Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow-flakes / Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Out of the bosom of the air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
from Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February / John Clare

A Thaw


The snow has left the cottage top;
   The thatch-moss grows in brighter green;
And eaves in quick succession drop,
   Where grinning icicles have been;
Pit-patting with a pleasant noise
   In tubs set by the cottage-door;
While ducks and geese, with happy joys,
   Plunge in the yard-pond brimming o’er.


The sun peeps through the window-pane;
   Which children mark with laughing eye,                    
And in the wet street steal again,
   To tell each other Spring is nigh:
Then, as young hope the past recalls,
   In playing groups they often draw,
To build beside the sunny walls
   Their spring-time huts of sticks or straw.


And oft in pleasure’s dreams they hie
   Round homesteads by the village side,
Scratching the hedgerow mosses by,
   Where painted pooty shells abide;                          
Mistaking oft the ivy spray
   For leaves that come with budding Spring,
And wond’ring, in their search for play,
   Why birds delay to build and sing.


The milkmaid singing leaves her bed,
   As glad as happy thoughts can be,
While magpies chatter o’er her head
   As jocund in the change as she:
Her cows around the closes stray,
   Nor ling’ring wait the foddering-boy;                      
Tossing the mole-hills in their play,
   And staring round with frolic joy.


The shepherd now is often seen
   Near warm banks o’er his hook to bend;
Or o’er a gate or stile to lean,
   Chattering to a passing friend:
Ploughmen go whistling to their toils,
   And yoke again the rested plough;
And, mingling o’er the mellow soils,
   Boys shout, and whips are noising now.


The barking dogs, by lane and wood,
   Drive sheep a-field from foddering ground;
And Echo, in her summer mood,
   Briskly mocks the cheering sound.
The flocks, as from a prison broke,
   Shake their wet fleeces in the sun,
While, following fast, a misty smoke
   Reeks from the moist grass as they run.


No more behind his master’s heels
   The dog creeps on his winter-pace;                        
But cocks his tail, and o’er the fields
   Runs many a wild and random chase,
Following, in spite of chiding calls,
   The startled cat with harmless glee,
Scaring her up the weed-green walls,
   Or mossy mottled apple tree.


As crows from morning perches fly,
   He barks and follows them in vain;
E’en larks will catch his nimble eye,
   And off he starts and barks again,                        
With breathless haste and blinded guess,
   Oft following where the hare hath gone;
Forgetting, in his joy’s excess,
   His frolic puppy-days are done!


The hedgehog, from his hollow root,
   Sees the wood-moss clear of snow,
And hunts the hedge for fallen fruit—
   Crab, hip, and winter-bitten sloe;
But often check’d by sudden fears,
   As shepherd-dog his haunt espies,                          
He rolls up in a ball of spears,
   And all his barking rage defies.


The gladdened swine bolt from the sty,
   And round the yard in freedom run,
Or stretching in their slumbers lie
   Beside the cottage in the sun.
The young horse whinneys to his mate,
   And, sickening from the thresher’s door,
Rubs at the straw-yard’s banded gate,
   Longing for freedom on the moor.                          


The small birds think their wants are o’er,
   To see the snow-hills fret again,
And, from the barn’s chaff-littered door,
   Betake them to the greening plain.
The woodman’s robin startles coy,
   Nor longer to his elbow comes,
To peck, with hunger’s eager joy,
   ’Mong mossy stulps the littered crumbs.


’Neath hedge and walls that screen the wind,
   The gnats for play will flock together;                    
And e’en poor flies some hope will find
   To venture in the mocking weather;
From out their hiding-holes again,
   With feeble pace, they often creep
Along the sun-warmed window-pane,
   Like dreaming things that walk in sleep.


The mavis thrush with wild delight,
   Upon the orchard’s dripping tree,
Mutters, to see the day so bright,
   Fragments of young Hope’s poesy:                          
And oft Dame stops her buzzing wheel
   To hear the robin’s note once more,
Who tootles while he pecks his meal
   From sweet-briar hips beside the door.


The sunbeams on the hedges lie,
   The south wind murmurs summer soft;
The maids hang out white clothes to dry
   Around the elder-skirted croft:
A calm of pleasure listens round,
   And almost whispers Winter by;                            
While Fancy dreams of Summer’s sound,
   And quiet rapture fills the eye.


Thus Nature of the Spring will dream
   While south winds thaw; but soon again
Frost breathes upon the stiff’ning stream,
   And numbs it into ice: the plain
Soon wears its mourning garb of white;
   And icicles, that fret at noon,
Will eke their icy tails at night
   Beneath the chilly stars and moon.                        


Nature soon sickens of her joys,
   And all is sad and dumb again,
Save merry shouts of sliding boys
   About the frozen furrow’d plain.
The foddering-boy forgets his song,
   And silent goes with folded arms;
And croodling shepherds bend along,
   Crouching to the whizzing storms

John Clare
from The Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Read The Shepherd's Calendar complete
John Clare biography

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Quiet Snow / Raymond Knister

The Quiet Snow

The quiet snow
Will splotch
Each in the row of cedars
With a fine
And patient hand;
Numb the harshness,
Tangle of that swamp.
It does not say, The sun
Does these things another way.

Even on hats of walkers,
The air of noise
And street-car ledges
It does not know
There should be hurry.

Raymond Knister
from The Collected Poems of Raymond Knister, 1949

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

Raymond Knister biography

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Snow-Fairy / Claude McKay

The Snow-Fairy


Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol’n away.


