English Poems

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heav’ns, a shining frame,
Their great original proclaim:
Th’ unwearied Sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the list’ning Earth
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets, in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though, in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In Reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
“The Hand that made us is Divine.”

Joseph Addison (1 May 1672 – 17 June 1719)

Joseph Addison

Far from the churchyard dig his grave,
On some green mound beside the wave;
To westward, sea and sky alone,
And sunsets. Put a mossy stone,
With mortal name and date, a harp
And bunch of wild flowers, carven sharp;
Then leave it free to winds that blow,
And patient mosses creeping; slow,
And wandering wings, and footsteps rare
Of human creature pausing there.

William Allingham (19 March 1824 – 18 November 1889)

William Allingham

Lascelles Abercrombie by Walter Stoneman

We are thine, O Love, being in thee and made of thee,
As théou, Léove, were the déep thought
And we the speech of the thought; yea, spoken are we,
Thy fires of thought out-spoken:

But burn’d not through us thy imagining
Like fiérce méood in a séong céaught,
We were as clamour’d words a fool may fling,
Loose words, of meaning broken.

For what more like the brainless speech of a fool,—
The lives travelling dark fears,
And as a boy throws pebbles in a pool
Thrown down abysmal places?

Hazardous are the stars, yet is our birth
And our journeying time theirs;
As words of air, life makes of starry earth
Sweet soul-delighted faces;

As voices are we in the worldly wind;
The great wind of the world’s fate
Is turn’d, as air to a shapen sound, to mind
And marvellous desires.

But not in the world as voices storm-shatter’d,
Not borne down by the wind’s weight;
The rushing time rings with our splendid word
Like darkness fill’d with fires.

For Love doth use us for a sound of song,
And Love’s meaning our life wields,
Making our souls like syllables to throng
His tunes of exultation.

Down the blind speed of a fatal world we fly,
As rain blown along earth’s fields;
Yet are we god-desiring liturgy,
Sung joys of adoration;

Yea, made of chance and all a labouring strife,
We go charged with a strong flame;
For as a language Love hath seized on life
His burning heart to story.

Yea, Love, we are thine, the liturgy of thee,
Thy thought’s golden and glad name,
The mortal conscience of immortal glee,
Love’s zeal in Love’s own glory.

Lascelles Abercrombie (9 January 1881 – 27 October 1938)

 

Lilies will languish; violets look ill;
Sickly the primrose; pale the daffodil;
That gallant tulip will hang down his head,
Like to a virgin newly ravished;
Pansies will weep, and marigolds will wither,
And keep a fast and funeral together;
Sappho droop, daisies will open never,
But bid good-night, and close their lids for ever.

Robert Herrick (baptized 24 August 1591 – buried 15 October 1676

cat poem

Smooth curves
Slim lines
Soft
But poised
A spring coiled
Compact power

Ears sharp
Alert triangles
Tents intent
On picking up
The smallest sign
Of prey to find

Sleek fur
Jet black
Or mottled tabby
Friendly, content
Or raised, defensive

Eyes,
Unique
Guarded, they survey
Then, with time,
Playful and bright

The form, whole
As one
The Cat
Complete

Jake Waller

Sarah-Flower-Adams-1

O Love! thou makest all things even
In earth or heaven;
Finding thy way through prison-bars
Up to the stars;
Or, true to the Almighty plan,
That out of dust created man,
Thou lookest in a grave,–to see
Thine immortality!

Sarah Flower Adams (22 February 1805 – 14 August 1848)

 

To-night retired, the queen of heaven
With young Endymion stays;
And now to Hesper it is given
Awhile to rule the vacant sky,
Till she shall to her lamp supply
A stream of brighter rays.

Propitious send thy golden ray,
Thou purest light above!
Let no false flame seduce to stray
Where gulf or steep lie hid for harm;
But lead where music’s healing charm
May soothe afflicted love.

To them, by many a grateful song
In happier seasons vow’d,
These lawns, Olympia’s haunts, belong:
Oft by yon silver stream we walk’d,
Or fix’d, while Philomela talk’d,
Beneath yon copses stood.

Nor seldom, where the beechen boughs
That roofless tower invade,
We came, while her enchanting Muse
The radiant moon above us held:
Till, by a clamorous owl compell’d,
She fled the solemn shade.

