Sunday, January 20, 2019

January / E. Nesbit


While yet the air is keen, and no bird sings,
    Nor any vaguest thrills of heart declare
    The presence of the springtime in the air,
Through the raw dawn the shepherd homeward brings
The wee white lambs — the little helpless things —
    For shelter, warmth, and comfortable care.
    Without his help how hardly lambs would fare —
How hardly live through winter's hours to spring's!
So let me tend and minister apart
    To my new hope, which some day you shall know:
It could not live in January wind
Of your disdain; but when within your heart
    The bud and bloom of tenderness shall grow,
Amid the flowers my hope may welcome find.

E. Nesbit (1858-1924)
from Lays and Legends, 1886

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

E. Nesbit biography

Saturday, January 19, 2019

January Morning / William Carlos Williams

January Morning



I have discovered that most of
the beauties of travel are due to
the strange hours we keep to see them:
the domes of the Church of
the Paulist Fathers in Weehawken
against a smoky dawn —  the heart stirred —
are beautiful as Saint Peters
approached after years of anticipation.


Though the operation was postponed
I saw the tall probationers
in their tan uniforms
              hurrying to breakfast!


— and from basement entries
neatly coiffed, middle aged gentlemen
with orderly moustaches and
well-brushed coats


— and the sun, dipping into the avenues
streaking the tops of
the irregular red houselets,
the gay shadows drooping and drooping.


 — and a young horse with a green bed-quilt
on his withers shaking his head:
bared teeth and nozzle high in the air!


 — and a semicircle of dirt-colored men
about a fire bursting from an old
ash can,


— and the worn,
blue car rails (like the sky!)
gleaming among the cobbles!


— and the rickety ferry-boat "Arden"!
What an object to be called "Arden"
among the great piers, — on the
ever new river!
     "Put me a Touchstone
at the wheel, white gulls, and we'll
follow the ghost of the Half Moon
to the North West Passage — and through!
(at Albany!) for all that!"


Exquisite brown waves — long
circlets of silver moving over you!
enough with crumbling ice crusts among you!
The sky has come down to you,
lighter than tiny bubbles, face to
face with you!
    His spirit is
a white gull with delicate pink feet
and a snowy breast for you to
hold to your lips delicately!


The young doctor is dancing with happiness
in the sparkling wind, alone
at the prow of the ferry! He notices
the curdy barnacles and broken ice crusts
left at the slip's base by the low tide
and thinks of summer and green
shell-crusted ledges among
        the emerald eel-grass!


Who knows the Palisades as I do
knows the river breaks east from them
above the city — but they continue south
— under the sky — to bear a crest of
little peering houses that brighten
with dawn behind the moody
water-loving giants of Manhattan.


Long yellow rushes bending
above the white snow patches;
purple and gold ribbon
of the distant wood:
   what an angle
you make with each other as
you lie there in contemplation.


Work hard all your young days
and they'll find you too, some morning
staring up under
your chiffonier at its warped
bass-wood bottom and your soul —
— among the little sparrows
behind the shutter.


— and the flapping flags are at
half-mast for the dead admiral.


All this —
was for you, old woman.
I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you can't understand it?
   But you got to try hard —
But —
      Well, you know how
the young girls run giggling
on Park Avenue after dark
when they ought to be home in bed?
that's the way it is with me somehow.

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
from A Book of Poems: Al que quiere!, 1917

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

William Carlos Williams biography

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Winter Solitude / Archibald Lampman

Winter Solitude

I saw the city's towers on a luminous pale-gray sky;
Beyond them a hill of the softest mistiest green,
With naught but frost and the coming of night between,
And a long thin cloud above the colour of August rye.

I sat in the midst of a plain on my snowshoes with bended knee
Where the thin wind stung my cheeks,
And the hard snow ran in little ripples and peaks,
Like the fretted floor of a white and petrified sea.

And a strange peace gathered about my soul and shone,
As I sat reflecting there,
In a world so mystically fair,
So deathly silent  —  I so utterly alone.

Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)
from At the Long Sault, and other new poems, 1943

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Archibald Lampman biography

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Frosted Pane / Charles G.D. Roberts

The Frosted Pane

One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
    Against my window-pane.
In the deep stillness of his heart convened
    The ghosts of all his slain.

Leaves, and ephemera, and stars of earth,
    And fugitives of grass,—
White spirits loosed from bonds of mortal birth,
    He drew them on the glass.

Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943)
from The Book of the Native, 1896

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

Charles G.D. Roberts biography

Sunday, January 6, 2019

An Old Man's Winter Night / Robert Frost

An Old Man's Winter Night

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him — at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off;—and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon,— such as she was,
So late-arising,— to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man — one man — can't fill a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
from Mountain Interval, 1920

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

Robert Frost biography

Saturday, January 5, 2019

January Morning / Michael Strange

January Morning

How grey the city day!
How heavy with despair,
The very hush of wind
Is imminent with care.
O! how my spirit fits
The pressure of this sigh
And groans beneath a wish
To vacillate and die!


A morning when 'tis dull to live,
And still more dull to die;
A morning when 'tis sad to laugh
And more sad still to cry;
A morning that is grey with mist
And heavy with the rain.
As if the air were drenched in tears
Upon a wind of pain.

Michael Strange (1890-1950)
from Miscellaneous Poems, 1916

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

Michael Strange biography

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Morning / Helen Hunt Jackson

New Year’s Morning

 Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year’s heart all weary grew,
But said: “The New Year rest has brought.”
The Old Year’s hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
“The blossoms of the New Year’s crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.”
The Old Year’s heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: “I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year’s generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife.”
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

 Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year’s morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
from Poems, 1886

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Helen Hunt Jackson biography