Saturday, August 31, 2013

Merry Margaret / John Skelton

To Mistress Margaret Hussey

     Merry Margaret,
          As midsummer flower,
      Gentle as falcon
      Or hawk of the tower:
With solace and gladness,
Much mirth and no madness,
All good and no badness;
          So joyously,
          So maidenly,
          So womanly
          Her demeaning
          In every thing,
          Far, far passing
          That I can indite,
          Or suffice to write
Of Merry Margaret
      As midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.
      As patient and still
And as full of good will
As fair Isaphill,
Sweet pomander,
Good Cassander,
Steadfast of thought,
Well made, well wrought,
Far may be sought
Ere that ye can find
So courteous, so kind
As Merry Margaret,
      This midsummer flower,
Gentle as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.

John Skelton
circa 1511

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Skelton biography

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Potato Harvest / Charles G.D. Roberts

The Potato Harvest

A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne
     Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky
     Washing the ridge; a clamour of crows that fly
In from the wide flats where the spent tides mourn
To yon their rocking roosts in pines wind-torn;
     A line of grey snake-fence, that zigzags by
     A pond, and cattle; from the homestead nigh
The long deep summonings of the supper horn.

Black on the ridge, against that lonely flush,
     A cart, and stoop-necked oxen; ranged beside
     Some barrels, and the day-worn harvest-folk,
Here emptying their baskets, jar the hush
     With hollow thunders. Down the dusk hillside
     Lumbers the wain; and day fades out like smoke.

Charles G.D. Roberts
from Songs of the Common Day, 1893

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

Charles G.D. Roberts biography

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August / John Clare


Harvest approaches with its busy day;        
The wheat tans brown, and barley bleaches grey;
In yellow garb the oatland intervenes,
And tawny glooms the valley throng’d with beans.
Silent the village grows,—wood-wandering dreams
Seem not so lonely as its quiet seems;
Doors are shut up as on a winter’s day,
And not a child about them lies at play;
The dust that winnows ’neath the breeze’s feet
Is all that stirs about the silent street:              
Fancy might think that desert-spreading Fear
Had whisper’d terrors into Quiet’s ear,
Or plundering armies past the place had come
And drove the lost inhabitants from home.
The fields now claim them, where a motley crew
Of old and young their daily tasks pursue.
The reapers leave their rest before the sun,
And gleaners follow in the toils begun
To pick the litter’d ear the reaper leaves,
And glean in open fields among the sheaves.              
The ruddy child, nursed in the lap of Care,
In Toil’s rude strife to do its little share,
Beside its mother poddles o’er the land,
Sunburnt, and stooping with a weary hand,
Picking its tiny glean of corn or wheat,
While crackling stubbles wound its little feet;
Full glad it often is to sit awhile
Upon a smooth green bank to ease its toil,
And fain would spend an idle hour in play
With insects, strangers to the moiling day,              
Creeping about each rush and grassy stem,
And often wishes it were one of them:
Meanwhile the expecting mother stops to tie
Her handful up, and, waiting his supply,
Misses the idle younker from her side;
Then shouts of rods, and morts of threats beside
Picture harsh truths in his unpractised breast,—
How they, who idle in the harvest rest,
Shall well-deserving in the winter pine,
Or hunt the hedges with the birds and swine.            
In vain he wishes that the rushes’ height
Were tall as trees to hide him from her sight.
Leaving his pleasant seat, he sighs and rubs
His legs, and shows scratch’d wounds from piercing stubs,
To make excuse for play; but she disdains
His little wounds, and smiles while he complains;
And as he stoops adown in troubles sore,
She sees his grief, and bids him mourn no more,
For by and by, on the next Sabbath-day,
He shall have well-earn’d pence as well as play,        
When he may buy, almost without a stint,
Sweet candied horehound, cakes, and peppermint,
At the gay shop, within whose window lie
Things of all sorts to tempt his eager eye:
Rich sugar-plums in phials shining bright,
In every hue, young fancies to delight;
Coaches and ladies of gilt gingerbread;
And downy plums, and apples streak’d with red.
Such promises all sorrow soon displace,
And smiles are instant kindled in his face;              
Scorning the troubles which he felt before,
He picks the trailing ears, and mourns no more.

