Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Old Year / John Clare

The Old Year

The Old Year's gone away
     To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
     Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
     In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
     In this he's known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
     Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
     And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
     In every cot and hall --
A guest to every heart's desire,
     And now he's nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
     Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
     Are things identified;
But time once torn away
     No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
     Left the Old Year lost to all.

John Clare
from Poems Chiefly from Manuscript (edited by Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter), 1920.

[Poem is in the public domain]

John Clare biography

Friday, December 30, 2011

Again at Christmas did we weave / Alfred Tennyson


Again at Christmas did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess'd the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

The yule-log sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.

As in the winters left behind,
Again our ancient games had place,
The mimic picture's breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind.

Who show'd a token of distress?
No single tear, no mark of pain:
O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?

O last regret, regret can die!
No -- mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.

Alfred Tennyson
from In Memoriam A.H.H., 1850

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Alfred Tennyson biography

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas at Sea / Robert Louis Stevenson

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'-wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the suff a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard.
So's we saw the cliff and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate, Jackson, cried.
. . .  "It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood;
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Robert Louis Stevenson

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Robert Louis Stevenson biography

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Tis Christmas Weather / George Meredith


'Tis Christmas weather, and a country house
Receives us; rooms are full: we can but get
An attic-crib. Such lovers will not fret
At that, it is half-said. The great carouse
Knocks hard upon the midnight's hollow door,
But when I knock at hers, I see the pit.
Why did I come here in that dullard fit?
I enter, and lie couched upon the floor.
Passing, I caught the coverlet's quick beat: –
Come, Shame, burn to my soul! and Pride, and Pain –
Foul demons that have tortured me, enchain!
Out in the freezing darkness the lambs bleat.
The small bird stiffens in the low starlight.
I know not how, but shuddering as I slept,
I dreamed a banished angel to me crept:
My feet were nourished on her breasts all night.

George Meredith
from Modern Love, 1862

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George Meredith biography

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Christmas Ghost Story / Thomas Hardy

A Christmas Ghost Story

South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
A mouldering soldier lies -- your countryman.
Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
Nightly to clear Canopus: 'I would know
By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
Of peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?
And what of logic or of truth appears
In tacking "Anno Domini" to the years?
Near twenty-hundred liveried thus have hied,
But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.'

Thomas Hardy
Christmas Eve, 1899

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

Thomas Hardy biography

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Carols / Edmund H. Sears

Christmas Carols

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Edmund H. Sears, 1849
from Sermons and Songs of the Christian Life, 1875

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Edmund H. Sears biography

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Huron Carol / trans. J. Edgar Middleton

The Huron Carol

’Twas in the moon of wintertime,
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wand'ring hunters heard the hymn:

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless Infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou,
The holy Child of earth and Heav’n
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy,
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy

Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Jean de Brebeuf, ca.1643
translated by J. Edgar Middleton, 1926

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

J. Edgar Middleton biography
Jean de Brebeuf biography
About the Huron Carol

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Carol / G.K. Chesterton

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

G.K. Chesterton
from The Wild Knight and other poems, 1900

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

G.K. Chesterton biography

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Carol / Sara Teasdale

Christmas Carol

The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs --
They had not any gold.

The wise men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door,
The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

Sara Teasdale
from Helen of Troy and other poems, 1911

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

Sara Teasdale biography

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour / Ben Jonson

A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour

I sing the birth was born tonight,
The Author both of life and light;
The angels so did sound it,
And like the ravished shepherds said,
Who saw the light, and were afraid,
Yet searched, and true they found it.

The Son of God, the eternal King,
That did us all salvation bring,
And freed the soul from danger;
He whom the whole world could not take,
The Word, which heaven and earth did make,
Was now laid in a manger.

The Father's wisdom willed it so,
The Son's obedience knew no "No,"
Both wills were in one stature;
And as that wisdom had decreed,
The Word was now made Flesh indeed,
And took on Him our nature.

What comfort by Him do we win?
Who made Himself the Prince of sin,
To make us heirs of glory?
To see this Babe, all innocence,
A Martyr born in our defense,
Can man forget this story?

Ben Jonson
circa 1600
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Ben Jonson biography

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In the Bleak Mid-winter / Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Christina Rossetti, 1872
from Poetical Works, 1904

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Christina Rossetti biography
About "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Christmas / Harriet Monroe

The child wants a teddy-bear and tracks and engines that light up and go; the youth wants a lettered sweater or a million dollars or a sweetheart; Mr. Mussolini wants the earth; the poet wants the moon; the saint wants God. Here we all are, wanting something — and usually the unattainable.

One may measure a man or a civilization by the quality of his-its-wants, and his-its-miracle-power of transmuting them into forms of approximate reality. In other words, one's measure is the imagination both static and militant, the dream that cannot stop with a vision, an idea, but must be on the way toward some kind of fulfilment, whether in action or the arts.

