Monday, December 31, 2012

The Death of the Old Year / Alfred Tennyson

The Death of the Old Year

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,
And the winter winds are wearily sighing:
Toll ye the church bell sad and slow,
And tread softly and speak low,
For the old year lies a-dying.
       Old year you must not die;
       You came to us so readily,
       You lived with us so steadily,
       Old year you shall not die.

He lieth still: he doth not move:
He will not see the dawn of day.
He hath no other life above.
He gave me a friend and a true truelove
And the New-year will take 'em away.
       Old year you must not go;
       So long you have been with us,
       Such joy as you have seen with us,
       Old year, you shall not go.

He froth'd his bumpers to the brim;
A jollier year we shall not see.
But tho' his eyes are waxing dim,
And tho' his foes speak ill of him,
He was a friend to me.
       Old year, you shall not die;
       We did so laugh and cry with you,
       I've half a mind to die with you,
       Old year, if you must die.

He was full of joke and jest,
But all his merry quips are o'er.
To see him die across the waste
His son and heir doth ride post-haste,
But he'll be dead before.
       Every one for his own.
       The night is starry and cold, my friend,
       And the New-year blithe and bold, my friend,
       Comes up to take his own.

How hard he breathes! over the snow
I heard just now the crowing cock.
The shadows flicker to and fro:
The cricket chirps: the light burns low:
'Tis nearly twelve o'clock.
       Shake hands, before you die.
       Old year, we'll dearly rue for you:
       What is it we can do for you?
       Speak out before you die.

His face is growing sharp and thin.
Alack! our friend is gone,
Close up his eyes: tie up his chin:
Step from the corpse, and let him in
That standeth there alone,
       And waiteth at the door.
       There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
       And a new face at the door, my friend,
       A new face at the door.

Alfred Tennyson
from Poems, 1842

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Alfred Tennyson biography

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas / Sophie Jewett


The Christmas bells ring discord overhead;
The angel-song fell silent long ago;
Nor seer, nor silly shepherd comes, star-led,
To kneel to-night beside a baby’s bed.
Peace is not yet, and wrong and want and woe
Cry in the city streets, and love is slow,
And sin is sleek and swift and housed and fed.

Dear Lord, our faith is faint, our hearts are sore;
Our prayers are as complaints, our songs as cries;
Fain would we hear the angel-voice once more,
And see the Star still lead along the skies;
Fain would, like sage and simple folk of yore,
Watch where the Christ-child smiles in Mary’s eyes.

Sophie Jewett, 1893
from The Poems of Sophie Jewett, 1910

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Sophie Jewett biography

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Sonnet / E.A. Woodward

Christmas Sonnet

The star that marked the birthplace of our King
Shone bright above that Bethlehem manger bed,
And by its gleams wise shepherds' feet were led
To pay him homage, and their treasures bring.
Now, to this star the world's great nations cling,
Revere the power that raised him from the dead,
With wreathes of love still crown that sacred head,
And waft to heaven the song which angels sing.
This song of "Peace on earth, good will t'ward men,"
Has charmed the vistas of earth's noblest thought;
Still guides the hand that wields immortal pen,
And crowns him king, who man's redemption bought –
Whose tireless feet o'er hill and valley's glen,
From heaven to earth a priceless message brought.

E.A. Woodward
from Sonnets and Acrostics, 1916

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

E.A. Woodward biography

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Carol / George Wither

A Christmas Carol

So now is come our joyful feast,
  Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
  And every post with holly.
     Though some churls at our mirth repine,
     Round your foreheads garlands twine,
     Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
  And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors' chimnies smoke,
  And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with baked meats choke,
  And all their spits are turning.
     Without the door let sorrow lie,
     And if for cold it hap to die,
     We'll bury it in a Christmas pie,
  And evermore be merry.

Now every lad is wondrous trim,
  And no man minds his labor;
Our lasses have provided them
  A bagpipe and a tabor.
     Young men and maids, and girls and boys,
     Give life to one another's joys;
     And you anon shall by their noise
  Perceive that they are merry.

Rank misers now do sparing shun,
  Their hall of music soundeth;
And dogs thence with whole shoulders run,
  So all things aboundeth.
     The country-folk themselves advance,
     For crowdy-mutton's come out of France;
     And Jack shall pipe and Jill shall dance,
  And all the town be merry.