But hark! I hear her liquid tone!
Now Hesper guide my feet!
Down the red marl with moss o’ergrown,
Through yon wild thicket next the plain,
Whose hawthorns choke the winding lane
Which leads to her retreat.

See the green space: on either hand
Enlarged it spreads around:
See, in the midst she takes her stand,
Where one old oak his awful shade
Extends o’er half the level mead,
Enclosed in woods profound.

Hark! how through many a melting note
She now prolongs her lays:
How sweetly down the void they float!
The breeze their magic path attends;
The stars shine out; the forest bends;
The wakeful heifers graze.

Whoe’er thou art whom chance may bring
To this sequester’d spot,
If then the plaintive Siren sing,
O softly tread beneath her bower
And think of Heaven’s disposing power,
Of man’s uncertain lot.

O think, o’er all this mortal stage
What mournful scenes arise:
What ruin waits on kingly rage;
How often virtue dwells with woe;
How many griefs from knowledge flow;
How swiftly pleasure flies!

O sacred bird! let me at eve,
Thus wandering all alone,
Thy tender counsel oft receive,
Bear witness to thy pensive airs,
And pity Nature’s common cares,
Till I forget my own.

Mark Akenside (9 November 1721 – 23 June 1770)
Mark_Akenside

I ask not that my bed of death
From bands of greedy heirs be free;
For these besiege the latest breath
Of fortune’s favoured sons, not me.

I ask not each kind soul to keep
Tearless, when of my death he hears;
Let those who will, if any, weep!
There are worse plagues on earth than tears.

I ask but that my death may find
The freedom to my life denied;
Ask but the folly of mankind,
Then, at last, to quit my side.

Spare me the whispering, crowded room,
The friends who come, and gape, and go;
The ceremonious air of gloom –
All which makes death a hideous show!

Nor bring, to see me cease to live,
Some doctor full of phrase and fame,
To shake his sapient head and give
The ill he cannot cure a name.

Nor fetch, to take the accustomed toll
Of the poor sinner bound for death,
His brother doctor of the soul,
To canvass with official breath

The future and its viewless things –
That undiscovered mystery
Which one who feels death’s winnowing wings
Must need read clearer, sure, than he!

Bring none of these; but let me be,
While all around in silence lies,
Moved to the window near, and see
Once more before my dying eyes

Bathed in the sacred dew of morn
The wide aerial landscape spread –
The world which was ere I was born,
The world which lasts when I am dead.

Which never was the friend of one,
Nor promised love it could not give,
But lit for all its generous sun,
And lived itself, and made us live.

There let me gaze, till I become
In soul with what I gaze on wed!
To feel the universe my home;
To have before my mind -instead

Of the sick-room, the mortal strife,
The turmoil for a little breath –
The pure eternal course of life,
Not human combatings with death.

Thus feeling, gazing, let me grow
Composed, refreshed, ennobled, clear;
Then willing let my spirit go
To work or wait elsewhere or here!

Matthew Arnold (24 December (1822 – 15 April 1888)

Matthew_Arnold

I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town,
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down.
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig,
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!

Emily Dickinson 1830- 1886

snow poem

MORTAL:
“The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear;
Who is it knocking at my door?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“I am Good Cheer.”

MORTAL:
“Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark I grope.
What seek you here?”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Friend, let me in; my name is Hope.”

MORTAL:
“And mine is Failure; you but mock the life you seek to bless. Pass on.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Nay, open wide the door; I am Success.”

MORTAL:
“But I am ill and spent with pain; too late has come your wealth. I cannot use it.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“Listen, friend; I am Good Health.”

MORTAL:
“Now, wide I fling my door. Come in, and your fair statements prove.”

THE NEW YEAR:
“But you must open, too, your heart, for I am Love.”

 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 –  1919)


E-W-Wilcox
Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Frontispiece from her book of poems “Three Women”

Plus aucun souffle.

Comme quand le vent du matin
a eu raison
de la dernière bougie.

Il y a en nous un si profond silence
qu’une comète
en route vers la nuit des filles de nos filles,
nous l’entendrions.

– – –
Philippe Jaccottet, in Poésies 1946-1967 (Gallimard, 1971)

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Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

W B Yeats