Predawn in Health

The stars are filtering through a tree
outside in the moon’s silent era.

Reality is moving layer over layer
like crystal spheres now called laws.

The future is right behind your head;
just over all horizons is the past.

The soul sits looking at its offer.

Les Murray

Glee—the Great Storm Is Over

GLEE! the great storm is over!
Four have recovered the land;
Forty gone down together
Into the boiling sand.

Ring, for the scant salvation!
Toll, for the bonnie souls,—
Neighbor and friend and bridegroom,
Spinning upon the shoals!

How they will tell the shipwreck
When winter shakes the door,
Till the children ask, “But the forty?
Did they come back no more?”

Then a silence suffuses the story,
And a softness the teller’s eye;
And the children no further question,
And only the waves reply.

Emily Dickinson

A Pause for Thought

A Pause for Thought

I looked for that which is not, nor can be,
And hope deferred made my heart sick in truth:
But years must pass before a hope of youth
Is resigned utterly.
I watched and waited with a steadfast will:
And though the object seemed to flee away
That I so longed for, ever day by day
I watched and waited still.
Sometimes I said: This thing shall be no more;
My expectation wearies and shall cease;
I will resign it now and be at peace:
Yet never gave it o’er.
Sometimes I said: It is an empty name
I long for; to a name why should I give
The peace of all the days I have to live?—
Yet gave it all the same.
Alas, thou foolish one! alike unfit
For healthy joy and salutary pain:
Thou knowest the chase useless, and again
Turnest to follow it.

Christina Rossetti

Untitled Autumn Poem

I built my hut in a zone of human habitation,
Yet near me there sounds no noise of horse or coach.
Would you know how that is possible?
A heart that is distant creates a wilderness round it.
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze long at the distant summer hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day;
The flying birds two by two return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.

T’ao Ch’ien

Before Sleep

Before Sleep

The toil of the day is ebbing,
The quiet comes again,
In slumber deep relaxing
The limbs of tired men.

And minds with anguish shaken,
And spirits racked with grief,
The cup of all forgetting
Have drunk and found relief.

The still Lethean waters
Now steal through every vein,
And men no more remember
The meaning of their pain.

Let, the weary body
Lie sunk in slumber deep.
The heart shall still remember
Christ in its very sleep.

Prudentius trans. Helen Waddell

To the Harbormaster

To the Harbormaster

I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks, it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

Frank O’Hara

Lines Written on Visiting a Scene in Argyleshire

Lines Written on Visiting a Scene in Argyleshire

At the silence of twilight’s contemplative hour,
I have mused in a sorrowful mood,
On the wind-shaken weeds that embosom the bower,
Where the home of my forefathers stood.
All ruined and wild is their roofless abode,
And lonely the dark raven’s sheltering tree:
And travelled by few is the grass-covered road,
Where the hunter of deer and the warrior trode
To his hills that encircle the sea.

Yet wandering, I found on my ruinous walk,
By the dial-stone agèd and green,
One rose of the wilderness left on its stalk,
To mark where a garden had been
Like a brotherless hermit, the last of its race,
All wild in the silence of nature, it drew,
From each wandering sun-beam, a lonely embrace,
For the night-weed and thorn overshadowed the place,
Where the flower of my forefathers grew.

Sweet bud of the wilderness! emblem of all
That remains in this desolate heart!
The fabric of bliss to its centre may fall,
But patience shall never depart!
Though the wilds of enchantment, all vernal and bright,
In the days of delusion by fancy combined
With the vanishing phantoms of love and delight,
Abandon my soul, like a dream of the night,
And leave but a desert behind.

Be hushed, my dark spirit! for wisdom condemns
When the faint and the feeble deplore;
Be strong as the rock of the ocean that stems
A thousand wild waves on the shore!
Through the perils of chance, and the scowl of disdain,
May thy front be unaltered, thy courage elate!
Yea! even the name I have worshipped in vain
Shall awake not the sigh of remembrance again:
To bear is to conquer our fate.

Thomas Campbell

The Welcome to Sack

Sack is a sort of strong, dry wine from Spain, popular in England during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Welcome to Sack