Ned Swatch hath fetched his bands from pawn,
  And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath bought a ruff of lawn
  With droppings of the barrel.
     And those that hardly all the year
     Had bread to eat or rags to wear,
     Will have both clothes and dainty fare,
  And all the day be merry.

Now poor men to the justices
  With capons make their errands;
And if they hap to fail of these,
They plague them with their warrants.
     But now they feed them with good cheer,
     And what they want they take in beer,
     For Christmas comes but once a year,
And then they shall be merry.

Good farmers in the country nurse
  The poor, that else were undone;
Some landlords spend their money worse,
  On lust and pride at London.
     There the roisters they do play,
     Drab and dice their land away,
     Which may be ours another day;
  And therefore let's be merry.

The client now his suit forbears,
  The prisoner's heart is eased;
The debtor drinks away his cares,
  And for the time is pleased.
     Though others' purses be more fat,
     Why should we pine or grieve at that;
     Hang sorrow, care will kill a cat,
  And therefore let's be merry.

Hark how the wags abroad do call
  Each other forth to rambling;
Anon you'll see them in the hall,
  For nuts and apples scrambling;
     Hark how the roofs with laughters sound,
     Anon they'll think the house goes round;
     For they the cellar's depths have found,
  And there they will be merry.

The wenches with their wassail-bowls
  About the streets are singing;
The boys are come to catch the owls,
  The wild mare in is bringing.
     Our kitchen boy hath broke his box,
     And to the dealing of the ox
     Our honest neighbors come by flocks,
  And here they will be merry.

Now kings and queens poor sheep-cotes have,
  And mate with everybody;
The honest now may play the knave,
  And wise men play at noddy.
     Some youths will now a mumming go,
     Some others play at rowland-hoe,
     And twenty other gameboys moe;
  Because they will be merry.

Then wherefore in these merry days
  Should we, I pray, be duller?
No, let us sing some roundelays
  To make our mirth the fuller.
     And whilst we thus inspired sing,
     Let all the streets with echoes ring;
     Woods, and hills, and everything
  Bear witness we are merry.

George Wither
from Fair-virtue, the Mistress of Philarete, 1622

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George Wither biography

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Mahogany Tree / William Makepeace Thackeray

The Mahogany Tree 

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Shelter'd about
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perch'd round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit—
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short—
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we 'll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup.—
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.

William Makepeace Thackeray
from The Complete Poems of W.M. Thackeray, 1883

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

William Makepeace Thackeray biography

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve / Edgar Guest

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow morn she'll wake to see
The trinkets on her Christmas tree,
And find beside her little bed,
Where tenderly and soft of tread
Old Santa Claus has walked to leave
The toys that she might still believe.

Her stocking by the chimney place
Gives to the room a touch of grace
More beautiful than works of art
And velvet draperies can impart.
Here is a symbol of a trust
Richer than wisdom thick with dust.

I see it through the half swung door,
And smile to think long years before
I, too, on Christmas Eve was young
And eagerly a stocking hung
Beside the chimney just as she,
Ere knowledge stole my faith from me.

Upstairs about her bed there seems
The peace of childhood's lovely dreams,
And I, grown old, almost forget
The truths with which I am beset.
Upon this blessed Christmas Eve
I, too, in Santa Claus believe.

Edgar Guest

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Edgar Guest biography

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas (I) / George Herbert


After all pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tired, body and mind,
With full cry of affections, quite astray;
I took up the next inn I could find.

There when I came, whom found I but my dear,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to Him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?

Oh Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is Thy right,
To man of all beasts be not Thou a stranger:

Furnish and deck my soul, that Thou mayst have
A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.

George Herbert
from The Temple, 1633

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George Herbert biography

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas (II) / George Herbert


The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
      My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
      Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace
      Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
      Outsing the daylight hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
      Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
      Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sun
      Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
      As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
      And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.

George Herbert
from The Temple, 1633

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George Herbert biography

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To Winter / Robert Southey

To Winter

A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple-tree;
Blue-lipt, an icedrop at thy sharp blue nose,
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
Or taste the old October brown and bright.

Robert Southey, 1799

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Robert Southey biography

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christmas-Cake / Helen Maria Williams

To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me 
an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris

What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!

