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"