Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Summer Sunshine / John Askham

The Summer Sunshine

Scattering all sadness
    As the night takes wing,
Waking into gladness
    Every living thing.

On the hill-tops glancing,
    Stealing o'er the meads,
On the river dancing,
    Through the bending reeds.

On the mountain burning
    Like a sacrifice -
All the landscape turning
    To a paradise.

Village roofs caressing
    With its gentle smile;
Falling like a blessing
    On the holy pile.

Gladdening with its beauty
    The simple peasant's breast,
As he goeth to his duty,
    As he cometh to his rest.

Gilding scented bowers,
    Silvering each spray,
Kissing from the flowers
    All their tears away.

Into glad commotion
    Rousing up the sea,
Till the mighty ocean
    Sparkles gloriously.

In the blackened city,
    In the pent-up town,
With a glance of pity
    Looking sadly down,

Where wild vice and folly
    Their mad orgies hold,
And on sights unholy,
    Better left untold.

To creation bringing
    Hope without alloy,
O'er the wide earth flinging
    Universal joy.

John Askham (1825-1894)
from Descriptive Poems, miscellaneous pieces, etc., 1866

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Askham biography

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July / John Clare


July, the month of Summer’s prime,
Again resumes his busy time;
Scythes tinkle in each grassy dell,
Where solitude was wont to dwell;
And meadows, they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids and shouting boys,
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play.
The very insects on the ground
So nimbly bustle all around,                            
Among the grass, or dusty soil,
They seem partakers in the toil.
The landscape even reels with life,
While ’mid the busy stir and strife
Of industry, the shepherd still
Enjoys his summer dreams at will;
Bent o’er his hook, or listless laid
Beneath the pasture’s willow shade,
Whose foliage shines so cool and gray
Amid the sultry hues of day,                            
As if the morning’s misty veil
Yet linger’d in its shadows pale;
Or lolling in a musing mood
On mounds where Saxon castles stood,
Upon whose deeply-buried walls
The ivy’d oak’s dark shadow falls,
He oft picks up with wond’ring gaze
Some little thing of other days,
Saved from the wrecks of time — as beads,
Or broken pots among the weeds,                          
Of curious shapes — and many a stone
From Roman pavements thickly strown,
Oft hoping, as he searches round,
That buried riches may be found,
Though, search as often as he will,
His hopes are disappointed still;
Or watching, on his mossy seat,
The insect world beneath his feet,
In busy motion here and there
Like visitors to feast or fair,                          
Some climbing up the rush’s stem,
A steeple’s height or more to them,
With speed, that sees no fear to stop,
Till perch’d upon its spiry top,
Where they awhile the view survey,
Then prune their wings, and flit away,—
And others journeying to and fro
Among the grassy woods below,
Musing, as if they felt and knew
The pleasant scenes they wander’d through,              
Where each bent round them seems to be
Huge as a giant timber-tree.
Shaping the while their dark employs
To his own visionary joys,
He pictures such a life as their’s,
As free from Summer’s sultry cares,
And only wishes that his own
Could meet with joys so thickly sown:
Sport seems the all that they pursue,
And play the only work they do.                          

   The cow-boy still cuts short the day,
By mingling mischief with his play;
Oft in the pond, with weeds o’ergrown,
Hurling quick the plashing stone
To cheat his dog, who watching lies,
And instant plunges for the prize;
And though each effort proves in vain,
He shakes his coat, and dives again,
Till, wearied with the fruitless play,
He drops his tail, and sneaks away,                      
Nor longer heeds the bawling boy,
Who seeks new sports with added joy:
Now on some bank’s o’erhanging brow
Beating the wasp’s nest with a bough,
Till armies from the hole appear,
And threaten vengeance in his ear
With such determined hue-and-cry
As makes the bold besieger fly;
Then, pelting with excessive glee
The squirrel on the woodland-tree,                      
Who nimbles round from grain to grain,
And cocks his tail, and peeps again,
Half-pleased, as if he thought the fray
Which mischief made, was meant for play,
Till scared and startled into flight,
He instant tumbles out of sight.
Thus he his leisure hour employs,
And feeds on busy meddling joys,
While in the willow-shaded pool
His cattle stand, their hides to cool.                  

