The Waking

A quiet poem about noise.

The Waking
I strolled across
An open field;
The sun was out;
Heat was happy.

This way! This way!
The wren’s throat shimmered,
Either to other,
The blossoms sang.

The stones sang,
The little ones did,
And flowers jumped
Like small goats.

A ragged fringe
Of daisies waved;
I wasn’t alone
In a grove of apples.

Far in the wood
A nestling sighed;
The dew loosened
Its morning smells.

I came where the river
Ran over stones:
My ears knew
An early joy.

And all the waters
Of all the streams
Sang in my veins
That summer day.

Theodore Roethke
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Sussex

Restarting my regular poetry posts. I’ve been reading more single-author collections lately, so they’ll likely be less variety, and I also might try to add some commentary on individual poems from time to time.

To begin again, a poem about home, which, as Kipling notes, ought to be loved even in its unlovableness.

Sussex

God gave all men all earth to love,
But since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Belovèd over all;
That, as He watched Creation’s birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.
So one shall Baltic pines content,
As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove’s droned lament
Before Levuka’s Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

No tender-hearted garden crowns,
No bosomed woods adorn
Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed Downs,
But gnarled and writhen thorn—
Bare slopes where chasing shadows skim,
And, through the gaps revealed,
Belt upon belt, the wooded, dim,
Blue goodness of the Weald.

Clean of officious fence or hedge,
Half-wild and wholly tame,
The wise turf cloaks the white cliff edge
As when the Romans came.
What sign of those that fought and died
At shift of sword and sword?
The barrow and the camp abide,
The sunlight and the sward.

Here leaps ashore the full Sou’west
All heavy-winged with brine,
Here lies above the folded crest
The Channel’s leaden line;
And here the sea-fogs lap and cling,
And here, each warning each,
The sheep-bells and the ship-bells ring
Along the hidden beach.

We have no waters to delight
Our broad and brookless vales—
Only the dewpond on the height
Unfed, that never fails—
Whereby no tattered herbage tells
Which way the season flies—
Only our close-bit thyme that smells
Like dawn in Paradise.

Here through the strong and shadeless days
The tinkling silence thrills;
Or little, lost, Down churches praise
The Lord who made the hills:
But here the Old Gods guard their round,
And, in her secret heart,
The heathen kingdom Wilfrid found
Dreams, as she dwells, apart.

Though all the rest were all my share,
With equal soul I’d see
Her nine-and-thirty sisters fair,
Yet none more fair than she.
Choose ye your need from Thames to Tweed,
And I will choose instead
Such lands as lie ’twixt Rake and Rye,
Black Down and Beachy Head.

I will go out against the sun
Where the rolled scarp retires,
And the Long Man of Wilmington
Looks naked toward the shires;
And east till doubling Rother crawls
To find the fickle tide,
By dry and sea-forgotten walls,
Our ports of stranded pride.

I will go north about the shaws
And the deep ghylls that breed
Huge oaks and old, the which we hold
No more than Sussex weed;
Or south where windy Piddinghoe’s
Begilded dolphin veers
And red beside wide-bankèd Ouse
Lie down our Sussex steers.

So to the land our hearts we give
Till the sure magic strike,
And Memory, Use, and Love make live
Us and our fields alike—
That deeper than our speech and thought,
Beyond our reason’s sway,
Clay of the pit whence we were wrought
Yearns to its fellow-clay.

God gives all men all earth to love,
But since man’s heart is small,
Ordains for each one spot shall prove
Beloved over all.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

Rudyard Kipling

A Dream

A Dream
Charles Williams

NO more in any house can I be at peace,
Because of a house that waits, far off or near,
To-morrow or (likelier) after many a year,
Where a room and a door are that shall fulfil my fear.
For last night, dreaming, I stood in a house and saw
Softly the room door open, and one came in,
Its owner, and as round the edge his evil grin
Peep’d ere he pass’d, I knew him for visible Sin.
Unwash’d, unshaven, frowsy, abominable,
In a green greasy hat, a green greasy coat,
Loose-mouth’d, with silent tread and the smell of the goat,
He stole in, and helplessness stifled rage in my throat.
For this was he who came long since to my heart,
This was he who enter’d the house of my soul long ago;
Now he possesses imagination, and O
I shall meet him yet in some brick-built house, I know.
He shall come, he shall turn from the long parch’d street he treads
For ever, shuffling, hand rubb’d over hand unclean,
Servile yet masterful, with satiate spleen
Watching his houses, and muttering of things obscene.
He shall come to my flesh as he came last night to my dream;
Eyes shall know him as soul and insight have known;
Though all the world be there, I shall stand alone
Watching him peer and enter and find out his own.
Noisier he shall not move, nor loudlier speak,
Than the first sly motion of lewd delight in me
Long since—which then I shall know none other than he,
Now visible, aged, and filled with monstrous glee.
Therefore now in terror I enter all houses, all rooms
Enter in dread, and move among them in fear,
Watching all doors, saying softly ‘It draws more near
Daily; and here shall it be in the end—or here?’