Nearly two thousand years ago a great creative spirit gave the world a vision of truth and righteousness which stimulated the want-instinct of western nations into more activity than any earlier teacher had been able to arouse. Through all these twenty centuries this want-instinct has persisted. Though often dulled almost to obliteration by narrow interpretations, by vicious violations, by passionate persecutions, it is still a shining goal far ahead of the race, something beautiful and unattainable which illuminates and perpetually attracts man's slow and halting footsteps. Its persistence is a proof of its vitality; the fire once lighted refuses to go out. We flatter ourselves that the race has advanced a little during these twenty centuries toward the elusive splendor, but probably another two thousand years will find our successors but little nearer to that ultimate infinite illumination.

Christmas, as we know it, is a symbol, a recognition, a flower on the altar, a bow in passing. It says a tiny yes to the dream, it sings a little song. In lighting our small red candles, in giving our paltry gifts, we pay a slight tribute, not only to the infinite spirit of love typified by the great hero whose birth we celebrate, but to all the lesser heroes who have been strongly inspired by the beauty of his life and the triumphant tragedy of his death. We turn from our familiar paths to pause a moment at a shrine heaped with noble treasures; a shrine where, to the end of time, the spirit of man will receive and carry away a richer treasure than anything he can bring.

Harriet Monroe
from Poetry, December 1926

[Essay is in the public domain in Canada and the European Union]

Harriet Monroe biography

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in the Olden Time / Walter Scott

Christmas in the Olden Time

Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deemed the new born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.
And well our Christian sires of old.
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hail was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe,
Then opened wide the baron’s hail
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair!”
All hailed with uncontroll’d delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hail table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon: its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old, blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbon, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visor made
But oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
A poor man’s heart through half the year.

Walter Scott
from Marmion, 1808

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Walter Scott biography

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The True Christmas / Henry Vaughan

The True Christmas

So stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing
And mortifies the earth and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flowers, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts’ warm snow,
That very dress your lightness will
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show:
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate;
But to the manger’s mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth;
And all man’s greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.
Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherd’s watchfulness:
Whom light and hymns from heaven did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.

Henry Vaughan, 1678

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Henry Vaughan biography

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Woodman, spare that tree! / George P. Morris

Woodman, spare that tree!

Woodman, spare that tree!
      Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
      And I'll protect it now.
'Twas my forefather's hand
      That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
      Thy axe shall harm it not!

That old familiar tree,
      Whose glory and renown
Are spread o'er land and sea,
      And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
      Cut not its earth-bound ties;
O, spare that aged oak,
      Now towering to the skies!

When but an idle boy
      I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
      Here too my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
      My father pressed my hand --
Forgive this foolish tear,
      But let that old oak stand!

My heart-strings round thee cling,
      Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
      And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
      And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I've a hand to save,
      Thy axe shall hurt it not.

George Pope Morris, 1830
from The Deserted Bride, and other poems, 1838

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George P. Morris biography

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Empty Places / Marjory Nicholls

The Empty Places

A wind is sighing wistfully
Down the valley quiet and lonely,
No green leaves to stir and quicken,
Blowing over gray grass only.

Blackened, gray and moss-enamelled,
Here and there are tree-trunks showing,
Lichen-stained, the old stumps crumble
In their rifts, green fern fronds growing.

Desolate and sad the valley,
And the little stream unshaded,
Sadly flows in shrunken beauty
By its banks once forest-shaded.

Now I hear a sheep call faintly,
Then the rustle of the grasses,
Such a mournful silence breaking,
As the wistful wind down-passes.

Tane! Tane! Is it you
Mourning in the empty places
Where your forest trees once grew?
Where the rimu's drooping green
And the kowhai's gold were seen;
And the matai's lofty head
And the rata, burning red;
Where konini berries hung
And the birds your praises sung?
When the sun could only gleam
In shafts, leaf-piercing, on the stream;
When vivid, glowing, pulsing life
Beauty achieved in forest strife –
Tane! Tane! is it you
Mourning in the empty places
Where your forest trees once grew?

Marjory Nicholls
from Gathered Leaves, 1922

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

17 - Tane: a giant kauri tree, over 2,000 years old.
20-24 - rimu, kowhai, matai, rata, konini - native New Zealand trees.

Marjory Nicholls biography

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beautiful Old Age / D.H. Lawrence

Beautiful Old Age

It ought to be lovely to be old
to be full of the peace that comes of experience
and wrinkled ripe fulfilment.

The wrinkled smile of completeness that follows a life
lived undaunted and unsoured with accepted lies.
If people lived without accepting lies
they would ripen like apples, and be scented like pippins
in their old age.

Soothing, old people should be, like apples
when one is tired of love.
Fragrant like yellowing leaves, and dim with the soft
stillness and satisfaction of autumn.

And a girl should say:
It must be wonderful to live and grow old.
Look at my mother, how rich and still she is! --

And a young man should think: By Jove
my father has faced all weathers, but it's been a life! --

D.H. Lawrence
From Pansies, 1929

[All rights reserved by the author's estate - Please do not copy]

D.H. Lawrence biography

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The New Plaything / Ring Lardner

The New Plaything

I wonder what your thought will be
And what you'll say and do, sir,
When you come home again and see
What Daddy's got for you, sir.