   Loud is the Summer’s busy song,
The smallest breeze can find a tongue,
While insects of each tiny size
Grow teazing with their melodies,
Till noon burns with its blistering breath
Around, and day dies still as death.
The busy noise of man and brute
Is on a sudden lost and mute;
Even the brook that leaps along
Seems weary of its bubbling song,                        
And, so soft its waters creep,
Tired silence sinks in sounder sleep.
The cricket on its banks is dumb,
The very flies forget to hum;
And, save the waggon rocking round,
The landscape sleeps without a sound.
The breeze is stopt, the lazy bough
Hath not a leaf that dances now;
The tottergrass upon the hill,
And spiders’ threads, are standing still;                
The feathers dropt from moorhen’s wing,
Which to the water’s surface cling,
Are steadfast, and as heavy seem
As stones beneath them in the stream;
Hawkweed and groundsel’s fanning downs
Unruffled keep their seedy crowns;
And in the oven-heated air,
Not one light thing is floating there,
Save that to the earnest eye,
The restless heat seems twittering by.                  
Noon swoons beneath the heat it made,
And flowers e’en wither in the shade,
Until the sun slopes in the west,
Like weary traveller, glad to rest,
On pillowed clouds of many hues;
Then nature’s voice its joy renews,
And chequer’d field and grassy plain
Hum, with their summer songs again,
A requiem to the day’s decline,
Whose setting sunbeams coolly shine,                    
As welcome to day’s feeble powers
As falling dews to thirsty flowers.

   Now to the pleasant pasture dells,
Where hay from closes sweetly smells,
Adown the pathway’s narrow lane
The milking maiden hies again,
With scraps of ballads never dumb,
And rosy cheeks of happy bloom,
Tann’d brown by Summer’s rude embrace,
Which adds new beauties to her face,                    
And red lips never pale with sighs,
And flowing hair, and laughing eyes
That o’er full many a heart prevail’d,
And swelling bosom loosely veiled,
White as the love it harbours there,
Unsullied with the taunts of care.

   The mower now gives labour o’er,
And on his bench beside the door
Sits down to see his children play,
Smoking a leisure hour away:                            
While from her cage the blackbird sings,
That on the woodbine arbour hings;
And all with soothing joys receive
The quiet of a Summer’s eve.

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, July 21, 2013

Life is but a Dream / Lewis Carroll

Life is but a Dream

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear.
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

Lewis Carroll
from Through the Looking-Glass, 1872

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Lewis Carroll biography

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It Was Upon / Edward Thomas

It Was Upon

It was upon a July evening.
At a stile I stood, looking along a path
Over the country by a second Spring
Drenched perfect green again. "The lattermath
Will be a fine one." So the stranger said,
A wandering man. Albeit I stood at rest,
Flushed with desire I was. The earth outspread,
Like meadows of the future, I possessed.

And as an unaccomplished prophecy
The stranger's words, after the interval
Of a score years, when those fields are by me
Never to be recrossed, now I recall,
This July eve, and question, wondering,
What of the lattermath to this hoar Spring?

Edward Thomas
from Poems, 1917

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

Edward Thomas biography

Sunday, July 14, 2013

If you were a Rose and I were the Sun / Radclyffe Hall

If you were a Rose and I were the Sun


If you were a Rose and I were the Sun
    What then, little girl, what then?
I'd kiss you awake when day had begun,
    My sweet little girl, what then?
I'd waken you out of your valley of dreams
And open your heart with my passionate beams,
Till you lifted your face to my ruddiest gleams,
    My own little girl, yes then.

