Free Capitalist

Great poems by the masters

232 posts in this topic

Here is my favorite nature poem, Swinburne's rapturous hymn to the sun---as the symbol of song.

Off Shore, by Algernon Charles Swinburne

When the might of the summer

Is most on the sea;

When the days overcome her

With joy but to be,

With rapture of royal enchantment, and sorcery

that sets her not free,

But for hours upon hours

As a thrall she remains

Spell-bound as with flowers

And content in their chains,

And her loud steeds fret not, and lift not

a lock of their deep white manes;

Then only, far under

In the depths of her hold,

Some gleam of its wonder

Man's eye may behold,

Its wild weed-forests of crimson and russet

and olive and gold.

Still deeper and dimmer

And goodlier they glow

For the eyes of the swimmer

Who scans them below

As he crosses the zone of their flowerage that

knows not of sunshine and snow.

Soft blossomless frondage

And foliage that gleams

As to prisoners in bondage

The light of their dreams,

The desire of a dawn unbeholden, with hope

on the wings of its beams.

Not as prisoners entombed

Waxen haggard and wizen,

But consoled and illumed

In the depths of their prison

With delight of the light everlasting and vision

of dawn on them risen,

From the banks and the beds

Of the waters divine

They lift up their heads

And the flowers of them shine

Through the splendor of darkness that clothes

them of water that glimmers like wine.

Bright bank over bank

Making glorious the gloom,

Soft rank upon rank,

Strange bloom after bloom,

They kindle the liquid low twilight, and dusk

of the dim sea's womb.

Through the subtle and tangible

Gloom without form,

Their branches, infrangible

Ever of storm

Spread softer their sprays than the shoots of the

woodland when April is warm.

As the flight of the thunder, full

Charged with its word,

Dividing the wonderful

Depths like a bird,

Speaks wrath and delight to the heart of the

night that exults to have heard,

So swiftly, though soundless

In silence's ear,

Light, winged from the boundless

Blue depths full of cheer,

Speaks joy to the heart of the waters that part

not before him, but hear.

Light, perfect and visible

Godhead of god,

God indivisible,

Lifts but his rod,

And the shadows are scattered in sunder, and

darkness is light at his nod.

At the touch of his wand,

At the nod of his head,

From the spaces beyond

Where the dawn hath her bed,

Earth, water, and air are transfigured, and

rise as one risen from the dead.

He puts forth his hand,

And the mountains are thrilled

To the heart as they stand

In his presence, fulfilled

With his glory that utters his grace upon

earth, and her sorrows are stilled.

The moan of her travail

That groans for the light

Till day-spring unravel

The weft of the night,

At the sound of the strings of the music of

morning, falls dumb with delight.

He gives forth his word,

And the word that he saith,

Ere well it be heard,

Strikes darknesss to death;

For the thought of his heart is the sunrise, and

dawn as the sound of his breath.

And the strength of its pulses

That passion makes proud

Confounds and convulses

The depths of the cloud

Of the darkness that heaven was engirt with,

divided and rent as a shroud,

As the veil of the shrine

Of the temple of old

When darkness divine

Over noonday was rolled;

As the heart of the night by the pulse of the

light is convulsed and controlled.

And the sea's heart, groaning

For glories withdrawn,

And the waves' mouths, moaning

All night for the dawn,

Are uplift as the hearts and the mouths of the

singers on leaside and lawn.

And the sound of the choiring

Of all these as one,

Desired and desiring

Till dawn's will be done,

Fills full with delight of them heaven till it

burns as the heart of the sun.

Till the waves too inherit

And the waters take part

In the sense of the spirit

That breathes from his heart,

And are kindled with music as fire when the

lips of the morning part,

With music unheard

In the light of her lips,

In the life-giving word

Of the dewfall that drips

On the grasses of earth, and the wind that en-

kindles the wings of the ships.

White glories of wings

As of seafaring birds

That flock from the springs

Of the sunrise in herds

With the wind for a herdsman, and hasten or

halt at the change of his words.

As the watchword's change

When the wind's note shifts,

And the skies grow strange,

And the white squall drifts

Up sharp from the sea-line, vexing the sea

till the low cloud lifts.

At the charge of his word

Bidding pause, bidding hastwe,

When the ranks are stirred

And the lines displaced,

They scatter as wild swans parting adrift on

the wan green waste.

