Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lines to the New Year, 1822 / Adam Hood Burwell

Lines to the New Year, 1822

Now dark December, with his stormy hand,
Hath closed the circle of the rolling year,
That rearward glides along the length of ages,
And yields his place to coming months which spring
                             New from the lap of time.

Sad was the scene; no incense-breathing gales
Caught his last sigh; no choral groves their hymns
Or joy and love, gave as he quit, the scene,
Nor genial suns, with love-inspiring ray,
                             Shone on his parting hour.

But sullen winter with congealing touch,
Seal’d first his eyes, and howling Boreas blew
His fiercest blast, and hurl’d the snowy shroud
Furious around him, and flung o’er his grave
                             An icy monument.

Nature convulsed, confest the parting pangs,
And, as the year sunk in the grave of time,
She travail’d with his sun and heir, and lo!
The mid-night hour received the new-born babe,
                             Cradled in wintery storms.

And we, frail mortals, hail’d th’ auspicious hour
That told the coming of another year,
With light and life, and all the blessing he,
The sire of being, gives; and grateful hearts
                             Our joyful bosoms swell’d.

Offspring of time! thrice welcome to our world;
Tho’ storms obscure thy birth, and Winter hold
His iron sceptre o’er thy wide domains,
Yet spring succeeds them, and her virgin-charms
                             Shall warm thee into life.

The peeping violet on its grassy couch,
Each fairy flower, the dew-bespangled mead,
The forest clothed in green, the joyous birds
That tune their throats to love; all that hath life,
                             Their all shall bring to thee.

The fervid suns that Summer’s long arch sweeps,
The thunder cloud that wets the teeming earth,
The beauteous harvests rising on the plain,
The gales that fan them; All conspiring, shall
                             Thy ripening manhood fill.

Matured with Autumn, thou shalt with her too
Decline; and as she sheds her honours round,
In manly age thy mellow self shalt sink,
And pale October’s latests sun shall shine
                             Upon thy lockless brow.

And, like thy sire, hoar Winter’s heavy hand
Thou shalt confess, and feel the blasting storms
That shook his from his hold of earthly things —
And, as he gave thee place, so shalt thou cede
                             Unto another year.

Frail man! behold a picture of thyself —
Thy life is but the circle of a year,
Which death will surely close — Then, to the work
Thou hast to do! That, when thy year’s complete,
                             Life may be thine hereafter.

Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849)
from the Montreal Scribbler, 1821

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Adam Hood Burwell biography

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Journey of the Magi / T.S. Eliot

The Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), 1927
from Ariel Poems, 1927

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

T.S. Eliot biography

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Waits / Margaret Deland

The Waits

At the break of Christmas Day,
     Through the frosty starlight ringing,
Faint and sweet and far away,
     Comes the sound of children, singing,
          Chanting, singing,
               "Cease to mourn,
               For Christ is born,
     Peace and joy to all men bringing!"

Careless that the chill winds blow,
     Growing stronger, sweeter, clearer,
Noiseless footfalls in the snow
     Bring the happy voices nearer;
          Hear them singing,
               "Winter's drear,
               But Christ is here,
     Mirth and gladness with Him bringing!"

"Merry Christmas!" hear them say,
     As the East is growing lighter;
"May the joy of Christmas Day
     Make your whole year gladder, brighter!"
          Join their singing,
               "To each home
               Our Christ has come,
     All Love's treasures with Him bringing!"

Margaret Deland (1857-1945)
from The Old Garden, and other verses, 1886

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

Margaret Deland biography

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Whilst Shepherds Watch't / Nahum Tate

Whilst Shepherds Watch't

Whilst Shepherds watch'd their flocks by night,
    All seated on the ground,
The Angel of the Lord came down,
    And glory shone around.

Fear not, said he, for mighty dread
    Had seized their troubled mind,
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
    To you and all mankind.

To you in David's town this day
    Is born of David's line
A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;
    And this shall be the sign.