I wonder if you'll like it, boy,
Or turn away disgusted.
(You've often scorned a nice, new toy
For one that's old and busted.)

I wonder if you'll laugh, or cry
And run in fright to mother,
Or just act bored to death, when I
Show you your brand new brother.

Ring Lardner
Bib Ballads, 1915

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

Ring Lardner biography

Penny's Top 20 - November 2011

The 20 most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog during November 2011:

  1.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  2.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens 
  3.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
  4.  Song (Man's a poor deluded bubble), Robert Dodsley
  5.   The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day
         Lydia Maria Child
  6.   For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon
  7.   Wind and Silver, Amy Lowell
  8.  Portrait, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
  9.  Rain in the Desert, John Gould Flether
10.  Autumn Song, George Dance

11.  How He Died, Ernest Howard Crosby
12.  September Night, George Dance
13.  Sonnet on the Luxembourg Gallery, Washington Allston
14.  Sonnet. The Token, John Donne
15.  Dance Pageant, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
16.  Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion, Wallace Stevens
17.  The Winds, Madison Cawein
18.  Three Grey Days, Francis Sherman
19.  There is a Garden in Her Face, Thomas Campion
20.  November, F.W. Harvey

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wind and Silver / Amy Lowell

Wind and Silver

Greatly shining,
The Autumn moon floats in the thin sky;
And the fish-ponds shake their backs and flash their dragon scales
As she passes over them.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
from What's O'Clock, 1925

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

Amy Lowell biography

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Winds / Madison Cawein

The Winds

Those hewers of the clouds, the winds,— that lair
     At the four compass-points,— are out to-night;
     I hear their sandals trample on the height,
I hear their voices trumpet through the air.
Builders of Storm, God's workmen, now they bear,
     Up the steep stair of sky, on backs of might,
     Huge tempest bulks, while,— sweat that blinds their sight,—
The rain is shaken from tumultuous hair:
Now, sweepers of the firmament, they broom,
     Like gathered dust, the rolling mists along
     Heaven's floors of sapphire; all the beautiful blue
Of skyey corridor and aëry room
     Preparing, with large laughter and loud song,
     For the white moon and stars to wander through.

Madison Cawein
from Weeds by the Wall, 1901

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

Madison Cawein biography

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day / Lydia Maria Child

The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day

Over the river, and through the wood,
To grandfather's house we go!
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh,
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather's house away!
We would not stop
For doll or top,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
With a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark,
And children hark,
As we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurray for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
No matter for winds that blow,
Or if we get
The sleigh upset,
Into a bank of snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To see little John and Ann.
We will kiss them all,
And play snow-ball,
And stay as long as we can.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple grey!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate,
We seem to go
Extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells,
He shakes his pow,
With a loud bow-wow,
And thus the news he tells.

Over the river, and through the wood,
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, "Oh, dear,
The children are here,
bring a pie for every one."

Over the river, and through the wood,
Now grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Lydia Maria Child
from Flowers for Children, 1845

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Lydia Maria Child biography

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Song (Man's a poor deluded bubble) / Robert Dodsley


Man's a poor deluded bubble,
     Wand'ring in a mist of lies,
Seeing false, or seeing double,
     Who wou'd trust to such weak eyes?
Yet presuming on his senses,
     On he goes most wond'rous wise:
Doubts of truth, believes pretences;
      Lost in error, lives and dies.

Robert Dodsley (1703-1764)
from Trifles, 1745

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Robert Dodsley biography

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How He Died / Ernest Howard Crosby

How He Died

So he died for his faith. That is fine.
   More than most of us do.
But stay; can you add to that line
   That he lived for it too?

It is easy to die. Men have died
   For a wish or a whim --
From bravado, from passion or pride;
   Was it harder for him?

But to live; every day to live out
   All the truth that he dreamt,
While his friends met his conduct with doubt,
   And the world with contempt --

Was it thus that he plodded ahead,
   Never turning aside?
Then we'll talk of the life that he led,
   Never mind how he died.

Ernest Howard Crosby
from Plain Talk in Psalm and Parable, 1899.

[Poem is in the public domain]

Ernest Howard Crosby biography

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rain in the Desert / John Gould Fletcher

from Arizona Poems:

Rain in the Desert

The huge red-buttressed mesa over yonder
Is merely a far-off temple where the sleepy sun is burning
Its altar fires of pinyon and toyon for the day.

The old priests sleep, white-shrouded;
Their pottery whistles lie beside them, the prayer-sticks closely feathered.
On every mummied face there glows a smile.

The sun is rolling slowly
Beneath the sluggish folds of the sky-serpents,
Coiling, uncoiling, blue black, sparked with fires.

The old dead priests
Feel in the thin dried earth that is heaped about them,
Above the smell of scorching, oozing pinyon,
The acrid smell of rain.

And now the showers
Surround the mesa like a troop of silver dancers:
Shaking their rattles, stamping, chanting, roaring,
Whirling, extinguishing the last red wisp of light.