At the hush of his word,

In a pause of his breath

When the waters have heard

His will that he saith,

They stand as a flock penned close in its fold

for division of death.

As a flock by division

Of death to be thinned,

As the shades in a vision

Of spirits that sinned;

So glimmer their shrouds and their sheetings

as clouds on the stream of the wind.

But the sun stands fast,

And the sea burns bright,

And the flight of them past

Is no more than the flight

Of the snow-soft swarm of serene wings poised

and afloat in the light.

Like flowers upon flowers

In a festival way

When hours after hours

Shed grace on the day,

White blossom-like butterflies hover and gleam

through the snows of the spray.

Like snow-colored petals

Of blossoms that flee

From storm that unsettles

The flower as the tree

They flutter, a legion of flowers on the wing,

through the field of the sea.

Through the furrowless field

Where the foam-blossoms blow

And the secrets are sealed

Of their harvest below

They float in the path of the sunbeams, as

flakes or as blossoms of snow.

Till the sea's ways darken,

And the God, withdrawn,

Give ear not or hearken

If prayer on him fawn,

And the sun's self seem but a shadow, the

noon as a ghost of the dawn.

No shadow, but rather

God, father of song,

Shew grace to me, Father

God, loved of me long,

That I lose not the light of thy face, that my

trust in thee work me not wrong.

While yet I make forward

With face toward thee

Not yet turned in shoreward,

Be thine upon me;

Ne thy light on my forehead or ever I turn

it again from the sea.

As a kiss on my brow

Be the light of thy grace,

Be thy glance on me now

From the pride of thy place:

As the sign of a sire to a son be the light on

my face of thy face.

Thou wast father of olden

Times hailed and adored,

And the sense of thy golden

Great harp's monochord

Was the joy in the soul of the singers that

hailed thee for master and lord.

Fair father of all

In thy ways that have trod,

That have risen at thy call,

That have thrilled at thy nod,

Arise, shine, lighten upon me, O sun that we

see to be God.

As my soul has been dutiful

Only to thee,

O God most beautiful,

Lighten thou me,

As I swim through the dim long rollers, with

eyelids uplift from the sea.

Be praised and adored od us

All in accord,

Father and lord of us

Alway adored,

The slayer and the stayer and the harper, the

light of us all and our lord.

At the sound of thy lyre,

At at a touch of thy rod,

Air quickens to fire

By the foot of thee trod,

The saviour and healer and singer, the living

and visible God.

The years are before thee

As the shadows of thee,

As men that adore thee,

As cloudlets that flee:

But thou art the God, and thy kingdom is

heaven, and thy shrine is the sea.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson (excerpts)

This is a one of my Favorites. Much thanks to Dr. Peikoff for including it and other great poems in his Poems I Like--And Why.


....Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'

Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!

As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains; but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things............

.....And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


Old age hath yet his honor and this toil.

Death closes all; but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done....


Come, my friends.

'T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.


Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


For full text of Ulysses, click here

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

In Swinburne's Greek-style verse play, the mythological first king of Athens responds to a messenger sent by Eumolpus, who demands the surrender of Athens if she wishes to avoid the onslaught of his navy.


To fight then be it; for if to die or live,

No man but only a god knows this much yet

Seeing us fare forth, who bear but in our hands

The weapons not the fortunes of our fight;

For these now rest as lots that yet undrawn

Lie in the lap of the unknown hour; but this

I know, not thou, whose hollow mouth of storm

Is but a warlike wind, a sharp salt breath

That bites and wounds not; death nor life of mine

Shall give to death or lordship of strange kings

The soul of this live city, nor their heel

Bruise her dear brow discrowned, nor snaffle or goad

Wound her free mouth or stain her sanguine side

Yet masterless of man; so bid thy lord

Learn ere he weep to learn it, and too late

Gnash teeth that could not fasten on her flesh,

And foam his life out in dark froth of blood

Vain as a wind's waif of the loud-mouthed sea

Torn from the wave's edge whitening. Tell him this;