If you were the Earth and I were the Dew,
    What then, little girl, what then?
Why surely the thing that all lovers would do,
    My sweet little girl, what then?
I'd steal through the twilight, o'er valley and lea,
And flood you with kisses, both tender and free
Till the soul in you throbbed with the love that's in me,
    My own little girl, yes then.

But I am a man and you are a maid,
    What then, little girl, what then?
You're cold in your pride, and I am afraid,
    My sweet little girl, what then?
If you cannot love me and I cannot die
There's nothing in life but the ghost of a sigh,
And the day growing dark 'neath a colourless sky;
    My own little girl, yes then.

Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943)
from 'Twixt Earth and Stars, 1906

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

Radclyffe Hall biography

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Day is Waning / Katharine Lee Bates

The Day is Waning

The day is waning; gracious shadows grow;
Sweetness of vesper bells is on the air;
The soul is stirred, a dreaming embryo,
With impulses to fare
She knows not where.

Why should we long to live till life become
Dotage or lethargy or feeble fret
Of energies at ebb? When years benumb,
Pierced with the sleep-thorn, let
The dust forget.

But like a song from crumbling folio,
A blossom springing from the broken seed,
Shall not the pilgrim spirit onward go
Whither the bidding lead,
Unfrightened, freed,

Fain of the fresh adventure, trusting Death
As porter in her Father's house, one who
Shall shut the door upon the failing breath,
But lead her safely through
To welcomes new?

For here we pause but in the portico
Of that great temple, radiant with mirth
And beauty, Life. Even as we came, we go.
The ritual of earth
Began with birth;

Doth it not end with birth? From star to star
Shall we not walk the fire who walked the clod,
Nor find the bright, ascending journey far,
Treading, as here we trod,
Handfast with God?

The day is waning; prophesyings blow
Upon the wind; our wondering hearts are wooed
By secret whisperings, and long to know,
Atoms of valiant mood,

Katharine Lee Bates
from Yellow Clover: A book of remembrance, 1922

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

Katharine Lee Bates biography

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer-Moon / Gertrude Hall


When the stupid people were not looking
     – They sat in shadow of the sail –
I softly slid down the plunging boat-bow
     To the trembling waters, glimmering pale.

I said to myself, "Now I will follow
     The long white track of this summer moon;
Since a little child I have burned and longed to,
     And this sweet night is never too soon."

How the waters danced 'neath my light, swift footsteps,
     How cool they seemed to my eager feet!
I gathered my white things closely about me,
     But my hair was caught by the breezes sweet,

And they loosened and spread it and held it flowing;
     I looked before and never behind:
I Hurried on in the lustrous pathway
     Where light was the moon and shadow the wind.

O the sweet long path of silver and diamond!
     O the joyous splendour I travelled o'er!
I said to myself, "No – I never, never,
     Trod such a beautiful path before!"

I seemed alone on the whole great ocean:
     The sky bent down to the water's rim
On every side, and kissed it so closely
     It trembled as if with deep love for him.

I stooped to gather the white foam-flowers
     Till my hands were full of the creamy things,
Then I bound them with a long sea-ribbon –
     I understood what the old sea sings,

Just for a while; I listened intently,
     And all at once it occurred to me,
And it was something very important –
     But has escaped my memory.

The dolphins rose and stared at my passing.
     I waved my gathered flowers to them;
They must have wondered that I could wander
     So far without wetting my garment's hem.

How far I went and I was not tired!
     How far I went in the moon's white way! –
But all at once aught came against me
     That made my footsteps falter and stay:

A white face 'neath a veil of water,
     With golden loose hair streaming round –
I stooped to kiss it and sighed unto it,
     "I am so sorry you were drowned!"

Now the moon approached the low sea-level,
     I thought "I must hurry all I can" –
I gathered the white folds closer and higher
     And over the swelling billows ran.

The moon was half way down the water
     When panting I reached the silvern gate –
How great it was, and white and fulgent! –
     I knocked, and hoped it was not too late.

