Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sea-Fever / John Masefield


I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted 
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield (1878-1967)
Salt-Water Ballads, 1902

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

John Masefield biography
About "Sea-Fever"

"Sea-Fever" read by Ian Batchelor. Courtesy LiveCanonPoetry.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Song at Parting / Francis Sherman

Song at Parting

And after many days (for I shall keep
    These old things unforgotten, nevertheless!)
    My lids at last, feeling thy faint caress,
Shall open, April, to the wooded sweep
Of Northern hills; and my slow blood shall leap
    And surge, for joy and very wantonness —
    Like Northern waters when thy feet possess
The valleys, and the green year wakes from sleep.

That morn the drowsy South, as we go forth
    (Unseen thy hand in mine; I, seen of all)
        Will marvel that I seek the outmost quay,—
The while, gray leagues away, a new-born North
    Harkens with wonder to thy rapturous call
        For some old lover down across the sea.

Francis Sherman (1871-1926)
from Two Songs at Parting, 1899

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

Francis Sherman biography

J.M.W. Turner (1785-1851), The Parting of Hero and Leander. Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Darkness / George Gordon, Lord Byron


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went — and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires — and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings — the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire — but hour by hour
They fell and faded — and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash — and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless — they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought — and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails — men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer'd not with a caress — he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects — saw, and shriek'd, and died —
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless —
A lump of death — a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge —
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them — She was the Universe.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
from The Prisoner of Chillon, and other poems, 1816

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Lord Byron biography

"Darkness" read by Tom O'Bedlam. Courtesy Spoken Verse.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer /
Walt Whitman

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure 
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much 
    applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
from Drum-taps, 1865

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Walt Whitman biography

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" read by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

April's featured poem


The Penny Blog's featured poem for April 2024:

April in the Hills, by Archibald Lampman

To-day the world is wide and fair
With sunny fields of lucid air,
And waters dancing everywhere;
    The snow is almost gone

(read by Mckenzie Nicole Greenwood)

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Penny's Top 20 / March 2024


Penny's Top 20

The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in March 2024:

  1.  Skating, William Wordsworth
  2.  Winter Song, Elizabeth Tollett
  3.  March Sunset, Hilda Conkling
  4.  St. Patrick's Day, Jean Blewett
  5.  Winter Streams, Bliss Carman
  6.  Barley Feed, AE Reiff
  7.  March, Patrick Kavanagh
  8.  February, George J. Dance
  9.  August, Edmund Spenser
10.  March, Edwin Arnold

11.  Amarant, AE Reiff
12.  March: An ode, A.C. Swinburne 
13.  The World's Body, AE Reiff
14.  The Lake Isle of Innisfree, W.B. Yeats
15.  Woods in Winter, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
17.  The Spring of the Year, Allan Cunningham
18.  A Morning Song (for the First Day of Spring), Eleanor Farjeon
19.  Easter, Joyce Kilmer
20. Silk Diamond, George Sulzbach

Source: Blogger, "Stats"  

Sunday, March 31, 2024

i thank You God for most this amazing /
E.E. Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings;and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
from XAIPE: Seventy-one poems, 1950

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

E.E. Cummings biography

"i thank You God for most this amazing" read by Echoes of the Vacillating Heart.