Though thrice his might were mustered for our scathe

And thicker set with fence of thorn-edged spears

Than sands are whirled about the wintering beach

When storms have swoln the rivers, and their blasts

Have breached the broad sea-banks with stress of sea,

That waves of inland and the main make war

As men that mix and grapple; though his ranks

Were more to number than all wildwood leaves

The wind waves on the hills of all the world,

Yet should the heart not faint, the head not fall,

The breath not fail of Athens. Say, the gods

From lips that have no more on earth to say

Have told thee this the last good news or ill

That I shall speak in sight of earth and sun

Or he shall hear and see them: for the next

That ear of his from tongue of mine may take

Must be the first word spoken underground

From dead to dead in darkness. Hence; make haste,

Lest war's fleet foot be swifter than thy tongue

And I that part not to return again

On him that comes not to depart away

Be fallen before thee; for the time is full,

And with such mortal hope as knows not fear

I go this high last way to the end of all.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

As I was watching the movie National Treasure on DVD, in preparation for celebrating July 4th tomorrow (today, really), I came across a mention of a poem by Longfellow, entitled Paul Revere's Ride. I've found the movie to be very good, and this poem even better, and now share it with all of you so that we can all become immersed in that time, and join in celebration together on this day that matters most:

Paul Revere's Ride

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--

One if by land, and two if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar

Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,

Just as the moon rose over the bay,

Where swinging wide at her moorings lay

The Somerset, British man-of-war;

A phantom ship, with each mast and spar

Across the moon like a prison bar,

And a huge black hulk, that was magnified

By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street

Wanders and watches, with eager ears,

Till in the silence around him he hears

The muster of men at the barrack door,

The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,

And the measured tread of the grenadiers,

Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,

By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,

To the belfry chamber overhead,

And startled the pigeons from their perch

On the sombre rafters, that round him made

Masses and moving shapes of shade,--

By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,

To the highest window in the wall,

Where he paused to listen and look down

A moment on the roofs of the town

And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,

In their night encampment on the hill,

Wrapped in silence so deep and still

That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,

The watchful night-wind, as it went

Creeping along from tent to tent,

And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"

A moment only he feels the spell

Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread

Of the lonely belfry and the dead;

For suddenly all his thoughts are bent

On a shadowy something far away,

Where the river widens to meet the bay,--

A line of black that bends and floats

On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,

Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride

On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.

Now he patted his horse's side,

Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,

Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,

And turned and tightened his saddle girth;

But mostly he watched with eager search

The belfry tower of the Old North Church,

As it rose above the graves on the hill,

Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height

A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!

He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,

But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight

A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,

A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,

And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark

Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;

That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,

The fate of a nation was riding that night;

And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,

Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,

And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,

Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;

And under the alders that skirt its edge,

Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,

Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock

When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.

He heard the crowing of the cock,

And the barking of the farmer's dog,

And felt the damp of the river fog,

That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,

When he galloped into Lexington.

He saw the gilded weathercock

Swim in the moonlight as he passed,

And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,

Gaze at him with a spectral glare,

As if they already stood aghast

At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,

When he came to the bridge in Concord town.

He heard the bleating of the flock,

And the twitter of birds among the trees,

And felt the breath of the morning breeze

Blowing over the meadow brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed

Who at the bridge would be first to fall,

Who that day would be lying dead,

Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read

How the British Regulars fired and fled,---

How the farmers gave them ball for ball,

From behind each fence and farmyard wall,

Chasing the redcoats down the lane,

Then crossing the fields to emerge again

Under the trees at the turn of the road,

And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;

And so through the night went his cry of alarm

To every Middlesex village and farm,---

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo for evermore!

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is Swinburne's great fresh melodious first chorus from "Atalanta In Calydon":

When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces,

The mother of months in meadow or plain

Fills the shadows and windy places

With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;

And the brown bright nightingale amorous

Is half assuaged for Itylus,

For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces,

The tongueless vigil, and all the pain.

Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,

Maiden most perfect, lady of light,

With a noise of winds and many rivers,

With a clamour of waters, and with might;

Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,

Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;

For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,

Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.

Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her,

Fold our hands round her knees and cling?

O that man's heart were as fire and could spring to her,

Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring!

For the stars and the winds are unto her

As raiment, as songs of the harp-player;

For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her,

And the southwest-wind and the west-wind sing.

For winter's rains and ruins are over,

And all the season of snows and sins;

The days dividing lover and lover,

The light that loses, the night that wins;

And time remembered is grief forgotten,

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,

And in green underwood and cover

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

The full streams feed on flower of rushes,

Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,

The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes

From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;

And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,

And the oat is heard above the lyre,

And the hoof-ed heel of a satyr crushes

The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root.