    The fields are all alive with sultry noise
Of labour’s sounds, and insects’ busy joys.
The reapers o’er their glittering sickles stoop,
Startling full oft the partridge coveys up;
Some o’er the rustling scythe go bending on;
And shockers follow where their toils have gone,
Heaping the swaths that rustle in the sun,
Where mice from Terror’s dangers nimbly run,            
Leaving their tender young in fear’s alarm
Lapt up in nests of chimbled grasses warm,
Hoping for safety from their flight in vain;
While the rude boy, or churlish-hearted swain,
Pursues with lifted weapons o’er the ground,
And spreads an instant murder all around.
In vain the anxious maiden’s tender prayer
Urges the clown their little lives to spare;
She sighs, while trailing the long rake along,
At scenes so cruel, and forgets her song.

    When the Sun stoops to meet the western sky,
And Noon’s hot hours have wander’d weary by,
Seeking a hawthorn bush or willow-tree
For resting-places that the coolest be,
Where baskets heaped and unbroached bottles lie,
Which dogs in absence watch’d with wary eye,
They catch their breath awhile, and share the boon
Which bevering-time allows their toil at noon.
Next to her favour’d swain the maiden steals,
Blushing at kindness which his love reveals;            
Making a seat for her of sheaves around,
He drops beside her on the naked ground.
Then from its cool retreat the beer they bring,
And hand the stout-hoop’d bottle round the ring.
Each swain soaks hard; the maiden, ere she sips,
Shrieks at the bold wasp settling on her lips,
That seems determined only her’s to greet,
As if it fancied they were cherries sweet!
The dog foregoes his sleep awhile, or play,
Springing at frogs that rustling jump away,              
To watch each morsel carelessness bestows,
Or wait the bone or crust the shepherd throws;
For shepherds are no more of ease possest,
But share in harvest-labours with the rest.

    When day declines and others meet repose,
The bawling boy his evening journey goes;
At toil’s unwearied call the first and last,
He drives his horses to their night’s repast,
In dewy close or meadow to sojourn;
And often ventures, on his still return,                
O’er garden pales, or orchard walls, to hie,
When sleep’s safe key hath lock’d up danger’s eye,
All but the mastiff watching in the dark,
Who snuffs and knows him, and forbears to bark.
With fearful haste he climbs each loaded tree,
And picks for prizes, that the ripest be;
While the pale moon, creeping with jealous light,
Fills empty shadows with the power to fright;
And, from the barn-hole, pops and hurries by,
The grey owl, screaming with a fearful cry;—            
He hears the noise, and, hastening to escape,
Thinks each thing grows around a dismal shape.
Quick tumbling o’er the mossy mould’ring wall,
He loses half his booty in the fall;
Where, soon as ever Morning opes its eyes,
The restless hogs will happen on the prize,
And crump adown the mellow and the green,
Making all seem as nothing e’er had been.

