Life.

Let man and beast appear before him,

And magnify his name together.


Let Nimrod, the mighty hunter,

Bind a leopard to the altar

And consecrate his spear to the Lord.


Let Ishmail dedicate a tyger,

And give praise for the liberty

In which the Lord has let him at large.


Let Balaam appear with an ass,

And bless the Lord his people

And his creatures for a reward eternal.


Let Daniel come forth with a lion,

And praise God with all his might

Through faith in Christ Jesus.


Let Ithamar minister with a chamois,

And bless the name of Him

That cloatheth the naked.


Let Jakim with the satyr

Bless God in the dance,

Dance, dance, dance.


Let David bless with the bear

The beginning of victory to the Lord,

To the Lord the perfection of excellence.


Hallelujah, hallelujah,

Hallelujah for the heart of God,

And from the hand of the artist inimitable,

And from the echo of the heavenly harp

In sweetness magnifical and mighty.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

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Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,

There must be one (which, I am not sure)

That I by now have walked for the last time

Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone


Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,

Sets up a secret and unwavering scale

for all the shadows, dreams, and forms

Woven into the texture of this life.


If there is a limit to all things and a measure

And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,

Who will tell us to whom in this house

We without knowing it have said farewell?


Through the dawning window night withdraws

And among the stacked books which throw

Irregular shadows on the dim table,

There must be one which I will never read.


There is in the South more than one worn gate,

With its cement urns and planted cactus,

Which is already forbidden to my entry,

Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.


There is a door you have closed forever

And some mirror is expecting you in vain;

To you the crossroads seem wide open,

Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.


There is among all your memories one

Which has now been lost beyond recall.

You will not be seen going down to that fountain

Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.


You will never recapture what the Persian

Said in his language woven with birds and roses,

When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,

You wish to give words to unforgettable things.


And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,

All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?

They will be as lost as Carthage,

Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.


At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent

Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;

They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;

Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

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Twice or thrice had I loved thee,

Before I knew thy face or name;

So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame,

Angels affect us oft, and worshipped be;

Still when, to where thou wert, I came,

Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.

But since my soul, whose child love is,

Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,

More subtle than the parent is,

Love must not be, but take a body too;

And therefore what thou wert, and who,

I bid love ask, and now

That it assume thy body I allow,

And fix itself to thy lip, eye, and brow.

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'A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.


All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.'

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My fiftieth year had come and gone,

I sat, a solitary man,

In a crowded London shop,

An open book and empty cup

On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed

My body of a sudden blazed;

And twenty minutes more or less

It seemed, so great my happiness,

That I was blessed and could bless.


Although the summer Sunlight gild

Cloudy leafage of the sky,

Or wintry moonlight sink the field

In storm-scattered intricacy,

I cannot look thereon,

Responsibility so weighs me down.


Things said or done long years ago,

Or things I did not do or say

But thought that I might say or do,

Weigh me down, and not a day

But something is recalled,

My conscience or my vanity appalled.


A rivery field spread out below,

An odour of the new-mown hay

In his nostrils, the great lord of Chou

Cried, casting off the mountain snow,

`Let all things pass away.'

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First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out -

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists

and I did not speak out -

because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out -

because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.


By Pastor Niemoller

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First they came for the Jews....

I've always thought that was prose, not poetry.


The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel

By John Betjeman


He sipped at a weak hock and seltzer

As he gazed at the London skies

Through the Nottingham lace of the curtains

Or was it his bees-winged eyes?


To the right and before him Pont Street

Did tower in her new built red,

As hard as the morning gaslight

That shone on his unmade bed,


“I want some more hock in my seltzer,

And Robbie, please give me your hand—

Is this the end or beginning?

How can I understand?


“So you’ve brought me the latest Yellow Book:

And Buchan has got in it now:

Approval of what is approved of

Is as false as a well-kept vow.


“More hock, Robbie—where is the seltzer?

Dear boy, pull again at the bell!

They are all little better than cretins,

Though this is the Cadogan Hotel.


“One astrakhan coat is at Willis’s—

Another one’s at the Savoy:

Do fetch my morocco portmanteau,

And bring them on later, dear boy.”


A thump, and a murmur of voices—

(”Oh why must they make such a din?”)

As the door of the bedroom swung open



“Mr. Woilde, we ‘ave come for tew take yew

Where felons and criminals dwell:

We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly

For this is the Cadogan Hotel.”


He rose, and he put down The Yellow Book.

He staggered—and, terrible-eyed,

He brushed past the plants on the staircase

And was helped to a hansom outside.