And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night,

Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,

Follows with dancing and fills with delight

The Maenad and the Bassarid;

And soft as lips that laugh and hide

The laughing leaves of the tree divide,

And screen from seeing and leave in sight

The god pursuing, the maiden hid.

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair

Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;

The wild vine slipping down leaves bare

Her bright breast shortening into sighs;

The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,

But the berried ivy catches and cleaves

To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare

The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This lyric by Swinburne has not a happy ending, but its images are memorably beautiful. It was one of my earliest favorites. It is regrettable that Swinburne did not write more poems in the vein of the first nine stanzas. And yet the ending is beautifully, touchingly done.

An Interlude, by A.C. Swinburne

In the greenest growth of the Maytime,

I rode where the woods were wet,

Between the dawn and the daytime;

The spring was glad that we met.

There was something the season wanted,

Though the ways and the woods smelt sweet;

The breath at your lips that panted,

The pulse of the grass at your feet.

You came, and the sun came after,

And the green grew golden above;

And the flag-flowers lightened with laughter,

And the meadow sweet shook with love.

Your feet in the full-grown grasses

Moved soft as a weak wind blows;

You passed me as April passes,

With face made out of a rose.

By the stream where the stems were slender,

Your bright foot paused at the sedge;

It might be to watch the tender

Light leaves in the springtime hedge

On boughs that the sweet month blanches

With flowery frost of May:

It might be a bird in the branches,

It might be a thorn in the way.

I waited to watch you linger

With foot drawn back from the dew,

Till a sunbeam straight like a finger

Struck sharp through the leaves at you!

And a bird overhead sang "Follow",

And a bird to the right sang "Here";

And the arch of the leaves was hollow,

And the meaning of May was clear.

I saw where the sun's hand pointed,

I knew what the bird's note said;

By the dawn and the dewfall anointed

You were queen by the gold on your head.

As a glimpse of a burnt-out ember

Recalls a regret of the sun,

I remember, forget, and remember,

What Love saw done and undone.

I remember the way we parted,

The day and the way we met;

You hoped we were both broken-hearted,

And knew we should both forget.

And May with her world in flower

Seemed still to murmer and smile

As you murmered and smiled for an hour;

I saw you turn at the stile.

A hand like a white wood-blossom

You lifted, and waved, and passed,

With head hung down to the bosom,

And pale, as it seemed, at last.

And the best and the worst of this is

That neither is most to blame

If you've forgotten my kisses

And I've forgotten your name.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here, from W. I., a quite different spirit.

A Certain Young Lady, by Washington Irving

There's a certain young lady,

Who's just in her hey-day,

And full of all mischief, I ween;

So teasing! so pleasing!

Capricious! delicious!

And you know very well whom I mean.

With an eye dark as night,

Yet than noonday more bright,

Was ever a black eye so keen?

It can thrill with a glance,

With a beam can entrance,

And you know very well whom I mean.

With a stately step---such as

You'd expect in a duchess---

And a brow might distinguish a queen,

With a mighty proud air,

That says "touch me who dare,"

And you know very well whom I mean.

With a toss of the head

That strikes one quite dead,

But a smile to revive one again;

That toss so appalling!

That smile so enthralling!

And you know very well whom I mean.

Confound her! de'il take her!---

A cruel heart-breaker---

But hold! see that smile so serene.

God love her! God bless her!

May nothing distress her!

You know very well whom I mean.

Heaven help the adorer

Who happens to bore her,

The lover who wakens her spleen;

But too blest for a sinner

Is he who shall win her,

And you know very well whom I mean.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is Shelley at his most noble and benevolent best:

Hymn Of Apollo, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,

Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries

From the broad moonlight of the sky,

Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes,---

Waken me when their Mother, the gray Dawn,

Tells them that dreams and that the moon is gone.

Then I arise, and climbing Heaven's blue dome,

I walk over the mountains and the waves,

Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;

My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves

Are filled with my bright presence, and the air

Leaves the green Earth to my embraces bare.

The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill

Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;

All men who do or even imagine ill

Fly me, and from the glory of my ray

Good minds and open actions take new might,

Until diminished by the reign of Night.