    Amid the broils of harvest’s weary reign,
How sweet the Sabbath wakes its rest again!              
And on each weary mind what rapture dwells,
To hear once more the pleasant chiming bells,
That from each steeple, peeping here and there,
Murmur a soothing lullaby to care.
The shepherd, journeying on his morning rounds,
Pauses awhile to hear the pleasing sounds,
While the glad children, free from toil’s employ,
Mimic the "ding dong" hums, and laugh for joy.
The fields themselves seem happy to be free,
Where insects chatter with unusual glee;                
While Solitude, the grass and stubs among,
Appears to muse and listen to the song.
In quiet peace awakes the welcome morn;
Men tired, and children with their gleaning worn,
Weary and stiff, lie round doors all day,
To rest themselves, with little heart for play.
In calm delight the Sabbath wears along;
Yet round the Cross, at noon, a tempted throng
Of little younkers, with their pence, repair
To buy the downy plum and luscious pear                  
That melts i’ th’ mouth, which gardeners never fail,
For gain’s strong impulse, to expose for sale;
Placed on the circling Cross-steps in the sun,
What time the parson has his sermon done.
There, soon the boy his sore-earn’d penny spends;
And he the while, that pennyless attends,
In sullen, silent mood, approaching nigh,
Full often drops a keen, desiring eye
Upon each loaded basket, to perceive
What makes his little fingers itch to thieve;—          
But, close at hand, the stocks in terror shine,
And temptings strong, to stronger fears resign.
Thus Sunday’s leisure passes swiftly by
In rest, soft peace, and home-tranquility,
Till Monday morning doth its cares pursue,
Rousing the harvest’s busy toils anew.

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, August 18, 2013

Love is a River / Isaac Rieman Baxley

from The Wedding-Night of Emmaline



Love is a River, gently rolled
     By rounded bosoms of the meads,
Down, down the breasts of Earth is fold
     Follows the hollow where it leads:
Over the heart of Nature pressed
     The River's arms encircling cling,
Touching the outlines of her breast
     His liquid lips are murmuring.
Love's mistress smiles and he is glad,
     With flashing face beneath her eyes;
His countenance falls swiftly sad
     Beneath the faintest of her sighs –
Love is a River loath to leave
     The waysides of his mistress' feet;
A thousand eddies interweave
     Th' unnumbered vows his lips repeat.


Love is a River running fast,
     Filled with the rage of swift descent,
Plunging the rocks, his pleasure past,
     Intently on destruction bent:
Meeting his prison walls with roar
     Of high defiance and of hate,
Piling the floods he cannot pour
     Beyond the barriers to his fate.
Love is a whirlpool of desire,
     With giant arms and none to crush;
Twining his locks with hands of ire,
     Sending his menace with a rush
Of fearful foam, from out the well
     Filled with the grinding of his jaws
Upon the granite of his cell,–
     Where rage upon repression gnaws.


Love is a River, laughter spent,
     And pain but as rememberd woe.
Losing his waters with content
     Amid the mighty tides which go
Circling the globe with open breast,
     Inviting, with unwearied lips,
The rivulets weak and sore distressed,
     And the great carriers of ships.
The waters of this River run
     Over the level sea with ease,
Yet never on the hill-sides sprung
     A flood to give the seas increase.
Never a Love so mighty grew
     On hills of earth, or moral lea,
But lost the consciousness it knew
     Passing the Gates of Eternity!

Isaac Rieman Baxley
from The Temple of Alanthur, with other poems, 1886

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

Isaac Rieman Baxley biography

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Streams / Bliss Carman

Summer Streams

All day long beneath the sun
Shining through the fields they run,

Singing in a cadence known
To the seraphs round the throne.

And the traveller drawing near
Through the meadow, halts to hear

Anthems of a natural joy
No disaster can destroy.

All night long from set of sun
Through the starry woods they run,

Singing through the purple dark
Songs to make a traveller hark.

All night long, when winds are low,
Underneath my window go

The immortal happy streams,
Making music through my dreams.

Bliss Carman
from Later Poems, 1926

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

Bliss Carman biography

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The evening darkens over / Robert Bridges


The evening darkens over,
After a day so bright
The windcapt waves discover
That wild will be the night.
There's sound of distant thunder.

The latest sea-birds hover
Along the cliff's sheer height;
As in the memory wander
Last flutterings of delight,
White wings lost on the white.

There's not a ship in sight;
And as the sun goes under
Thick clouds conspire to cover
The moon that should rise yonder.
Thou art alone, fond lover.

Robert Bridges
from Shorter Poems, 1890

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

Robert Bridges biography

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When the Gulls Come In / Helen M. Merrill

When the Gulls Come In

When the gulls come in, and the shallow sings
Fresh to the wind, and the bell-buoy rings,
And a spirit calls the soul from sleep
To follow over the flashing deep;

When the gulls come in from the fields of space,
Vagrants out of a pathless place,
Waifs of the wind that dip and veer
In the gleaming sun where the land lies near,–

Long have they wandered far and free,
Bedouin birds of the desert sea;
God only marked their devious flight,
God only followed them day and night,–

Sailor o' mine, when the gulls come in
And the shallow sings to the bell-buoy's din,
Look to thy ship and the gods hard by,
There's a gale in the heart of the golden sky.

Helen M. Merrill
from Sandpipers, and other poems, 1915

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sensation / Arthur Rimbaud


In the hot summer days of shimmering blue
I shall wander uncharted frontiers,
With the grasses prickling and cooling my soles
And the breezes bathing my ears.

Not a word shall I speak, not a thought shall I think,
As I wander with nothing to guide me;
But my spirit shall fill with unlimited love,
As if for a woman beside me.

translated by George J. Dance, 2013
from Doggerel, and other doggerel, 2015

Creative Commons License
["Sensation" by George J. Dance [translation of "Sensation" by Arthur Rimbaud] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.]


Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue:
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien,
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme ;
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, heureux- comme avec une femme.

Arthur Rimbaud, 1870

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Arthur Rimbaud biography

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It shall be, then, upon a summer's day /
Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d'ete /
Paul Verlaine

It shall be, then, upon a summer's day

It shall be, then, upon a summer's day:
The sun, my joy's accomplice, bright shall shine,
And add, amid your silk and satin fine,
To your dear radiance still another ray;

The heavens, like a sumptuous canopy,
Shall shake out their blue folds to droop and trail
About our happy brows, that shall be pale
With so much gladness, such expectancy;

And when day closes, soft shall be the air
That in your snowy veils, caressing, plays,
And with soft-smiling eyes the stars shall gaze
Benignantly upon the wedded pair.

translated by Gertrude Hall (1863-1961)
from Poems of Paul Verlaine, 1895

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

Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d'été

Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d'été ;
Le grand soleil, complice de ma joie,
Fera, parmi le satin et la soie,
Plus belle encor votre chère beauté ;

Le ciel tout bleu, comme une haute tente,
Frissonnera somptueux à longs plis
Sur nos deux fronts heureux qu'auront pâlis
L'émotion du bonheur et l'attente ;

Et quand le soir viendra, l'air sera doux
Qui se jouera, caressant, dans vos voiles,
Et les regards paisibles des étoiles
Bienveillamment souriront aux époux.

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
from La Bonne Chanson, 1870

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Paul Verlaine biography
Gertrude Hall biography

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Penny's Top 20 - July 2013

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

  1.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George J. Dance
  2.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  3.  Bird Cage / Cage d'oiseau, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
  4.  Life is but a Dream, Lewis Carroll 
  5.  The Day is Waning, Katharine Lee Bates
  6.  The Motive for Metaphor, Wallace Stevens

  7.  If you were a Rose and I were the Sun, Radclyffe Hall

  8.  May Wind, Sara Teasdale

  9.  Summer-Moon, Gertrude Hall

10.  A Rhyme About an Electrical Advertising Sign, Vachel Lindsay

 It Was Upon, Edward Thomas
12.  A Winter's Day in California, James Alexander Tucker
13.  The Summer Sunshine, John Askham
14.  Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Wallace Stevens

15.  Indifference?, R.K. Singh
16.  The Call of the Green, Laurence Alma-Tadema

17.  A City Sunset, T.E. Hulme

18.  Penny's OS, George J. Dance

19.  July, John Clare

Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion, Wallace Stevens 

Source: Blogger, "Stats"