John Gould Fletcher
from The New Poetry: An Anthology, 1917

[All rights reserved by the author's estate - Please do not copy]

John Gould Fletcher biography

Saturday, November 12, 2011

There is a Garden in her face / Thomas Campion

There is a Garden in Her face

There is a Garden in her face,
Where Roses and white Lillies grow ;
A heav'nly paradise is that place,
Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.
There Cherries grow, which none may buy
Till Cherry ripe themselves do cry.

Those Cherries fairly do enclose
Of Orient Pearl a double row ;
Which when her lovely laughter showes,
They look like Rose-buds fill'd with snow.
Yet them nor Peere nor Prince can buy,
Till Cherry ripe themselves do cry.

Her Eyes like Angels watch them still;
Her Brows like bended bows do stand,
Threat'ning with piercing frowns to kill
All that attempt with eye or hand
Those sacred Cherries to come nigh,
Till Cherry ripe themselves do cry.

Thomas Campion
from The Third and Fourth Book of Airs, 1617
[Poem is in the public domain]

Thomas Campion biography

Friday, November 11, 2011

For the Fallen / Laurence Binyon

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon, (1869-1943), 1914
from For the Fallen, and other poems, 1917

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

Laurence Binyon biography

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Penny's Top 20 - October 2011

The 20 most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog during October 2011:

  1.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  2.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
  3.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
  4.  Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Wallace Stevens
  5.  Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery 

  6.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens 
  7.  These are the days when Birds come back. Emily Dickinson
  8.  September Night, George Dance
  9,  Sonnet. The Token, John Donne
10.  A Vagabond Song, Bliss Carman

11.  The Trees at Night, William Kerr
12. Autumn, George Sterling
13. Angel's Song, Hieronymous 707
14. Once, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
15.  Puella Parvula, Wallace Stevens

16.  Let No Charitable Hope, Elinor Wylie
17.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens
18.  Wheatfield Concerts, James D. Senetto
19.  Shadows, Richard Monckton Milnes
20.  Only until this cigarette is ended, Edna St. Vincent Millay

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sonnet on the Luxembourg Gallery /
Washington Allston

Sonnet on the Luxembourg Gallery

There is a Charm no vulgar mind can reach.
No critick thwart, no mighty master teach;
A Charm how mingled of the good and ill!
Yet still so mingled that the mystick whole
Shall captive hold the struggling Gazer's will,
'Till vanquish'd reason own its full control.
And such, oh Rubens, thy mysterious art,
The charm that vexes, yet enslaves the heart!
Thy lawless style, from timid systems free,
Impetuous rolling like a troubled sea,
High o'er the rocks of reason's lofty verge
Impending hangs; yet, ere the foaming surge
Breaks o'er the bound, the refluent ebb of taste
Back from the shore impels the wat'ry waste.

Washington Allston
from The Sylphs of the Season, 1813

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Washington Allston biography

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Three Grey Days / Francis Sherman

Three Grey Days

If she would come, now, and say, What will you, Lover? —
She who has the fairest gifts of all the earth to give —
Think you I should ask some tremendous thing to prove her,
Her life, say, and all her love, so long as she might live? . . .
Should I touch her hair? her hands? her garments, even?
Nay! for such rewards the gods their own good time have set!
Once, these were all mine; the least, poor one was heaven:
Now, lest she remember, I pray that she forget.

Merely should I ask — ah! she would not refuse them
Who still seems very kind when I meet with her in dreams —
Only three of our old days, and — should she help to choose
them —
Would the first not be in April, beside the sudden streams? . . .
Once, upon a morning, up the path that we had taken,
We saw Spring come where the willow-buds are gray,
Heard the high hills, as with tread of armies, shaken;
Felt the strong sun — O the glory of that day!

And then — what? one afternoon of quiet summer weather!
O, woodlands and meadow-lands along the blue St. John,
My birch finds a path — though your rafts lie close together —
Then O! what starry miles before the gray o’ the dawn! . . .
I have met the new day, among the misty islands,
Come with whine of saw-mills and whirr of hidden wings,
Gleam of dewy cobwebs, smell of grassy highlands, —
Ah! the blood grows young again thinking of these things.

Then, last and best of all! Though all else were found hollow
Would Time not send a little space, before the Autumn’s close,
And lead us up the road — the old road we used to follow
Among the sunset hills till the Hunter’s Moon arose? . . .
Then, home through the poplar-wood! damp across our faces
The gray leaves that fall, the moths that flutter by:
Yea! this for me, now, of all old hours and places,
To keep when I am dead, Time, until she come to die.

Francis Sherman (1871-1926)
From A Canadian Calendar, 1900

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

Francis Sherman biography

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shadows / Richard Monckton Milnes


They seem'd, to those who saw them meet,
    The casual friends of every day;
Her smile was undisturb'd and sweet,
    His courtesy was free and gay.

But yet if one the other's name
    In some unguarded moment heard,
The heart you thought so calm and tame
    Would struggle like a captured bird:

And letters of mere formal phrase
    Were blister'd with repeated tears,—
And this was not the work of days,
    But had gone on for years and years!

Alas, that love was not too strong
    For maiden shame and manly pride!
Alas, that they delay'd so long
    The goal of mutual bliss beside!