The heavenly Babe you there shall find,
    To human view display'd,
All meanly wrapt in swaddling bands
    And in a manger laid.

Thus spake the Seraph, and forthwith
    Appeared a heavenly throng
Of Angels praising God, and thus
    Address'd their joyful song:

All glory be to God on high,
    And to the earth be peace,
Good-will henceforth from Heav'n to men
    Begin and never cease.

Nahum Tate (1652-1715)
from A Supplement to the New Version of Psalms, 1700

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Nahum Tate biography

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Snowstorm in December / Ilya Shambat

Snowstorm in December

Snowstorm on winter evening
Air full of light and snow
Mind feels as though it's dreaming
As ground reclines below

Tree branches just like rivers
From their eternal source
Leading through air that shivers
Into the sea of earth

Branches overlaid with snow –
Fairy tales, like Renoir's
Paintings – together flow –
Past flakes that shine like stars!

Snow flakes here fly illumined
With light from a streetlamp
While from the sky exhuming
Winter night's cold and damp

As it falls on the ground
Under the evening sky
Makes bed of fluff and down
Where the trees' shadows lie.

Snow flakes on a December
In their chaotic flight
Make an orchestral chamber
Where music of the night

Resonates true and clear
And bursts into a song
Where passion, hope and fear
Carry the heart along:

Carry, to truths revealing!
Carry, to joys sublime!
Carry each Thought and Feeling
Into the heart of Time

And in eternal Now
In which resides true Peace
Make Essence merge with Tao
And bring eternal Bliss.

Snow, the exalted water!
Substance of life on high!
Earth's truth and heaven's daughter!
When brought into the sky

Turns into perfect matter
Each one unique, yet all
Crystalline, and they scatter
Everywhere as they fall!

Give us the truth of heaven,
Water congealed in height!
Take us to where you've traveled
On this December night –

Give us what you have mastered –
Place where the truth of life
Turns into alabaster
Crystals! To us arrive,

Each one unique, each real –
Perfect by its own code –
Soulful, incorporeal –
From its sublime abode

Falling upon the ground
And swirling on its course –
Carry your truths profound
And in them bathe the earth.

Water to heights exalted –
The place all poets seek –
Turns into truth embodied –
Each perfect and unique

Each beautiful and tender
And each reflecting light
Each to completeness rendered
And in it bathing Night

As snowflakes shimmer dancing
In chilly winter air
Heaven in them romances
Earth away from despair:

Snowflakes dress trees with beauty
And carpet breathing earth
Onto which is exuded
Truth of the soul's rebirth:

Water reaches the clouds
And there becomes attained,
And then falls on the ground
As snowflakes or as rain

To hide it in the cold
Or feed it in the heat
And the life's truth enfold
In rain, snow, ice and sleet.

Through every time and season
Through every night and day
Passion combined with reason,
Purpose combined with play –

Makes the accomplished matter
Which with the truth of soul –
The Noumenal unfettered
From the Phenomenal –

Brings the embodied splendor
And feeds what may exist
That on the earth is rendered
This divine painter's feast.

Total as life is total,
And unique, one and all –
Both anecdotal
And experimental –

Subjective and objective
Yin and yang, age and youth,
Passive and overactive
Make manifest the truth!

All elements combining
Makes what did not exist
Dualities refining
Where they like gene strands twist

Until they are most splendid
And then they all combine –
Finest and most candid –
Into the truth divine.

There passion turns to matter
And becomes absolute
There preconceptions shatter
And truths untruths refute

There Life strives for existence
Amid the strains of Time
There Seed strives through resistance –
There all becomes sublime!

There water reaches air:
There all is true and wise
There is true beauty there –
There is no room for lies!

There soul becomes embodied
And then the ground it flails
As though overloaded –
Which its new task entails –

Here to become its most – and
All of its gifts impart:
Unique and universal
In body, mind, and heart!

Upon an earth-shaped canvas
Painting sublime designs
In world we have, that has us,
Making the most of time:

That, being made of water,
And crafted out of ice,
Makes of the time's iota
What will transcend all times:

There, to complete life's substance!
In snow or in rain
And as the snow flake dances -
There, let the soul remain

To consummate the coming
And inspire yet-to-be
And, when the rain comes drumming,
Then let the winter flee!

Then let the sun come beaming!
Then let the life return!
And until then, be dreaming
During this winter storm!

Snowstorm on winter evening!
Both journey and the goal!
Both giving and receiving!
In you, the human soul!

Ilya Shambat, 2005
from Intricate Fire, 2005

[All rights reserved - Used with permission]

Ilya Shambat biography
Poems by Ilya Shambat

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Before the Snow / Andrew Lang

Before the Snow

(after Albert Glatigny)

The winter is upon us, not the snow,
   The hills are etched on the horizon bare,
   The skies are iron grey, a bitter air,
The meagre cloudlets shudder to and fro.
One yellow leaf the listless wind doth blow,
   Like some strange butterfly, unclassed and rare.
   Your footsteps ring in frozen alleys, where
The black trees seem to shiver as you go.

Beyond lie church and steeple, with their old
   And rusty vanes that rattle as they veer,
A sharper gust would shake them from their hold,
   Yet up that path, in summer of the year,
And past that melancholy pile we strolled
   To pluck wild strawberries, with merry cheer.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
from Ballades in Blue China, 1888

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

Andrew Lang biography

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Fall of the Leaf / Richard Watson Dixon

The Fall of the Leaf

Rise in their place the woods: the trees have cast,
Like earth to earth, their children: now they stand
Above the graves where lie their very last:
Each pointing with her empty hand
And mourning o’er the russet floor,      
Naked and dispossessed;
The queenly sycamore,
The linden, and the aspen, and the rest.

But thou, fair birch, doubtful to laugh or weep,
Who timorously dost keep      
From the sad fallen ring thy face away;
Wouldst thou look to the heavens which wander grey,
The unstilled clouds, slow mounting on their way?
They not regard thee, neither do they send
One breath to wake thy sighs, nor gently tend      
Thy sorrow or thy smile to passion’s end.

Lo, there on high the unlighted moon is hung,
A cloud among the clouds: she giveth pledge,
Which none from hope debars,
Of hours that shall the naked boughs re-fledge      
In seasons high: her drifted train among
Musing she leads the silent song,
Grave mistress of white clouds, as lucid queen of stars.

Richard Watson Dixon (1833-1900)
from Songs and Odes, 1896

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Richard Watson Dixon biography

Sunday, December 4, 2016

I heard a bird sing / Oliver Herford

I heard a bird sing

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

Oliver Herford (1863-1935)

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

Oliver Herford biography

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Frost at Midnight / Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frost at Midnight

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud — and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

                      But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

         Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

         Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
from Fears in Solitude, 1798

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Penny's Top 20 / November 2016

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in November 2016:

  1.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens
  2.  Evil / Le Mal, Arthur Rimbaud
  3.  Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  4.  A Book of Dreams, II.4, George MacDonald
  5.  Prayer of the Year, Ethelwyn Wetherald
  6.  Bombardment, Richard Aldington
  7.  November, Robert Frost
  8.  November, Alexander Louis Fraser

  9.  Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, John Keble

10.  The Drum, John Scott of Amwell

11.  Autumn, Florence Earle Coates
12.  United Dames of America, Wallace Stevens

13.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance  
14.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
Long May You Live, George J. Dance
16.  Hallowe'en in a Suburb, H.P. Lovecraft
17.  The Dwarf, Wallace Stevens
18.  Autumn, T.E. Hulme
19.  Puella Parvula, Wallace Stevens
20.  At Delos, Duncan Campbell Scott

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November / Alexander Louis Fraser


Each sapless leaf that lingers here
    Where bare woods mourn
Shall soon upon Wind’s silvery bier
    Be gravewards borne.

The bees have left our honey-bowers,   
    The birds are fled;
And ’neath the blight of frost our flowers
    Have fallen — dead!

Yon meadow now, where grass grew green,
    No grazing yields:     
No bells are heard, no flocks are seen
    In far, fenced fields.

Where children played till all the ground
    Was wet with dew,
Autumn, to-day, with threatening sound   
    Snow trumpets blew.

Fear not November’s challenge bold —
    We’ve books and friends;
And hearths that never can grow cold:
    These make amends!

Alexander Louis Fraser (1870-1954)
from the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse, 1913

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

Alexander Louis Fraser biography

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Autumn / Florence Earle Coates


In her arms unconscious lying,
Cytherea's love is dying.
On the hill and in the valley,
Through the grove and sun-lit alley,
Drooping flower and fading leaf
     Share her grief.
But in realms of gloom and night
Proserpine enwreathes her hair,
And a gleam of tender light
Seems to pierce the darkness there:
"Ah!" she sighs, "I long have waited
With the calm of hopeless pain,
But to me, the sorrow-fated,
Comes the lost one back again!
Lovely things that seem to die
Hither now will quickly hie,
And to-morrow, in the gloom
Of this sad and sunless tomb,
Butterflies will lightly hover,
As o'er meadows fair;" she saith,
"For Adonis brings the clover
     With his breath!"

Florence Earle Coates (1850-1927)
From Mine and Thine, 1904

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

Florence Earle Coates biography

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Red o'er the forest peers the setting sun / John Keble

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things onto Himself.  Philippians iii. 21.

Red o’er the forest peers the setting sun,
   The line of yellow light dies fast away
That crowned the eastern copse: and chill and dun
   Falls on the moor the brief November day.

Now the tired hunter winds a parting note,
   And Echo bids good-night from every glade;
Yet wait awhile, and see the calm leaves float
   Each to his rest beneath their parent shade.

How like decaying life they seem to glide!
   And yet no second spring have they in store,
But where they fall, forgotten to abide
   Is all their portion, and they ask no more.

Soon o’er their heads blithe April airs shall sing,
   A thousand wild-flowers round them shall unfold,
The green buds glisten in the dews of Spring,
   And all be vernal rapture as of old.

Unconscious they in waste oblivion lie,
   In all the world of busy life around
No thought of them; in all the bounteous sky,
   No drop, for them, of kindly influence found.

Man’s portion is to die and rise again —
   Yet he complains, while these unmurmuring part
With their sweet lives, as pure from sin and stain,
   As his when Eden held his virgin heart.

And haply half unblamed his murmuring voice
   Might sound in Heaven, were all his second life
Only the first renewed — the heathen’s choice,
   A round of listless joy and weary strife.

For dreary were this earth, if earth were all,
   Tho’ brightened oft by dear Affection’s kiss;—
Who for the spangles wears the funeral pall?
   But catch a gleam beyond it, and ’tis bliss.

Heavy and dull this frame of limbs and heart,
   Whether slow creeping on cold earth, or borne
On lofty steed, or loftier prow, we dart
   O’er wave or field: yet breezes laugh to scorn

Our puny speed, and birds, and clouds in heaven,
   And fish, living shafts that pierce the main,
And stars that shoot through freezing air at even —
   Who but would follow, might he break his chain?

And thou shalt break it soon; the grovelling worm
   Shall find his wings, and soar as fast and free
As his transfigured Lord with lightning form
   And snowy vest — such grace He won for thee,

When from the grave He sprang at dawn of morn,
   And led through boundless air thy conquering road,
Leaving a glorious track, where saints, new-born,
   Might fearless follow to their blest abode.

But first, by many a stern and fiery blast
   The world’s rude furnace must thy blood refine,
And many a gale of keenest woe be passed,
   Till every pulse beat true to airs divine,

Till every limb obey the mounting soul,
   The mounting soul, the call by Jesus given.
He who the stormy heart can so control,
   The laggard body soon will waft to Heaven.

John Keble (1792-1866)
from The Christian Year, 1827

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Keble biography

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November / Robert Frost


We saw leaves go to glory,
Then almost migratory
Go part way down the lane,
And then to end the story
Get beaten down and pasted
In one wild day of rain.
We heard ‘ ‘Tis over’ roaring.
A year of leaves was wasted.
Oh, we make a boast of storing,
Of saving and of keeping,
But only by ignoring
The waste of moments sleeping,
The waste of pleasure weeping,
By denying and ignoring
The waste of nations warring.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
from A Witness Tree, 1942

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Robert Frost biography

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Drum / John Scott of Amwell


I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields,
And lures from cities and from fields,
To sell their liberty for charms
Of tawdry lace, and glittering arms;
And when Ambition’s voice commands,
To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands.

I hate that drum’s discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To me it talks of ravag’d plains,
And burning towns, and ruin’d swains,
And mangled limbs, and dying groans,
And widows' tears, and orphans' moans;
And all that misery’s hand bestows,
To fill the catalogue of human woes.

John Scott of Amwell
from Poetical Works, 1782

[Poem is in the public domain world-wide]

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bombardment / Richard Aldington


Four days the earth was rent and torn
By bursting steel,
The houses fell about us;
Three nights we dared not sleep,
Sweating, and listening for the imminent crash
Which meant our death.

The fourth night every man,
Nerve-tortured, racked to exhaustion,
Slept, muttering and twitching,
While the shells crashed overhead.

The fifth day there came a hush;
We left our holes
And looked above the wreckage of the earth
To where the white clouds moved in silent lines
Across the untroubled blue.

Richard Aldington (1892-1962)
from Images of War, 1919

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

Richard Aldington biography

Friday, November 11, 2016

Evil / Le Mal – Arthur Rimbaud


While loud the red-flecked mouths of cannons sing
And grapeshot whistles under empty sky;
While, red and green, before each preening King,
The massed battalions break, and thousands die;
While flowers bloom and sweet grass grows again
In splendid sunshine, under summer heat,
And madness grinds a hundred thousand men
Into a steaming pile of rotting meat; . . .

A God smiles down through incense-laden air
At chalices and altars, gold, ornate,
And slowly dozes off to mumbled prayer;
But wakes when black-clad mothers, bowed with grief
And weeping, clink into His silver plate
The few coins in a knotted handkerchief.

Arthur Rimbaud
translated by George J. Dance, 2016

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

Le Mal

Tandis que les crachats rouges de la mitraille
Sifflent tout le jour par l'infini du ciel bleu;
Qu'écarlates ou verts, près du Roi qui les raille,
Croulent les bataillons en masse dans le feu;

Tandis qu'une folie épouvantable broie
Et fait de cent milliers d'hommes un tas fumant;
– Pauvres morts! dans l'été, dans l'herbe, dans ta joie,
Nature! ô toi qui fis ces hommes saintement! –

Il est un Dieu qui rit aux nappes damassées
Des autels, à l'encens, aux grands calices d'or;
Qui dans le bercement des hosannah s'endort,

Et se réveille, quand des mères, ramassées
Dans l'angoisse, et pleurant sous leur vieux bonnet noir,
Lui donnent un gros sou lié dans leur mouchoir!

Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Arthur Rimbaud biography

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Book of Dreams, II.4 / George MacDonald

from A Book of Dreams


Before I sleep, some dreams draw nigh,
  Which are not fancy mere;
For sudden lights an inward eye,
  And wondrous things appear.

Thus, unawares, with vision wide,
  A steep hill once I saw,
In faint dream lights, which ever hide
  Their fountain and their law.

And up and down the hill reclined
  A host of statues old;
Such wondrous forms as you might find
  Deep under ancient mould.

They lay, wild scattered, all along,
  And maimed as if in fight;
But every one of all the throng
  Was precious to the sight.

Betwixt the night and hill they ranged,
  In dead composure cast.
As suddenly the dream was changed,
  And all the wonder past.

The hill remained; but what it bore
  Was broken reedy stalks,
Bent hither, thither, drooping o'er,
  Like flowers o'er weedy walks.

For each dim form of marble rare,
  Bent a wind-broken reed;
So hangs on autumn-field, long-bare,
 Some tall and straggling weed.

The autumn night hung like a pall,
  Hung mournfully and dead;
And if a wind had waked at all,
  It had but moaned and fled.

George MacDonald (1824-1905)
from A Hidden Life, and other poems, 1864

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George MacDonald biography

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Prayer of the Year / Ethelwyn Wetherald

Prayer of the Year

Leave me Hope when I am old,
    Strip my joys from me,
Let November to the cold
    Bare each leafy tree;
Chill my lover, dull my friend,
    Only, while I grope
To the dark the silent end,
    Leave me Hope!

Blight my bloom when I am old,
    Bid my sunlight cease;
If it need be from my hold
    Take the hand of Peace.
Leave no springtime memory,
    But upon the slope
Of the days that are to be,
    Leave me Hope!

Ethelwyn Wetherald (1857-1940)
from The House of the Trees, and other poems, 1895

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

Ethelwyn Wetherald biography

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Penny's Top 20 / October 2016

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in October 2016:

  1.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens
  2.  Beside the Autumn poets sing, Emily Dickinson
  3.  An October Garden, Christina Rosetti
  4.  Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  5.  Especially when the October wind, Dylan Thomas
  6.  October: "The old eyes", H.L. Davis
  7.  After Apple Picking, Robert Frost
  8.  October, Mary Weston Fordham

  9.  October, William Cullen Bryant

10.  Dirge in Woods, George Meredith

11.  Gethsemane, Rudyard Kipling
A Song to Mithras, Rudyard Kipling
13.  The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot
14.  Puck's Song, Rudyard Kipling
15.  October, Paul Laurence Dunbar

16.  Hallowe'en in a Suburb, H.P. Lovecraft
17.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
18.  Long May You Live, George J. Dance
19.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance  
20.  Puella Parvula, Wallace Stevens

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Monday, October 31, 2016

In a Suburb / H.P. Lovecraft

In a Suburb

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
     And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
     And the harpies of upper air,
     That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
     Never shone in the sunset’s gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
     Where the rivers of madness stream
     Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves thro’ the rows of sheaves
     In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
     And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
     For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
     That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral pow’r
     Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne
     And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
     That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
     Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw
     To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
     The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
     Shall some day be with the rest,
     And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
     And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
     Of horror and death are penn’d,
     For the hounds of Time to rend.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
from The National Amateur, March 1926

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

H.P. Lovecraft bibliography

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October / Mary Weston Fordham


Bright and beautiful art thou,
Autumn flowers crown thy brow,
Golden-rod and Aster blue,
Russet leaf with crimson hue,
Half stripped branches waving by,
Softly as a lullaby,
Tell of summer's days gone by,
Tell that winter's very nigh.

In the forest cool and chill,
Sadly moans the Whippoorwill,
Not as in the summer days,
When he gloried in his lays,
Lower-toned, but sweet and clear,
Like thy crisp and fragrant air,
Warbling forth with voice sublime,
This is nature's harvest time.

Crickets chirp amid the leaves,
Squirrels hop among the trees,
Brown nuts falling thick and fast,
On the dewy, dying grass,
Glowing sun with softer rays,
Harbinger of wintry days,
Tell the year is going by,
Sighing forth its lullaby.

Mary Weston Fordham (1843-1905)
from Magnolia Leaves, 1897

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Mary Weston Fordham biography

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October / Paul Laurence Dunbar


October is the treasurer of the year,
And all the months pay bounty to her store;
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold
Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.

She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
She only hears the breezes' voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodlands through,
And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle, till the roguish Sun
Creeps up and steals them every one.

But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way
And turns her auburn locks to gray.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
from Oak and Ivy, 1893

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Paul Laurence Dunbar biography

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Besides the Autumn poets sing / Emily Dickinson

Besides the Autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the Haze –

A few incisive mornings –      
A few Ascetic eves –
Gone – Mr Bryant’s “Golden Rod” –
And Mr Thomson’s “sheaves.”

Still, is the bustle in the brook –
Sealed are the spicy valves –
Mesmeric fingers softly touch
The eyes of many Elves –

Perhaps a squirrel may remain –
My sentiments to share –
Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind –      
Thy windy will to bear!

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), 1859

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Emily Dickinson biography

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October / William Cullen Bryant


Ay, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath,
    When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
    And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief,
And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
Wind of the sunny south! oh still delay
    In the gay woods and in the golden air,
    Like to a good old age released from care,
Journeying, in long serenity, away.
In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
    Might wear out life like thee, mid bowers and brooks,
    And, dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
And music of kind voices ever nigh;
And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
from Poems, 1836

[Poem is in the public domain world-wide]

William Cullen Bryant biography

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October: "The old eyes" / H.L. Davis

October: "The old eyes"

In these cold mornings the alders can not hold their leaves,
But in the stained pond-water drop them, broad and cold.
Days ago the willows yellowed the river’s edge.
The river-breaks are stuck full of gray wild seed.
Dry and without the late hunger is every weed.      

The latest-bearing tree’s fruit is under roof;
Nothing we value is left, nothing is left
Except the garden Eusebia planted as she grew old.
Under the trees of her orchard the tall marigolds,
Past their best, are grown dark yellow with rain:      
Half-wild stalks, that gave this woman much pride and much pain
To thin and keep in order.
                    It has rained, and turned cold.
No one comes along the river or the breaks;
No foot has changed the color of this tall grass.
About her house, big rose-hips ripen, partly gray.      
Who sits in the leaves there—the old eyes, and the flesh fallen?
Eusebia Owen is come again, this chilly day:
A ghost comes, and grieves at last because she is old.

The water of dead leaves, which the fruit trees
Shed upon her dress, is not cold; there’s no fear now, though      
Hard waves in the river gather and pace to the wind;
There’s no pleasure in marigold petals upon her face.
She grieves, and says: “So many years I let go,
Working hard, and was content to think that love
Would surely return; but the dead go all alone.”      

It is so: the years during which this woman lived
Were divided—so many for love, so many following
For work; and at last, let them be busy with flowers.
Dusty summers, long harvests, awhile to rest; but in the cold days
Eusebia gathered tree-cotton to weave cloth upon,      
Worked with her garden, and would not fold her hands.
This woman was not idle until she died.
There’s tree-cotton, and cold days another year
In which all her use is departed. This sad ghost
That cries for love again, even the spirit is old.      
The hair which hangs against the dry breast is gray.
The old dark dress is worn thin; and, wet and cold,
She who wears it would enjoy love again, would lie
In childbed over again.
                    When I was her friend
I thought she had been content: and see the gray hair      
Heavy and stained with water! Once she was vain,
And now leaves stick upon her dress and her arms.
Now she has left secrecy, and I am ashamed
That we were less friends than ever I had dreamed.

H.L. Davis (1894-1960)
from Poetry, June 1920

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dirge in Woods / George Meredith

Dirge in Woods

A wind sways the pines,
         And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
         And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
         Even we,
         Even so.

George Meredith (1828-1909)
from Ballads and Poems of Tragic Life, 1887

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Especially when the October wind / Dylan Thomas

Especially when the October wind

Especially when the October wind
With frosty fingers punishes my hair,
Caught by the crabbing sun I walk on fire
And cast a shadow crab upon the land,
By the sea's side, hearing the noise of birds,
Hearing the raven cough in winter sticks,
My busy heart who shudders as she talks
Sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.

Shut, too, in a tower of words, I mark
On the horizon walking like the trees
The wordy shapes of women, and the rows
Of the star-gestured children in the park.
Some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
Some of the oaken voices, from the roots
Of many a thorny shire tell you notes,
Some let me make you of the water's speeches.

Behind a pot of ferns the wagging clock
Tells me the hour's word, the neural meaning
Flies on the shafted disk, declaims the morning
And tells the windy weather in the cock.
Some let me make you of the meadow's signs;
The signal grass that tells me all I know
Breaks with the wormy winter through the eye.
Some let me tell you of the raven's sins.

Especially when the October wind
(Some let me make you of autumnal spells,
The spider-tongued, and the loud hill of Wales)
With fists of turnips punishes the land,
Some let me make you of the heartless words.
The heart is drained that, spelling in the scurry
Of chemic blood, warned of the coming fury.
By the sea's side hear the dark-vowelled birds.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1954)
from Eighteen Poems, 1934

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Dylan Thomas biography

Saturday, October 8, 2016

An October Garden / Christina Rossetti

An October Garden

In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn’s languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune.

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall.

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
from Poetical Works, 1904

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Christina Rossetti biography

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Penny's Top 20 / September 2016

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in September 2016:

  1.  A Song to Mithras, Rudyard Kipling
  2.  Gethsemane, Rudyard Kipling
  3.  Puck's Song, Rudyard Kipling
  4.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens
  5.  Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  6.  Manhattan, Lola Ridge
  7.  Day Turns Night, James D. Senetto
  8.  The Names, Billy Collins

  9.  The City Revisited, Stephen Vincent Benet

10.  Autumn Twilight, Arthur Symons

11.  Indian Summer, Archibald Lampman
12.  Hymn to the Month of September, John Davies

13.  September, Hilaire Belloc
14.  In September, Amy Levy
Long May You Live, George J. Dance
16.  The Dwarf, Wallace Stevens
17.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance
18.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
19.  Once Like a Light, AE Reiff
20.  August Night on Georgian Bay, William Wilfred Campbell

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock /
T.S. Eliot

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
from Prufrock, and other observations, 1917

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

T.S. Eliot biography

Saturday, October 1, 2016

After Apple-Picking / Robert Frost

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
from North of Boston, 1914

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Autumn Twilight / Arthur Symons

Autumn Twilight

The long September evening dies
     In mist along the fields and lanes;
Only a few faint stars surprise
     The lingering twilight as it wanes.

Night creeps across the darkening vale;
     On the horizon tree by tree
Fades into shadowy skies as pale
     As moonlight on a shadowy sea.

And, down the mist-enfolded lanes.
     Grown pensive now with evening.
See, lingering as the twilight wanes,
     Lover with lover wandering.

Arthur Symons (1865-1945)
from London Nights, 1895

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In September / Amy Levy

In September

The sky is silver-grey; the long
    Slow waves caress the shore.
On such a day as this I have been glad,
    Who shall be glad no more.

Amy Levy (1861-1889)
from A London Plane-tree, and other verse, 1889

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Amy Levy biography

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Indian Summer / Archibald Lampman

Indian Summer

The old grey year is near his term in sooth,
And now with backward eye and soft-laid palm
Awakens to a golden dream of youth,
A second childhood lovely and most calm,
And the smooth hour about his misty head                            
An awning of enchanted splendour weaves,
Of maples, amber, purple and rose-red,
And droop-limbed elms down-drooping golden leaves.
With still half-fallen lids he sits and dreams
Far in a hollow of the sunlit wood,    
Lulled by the murmur of thin-threading streams,
Nor sees the polar armies overflood
The darkening barriers of the hills, nor hears
The north-wind ringing with a thousand spears.

Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)
from Alcyone, 1899

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Archibald Lampman biography