Gipsy Queen

Gipsy Queen
John Alexander Chapman

Gipsy queen of the night, wraith of the fire-lit dark,
Glittering eyes of ice, sharp as glacier green,
Lisping falling kisses, syllabled flakes of snow,
Down on the stubble fields, over my eyes and hair;
If on my mouth one falls, it is tasteless and light and cold—
She mocks you, gipsy queen, the brown-eyed child of earth;
As berry that grew from flower, she, as grape of the vine,
Is warm and sweet for man; the wine, in herself, and cup.
Why do you haunt me then? Are you for me, not she?
Am I a leafless branch, bowed with a load of snow;
Not for warm hands to pluck, but alone in the world of cold;
Black against pale-washed sky, grey never vein’d with red?
But so the better for you, cold shape of the dark outside;
You banish’d from rose too red for ice-green eyes to see;
Chased before lambing time, ere even the snowdrops come,
Poor gipsy-wraith of the snow, but knowing your brother,
and come
To him? Then come to me. I will give you a cold, cold kiss.
My roses are dead, they too. My lips are grey. My eyes
Have neither iris nor pupil. They died, and now all is white;
White in a face of stone. Sister, cold lover, come.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

PART IV
‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropt not down.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay dead like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmèd water burnt alway
A still and awful red.

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.

A Musical Instrument

A Musical Instrument
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I.
WHAT was he doing, the great god Pan, 
    Down in the reeds by the river ? 
Spreading ruin and scattering ban, 
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat, 
And breaking the golden lilies afloat 
    With the dragon-fly on the river. 

II.
He tore out a reed, the great god Pan, 
    From the deep cool bed of the river : 
The limpid water turbidly ran, 
And the broken lilies a-dying lay, 
And the dragon-fly had fled away, 
    Ere he brought it out of the river. 

III.
High on the shore sate the great god Pan, 
    While turbidly flowed the river ; 
And hacked and hewed as a great god can, 
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed, 
Till there was not a sign of a leaf indeed 
    To prove it fresh from the river. 

IV.
He cut it short, did the great god Pan, 
    (How tall it stood in the river !) 
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man, 
Steadily from the outside ring, 
And notched the poor dry empty thing 
    In holes, as he sate by the river. 

V.
This is the way,’ laughed the great god Pan, 
    Laughed while he sate by the river,) 
The only way, since gods began 
To make sweet music, they could succeed.’ 
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed, 
    He blew in power by the river. 

VI.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan ! 
    Piercing sweet by the river ! 
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan ! 
The sun on the hill forgot to die, 
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly 
    Came back to dream on the river. 

VII.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan, 
    To laugh as he sits by the river, 
Making a poet out of a man : 
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, — 
For the reed which grows nevermore again 
    As a reed with the reeds in the river. 

Woodworker’s Ballad

Woodworker’s Ballad
Herbert Edward Palmer

ALL that is moulded of iron
Has lent to destruction and blood;
But the things that are honour’d of Zion
Are most of them made from wood.

Stone can be chisell’d to Beauty,
And iron shines bright for Defence;
But when Mother Earth ponder’d her duty
She brought forth the forest, from whence

Come tables, and chairs, and crosses,
Little things that a hot fire warps,
Old ships that the blue wave tosses,
And fiddles for music, and harps;

Oak boards where the carved ferns mingle,
Monks’ shrines in the wilderness,
Snug little huts in the dingle,
All things that the sad poets bless.

King Arthur had a wood table;
And Our Lord blessed wood; for, you see,
He was born in a wooden stable,
And He died on a wooden tree;

And He sailed in a wooden vessel
On the waters of Galilee,
And He work’d at a wooden trestle
At His wonderful carpentry.

Oh, all that is moulded of iron
Has lent to destruction and blood;
But the things that are honour’d of Zion
Are most of them made from wood.



Good Friday

Good Friday
By Christina Rossetti

AM I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

The Donkey

The Donkey
G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

The Song of Callicles

The Song of Callicles
Matthew Arnold

Through the black, rushing smoke-bursts,
Thick breaks the red flame.
All Etna heaves fiercely
Her forest-clothed frame.

Not here, O Apollo!
Are haunts meet for thee.
But, where Helicon breaks down
In cliff to the sea.

Where the moon-silver’d inlets
Send far their light voice
Up the still vale of Thisbe,
O speed, and rejoice!

On the sward at the cliff-top,
Lie strewn the white flocks;
On the cliff-side, the pigeons
Roost deep in the rocks.

In the moonlight the shepherds,
Soft lull’d by the rills,
Lie wrapt in their blankets,
Asleep on the hills.

—What forms are these coming
So white through the gloom?
What garments out-glistening
The gold-flower’d broom?

What sweet-breathing Presence
Out-perfumes the thyme?
What voices enrapture
The night’s balmy prime?—

’Tis Apollo comes leading
His choir, The Nine.
—The Leader is fairest,
But all are divine.

They are lost in hollows.
They stream up again.
What seeks on this mountain
The glorified train?—

They bathe on this mountain,
In the spring by their road.
Then on to Olympus,
Their endless abode.

—Whose praise do they mention:
Of what is it told?—
What will be for ever.
What was from of old.

First hymn they the Father
Of all things: and then,
The rest of Immortals,
The action of men.

The Day in his hotness,
The strife with the palm;
The Night in her silence,
The Stars in their calm.