Yet what no chance could then reveal,
    And neither would be first to own,
Let fate and courage now conceal,
    When truth could bring remorse alone.

Richard Monckton Milnes
from Poetry for the People, and other poems, 1840.

[Poem is in the public domain]

Richard Monckton Milnes biography

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn Treasure / Richard Le Gallienne

Autumn Treasure

Who will gather with me the fallen year,
This drift of forgotten forsaken leaves,
Ah! who give ear
To the sigh October heaves
At summer's passing by!
Who will come walk with me
On this Persian carpet of purple and gold
The weary autumn weaves,
And be as sad as I?
Gather the wealth of the fallen rose,
And watch how the memoried south wind blows
Old dreams and old faces upon the air,
And all things fair.

Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)
from The Lonely Dancer and Other Poems, 1913

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

Richard Le Gallienne autobiography

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let me Sing of What I Know / William Allingham

Let me Sing of What I Know

A wild west Coast, a little Town,
Where little Folk go up and down,
Tides flow and winds blow:
Night and Tempest and the Sea,
Human Will and Human Fate:
What is little, what is great?
Howsoe'er the answer be,
Let me sing of what I know.

William Allingham
from Sixteen Poems of William Allingham, 1905.

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

William Allingham biography

Sunday, October 16, 2011

At the End of September / Sandor Petofi

At the End of September

The garden flowers still blossom in the vale,
    Before our house the poplars still are green;
But soon the mighty winter will prevail;
    Snow is already on the mountain seen.
The summer sun’s benign and warming ray
    Still moves my youthful heart, now in its spring;
But lo! my hair shows signs of turning gray,
    The wintry days thereto their colors bring.

This life is short; too early fades the rose;
    To sit here on my knee, my darling, come;
Wilt thou who on my breast dost now repose,
    Not kneel, perhaps, to-morrow o’er my tomb?
O! tell me, if before thee I should die,
    Wilt thou, with broken heart, weep o’er my bier,
Or will some youth efface my memory,
    And with his love soon dry the mournful tear?

If thou dost lay aside the widow’s veil,
    Pray hang it o’er my tomb. At midnight I
Shall rise, and, coming forth from death’s dark vale
    Take it with me to where, forgot, I lie,
And stanch with it my ceaseless flowing tears,
    Flowing for thee who hast forgotten me,
And bind my bleeding heart, which ever bears,
    Even then and there, the truest love for thee.

Sandor Petofi
trnslated by William N. Loew
from Gems of Petofi, 1881

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October / Elinor Wylie


Beauty has a tarnished dress,
And a patchwork cloak of cloth
Dipped deep in mournfulness,
Striped like a moth.

Wet grass where it trails
Dyes it green along the hem;
She has seven silver veils
With cracked bells on them.

She is tired of all these --
Grey gauze, translucent lawn;
The broad cloak of Herakles.
Is tangled flame and fawn.

Water and light are wearing thin:
She has drawn above her head
The warm enormous lion skin
Rough red and gold.

Elinor Wylie (1885-1928}

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

Elinor Wylie biography by George Dance

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Trees at Night / William Kerr

The Trees at Night

Under vague silver moonlight
The trees are lovely and ghostly,
In the pale blue of the night
There are few stars to see.

The leaves are green still, but brown-blent:
They stir not, only known
By a poignant delicate scent
To the lonely moon blown.

The lonely lovely trees sigh
For summer spent and gone:
A few homing leaves drift by,
Poor souls bewildered and wan.

William Kerr
from Georgian Poetry 1920-1922, 1922

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

William Kerr biography

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Autumn / George Sterling


Now droops the troubled year
And now her tiny sunset stains the leaf.
A holy fear,
A rapt, elusive grief,
Make imminent the swift, exalting tear.

The long wind's weary sigh —
Knowest, O listener! for what it wakes?
Adown the sky
What star of Time forsakes
Her pinnacle? What dream and dreamer die?

A presence half-divine
Stands at the threshold, ready to depart
Without a sign.
Now seems the world's deep heart
About to break. What sorrow stirs in mine?

A mist of twilight rain
Hides now the orange edges of the day.
In vain, in vain
We labor that thou stay,
Beauty who wast, and shalt not be again!

George Sterling (1869-1926)
From The House of Orchids, and other poems, 1911

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

George Sterling biography

Saturday, October 8, 2011

These are the days when Birds come back /
Emily Dickinson

These are the days when Birds come back —
A very few — a Bird or two —
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old — old sophistries of June —
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee —
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear —
And softly thro' the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze —
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake —
They consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Emily Dickinson biography

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Penny's Top 20 - September 2011

The 20 most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog during September 2011:

  1.  November, F.W. Harvey 
  2.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens 
  3.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
  4.  Songs, Demonspawn
  5.  Oxford Cheese Ode, James McIntyre

  6.  Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery
  7.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
  8.  Summer Evening, Walter de la Mare
  9,  Moonlight and Common Day, Louise Morey Bowman
10.  September Night, George Dance

11.  Lorelei's Song / Das Loreleylied, Heinrich Heine
12.  The Man with the Blue Guitar, Wallace Stevens
13.  Daily News, George Dance
14.  Autumn Evening, Frances Cornford
15.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens

16.  A Duet, T. Sturge Moore
17.  Lucky Penny, George Dance
18.  In the Shadows, Pauline Johnson
19.  Talking in their Sleep, Edith M. Thomas
20.  Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Wallace Stevens

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The October Redbreast / Alice Meynell

The October Redbreast

Autumn is weary, halt, and old;
     Ah, but she owns the song of joy!
Her colours fade, her woods are cold.
     Her singing-bird’s a boy, a boy.