The guardian came and looked and pondered,
     Then asked, "Little maid, have you ever died?"
And I said, "Nay."  And he said sadly,
     "Little maid, in vain then you have tried."

So I was forced to turn and leave it;
     The beautiful guardian said, "Some day" . . .
And I came home with saddened footsteps
     Over a moonless darkling way.

Gertrude Hall
from Verses, 1890

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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Indifference? / R.K. Singh


Being good
couldn’t make me know
any better

I was harmless
they sold my name
and became
what I couldn’t

in the middle of daylight
I vanished like names
from voters’ list

with no difference
to who wins
or who loses

R.K. Singh

[All rights reserved by the author - Used with permission]

R.K. Singh biography

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Winter's Day in California /
James Alexander Tucker

A Winter's Day in California

(Santa Clara Valley)

This afternoon upon the hills
    The winter sun rests strangely sweet
    The valley, dreaming at their feet,
With murm'rous music thrills.

Music of zephyrs in the palms, 
    And scented eucalyptus trees;
    And chattering of shrill kildees
Round distant reedy dams;

And where the pine's dark flag unfurls,
    And blood-red holly-berries shine,
    And bay and chapparal intertwine,
The chirruping of squirrels.

Far off, the mountains, lapped in haze,
    High-throned – like hoary kings of old,
    Girt in their purple and their gold  –
Look forth with lofty gaze:–

Forth o'er dominions rich in stores
    Of corn and oil, and gold and wine,
    And flocks of sheep and herds of kine,
Clasped round by shining shores.

But sitting at the casement here,
    Where swims the tremulous rich delight
    Of slumb'rous sound and smell and sight,
This last day of the year:–

What son of Canada could forget,
    'Mid all the sensuous charm and glow,
    That frugal land of sun and snow
That holds his heart-strings yet?

That land where first he heard the song
     Of Robin Redbreast on the tree,
     When the late grass sprang tenderly
And days were waxing long;

That land of river, forest, rock, –
     Stern country! hallow'd by the tears
     And toils of simple pioneers,
The blood of Wolfe and Brock!

No, mid this lavish, rare display
     Of Nature's bounties, rich and free,
My heart, dear country, turns to thee
In love this winter's day;

And would not give one foot of thy
     Rude soil, one white December blast,
     For all the valleys, verdant, vast,
For all this languid sky!

These make not nations, only hearts
     Strong as the basal rocks, and pure
     As limpid northern streams endure
When all else sinks and parts.

And such may flourish where the year
     Is chill, and Nature's iron hand
     Rules sternly o'er the sluggish land,–
As vigorously as here;–

Yea, more; for strength is born of toil,–
     In bitter sweat man eats his bread;
     And where the sweets too thick are spread
The virtues rot and spoil.

O Canada, think not thy creed
     Must rest on cities, factories, gold;
     If rich in men of liberal mould
Thou has no further need.

Pray, therefore, for true men and strong –
     Men who would dare to die for right,
     Who love and court God's searching light
Because they shield no wrong.

James Alexander Tucker
from Poems, 1904

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Penny's Top 20 / June 2013

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

  1.  Penny's OS 2.0, George J. Dance
  2.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George J. Dance
  3.  The Blue Heron, Theodore Goodridge Roberts
  4.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
  5.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  6.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy

  7.  Spring Morning, A.A. Milne

Romance Novel / Roman, Arthur Rimbaud
  9.  In June,  Albert E.S. Smythe

10.  Songs, Demonspawn

 Men Made Out of Words, Wallace Stevens
12.  Bramble-Hill, William Allingham
13.  A June-Tide Echo, Amy Levy
14.  A Memory of June, Claude McKay

15.  Autumn, T.E. Hulme
16.  A Day in June, James Russell Lowell

17.  In Summer, Paul Laurence Dunbar

18.  November, F.W. Harvey

19.  Ballade of Midsummer Days and Nights, William Ernest Henley

20.  June, John Clare

Source: Blogger, "Stats"