I feed the clouds, the rainbows and the flowers

With their aethereal colours; the moon's globe

And the pure stars in their eternal bowers

Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;

Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine

Are portions of one power, which is mine.

I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven,

Then with unwilling steps I wander down

Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;

For grief that I depart they weep and frown:

What look is more delightful than the smile

With which I soothe them from the western isle?

I am the eye with which the Universe

Beholds itself and knows itself divine;

All harmony of instrument or verse,

All prophecy, all medicine is mine,

All light of art or nature;---to my song

Victory and praise in its own right belong.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

In support of revolutionaries in the 19th century, Swinburne wrote a book of lyrics called Songs Before Sunrise. Here is the first third of

A Marching Song, by A.C. Swinburne

We mix from many lands,

We march for very far;

In hearts and lips and hands

Our staffs and weapons are;

The light we walk in darkens sun and moon and star.

It doth not flame and wane

With years and spheres that roll;

Storm cannot shake nor stain

The strength that makes it whole,

The fire that moulds and moves it of the sovereign soul.

We are they that have to cope

With time till time retire;

We live on hopeless hope,

We feed on tears and fire;

Time, foot by foot, gives back before our sheer desire.

From the edge of harsh derision,

From discord and defeat,

From doubt and lame division,

We pluck the fruit and eat;

And the mouth finds it bitter, and the spirit sweet.

We strive with time at wrestling

Till time be on our side

And hope, our plumeless nestling,

A full-fledged eagle ride

Down the loud length of storm its windward wings divide.

We are girt with our belief,

Clothed with our will and crowned;

Hope, fear, delight, and grief,

Before our will give ground;

Their calls are in our ears as shadows of dead sound.

All but the heart forsakes us,

All fails us but the will;

Keen treason tracks and takes us

In pits for blood to fill;

Friend falls from friend, and faith for faith lays wait to kill.

Out under moon and stars

And shafts of the urgent sun

Whose face on prison bars

And mountain-heads is one,

Our march is everlasting till time's march be done.

Whither we know and whence,

And dare not care wherethrough,

Desires that urge the sense,

Fears changing old with new,

Perils and pains beset the ways we press into.

Earth gives us thorns to tread,

And all her thorns are trod;

Through lands burnt black and red

We pass with feet unshod;

Whence we would be man shall not keep us, nor man's God.

Through the great desert beasts

Howl at our backs by night,

And thunder-forging priests

Blow their dead bale-fires bright,

And on their broken anvils beat out bolts for fight.

Inside their sacred smithies,

Though hot the hammer rings,

Their steel links snap like withies,

Their chains like twisted strings;

Their surest fetters are as plighted words of kings.

O nations undivided,

O single people and free,

We dreamers, we derided,

We mad blind men that see,

We bear you witness ere ye come that ye shall be.

Ye sitting among tombs,

Ye standing round the the gate,

Whom fire-mouthed war consumes,

Or cold-lipped peace bids wait,

All tombs and bars shall open, every grave and grate.

The locks shall burst in sunder,

The hinges shrieking spin,

When time, whose hand is thunder,

Lays hand upon the pin

And shoots the bolts reluctant, bidding all men in.

These eyeless times and earless,

Shall these not see and hear,

And all their hearts beat fearless

That were afrost for fear?

Is day not hard upon us, yea, not our day near?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here, from Songs Before Sunrise, are two short lyrics to Freedom:

Cor Cordium, by Swinburne

O heart of hearts, the chalice of love's fire,

Hid round with flowers and all the bounty of bloom;

O wonderful and perfect heart for whom

The lyrist liberty made life a lyre;

O heavenly heart at whose most dear desire

Dead love, living and singing, cleft his tomb,

And with him risen and regent in death's room

All day thy choral pulses rang full choir;

O heart whose beating blood was running song,

O sole thing sweeter than thine own songs were,

Help us for thy free love's sake to be free,

True for thy truth's sake, for thy strength's sake strong,

Till very liberty make clean and fair

The nursing earth as the sepulchral sea.


The Oblation, by Swinburne

Ask nothing more of me sweet,

All I can give you I give;

Heart of my heart, were it more,

More would be laid at your feet:

Love that should help you to live,

Song that should spur you to soar.

All things were nothing to give

Once to have sense of you more,

Touch you and taste of you, sweet,

Think you and breathe you and live,

Swept by your wings as they soar,

Trodden by chance of your feet.