In lovely Spring the birds were bent
     On nests, on use, on love, forsooth!
Grown-up were they. This boy’s content,
     For his is liberty, his is youth.

The musical stripling sings for play
     Taking no thought, and virgin-glad.
For duty sang those mates in May.
     This singing-bird’s a lad, a lad.

Alice Meynell
from Last Poems, 1923 

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

Alice Meynell biography

Saturday, October 1, 2011

World-Strangeness / William Watson


Strange the world about me lies,
     Never yet familiar grown —
Still disturbs me with surprise,
     Haunts me like a face half known.

In this house with starry dome,
     Floored with gemlike plains and seas,
Shall I never feel at home,
     Never wholly be at ease?

On from room to room I stray,
     Yet my Host can ne'er espy,
And I know not to this day
     Whether guest or captive I.

So, between the starry dome
     And the floor of plains and seas,
I have never felt at home,
     Never wholly been at ease.

William Watson (1858-1935)
from The Poems of William Watson, 1893

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

William Watson biography

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autumn / Theodore Harding Rand


In summer's dreary ear, as suns go by
Whose yellow beams are dulled with langorous motes,
The deep vibrations of the cosmic notes
Are as the voice of those that prophesy.
Her spirit kindles, and her filmy eye!
In haste the fluttering robe, whose glory floats
In pictured folds, her eager soul devote -
Lo, she with her winged harper sweeps the sky!

Splendours of blossomed time, like poppies red,
Distil dull slumbers o'er the engaged soul
And thrall with sensuous pomp its azured dower;
Till, roused by vibrant touch from the unseen Power,
The spirit keen, freed from the painted dead,
On wings mounts up to reach its living Goal.

Theodore Harding Rand

[Poem is in the public domain]

Theodore Harding Rand biography

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Autumn Evening / Frances Cornford

Autumn Evening

The shadows flickering, the daylight dying,
And I upon the old red sofa lying,
The great brown shadows leaping up the wall,
The sparrows twittering; and that is all.

I thought to send my soul to far-off lands,
Where fairies scamper on the windy sands,
Or where the autumn rain comes drumming down
On huddled roofs in an enchanted town.

But O, my sleepy soul, it will not roam,
It is too happy and too warm at home:
With just the shadows leaping up the wall,
The sparrows twittering; and that is all.

Frances Cornford (1886-1960)
from Spring Morning, 1915

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

Frances Cornford biography.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September / Seranus


Birds that were gray in the green are black in the yellow.
Here where the green remains rocks one little fellow.

Quaker in gray, do you know that the green is going?
More than that — do you know that the yellow is showing?

Singer of songs, do you know that your youth is flying?
That Age will soon at the lock of your life be prying?

Lover of life, do you know that the brown is going?
More than that — do you know that the gray is showing?

from Pine, Rose and Fleur De Lis, 1891.

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

Seranus biography

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oxford Cheese Ode / James McIntyre

Oxford Cheese Ode

The ancient poets ne'er did dream
That Canada was land of cream,
They ne'er imagined it could flow
In this cold land of ice and snow,
Where everything did solid freeze,
They never hoped or looked for cheese.

A few years since our Oxford farms
Were nearly robbed of all their charms,
O'er cropped the weary land grew poor
And nearly barren as a moor,
But now the owners live at ease
Rejoicing in their crop of cheese.

And since they justly treat the soil,
Are well rewarded for their toil,
The land enriched by goodly cows,
Yields plenty now to fill their mows,
Both wheat and barley, oats and peas
But still their greatest boast is cheese.

And you must careful fill your mows
With good provender for your cows,
And in the winter keep them warm,
Protect them safe all time from harm,
For cows do dearly love their ease,
Which doth insure best grade of cheese.

To us it is a glorious theme
To sing of milk and curds and cream,
Were it collected it could float
Upon its bosom, small steam boat,
Cows numerous as swarm of bees
Are milked in Oxford to make cheese.

James McIntyre (1828-1906)
from Musings on the Banks of Canadian Thames, 1884

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

James McIntyre biography

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Summer Evening / Walter de la Mare

Summer Evening

The sandy cat by the Farmer's chair
Mews at his knee for dainty fare;
Old Rover in his moss-greened house
Mumbles a bone, and barks at a mouse
In the dewy fields the cattle lie
Chewing the cud 'neath a fading sky
Dobbin at manger pulls his hay:
Gone is another summer's day.

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
from Peacock Pie, 1913

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

Walter de la Mare biography

Friday, September 16, 2011

Between the dusk of a summer night /
William Ernest Henley


Between the dusk of a summer night
     And the dawn of a summer day,
We caught at a mood as it passed in flight,
     And we bade it stop and stay.
And what with the dawn of night began
     With the dusk of day was done;
For that is the way of woman and man,
     When a hazard has made them one.
Arc upon arc, from shade to shine,
     The World went thundering free;
And what was his errand but hers and mine --
     The lords of him, I and she?
O, it's die we must, but it's live we can,
     And the marvel of earth and sun
Is all for the joy of woman and man
     And the longing that makes them one.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
from Hawthorne and Lavender, 1901

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

William Ernest Henley biography

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Morning in the Hills / Bliss Carman

Morning in the Hills

How quiet is the morning in the hills!
The stealthy shadows of the summer clouds
Trail through the cañon, and the mountain stream
Sounds his sonorous music far below
In the deep-wooded wind-enchanted cove.

Hemlock and aspen, chestnut, beech, and fir
Go tiering down from storm-worn crest and ledge,
While in the hollows of the dark ravine
See the red road emerge, then disappear
Towards the wide plain and fertile valley lands.

My forest cabin half-way up the glen
Is solitary, save for one wise thrush,
The sound of falling water, and the wind
Mysteriously conversing with the leaves.

Here I abide unvisited by doubt,
Dreaming of far-off turmoil and despair,
The race of men and love and fleeting time,
What life may be, or beauty, caught and held
For a brief moment at eternal poise.

What impulse now shall quicken and make live
This outward semblance and this inward self?
One breath of being fills the bubble world,
Colored and frail, with fleeting change on change.

Surely some God contrived so fair a thing
In the vast leisure of uncounted days,
And touched it with the breath of living joy,
Wondrous and fair and wise! It must be so.

Bliss Carman
from Echoes from Vagabondia, 1912

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

Bliss Carman biography by George Dance

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ballade of Summer's Sleep / Archibald Lampman

Ballade of Summer's Sleep

Sweet summer is gone; they have laid her away —
     The last sad hours that were touched with her grace —
In the hush where the ghosts of the dead flowers play;
    The sleep that is sweet of her slumbering space
Let not a sight or a sound erase
     Of the woe that hath fallen on all the lands:
Gather, ye dreams, to her sunny face,
     Shadow her head with your golden hands.

The woods that are golden and red for a day
     Girdle the hills in a jewelled case,
Like a girl’s strange mirth, ere the quick death slay
     The beautiful life that he hath in chase.
Darker and darker the shadows pace
     Out of the north to the southern sands,
Ushers bearing the winter’s mace:
     Keep them away with your woven hands.

The yellow light lies on the wide wastes gray,
     More bitter and cold than the winds that race,
From the skirts of the autumn, tearing away,
     This way and that way, the woodland lace.
In the autumn’s cheek is a hectic trace;
     Behind her the ghost of the winter stands;
Sweet summer will moan in her soft gray place:
     Mantle her head with your glowing hands.


Till the slayer be slain and the spring displace
     The might of his arms with her rose-crowned bands,
Let her heart not gather a dream that is base:
      Shadow her head with your golden hands.

Archibald Lampman
Among the Millet, and other poems, 1888

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Archibald Lampman biography by George Dance

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Song for September / Thomas William Parsons

A Song for September

September strews the woodland o'er
     With many a brilliant color;
The world is brighter than before,—
     Why should our hearts be duller?
Sorrow and the scarlet leaf,
     Sad thoughts and sunny weather!
Ah me! this glory and this grief
     Agree not well together.

This is the parting season,— this
     The time when friends are flying;
And lovers now, with many a kiss,
     Their long farewells are sighing.
Why is Earth so gayly dressed?
     This pomp, that Autumn beareth,
A funeral seems where every guest
     A bridal garment weareth.

Each one of us, perchance, may here,
     On some blue morn hereafter,
Return to view the gaudy year,
     But not with boyish laughter.
We shall then be wrinkled men,
     Our brows with silver laden,
And thou this glen may'st seek again,
     But nevermore a maiden!

Nature perhaps foresees that Spring
     Will touch her teeming bosom,
And that a few brief months will bring
     The bird, the bee, the blossom;
Ah! these forests do not know —
     Or would less brightly wither —
The virgin that adorns them so
     Will nevermore come hither!

Thomas William Parsons (1819-1892)
from Poems, 1854.

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Thomas William Parsons biography

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In the Gardens of Shushan / Marjorie Pickthall

In the Gardens of Shushan

Be pitiful! Her lips have touched this cool
Clear stream that sets the long green leaves astir.
The very doves that dream beside the pool
     Sang their soft notes to her.

For her these doors that claim the amorous south,
Bound in red bronze and stayed with cedar-wood.
And here the bees sought honey from her mouth,
     So like a flower she stood.

For her the globed pomegranates grew, and all
Sweet savoury fruits rose perfect from their flower.
Here has her soul known silence and the fall
     Of each enchanted hour.

Under her feet all beauty was laid low,
In her deep eyes all beauty was made clear.
When the king called her through the evening glow,
     “O Vashti, I am here!”

Still the sweet wells return to me her face,
Still her lost name on every wind is blown.
The shadows and the silence of this place
     Are hers alone.

Marjorie Pickthall
from The Drift of Pinions, 1913

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

Marjorie Pickthall biography by George Dance

Friday, September 9, 2011

Moonlight and Common Day / Louise Morey Bowman

Moonlight and Common Day

Listen — you very very Few who will care to listen —
And I will tell you a story
Of moonlight.
Don’t imagine because I try to tell stories of moonlight
That I am a poet — neurotic and mystic —

(Dearly as I love the things that some poets — neurotic and mystic —
Can write!)
As for me I love good food and beautiful clothing,
And well-ordered, punctual living
Behind tall, well-clipped hedges;
And practical, common-sense people.
But still ——

Let us open my casement window, Beloved,
Where the dark leaves stir in the silence,
And the sweet, wet earth breathes softly
And murmurs an exquisite word.
Any moment out into the moonlight may issue
White creatures, and elfin-formed things that we know not,
Quaintly and solemnly marching and chaunting inaudibly.
Something stirs by the willows—
Do you know what that sound is, so lovely and shuddering?
It’s the owl’s cry.
The grave, small, gray owl that in purple dusk comes sometimes
To sit on my window-sill, eyes open, dreaming,—
Hark how he is linking us in with the moonlight,
Like a horn faintly blown in blue heaven.
(Do you remember, Beloved, a night,
Glad years ago in a pine-wood,
In the moon-lighted darkness—
How the rhythmical thunder of waves on the white shore
Blended with us and our heart-beats, Beloved?)

Let us lean from the window
As if faintly-blown horns have called us to answer three questions.
Is Life food and raiment and conquest?
Is Love conquest and intrigue and passion?
Is Death a gaunt figure white-shrouded
Dealing blows out of blackness?
Let us fling back our eternal “No!” as an answer—
To the listening Silence,
While the sweet, wet earth still breathes softly
An exquisite word.

But tomorrow
I shall go right on living
As unworthy as ever of the moonlight
Locked up in my soul.

• • •

That is my story of moonlight—
No story at all, now say you?
But it all lies written
Between the lines.

Louise Morey Bowman (1882-1944)
from Moonlight and Common Day, 1922

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

Louise Morey Bowman biography 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Last Rose of Summer / Thomas Moore

The Last Rose of Summer

'Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
From Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit,
This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore
From Irish Melodies, 1807

[Poem is in the public domain]

About this poem

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Duet / T. Sturge Moore

A Duet

'Flowers nodding gaily, scent in air,
Flowers posied, flowers for the hair,
Sleepy flowers, flowers bold to stare —'
'O pick me some!'

'Shells with lip, or tooth, or bleeding gum,
Tell-tale shells, and shells that whisper Come,
Shells that stammer, blush, and yet are dumb —'
'O let me hear.'

'Eyes so black they draw one trembling near,
Brown eyes, caverns flooded with a tear,
Cloudless eyes, blue eyes so windy clear —'
'O look at me!'

'Kisses sadly blown across the sea,
Darkling kisses, kisses fair and free,
Bob-a-cherry kisses 'neath a tree —'
'O give me one!'

Thus sang a king and queen in Babylon.

T. Sturge Moore
from The Vinedresser and Other Poems, 1899

[All rights reserved by the author's estate - Please do not copy]

T. Sturge Moore biography

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Contemplation Upon Flowers / Henry King

A Contemplation Upon Flowers

Brave flowers -- that I could gallant it like you,
And be as little vain!
You come abroad, and make a harmless show,
And to your beds of earth again.
You are not proud: you know your birth:
For your embroider'd garments are from earth.

You do obey your months and times, but I
Would have it ever Spring:
My fate would know no Winter, never die,
Nor think of such a thing.
O that I could my bed of earth but view
And smile, and look as cheerfully as you!

O teach me to see Death and not to fear,
But rather to take truce!
How often have I seen you at a bier,
And there look fresh and spruce!
You fragrant flowers! then teach me, that my breath
Like yours may sweeten and perfume my death.

Henry King
from Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes and Sonnets, 1657.
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Henry King biography

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Penny's Top 20 - August 2011

The 20 most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog during August 2011:

  1.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  2.  August Night, Sara Teasdale 
  3.  Impression: Le Reveillon, Oscar Wilde 
  4.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  5.  Heat in the City, Charles G.D. Roberts

  6.  Look at the Stars!, Gerard Manley Hopkins
  7.  When You Are Old, W.B. Yeats
  8.  Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Wallace Stevens
  9,  Songs, Demonspawn
10.  Stony Lake, Katherine Hale

11.   A Fading of the Sun, Wallace Stevens
12.  The Unnamed Lake, Frederick George Scott
13.  Improvisations on the Flute, Marjorie Pickthall
14.  Lorelei's Song / Das Loreleylied, Heinrich Heine
15.  Bird Cage, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau

16.  Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery
17.  Symbols, David Morton
18.  She walks in beauty, George Gordon, Lord Byron
19.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
20.  Good Books, Edgar Guest

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