Sunday, November 26, 2017

November (A London Fog) / J. Ashby-Sterry


A London Fog, 'tis always here
At this inclement time of year!
     When people hang themselves or drown,
     And Nature wears her blackest frown,
While all the world is dull and drear.

All form and colour disappear
Within this filthy atmosphere:
     'Tis sometimes yellow, sometimes brown,
           A London Fog!

It chokes our lungs, our heads feel queer,
We cannot see, can scarcely hear:
     So when this murky pall drops down —
     Though dearly loving London town —
We feel we cannot quite revere
          A London Fog!

J. Ashby-Sterry (1836-1917)
from The Lazy Minstrel, 1886

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

J. Ashby-Sterry biography

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Dream in November / Edmund Gosse

A Dream in November

Far, far away, I know not where, I know not how,
     The skies are grey, the boughs are bare, bare boughs in flower:
Long lilac silk is softly drawn from bough to bough,
     With flowers of milk and buds of fawn, a 'broidered shower.

Beneath that tent an Empress sits, with slanted eyes,
     And wafts of scent from censers flit, a lilac flood;
Around her throne bloom peach and plum in lacquered dyes,
     And many a blown chrysanthemum, and many a bud.

She sits and dreams, while bonzes twain strike some rich bell,
     Whose music seems a metal rain of radiant dye;
In this strange birth of various blooms, I cannot tell
     Which spring from earth, which slipped from looms, which sank from sky;

Beneath her wings of lilac dim, in robes of blue,
     The Empress sings a wordless hymn that thrills her bower;
My trance unweaves, and winds, and shreds, and forms anew
     Dark bronze, bright leaves, pure silken threads, in triple flower.

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
from The Yellow Book, April 1894

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Letter in November / Sylvia Plath

Letter in November

Love, the world
Suddenly turns, turns color. The streetlight
Splits through the rat's tail
Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic,

This little black
Circle, with its tawn silk grasses – babies hair.
There is a green in the air,
Soft, delectable.
It cushions me lovingly.

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
My Wellingtons
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.

This is my property.
Two times a day
I pace it, sniffing
The barbarous holly with its viridian
Scallops, pure iron,

And the wall of the odd corpses.
I love them.
I love them like history.
The apples are golden,
Imagine it ——

My seventy trees
Holding their gold-ruddy balls
In a thick gray death-soup,
Their million
Gold leaves metal and breathless.

O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me
Walks the waist high wet.
The irreplaceable
Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963}, 1962
from Ariel, 1965

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Sylvia Plath biography

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fate / Patrick MacGill


The cloudwrack o'er the heaven flies,
     The wild wind whistles on the lake,
     The drooping branches in the brake
Mourn for the pale blue butterflies.

Where is the sheen of green and gold?
     The sullen Winter's beard is hoar,
     Where are the fruits the Autumn bore?
We know not, who are growing old.

We pulled the dainty flowers of spring,
     But we were happy being young –
     And now when Autumn's knell is rung
We wither 'neath the vampire wing.

Patrick MacGill (1889-1963)
from Songs of a Navvy1911

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

Patrick MacGill biography

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why the War? / John Gould Fletcher

from Modern Lamentations

Why the War?

They went to a field, and there lay two swords and two ploughshares;
And the first man said, “Plow, brother.”
But the second man frowned, and growled, tossing his head,
“We must kill each other.”

“The fruits of earth are beautiful — flowers and fruits,  
From the warm breast of earth, our mother.”
“Flower and fruit are for fools who want them, and beauty to boot!
We must kill each other.”

“Then let us strive, if you will, but only in peace;
In life let us conquer each other.”      
“Death settles the contest more quickly; one cut will release:
We must kill each other.”

“If death settles all, why then either fight or strive?
Let us sit down on the grass and weep for each other.”
“Because only so can the farce be played to the last:  
Draw, brother.”

John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950)
from Poetry, December 1916

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dulce et Decorum est / Wilfred Owen

Dulce et Decorum est 

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!— An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), 1918
from Poems, 1920

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

Wilfred Owen biography

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November in the Park / Dorothy Dudley

November in the Park

The lamps hang low in the silent park —
A hundred milk-white moons;
The trees weep gently in the dark
In dim festoons;
The trees reach outward upward
Long dark arms
In tearful dancing and in prayer.
The small pond bares to drifting skies
The furtive charms
Of her silver eyes,
And lies where white paths gleam around
Like something rare:
For Beauty and Romance have drowned
A princess there.

Dorothy Dudley (1884-1962)
from Poetry, November 1915

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

Dorothy Dudley biography

Saturday, November 4, 2017

There is strange musick in the stirring wind /
William Lisle Bowles


November, 1792

There is strange musick in the stirring wind,
  When low'rs the autumnal eve, and all alone
To the dark wood’s cold covert thou art gone,
Whose ancient trees on the rough slope reclin'd
  Rock, and at times scatter their tresses sere.      
If in such shades, beneath their murmuring,
Thou late hast pass'd the happier hours of spring,
  With sadness thou wilt mark the fading year;
Chiefly if one, with whom such sweets at morn
  Or eve you shar'd, to distant scenes shall stray.        
  O Spring, return! return, auspicious May!
But sad will be thy coming, and forlorn,
  If she return not with thy cheering ray,
  Who from these shades is gone, gone far away.

William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850)
from Sonnets, with other poems, 1794

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

William Lisle Bowles biography

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Penny's Top 20 / October 2017

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in October 2017:

  1.  Winterworld Descending, Will Dockery
  2.  October, Margaret Veley
  3.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens
  4.  Autumn, Kalidasa
  5.  Autumnal, Ernest Dowson
  6.  Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  7.  October (Once More at Home), J. Ashby-Sterry
  8.  October, John Reed
  9.  October, Edward Thomas

Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy 

11.  The Haunted Palace, Edgar Allan Poe
12.  There Was a Time, George J. Dance
13.  The woods shake in an angue-fit, Mathilde Blind

14.  North Wind in October, Robert Bridges
15.  Evil, Arthur Rimbaud
16.  A Winter's Tale, D.H. Lawrence
17.  In October, Archibald Lampman
18.  Chaos in Motion and Not in Motion, Wallace Stevens
19.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance  
20.  Premonition, George J. Dance

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