So soft streams meet, so springs with gladder smiles
Meet after long divorcement by the isles;
When love, the child of likeness, urgeth on
Their crystal natures to a union:
So meet stolen kisses, when the moony nights
Call forth fierce lovers to their wish’d delights;
So kings and queens meet, when desire convinces
All thoughts but such as aim at getting princes,
As I meet thee. Soul of my life and fame!
Eternal lamp of love! whose radiant flame
Out-glares the heaven’s Osiris, and thy gleams
Out-shine the splendour of his mid-day beams.
Welcome, O welcome, my illustrious spouse;
Welcome as are the ends unto my vows;
Aye! far more welcome than the happy soil
The sea-scourged merchant, after all his toil,
Salutes with tears of joy, when fires betray
The smoky chimneys of his Ithaca.
Where hast thou been so long from my embraces,
Poor pitied exile? Tell me, did thy graces
Fly discontented hence, and for a time
Did rather choose to bless another clime?
Or went’st thou to this end, the more to move me,
By thy short absence, to desire and love thee?
Why frowns my sweet? Why won’t my saint confer
Favours on me, her fierce idolater?
Why are those looks, those looks the which have been
Time-past so fragrant, sickly now drawn in
Like a dull twilight? Tell me, and the fault
I’ll expiate with sulphur, hair and salt;
And, with the crystal humour of the spring,
Purge hence the guilt and kill this quarrelling.
Wo’t thou not smile or tell me what’s amiss?
Have I been cold to hug thee, too remiss,
Too temp’rate in embracing? Tell me, has desire
To thee-ward died i’ th’ embers, and no fire
Left in this rak’d-up ash-heap as a mark
To testify the glowing of a spark?
Have I divorc’d thee only to combine
In hot adult’ry with another wine?
True, I confess I left thee, and appeal
‘Twas done by me more to confirm my zeal
And double my affection on thee, as do those
Whose love grows more inflam’d by being foes.
But to forsake thee ever, could there be
A thought of such-like possibility?
When thou thyself dar’st say thy isles shall lack
Grapes before Herrick leaves canary sack.
Thou mak’st me airy, active to be borne,
Like Iphiclus, upon the tops of corn.
Thou mak’st me nimble, as the winged hours,
To dance and caper on the heads of flowers,
And ride the sunbeams. Can there be a thing
Under the heavenly Isis that can bring
More love unto my life, or can present
My genius with a fuller blandishment?
Illustrious idol! could th’ Egyptians seek
Help from the garlic, onion and the leek
And pay no vows to thee, who wast their best
God, and far more transcendent than the rest?
Had Cassius, that weak water-drinker, known
Thee in thy vine, or had but tasted one
Small chalice of thy frantic liquor, he,
As the wise Cato, had approv’d of thee.
Had not Jove’s son,that brave Tirynthian swain,
Invited to the Thesbian banquet, ta’en
Full goblets of thy gen’rous blood, his sprite
Ne’er had kept heat for fifty maids that night.
Come, come and kiss me; love and lust commends
Thee and thy beauties; kiss, we will be friends
Too strong for fate to break us. Look upon
Me with that full pride of complexion
As queens meet queens, or come thou unto me
As Cleopatra came to Anthony,
When her high carriage did at once present
To the triumvir love and wonderment.
Swell up my nerves with spirit; let my blood
Run through my veins like to a hasty flood.
Fill each part full of fire, active to do
What thy commanding soul shall put it to;
And till I turn apostate to thy love,
Which here I vow to serve, do not remove
Thy fires from me, but Apollo’s curse
Blast these-like actions, or a thing that’s worse.
When these circumstants shall but live to see
The time that I prevaricate from thee.
Call me the son of beer, and then confine
Me to the tap, the toast, the turf; let wine
Ne’er shine upon me; may my numbers all
Run to a sudden death and funeral.
And last, when thee, dear spouse, I disavow,
Ne’er may prophetic Daphne crown my brow.

Convinces, overcomes.
Ithaca, the home of the wanderer Ulysses.
Iphiclus won the foot-race at the funeral games of Pelias.
Circumstants, surroundings.

Robert Herrick

Cousin Kate

Cousin Kate

I was a cottage maiden
Hardened by sun and air
Contented with my cottage mates,
Not mindful I was fair.
Why did a great lord find me out,
And praise my flaxen hair?
Why did a great lord find me out,
To fill my heart with care?

He lured me to his palace home –
Woe’s me for joy thereof-
To lead a shameless shameful life,
His plaything and his love.
He wore me like a silken knot,
He changed me like a glove;
So now I moan, an unclean thing,
Who might have been a dove.

O Lady kate, my cousin Kate,
You grew more fair than I:
He saw you at your father’s gate,
Chose you, and cast me by.
He watched your steps along the lane,
Your work among the rye;
He lifted you from mean estate
To sit with him on high.

Because you were so good and pure
He bound you with his ring:
The neighbors call you good and pure,
Call me an outcast thing.
Even so I sit and howl in dust,
You sit in gold and sing:
Now which of us has tenderer heart?
You had the stronger wing.

O cousin Kate, my love was true,
Your love was writ in sand:
If he had fooled not me but you,
If you stood where I stand,
He’d not have won me with his love
Nor bought me with his land;
I would have spit into his face
And not have taken his hand.

Yet I’ve a gift you have not got,
And seem not like to get:
For all your clothes and wedding-ring
I’ve little doubt you fret.
My fair-haired son, my shame, my pride,
Cling closer, closer yet:
Your father would give his lands for one
To wear his coronet.

Christina Georgina Rossetti

The Power of the Dog

Another by Kipling.

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie —
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find — it’s your own affair —
But . . . you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone — wherever it goes — for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept’em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long —
So why in — Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling