Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Frozen Thames / John Gay

from Of Walking the Streets by Day
ll. 235-252

     O roving muse, recall that wondrous year,
When winter reigned in bleak Britannia's air;
When hoary Thames, with frosted oziers crowned,
Was three long moons in icy fetters bound.
The waterman, forlorn along the shore,
Pensive reclines upon his useless oar,
Sees harnessed steeds desert the stony town,
And wander road unstable, not their own:
Wheels o'er the hardened waters smoothly glide,
And rase with whitened tracks the slippery tide.
Here the fat cook piles high the blazing fire,
And scarce the spit can turn the steer entire.
Booths sudden hide the Thames, long streets appear,
And numerous games proclaim the crowded fair.
So when a general bids the martial train
Spread their encampment o'er the spacious plain;
Thick-rising tents a canvas city build,
And the loud dice resound through all the field.

John Gay (1685-1732)
from Trivia; or, The art of walking the streets of London, 1716

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Gay biography

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Ice Storm / Ambrose Philips

To the Earl of Dorset

                                                    Copenhagen, March 9, 1709

     From frozen climes and endless tracts of snow,
From streams which northern winds forbid to flow,
What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring,
Or how, so near the Pole, attempt to sing?
The hoary winter here conceals from sight
All pleasing objects which to verse invite:
The hills and dales, and the delightful woods,
The flow'ry plains, and silver-streaming floods,
By snow disguis'd, in bright confusion lie,
And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye.

     No gentle breathing breeze prepares the spring,
No birds within the desert region sing.
The ships, unmov'd, the boist'rous winds defy,
While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly.
The vast Leviathan wants room to play
And spouts his waters in the face of day.
The starving wolves along the main sea prowl,
And to the moon in icy valleys howl.
O'er many a shining league the level main
Here spreads itself into a glassy plain:
There solid billows of enormous size,
Alps of green ice, in wild disorder rise.

     And yet but lately have I seen, ev'n here,
The winter in a lovely dress appear.
'Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasur'd snow,
Or winds begun through hazy skies to blow,
At ev'ning a keen eastern breeze arose,
And the descending rain unsully'd froze.
Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew,
The ruddy morn disclos'd at once to view
The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd ev'ry object to my eyes,
For ev'ry shrub, and ev'ry blade of grass,
And ev'ry pointed thorn, seem'd wrought in glass.
In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns show,
While through the ice the crimson berries glow.
The thick-sprung reeds, which wat'ry marshes yield
Seem'd polish'd lances in a hostile field.
The stag in limpid currents, with surprise
Sees crystal branches on his forehead rise.
The spreading oak, the beech, and tow'ring pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing aether shine;
The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
Which wave and glitter in the distant sun.

     When if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies,
The crackling wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled show'r the prospect ends:
Or, if a southern gale the region warm,
And by degrees unbind the wintry charm,
The traveller a miry country sees,
And journeys sad beneath the dropping trees:
Like some deluded peasant Merlin leads
Through fragrant bow'rs, and through delicious meads,
While here enchanted gardens to him rise,
And airy fabrics there attract his eyes,          
His wand'ring feet the magic paths pursue,
And while he thinks the fair illusion true,
The trackless scenes disperse in fluid air,
And woods, and wilds, and thorny ways appear;
A tedious road the weary wretch returns,
And, as he goes, the transient vision mourns.

Ambrose Philips (1674-1749)
from The Poetical Works of Ambrose Philips, 1799

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Snow / John Davidson (I-II)



'Who affirms that crystals are alive?'
     I affirm it, let who will deny:
Crystals are engendered, wax and thrive,
     Wane and wither; I have seen them die.

Trust me, masters, crystals have their day,
     Eager to attain the perfect norm,
Lit with purpose, potent to display
     Facet, angle, colour, beauty, form.


Water-crystals need for flower and root
     Sixty clear degrees, no less, no more;
Snow, so fickle, still in this acute
     Angle thinks, and learns no other lore:

Such its life, and such its pleasure is,
     Such its art and traffic, such its gain,
Evermore in new conjunctions this
     Admirable angle to maintain.

Crystalcraft in every flower and flake
     Snow exhibits, of the welkin free:
Crystalline are crystals for the sake,
     All and singular, of crystalry.

Yet does every crystal of the snow
     Individualize, a seedling sown
Broadcast, but instinct with power to grow
     Beautiful in beauty of its own.

Every flake with all its prongs and dints
     Burns ecstatic as a new-lit star:
Men are not more diverse, finger prints
     More dissimilar than snow-flakes are.

Worlds of men and snow endure, increase,
     Woven of power and passion to defy
Time and travail: only races cease,
     Individual men and crystals die.

John Davidson (1857-1909)
from Fleet Street, and other poems, 1909
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Snow / John Davidson (III-V)


Jewelled shapes of snow whose feathery showers,
     Fallen or falling wither at a breath,
All afraid are they, and loth as flowers
     Beasts and men to tread the way to death.

Once I saw upon an object-glass,
     Martyred underneath a microscope,
One elaborate snow-flake slowly pass,
     Dying hard, beyond the reach of hope.

Still from shape to shape the crystal changed,
     Writhing in its agony; and still,
Less and less elaborate, arranged
     Potently the angle of its will.

Tortured to a simple final form,
     Angles six and six divergent beams,
Lo, in death it touched the perfect norm
     Verifying all its crystal dreams!


Such the noble tragedy of one
     Martyred snow-flake. Who can tell the fate
Heinous and uncouth of showers undone,
     Fallen in cities!– showers that expiate

Errant lives from polar worlds adrift
     Where the great millennial snows abide;
Castaways from mountain-chains that lift
     Snowy summits in perennial pride;

Nomad snows, or snows in evil day
     Born to urban ruin, to be tossed,
Trampled, shovelled, ploughed and swept away
     Down the seething sewers: all the frost

Flowers of heaven melted up with lees,
     Offal, recrement, but every flake
Showing to the last in fixed degrees
     Perfect crystals for the crystal's sake.


Usefulness of snow is but a chance
     Here in temperate climes with winter sent,
Sheltering earth's prolonged hibernal trance:
     All utility is accident.

Sixty clear degrees the joyful snow,
     Practising economy of means,
Fashions endless beauty in, and so
     Glorifies the universe with scenes

Arctic and antarctic: stainless shrouds,
     Ermine woven in silvery frost, attire
Peaks in every land among the clouds
     Crowned with snows to catch the morning's fire.

John Davidson (1857-1909)
from Fleet Street, and other poems, 1909
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Sunday, February 14, 2016

One day I wrote her name upon the strand /
Edmund Spenser

from Amoretti


One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washèd it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide and made my pains his prey.
Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalise;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.
Not so (quod I); let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame;
My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
  Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
  Our love shall live, and later life renew.

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
from Amoretti and Epithalamion, 1595

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Edmund Spenser biography

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Long May You Live / George J. Dance

Long May You Live

Long may you live, long after I am gone,
And may you always fix your thoughts upon
Our memories; may the good times you and I
Enjoyed be points of light to journey by,
Like fireflies upon a twilit lawn.

May each day find you welcoming the dawn
And living life complete: each day to try
To win, to celebrate with your head high.
      Long may you live.

May you walk in righteousness through Babylon,
True to yourself, not anybody's pawn;
And on that far-off day when you must die,
Once more may you remember me, and sigh,
And leave one wish for those who carry on:
     "Long may you live."

George J. Dance

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

George J. Dance biography

Sunday, February 7, 2016

February / Sally Bruce Kinsolving


Upon the black wet earth
I walk
While I listen
To the talk
Of birds that breast
The icy wind
Their timid friends
Have left behind —

And though
There is no burgeoning,
Nor any bird
That dares to sing,
Gold willow-wands
Bespeak the spring
And point
Their magic sceptres to
A patch of sky
As clear and blue
As any late
In a mossy spot. . . .

And while the snow
Trips over hills
As lightly as a child
That fills
Her lap in June
With daisies,
Sudden vivid green
Eyes forlorn
And city-spent
From seeing beauty scorned,
Or rent
By the many ugly scars
Wherewith man
His progress mars:

Thus in the hovering
Moment when
Mad swelling streams
Divide the glen,
And winter cleaves the year
With spring,
I lift my surging heart
And sing.

Sally Bruce Kinsolving (1876-1962)
From David and Bath-sheba, and other poems, 1922

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

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Premonition / Louise Driscoll


There’s the crystal shiver of an icicle
  Falling from a bank where the runnels are deep
That the last snow cut in the red-brown bank
  Where the melting frost-rills creep.

The pine tree branches are bending low
  With a wet, white weight; and a woodpecker drums
On a locust tree that will blossom white
  When the call for honey comes.

The elm tree is gray with a purple shade,
  And the sky seems to hang too low;
But I’ve seen a light that the willows made,
  Yellow against the snow.

The edge of the wind is dull and wet;
  The thin ice over the stream looks black;
And I know that power to power is set,
  And winter is turning back.

Louise Driscoll (1875-1957)
from The Garden of the West, 1922

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

Louise Driscoll biography

Penny's Top 20 / January 2016

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

  1.  Snow Monotones, Ben Hecht
  2.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance
  3.  Winter Dusk, Karle Wilson Baker
  4.  Winter, Charles R. Murphy
  5.  Snow Rain, Raymond Holden
  6.  Winter Evening, Archibald Lampman
  7.  A Winter Night, Arthur Symons

Under the Snow, James Lewis Milligan
  9.  The Snow-fall, Ethelwyn Wetherald

10.  The Faun Sees Snow for the First Time, Richard Aldington

11.  Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens 
12.  The New Year, Edward Thomas

13.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
14.  A Fading of the Sun, Wallace Stevens
15.  Once Like a Light, AE Reiff

16.  Winter: A Dirge, Robert Burns
17.  No SupportHector de Saint-Denys Garneau
18.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens
19.  What Can We DoHector de Saint-Denys Garneau
20.  The Death of the Old Year, Alfred Tennyson

Source: Blogger, "Stats"