Helen Maria Williams (1762-1827)
from Poems on Various Subjects, 1823

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Helen Maria Williams biography

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December / Stuart Livingston


The woods that summer loved are grey and bare;
The sombre trees stretch up their arms on high,
In mute appeal, against the leaden sky;
A flurry faint of snow is in the air.
All day the clouds have hung in heavy fold
Above the valley, where grey shadows steal;
And I, who sit and watch them, seem to feel
A touch of sadness as the day grows old.
But o'er my fancy comes a tender face,
A dream of curls that float like sunlight golden,
A subtle fragrance, filling all the place,
The whisper of a story that is olden
Till breaks the sun through dull December skies,
And all the world is springtime in the deep blue of her eyes.

Stuart Livingston
from In Various Moods, 1894

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

Stuart Livingston biography

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The sun that brief December day /
John Greenleaf Whittier

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
    A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
    The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,--
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

John Greenleaf Whitter (1807-1892)
from Snowbound: A Winter Idyl, 1866

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Greenleaf Whitter biography

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hendecasyllabics / Algernon Swinburne


In the month of the long decline of roses
I, beholding the summer dead before me,
Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent,
Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark
Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions
Half divided the eyelids of the sunset;
Till I heard as it were a noise of waters
Moving tremulous under feet of angels
Multitudinous, out of all the heavens;
Knew the fluttering wind, the fluttered foliage,
Shaken fitfully, full of sound and shadow;
And saw, trodden upon by noiseless angels,
Long mysterious reaches fed with moonlight,
Sweet sad straits in a soft subsiding channel,
Blown about by the lips of winds I knew not,
Winds not born in the north nor any quarter,
Winds not warm with the south nor any sunshine;
Heard between them a voice of exultation,
"Lo, the summer is dead, the sun is faded,
Even like as a leaf the year is withered,
All the fruits of the day from all her branches
Gathered, neither is any left to gather.
All the flowers are dead, the tender blossoms,
All are taken away; the season wasted,
Like an ember among the fallen ashes.
Now with light of the winter days, with moonlight,
Light of snow, and the bitter light of hoarfrost,
We bring flowers that fade not after autumn,
Pale white chaplets and crowns of latter seasons,
Fair false leaves (but the summer leaves were falser),
Woven under the eyes of stars and planets
When low light was upon the windy reaches
Where the flower of foam was blown, a lily
Dropt among the sonorous fruitless furrows
And green fields of the sea that make no pasture:
Since the winter begins, the weeping winter,
All whose flowers are tears, and round his temples
Iron blossom of frost is bound for ever."

Algernon Charles Swinburne
from Poems and Ballads, 1866

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December / Helen Hunt Jackson


The lakes of ice gleam bluer than the lakes
Of water 'neath the summer sunshine gleamed:
Far fairer than when placidly it streamed,
The brook its frozen architecture makes,
And under bridges white its swift way takes.
Snow comes and goes as messenger who dreamed
Might linger on the road; or one who deemed
His message hostile gently for their sakes
Who listened might reveal it by degrees.
We gird against the cold of winter wind
Our loins now with mighty bands of sleep,
In longest, darkest nights take rest and ease,
And every shortening day, as shadows creep
O'er the brief noontide, fresh surprises find.

Helen Hunt Jackson 
from A Calendar of Sonnets, 1891 

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Helen Hunt Jackson biography

Penny's Top 20 - November 2012

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in November  2012:

  1.  Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion, Wallace Stevens
  2.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  3.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
  4.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
  5.  That time of year thou mayst in me behold, William Shakespeare
  6.  The Anxious Dead, John McCrae
A City Sunset, T.E. Hulme
Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  9.  Autumn Rain, D.H. Lawrence

Men Made Out of Words, Wallace Stevens

11.  The March of the Dead, Robert W. Service

12.  I Speak Your Name, Sophie Jewett
13.  The Garden, Sara Teasdale
14.  In the Hand of the Wind, Theodore Goodridge Roberts

15.  Autumn, Thomas Nashe

16.  November, Helen Hunt Jackson

17.  Accompaniment / Accompagnement, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau

18.  Vowels / Voyelles, Arthur Rimbaud

19.  Cherry Ripe, Robert Herrick

The Reader, Wallace Stevens

Source: Blogger, "Stats"