Sunday, August 28, 2016

August Night, on Georgian Bay /
William Wilfred Campbell


August Night, on Georgian Bay

The day dreams out, the night is brooding in,
Across this world of vapor, wood, and wave.
Things blur and dim.  Cool silvery ripples lave
    The sands and rustling reed-beds. Now begin
    Night’s dreamy choruses, the murmurous din
Of sleepy voices. Tremulous, one by one,
The stars blink in. The dusk drives out the sun;
    And all the world the hosts of darkness win.
Anon, through mists, the harvest moon will come,
    With breathing flames, above the forest edge;
Flooding the silence in a silvern dream:
Conquering the night and all its voices dumb,
With unheard melodies.  While all agleam,
    Low flutes the lake along the lustrous sedge.

~~
William Wilfred Campbell (1860-1918)
from Lake Lyrics, and other poems, 1889

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

William Wilfred Campbell biography

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August Wind / Margaret Deland


August Wind

The sharp wind cut a pathway through the cloud,
     And left a track of faintly shining blue;
The nunlike poplars swayed and bowed,
     And low the swallows flew!

The sudden dust whirled up the stony road,
     And blurred the brightness of the golden-rod;
The ripening milk-weed bent, and sowed
     Winged seeds at every nod;

Backward the maple tossed her feathery crown,
     Then flung her branches on the streaming air;
The brittle oak-leaves, dry and brown,
     Rustled with break and tear!

Each wayside weed was twisted like a thread;
     Then, suddenly, far up the pasture hill,
Quick as it came the gust had fled,
     And all the fields were still.

~~
Margaret Deland 
from The Old Garden, and other verses, 1889

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Margaret Deland biography

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sport / John Colin Dunlop


Sport

Sport! Harbinger of health, relief from care,
Whether enjoyed on mountain, moor, or stream,
In dale, in brake, on ocean, or in air,
Youths gay pursuit, and Age's pleasing dream,
Still, joy-inspiring Sport, thou art my theme!
The pensive lamp let poring schoolmen waste,
And wake long nights, to earn a vain esteem,
While from my heather bed I bound in haste,
Roused by the lark, to hail the morn's reviving beam.

Yet have I known the wisest quench the lamp,
Impatient for the sport approaching morn,
And bold defiance bid to cold and damp,
Dashing the pearly dew-drop from the thorn,
To the shrill music of the early horn:
Blest union! wisdom, health, and sport combined,
Sly Renard's brush in cap of knowledge worn;
Such marvels days of yore recall to mind,
Down the swift stream of time irrevocably borne.

Blythe, at the dawn the sportsman mounts his steed;
And hark! the yelling pack to Cover flies,
Eager he sees the waste of Renard's speed,
And shouts his triumph when the traitor dies,
While Echo to the voice and horn replies.
Perchance he joys to hear the heath-cock crow,
And mark his ebon plumage glancing rise,
To lay with levelled tube his glories low,
Or see him spring transfixed like arrow to the skies.

But now the Sun declines on Auchinfoyle,
And one long day of moorland pastime ends —
A various day of pleasure, and of toil:
From Shearlings low the evening smoke ascends,
And home his way the weary sportsman wends.
O! emblem meet of fragile man's career,
Who his vain hours in sport and labour spends;
The same, alas! a day — a month — an year:
Fate every joy with toil, and disappointment blends.

~~
John Colin Dunlop (1785-1842), ca. 1805
from Poems on Several Occasions, 1836

John Colin Dunlop biography

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Song of the Ungirt Runners /
Charles Hamilton Sorley


The Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize,
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

~~
Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915)
from Marlborough, and other poems, 1916

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Charles Hamilton Sorley biography

Sunday, August 14, 2016

To the Swimmer / Countee Cullen


To the Swimmer

Now as I watch you, strong of arm and endurance, battling and struggling
With the waves that rush against you, ever with invincible strength returning
Into my heart, grown each day more tranquil and peaceful, comes a fierce longing
Of mind and soul that will not be appeased until, like you,
I breast yon deep and boundless expanse of blue.

With an outward stroke of power intense your mighty arm goes forth,
Cleaving its way through waters that rise and roll, ever a ceaseless vigil keeping
Over the treasures beneath.

My heart goes out to you of dauntless courage and spirit indomitable,
And though my lips would speak, my spirit forbids me to ask,
“Is your heart as true as your arm?”

~~
Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
from The Modern School, May 1918

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Countee Cullen biography

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos /
George Gordon, Lord Byron


Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos

If, in the month of dark December,
  Leander, who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember?)
  To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont!

If, when the wintry tempest roar’d,
  He sped to Hero, nothing loth,
And thus of old thy current pour’d,
  Fair Venus! how I pity both!

For me, degenerate modern wretch,
  Though in the genial month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
  And think I’ve done a feat to-day.

But since he cross’d the rapid tide,
  According to the doubtful story,
To woo,— and — Lord knows what beside,
  And swam for Love, as I for Glory;

’Twere hard to say who fared the best:
  Sad mortals! thus the Gods still plague you!
He lost his labour, I my jest:
  For he was drown’d, and I’ve the ague.    

~~
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), 1810
from Poetry of Byron, 1881

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Lord Byron biography

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Casey at the Bat / Ernest Lawrence Thayer


Casey at the Bat 

A Ballad of the Republic, sung in the Year 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that —
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped —
“That ain’t my style," said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

~~
Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940), 1888
From Casey at the Bat, 1912

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Ernest Lawrence Thayer biography