I that have love and no more

Give you but love of you, sweet:

He that hath more, let him give;

He that hath wings, let him soar;

Mine is the heart at your feet

Here, that must love you to live.


Here, from his first book of poems, is Swinburne's first response to the political world of his day:

A Song In Time Of Order, by Swinburne (1852)

Push hard across the sand,

For the salt wind gathers breath;

Shoulder and wrist and hand,

Push hard as the push of death.

The wind is as iron that rings,

The foam-heads loosen and flee;

It swells and welters and swings,

The pulse of the tide of the sea.

And up on the yellow cliff

The long corn flickers and shakes;

Push, for the wind holds stiff,

And the gunwale dips and rakes.

Good hap to the fresh fierce weather,

The quiver and beat of the sea!

While three men hold together,

The kingdoms are less by three.

Out to the sea with her there,

Out with her over the sand,

Let the kings keep the earth for their share!

We have done with the sharers of land.

They have tied the world in a tether,

They have bought over God with a fee;

While three men hold together,

The kingdoms are less by three.

We have done with the kisses that sting,

The thief's mouth red from the feast,

The blood on the hands of the king,

And the lie at the lips of the priest.

Will they tie the winds in a tether,

Put a bit in the jaws of the sea?

While three men hold together,

The kingdoms are less by three.

Let our flag run out straight in the wind!

The old red shall be floated again

When the rank that are thin shall be thinned,

When the names that were twenty are ten;

When the devil's riddle is mastered

And the galley-bench creaks with a Pope,

We shall see Buonaparte the bastard

Kick heels with his throat in a rope.

While the shepherd sets wolves on his sheep

And the emperor halters his Kine,

While Shame is a watchman asleep

And Faith is a keeper of swine,

Let the wind shake our flag like a feather,

Like the plumes of the foam of the sea!

While three men hold together,

The kingdoms are less by three.

All the world has its burdens to bear,

From Cayenne to the Austrian whips;

Forth, with the rain in our hair

And the salt sweet foam in our lips;

In the teeth of the hard glad weather,

In the blown wet face of the sea:

While three men hold together,

The kingdoms are less by three.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a good old pirate piece:

Pirate's Song, by Victor Hugo (trans. by H.L. Williams)

We're bearing five-score Christian dogs

To serve the cruel drivers:

Some are fair beauties gently born,

And some rough coral-divers.

We hardy skimmers of the sea

Are lucky in each sally,

And, eighty strong, we send along

The dreaded Pirate Galley.

A nunnery was spied ashore,

We lowered away the cutter,

And, landing, seized the youngest nun

Ere she a cry could utter;

Beside the creek, deaf to our oars,

She slumbered in green valley,

As, eighty strong, we sent along

The dreaded Pirate Galley.

"Be silent, darling, you must come---

The wind is off shore blowing;

You only change your prison dull

For one that's splendid, glowing!

His Highness doats on milky cheeks,

So do not make us dally"---

We, eighty strong, who send along

The dreaded Pirate Galley.

She sought to flee back to her cell,

And called us each a devil!

We dare do aught becomes Old Scratch,

But like a treatment civil;

So, spite of buffet, prayers, and calls---

Too late her friends to rally---

We, eighty strong, bore her along

Unto the Pirate Galley.

The fairer for her tears profuse,

As dews refresh the flower,

She is well worth three purses full,

And will adorn the bower---

For vain her vow to pine and die

Thus torn from her dear valley:

She reigns, and we still row along

The dreaded Pirate Galley.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

In this passionate lyric Swinburne indirectly urges on the republican-minded revolutionaries of Mazini, but it is a timeless poem as well. Remember, for best personal effect, read aloud.

The Song Of the Standard, by Swinburne

Maiden most beautiful, mother most bountiful, lady of lands,

Queen and republican, crowned of the centuries whose years are thy sands,

See for thy sake what we bring to thee, Italy, here in our hands.

This is the banner thy gonfalon, fair in the front of thy fight,

Red from the hearts that were pierced for thee, white as thy mountains are white,

Green as the spring of thy soul everlasting, whose life-blood is light.

Take to thy bosom thy banner, a fair bird fit for the nest,

Feathered for flight into sunrise or sunset, for eastward or west,

Fledged for the flight everlasting, but held yet warm to thy breast.

