Up-hill

Up-Hill
Christina Rossetti

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.

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Where My Books go

Where My Books go
William Butler Yeats

All the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

By the Margin of the Great Deep

By the Margin of the Great Deep
George William (“A. E.”) Russell

WHEN the breath of twilight blows to flame the misty skies,
All its vaporous sapphire, violet glow and silver gleam
With their magic flood me through the gateway of the eyes;
I am one with the twilight’s dream.

When the trees and skies and fields are one in dusky mood,
Every heart of man is rapt within the mother’s breast:
Full of peace and sleep and dreams in the vasty quietude,
I am one with their hearts at rest.

From our immemorial joys of hearth and home and love
Strayed away along the margin of the unknown tide,
All its reach of soundless calm can thrill me far above
Word or touch from the lips beside.

Aye, and deep and deep and deeper let me drink and draw
From the olden fountain more than light or peace or dream,
Such primeval being as o’erfills the heart with awe,
Growing one with its silent stream.

A Wish

A Wish
Samuel Rogers

Mine be a cot beside the hill,
A bee-hive’s hum shall sooth my ear;
A willowy brook, that turns a mill,
With many a fall shall linger near.

The swallow, oft, beneath my thatch,
Shall twitter from her clay-built nest;
Oft shall the pilgrim lift the latch,
And share my meal, a welcome guest.

Around my ivy’d porch shall spring
Each fragrant flower that drinks the dew;
And Lucy, at her wheel, shall sing
In russet gown and apron blue.

The village-church, among the trees,
Where first our marriage-vows were giv’n,
With merry peals shall swell the breeze,
And point with taper spire to heav’n.

The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna

Making this a regular Monday thing

The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna
Charles Wolfe

Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where our hero we buried.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning,
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
And the lanthorn dimly burning.

No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest
With his martial cloak around him.

Few and short were the prayers we said,
And we spoke not a word of sorrow;
But we steadfastly gazed on the face that was dead,
And we bitterly thought of the morrow.

We thought, as we hollow’d his narrow bed
And smooth’d down his lonely pillow,
That the foe and the stranger would tread o’er his head,
And we far away on the billow!

Lightly they’ll talk of the spirit that ‘s gone,
And o’er his cold ashes upbraid him —
But little he’ll reck, if they let him sleep on
In the grave where a Briton has laid him.

But half of our heavy task was done
When the clock struck the hour for retiring;
And we heard the distant and random gun
That the foe was sullenly firing.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down,
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone,
But we left him alone with his glory.

The Moon

more selections from the Oxford Book of English Verse

The Moon

Percy Bysshe Shelley

I
AND, like a dying lady lean and pale,
Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,
Out of her chamber, led by the insane
And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
The mood arose up in the murky east,
A white and shapeless mass.

II
Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

Dirge in the Woods

Continuing the recent poetry posting.

Dirge in the Woods
George Meredith

A wind sways the pines,
         And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
         And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
         Even we,
         Even so.
I’m not sure why all these poems are about death.  They were not all chosen in a single reading, not even a single month, and I’m not a particularly morbid person.  nevertheless…

Unwelcome

Another poem from the Oxford Book, Unwelcome by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (great grandniece of the more famous poet).

We were young, we were merry, we were very very wise,
And the door stood open at our feast,
When there passed us a woman with the West in her eyes,
And a man with his back to the East.

O, still grew the hearts that were beating so fast,
The loudest voice was still.
The jest died away on our lips as thy passed,
And the rays of July struck chill.

The cups of red wine turned pale on the board,
The white bread black as soot.
The hound forgot the hand of her lord,
She fell down at his foot.

Low let me lie, where the dead dog lies,
Ere I sit me down again at a feast,
When there passes a woman with the West in her eyes,
And a man with his back to the East.

St. Agnes’ Eve

I’ve been (very) slowly making my way through an old edition of The Oxford Book of English Verse, inspired by the fact that Patrick Fermor carried a copy with him on his journey through Europe.  Since I’ve stalled a bit on posts lately, I thought I’d highlight some of the poems that have caught my eye on my own trip through the book.  I have no ability to describe why these appeal to me, nor to detail their poetic merits, therefore, all will be offered with minimal commentary, though, reading them, there is perhaps a theme here.  The first, St. Agnes’ Eve, by Tennyson:

Deep on the convent-roof the snows
Are sparkling to the moon:
My breath to heaven like vapour goes;
May my soul follow soon!
The shadows of the convent-towers
Slant down the snowy sward,
Still creeping with the creeping hours
That lead me to my Lord:
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year
That in my bosom lies.

As these white robes are soil’d and dark,
To yonder shining ground;
As this pale taper’s earthly spark,
To yonder argent round;
So shows my soul before the Lamb,
My spirit before Thee;
So in mine earthly house I am,
To that I hope to be.
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
Thro’ all yon starlight keen,
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.

He lifts me to the golden doors;
The flashes come and go;
All heaven bursts her starry floors,
And strows her lights below,
And deepens on and up! the gates
Roll back, and far within
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
To make me pure of sin.
The sabbaths of Eternity,
One sabbath deep and wide—
A light upon the shining sea—
The Bridegroom with his bride!

Thoughts (Borrowed) While Overlooking a Mountain Valley in Peru

The Infinite

Always dear to me was this lonely hill,
And this hedgerow, which from many sides
Bars the gaze from the utmost horizon.
But sitting and looking out, endless
Spaces beyond that hedge, and superhuman
Silences, and profoundest quietude,
I in my mind forge for myself: where the heart
Is all but terrified.  And as I hear
the wind rustle beneath these plants,
That infinite silence to this voice I go on
To compare: and I recall the eternal,
And the dead seasons, and the present, living one,
And the sound of her. So in this
Immensity my thought drowns:
And shipwreck is sweet to me in this sea.

Giacomo Leopardi, Canti, 93
trans. Robert Pogue Harrison, Forests, 192