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In a corner of the bedroom is a great big curtain,

Someone lives behind it, but I don't know who;

I think it is a Brownie, but I'm not quite certain.

(Nanny isn't certain, too.)


I looked behind the curtain, but he went so quickly -

Brownies never wait to say, "How do you do?"

They wriggle off at once because they're all so tickly

(Nanny says they're tickly too.)

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The love of field and coppice,

Of green and shaded lanes.

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins,

Strong love of grey-blue distance

Brown streams and soft dim skies

I know but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.


I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of rugged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror -

The wide brown land for me!


A stark white ring-barked forest

All tragic to the moon,

The sapphire-misted mountains,

The hot gold hush of noon.

Green tangle of the brushes,

Where lithe lianas coil,

And orchids deck the tree-tops

And ferns the warm dark soil.


Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When sick at heart, around us,

We see the cattle die -

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady, soaking rain.

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Bright is the ring of words

When the right man rings them,

Fair the fall of songs

When the singer sings them.

Still they are carolled and said --

On wings they are carried --

After the singer is dead

And the maker buried.


Low as the singer lies

In the field of heather,

Songs of his fashion bring

The swains together.

And when the west is red

With the sunset embers,

The lover lingers and sings

And the maid remembers.

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Underneath an abject willow,

Lover, sulk no more:

Act from thought should quickly follow.

What is thinking for?

Your unique and moping station

Proves you cold;

Stand up and fold

Your map of desolation.


Bells that toll across the meadows

From the sombre spire

Toll for these unloving shadows

Love does not require.

All that lives may love; why longer

Bow to loss

With arms across?

Strike and you shall conquer.


Geese in flocks above you flying,

Their direction know,

Icy brooks beneath you flowing,

To their ocean go.

Dark and dull is your distraction:

Walk then, come,

No longer numb

Into your satisfaction.

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The fountains mingle with the river,

And the rivers with the ocean,

The winds of heaven mix forever

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one another's being mingle;--

Why not I with thine?


See the mountains kiss high heaven

And the waves clasp one another

No sister-flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,

And the moonbeams kiss the sea;

What are all these kissings worth

If thou kiss not me?

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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 áll trádes, 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.

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O God of earth and altar,

bow down and hear our cry,

our earthly rulers falter,

our people drift and die;

the walls of gold entomb us,

the swords of scorn divide,

take not thy thunder from us,

but take away our pride.


From all that terror teaches,

from lies of tongue and pen,

from all the easy speeches

that comfort cruel men,

from sale and profanation

of honor, and the sword,

from sleep and from damnation,

deliver us, good Lord!


Tie in a living tether

the prince and priest and thrall,

bind all our lives together,

smite us and save us all;

in ire and exultation

aflame with faith, and free,

lift up a living nation,

a single sword to thee.

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I Worn MY Elbows - Ivor Cutler


I worn my elbows down to the bone for you

I worn my elbows down to the bone for you

I worn my elbows down to the bone, down to the bone,

I worn my elbows down to the bone for you.


How can you wear your elbows down for me?

How can you wear your elbows down for me"

How do you wear your elbows down that make for me them shillings and pounds?

How can you wear your elbows down for me


I make you money by elbowing people about

I make you money by elbowing people about

I elbow the little man in his face, I push the big man in his place

I worn my elbows down to the bone for you

For you, for you, for you.

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Maud with her exquisite face,

And wild voice pealing up to the sunny sky,

And feet like sunny gems on an English green,

Maud in the light of her youth and her grace,

Singing of Death, and of Honour that cannot die,

Till I well could weep for a time so sordid and mean,

And myself so languid and base.


Silence, beautiful voice!

Be still, for you only trouble the mind

With a joy in which I cannot rejoice,

A glory I shall not find.

Still! I will hear you no more,

For your sweetness hardly leaves me a choice

But to move to the meadow and fall before

Her feet on the meadow grass, and adore,

Not her, who is neither courtly nor kind

Not her, not her, but a voice.


from Maud: A Monodrama by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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WHO dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?

For these red lips with all their mournful pride,

Mournful that no new wonder may betide,

Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,

And Usna’s children died.


We and the laboring world are passing by:

Amid men’s souls that waver and give place,

Like the pale waters in their wintry race,

Under the passing stars, foam of the sky,

Lives on this lonely face.


Bow down, archangels, in your dim abode:

Before ye were or any hearts to beat,

Weary and kind one stood beside His seat;

He made the world to be a grassy road

Before her wandering feet.

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