And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter’s night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

Claude McKay
from Harlem Shadows, 1922

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

Claude McKay biography

Thursday, February 14, 2013

If thou must love me, let it be for nought /
Elizabeth Barrett Browning


If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile – her look – her way
Of speaking gently,– for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day" –
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,– and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,–
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
from Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1850

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sleigh-Bells / Susanna Moodie

The Sleigh-Bells

’Tis merry to hear, at evening time,
By the blazing hearth the sleigh-bells chime;
To know the bounding steeds bring near
The loved one to our bosoms dear.
Ah, lightly we spring the fire to raise,
Till the rafters glow with the ruddy blaze;
Those merry sleigh-bells, our hearts keep time
Responsive to their fairy chime.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, o’er vale and hill,
Their welcome notes are trembling still.

’Tis he, and blithely the gay bells sound,
As his sleigh glides over the frozen ground;
Hark! He has pass’d the dark pine wood,
He crosses now the ice-bound flood,
And hails the light at the open door
That tells his toilsome journey’s o’er.
The merry sleigh-bells! My fond heart swells
And throbs to hear the welcome bells;
Ding-dong, ding-dong, o’er ice and snow,
A voice of gladness, on they go.

Our hut is small, and rude our cheer,
But love has spread the banquet here;
And childhood springs to be caress’d
By our beloved and welcome guest.
With a smiling brow his tale he tells,
The urchins ring the merry sleigh-bells;
The merry sleigh-bells, with shout and song
They drag the noisy string along;
Ding-dong, ding-dong, the father’s come
The gay bells ring his welcome home.

From the cedar swamp the gaunt wolves howl,
From the oak loud whoops the felon owl;
The snow-storm sweeps in thunder past,
The forest creaks beneath the blast;
No more I list, with boding fear,
The sleigh-bells distant chime to hear.
The merry sleigh-bells with soothing power
Shed gladness on the evening hour.
Ding-dong, ding-dong, what rapture swells
The music of those joyous bells!

Susanna Moodie
from Roughing It In the Bush, or Forest life in Canada, 1833

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Susanna Moodie biography

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Bells / Edgar Allan Poe

The Bells


        Hear the sledges with the bells –
             Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
       How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
       While the stars that oversprinkle
       All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
    From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells –
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


         Hear the mellow wedding bells
             Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
       Through the balmy air of night
       How they ring out their delight!
           From the molten-golden notes,
               And all in tune,
           What a liquid ditty floats
    To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
               On the moon!
         Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
    Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells –
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


         Hear the loud alarum bells –
                  Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
            Leaping higher, higher, higher,
            With a desperate desire,
         And a resolute endeavor
         Now – now to sit or never,
       By the side of the pale-faced moon.
            Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
            What a tale their terror tells
                  Of Despair!
       How they clang, and clash, and roar!
       What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
       Yet the ear, it fully knows,
            By the twanging,
            And the clanging,
         How the danger ebbs and flows ;
       Yet, the ear distinctly tells,
         In the jangling,
         And the wrangling,
       How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells--
             Of the bells –
     Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
         Bells, bells, bells –
  In the clamour and the clangour of the bells!


          Hear the tolling of the bells –
               Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
       In the silence of the night,
       How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy meaning of their tone!
         For every sound that floats
         From the rust within their throats
              Is a groan.
         And the people – ah, the people –
         They that dwell up in the steeple,
              All alone,
         And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
            In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
            On the human heart a stone –
       They are neither man nor woman –
       They are neither brute nor human –
              They are Ghouls: –
         And their king it is who tolls ;
         And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls,
            A pæan from the bells!
         And his merry bosom swells
            With the pæan of the bells!
         And he dances, and he yells ;
       Keeping time, time, time,
       In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the pæan of the bells –
               Of the bells :
       Keeping time, time, time,
       In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells –
            Of the bells, bells, bells –
            To the sobbing of the bells ;
       Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
       In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells –
         Of the bells, bells, bells –
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells –
               Bells, bells, bells –
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Edgar Allan Poe
from The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 1858

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Edgar Allan Poe biography

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Early Winter / Weldon Kees

Early Winter

Memory of summer is winter's consciousness.
Sitting or walking or merely standing still,
Earning a living or watching the snow fall,
I am remembering the sun on sidewalks in a warmer place,
A small hotel and a dead girl's face;
I think of these in this higher altitude, staring West.

But the room is cold, the words in the books are cold;
And the question of whether we get what we ask for
Is absurd, unanswered by the sound of an unlatched door
Rattling in wind, or the sound of snow on roofs, or glare
Of the winter sun. What we have learned is not what we were told.
I watch the snow, feel for the heartbeat that is not there.

Weldon Kees
from The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees, 1960

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Weldon Kees biography

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The winter's wind / John Keats

O thou whose face hath felt the winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars!
To thee the spring will be a harvest time.
O thou whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness, which thou feddest on
Night after night, when Phœbus was away!
To thee the spring shall be a triple morn.
O fret not after knowledge. I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge! I have none.
And yet the evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

John Keats

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Keats biography

Penny's Top 20 - January 2013

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in January 2013:

  1.  January, John Clare
  2.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  3.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George Dance
  4.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  5.  Men Made Out of Words, Wallace Stevens
  6.  Ganesha Girl on Rankin, Will Dockery
  7.  Petit the Poet, Edgar Lee Masters

  8.  January, Helen Hunt Jackson

Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion, Wallace Stevens 

The Reader, Wallace Stevens
12.  A Christmas Carol, George Wither
13.  The Blue Heron, Theodore Goodridge Roberts
14.  Puella Parvula, Wallace Stevens

Christmas Eve, Edgar Guest
Accompaniment / Accompagnement, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
The Death of the Old Year, Alfred Tennyson
18.  A New Year's Gift, William Strode

19.  Autumn, Thomas Nashe

Wind and Silver, Amy Lowell

Source: Blogger, "Stats"