And this grey spirit
yearning in desire,
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart.
Much have I seen and known,--
cities of men, And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,"
"I gave up on new poetry
myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages
passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."
- Russell Baker
There is a schoolteacher
in my town and he looks like Bugs Bunny,
He's a mass murderer and I'm not being funny.
- Paul Durcan
My soul, there is a
country far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry all skilful in the wars:
There, above noise and danger Sweet Peace sits crowned with smiles
If thou canst get but thither, there grows the flow'r of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither, thy fortress and thy ease.
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
- "Peace", Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)
"If I should die, think
only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.
There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed.
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware."
- Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier"
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; —on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
- Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"
When you see millions
of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the overcrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all this for evermore.
- Charles Sorley, "When You See Millions Of The Mouthless Dead" (1915)
Perfection, of a kind,
was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand ;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets ;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
- Epitaph on a Tyrant, by WH Auden
I shall be telling
this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence :
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
I must down to the
seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
- John Masefield, "Sea Fever"
I had seen flowers
come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces,
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.
- John Masefield , "Epilogue", on the surprises of life
She dwelt among the
untrodden ways beside the springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were none to praise and very few to love.
A violet by a mossy stone half hidden from the eye;
Fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky.
Give me a look, give
me a face, that makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free,-- Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art: They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
In the beauty of the
lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me :
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
- WH Auden, "The Age of Anxiety", 1947.
Then out spoke brave
Horatius, the Captain of the Gate :
"To every man upon this earth, Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better, than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temple of his Gods!"
Certainly there are lots of things that money won't buy, but it's very funny - Have you ever tried to buy them without money ?
- Liam Aungier, "Ganymede in Marble"
Great wits are sure
to Madness near allied
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;
David for him his tuneful harp had strung,
And Heav'n had wanted one Immortal Song,
But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,
And Fortunes Ice prefers to Vertues Land.
No ! I am not Prince
Hamlet, nor was meant to be ;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince ; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous ;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse ;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous - Almost, at times, the Fool.
I have heard the mermaids
singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in
the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Out of Ireland have
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.
I would spread the
cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
- WB Yeats, "The Stolen Child"
I think it better that
in times like these
A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.
- William Butler Yeats, "On being asked for a War Poem"
O the mind has mountains;
cliffs of fall, frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.
Hold them cheap may who ne'er hung there.
- GM Hopkins, "No Worst There Is None"
"Tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven."
"Those whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme..."
"The mind is it's own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven."
"Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe."
"Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe."
"A grateful mind by owing owes not, but still pays, at once indebted and discharg'd. "
"Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers."
"Some say no evil thing that walks by night, in fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen, blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost that breaks his magic chains at curfew time, no goblin, or swart fairy of the mine, hath hurtful power o'er true virginity."
"The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it, but in another country, as he said, bore a bright golden flow'r, but not in this soil; Unknown, and like esteem'd, and the dull swain treads on it daily with his clouted shoon."
"Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise to scorn delights, and live laborious days;"
"Such sights as youthful poets dream on summer eves by haunted stream."
- William Wordsworth, writing in 1802 long after Milton's death
For of all sad words
of tongue or pen, the saddest are these,
"It might have been!"
No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
- John Donne
Lives of great men
all remind us we can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time.
- Thomas Darcy McGee, Irish emigrant to Canada
There sinks the nebulous star we call the sun.
Say first, of God above or man below, what can we reason but from what we know?
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies; All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies. Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes: Men would be angels, angels would be gods. Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, Aspiring to be angels, men rebel.
Know then thyself,
presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
For forms of government let fools contest; Whate'er is best administer'd is best. For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
Honour and shame from
no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honour lies.
She who never answers
till a husband cools;
Or if she rules him, never shows she rules.
Who shall decide when
and soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?
One science only will one genius fit: So vast is art, so narrow human wit.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.
Words are like leaves;
and where they most abound,
much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
All seems infected
that th' infected spy,
as all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
To err is human, to forgive divine
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Not hate, but glory,
made these chiefs contend;
And each brave foe was in his soul a friend.
It is not strength,
but art, obtains the prize,
and to be swift is less than to be wise.
'T is more by art than force of num'rous strokes.
The long historian of my country's woes.
"There is always the
delicate question of how common common sense should be... I am not suggesting
that modern English poetry must be concerned with psychoanalysis or with
the concentration camps or with the hydrogen bomb... I am not suggesting,
in fact, that it must be anything... I am, however, suggesting that it
drop the pretence that life, give or take a few social distinctions, is
the same as ever, that gentility, decency and all the other social totems
will eventually muddle through."
- Al Alvarez
All the parts of the
universe I have an interest in: the earth serves me to walk upon; the sun
to light me; the stars have their influence upon me.
- Montaigne, "Apology for Raimond Sebond"
There's plenty of pain
here - but it don't kill. There's plenty of suffering here, but it don't
last. You see, happiness ain't a thing in itself - it's only a contrast
with something that ain't pleasant.
- Mark Twain ,"Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven".
Much have I travell'd
in the realms of gold,
and many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
that deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne,
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
when a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
he stared at the Pacific, and all his men
look'd at each other with a wild surmise,
silent, upon a peak in Darien.
"When all the world
dissolves, and every creature shall be purified,
all places shall be hell that are not heaven."
XXXIV by WH Auden
Stop all the clocks,
cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my
South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted
now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
The wombat lives across
the seas, among the far Antipodes.
He may exist on nuts and berries, or then again, on missionaries;
His distant habitat precludes conclusive knowledge of his moods.
But I would not engage the wombat in any form of mortal combat.
REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME by Ogden Nash
What am I doing, daughter
A-haying while the sun doth shine; Gathering rosebuds while I may,
Reveling in the brief sensation of basking in your admiration.
Oh, now, when you are almost five, I am the lordliest man alive;
Your gaze is blind to any flaw, and brimming with respect and awe.
Though adults oft my charm disparage,
three times you've sought my hand in marriage.
You think me handsome, strong and brave.
You came at morn to watch me shave.
The neighbors' insults
lose their sting when you encourage me to sing,
And like a fashion plate I pose while you compliment my clothes.
Who wishes his self-esteem to thrive should belong to a girl of almost five, But almost five can't last forever. And wide-eyed girls grow tall and clever. Few creatures others less admire than a lass of seventeen her sire.
What humiliation must
you weather when we are seen in public together!
Perchance I'll munch a stick of gum, or in the theater brazenly hum;
My hat, belike, will flout the law laid down for hats at Old Nassau;
My anecdotes you'll strive to stanch, and at my table manner blanch;
My every word and every deed will agony and embarrassment breed;
Your goal of goals, the end of your ends, to hide me forever from your friends.
Therefore, I now chant roundelays, and rollick in your pride and praise;
Too soon the nymph that you will be will shudder when she looks at me.
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