Gather it close to thee, song-bird or storm-bearer, eagle or dove,

Lift it to sunward, a beacon beneath to the beacon above,

Green as our hope in it, white as our faith in it, red as our love.

Thunder and splendor of lightning are hid in the folds of it furled;

Who shall unroll it but thou, as thy bolt to be handled and hurled,

Out of whose lips is the honey, whose bosom the milk of the world?

Out of thine hands hast thou fed us with pasture of color and song;

Glory and beauty by birthright to thee as thy garments belong;

Out of thine hands thou shalt give us as surely deliverance from wrong.

Out of thine eyes thou hast shed on us love as a lamp on our night,

Wisdom a lodestar to ships, and remembrance a flame-colored light;

Out of thine eyes thou shalt show us as surely the sundawn of right.

Turn to us, speak to us, Italy, mother, but once and a word,

None shall not follow thee, none shall not serve thee, not one that has heard;

Twice hast thou spoken a message, and time is athirst for the third.

Kingdom and empire of peoples thou hadst, and thy lordship made one

North sea and south sea and east men and west men that look on the sun;

Spirit was in thee and counsel, when soul in the nations was none.

Banner and beacon thou wast to the centuries of stormwind and foam,

Ages that clashed in the dark with each other, and years without home;

Empress and prophetess wast thou, and what wilt thou now be, O Rome?

Ah, by the faith and the hope and the love that have need of thee now,

Shines not thy face with the forethought of freedom, and burns not thy brow?

Who is against her but all men? and who is beside her but thou?

Art thou not better than all men? and where shall she turn but to thee?

Lo, not a breath, not a beam, not a beacon from midland to sea;

Freedom cries out for a sign among nations, and none will be free.

England in doubt of her, France in despair of her, all without heart----

Stand on her side in the vanward of ages, and strike on her part!

Strike but one stroke for the love of her love of thee, sweet that thou art!

Take in thy right hand thy banner, a strong staff fit for thine hand;

Forth at the light of it lifted shall foul things flock from the land;

Faster than stars from the sun shall they fly, being lighter than sand.

Green thing to green in the summer makes answer, and rose-tree to rose;

Lily by lily the year becomes perfect; and none of us knows

What thing is fairest of all things on earth as it brightens and blows.

This thing is fairest in all time of all things, in all time is best----

Freedom, that made thee, our mother, and suckled her sons at thy breast;

Take to thy bosom the nations, and there shall the world come to rest.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a very positive sonnet by an unknown poet, published in 1593---

His Lady's Might

Those eyes which set my fancy on a fire,

Those crisped hairs which hold my heart in chains,

Those dainty hands which conquered my desire,

That wit which of my thoughts doth hold the reins!

Those eyes, for clearness do the stars surpass,

Those hairs obscure the brightness of the sun,

Those hands, more white than ever ivory was,

That wit, even to the skies hath glory won!

O eyes that pierce our hearts without remorse,

O hairs of right that wear a royal crown,

O hands that conquer more than Caesar's force,

O wit that turns huge kingdoms upside down!

Then Love be judge, what heart may thee withstand,

Such eyes, such hair, such wit, and such a hand.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a re-posting of two delightful poems by John Skelton and one by Thomas Nashe.

To Mistress Isabel Pennell, by John Skelton (1460-1529)

By Saint Mary, my lady,

Your mammy and your daddy

Brought forth a goodly baby.

My maiden Isabel,

Reflaring rosabel,

The flagrant camomel,

The ruddy rosary,

The sovereign rosemary,

The pretty strawberry,

The columbine, the nept,

The jelofer well set,

The proper violet;

Ennewed your colour

Is like the daisy flower

After the April shower.

Star of the morrow gray,

The blossom on the spray,

The freshest flower of May,

Maidenly demure,

Of womanhood the lure;

Wherefore I you assure,

It were an heavenly health,

It were an endless wealth,

A life for God himself,

To hear this nightingale

Among the bird-es smale

Warbling in the vale,

"Dug, dug,

Jug, jug!

Good year and good luck!"

With "Chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck!"


To Mistress Margaret Hussey, by John Skelton

Merry Margaret, as midsummer flower,

Gentle as falcon or hawk of the tower,

With solace and gladness,

Much mirth and no madness,

All good and no badness;

So joyously,

So maidenly,

So womanly,

Her demeaning

In every thing

Far far passing

That I can indite

Or suffice to write

Of Merry Margaret, as midsummer flower,

Gentle as falcon or hawk of the tower.

As patient and as still,

And as full of good will,

As the fair Isyphill,


Sweet pomander,

Good Cassander;

Steadfast of thought,

Well made, well wrought.

Far may be sought

Erst than ye can find

So courteous, so kind,

As merry Margaret, the midsummer flower,

Gentle as falcon or hawk of the tower.


Harvest, by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601)

Merry, merry, merry, cheery, cheery, cheery!

Trowl the black bowl to me;

Hey derry, derry, with a poop and a leery,

I'll trowl it again to thee.

Hooky, hooky, we have shorn,

And we have bound,

And we have brought the harvest

Home to town!


And one more, most noted for its most musical first line (which I must have repeated about ten times upon my first reading of it years ago):

Damelus's Song to His Diaphenia, by Henry Chettle )1560-1607)

Diaphenia, like the daffodowndilly,

White as the sun, fair as the lily,

Heigh ho, how I do love thee!

I do love thee as my lambs

Are beloved of their dams;

How blest were I if thou wouldst prove me!

Diaphenia, like the spreading roses,

That in thy sweets all sweets encloses,

Fair sweet, how I do love thee!

I do love thee as each flower

Loves the sun's life-giving power,

For, dead, thy breath to life might move me.

Diaphenia, like to all things blessed,

When all thy praises are expressed,

Dear joy, how I do love thee!

As the birds do love the spring,

Or the bees their careful king:

Then in requite, sweet virgin, love me!


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is one of my favorites by Longfellow:

The Children's Hour

Between the dark and the daylight,

When the night is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day's occupations,

That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me

The patter of little feet,

The sound of a door that is opened,

And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,

Descending the broad hall stair,

Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,

And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:

Yet I know by their merry eyes

They are plotting and planning together

To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,

A sudden raid from the hall!

By three doors left unguarded

They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret

O'er the arms and back of my chair;

If I try to escape, they surround me;

They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,

Their arms about me entwine,

Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen

In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,

Because you have scaled the wall,

Such an old mustache as I am

Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress,

And will not let you depart,

But put you down into the dungeon

In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,

Yes, forever and a day,

Till the walls shall crumble in ruin,

And moulder in dust away.


From William Blake's "Songs Of Innocence" there is this delightfully melodic poem:


Piping down the valleys wild,

Piping songs of pleasant glee,

On a cloud I saw a child,

And he laughing said to me:

"Pipe a song about a Lamb!"

So I piped with merry cheer.

"Piper, pipe that song again;"

So I piped: he wept to hear.

"Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;

Sing thy songs of happy cheer:"

So I sang the same again,

While he wept with joy to hear.

"Piper, sit thee down and write

In a book, that all may read."

So he vanished from my sight.

And I plucked a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,

And I stained the water clear,

And I wrote my happy songs

Every child may joy to hear.


And here seems the perfect place for one of the most graceful of all poems,


Ode On A Grecian Urn

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstacy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,

Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave

Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

Bold Lover, never, never, never canst thou kiss

Though winning near the goal---yet, do not grieve;

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

And, happy melodist, unwearied,

For ever piping songs for ever new;

More happy love! more happy, happy love!

For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,

For ever panting, and for ever young;

All breathing human passion far above,

That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,

A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who ar these coming to the sacrifice?

To what green altar, O mysterious priest,

Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?

What little town by river or sea shore,

Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?

And, little town, thy streets for evermore

Will silent be; and not a soul to tell

Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede

Of marble men and maidens over wrought,

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"---that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are two short lyrics by Hugo, translated by Alan Conder.

The first expresses grandeur in a very simple way.

The Sower

Twilight floods the darkening skies;

I contemplate beneath the porch

The last hour's working light that dies

As nightfall masks the sun's red torch.

I watch an old man clad in tatters

Pacing over the furrowed land

As he the future harvest scatters

From his oft replenished hand.

His silhouette appears to tower

Above his labors. Mystic sight!

What godlike faith assures this sower

That days are fruitful in their flight?

He strides across the mighty plain,

Casts grain afar, comes back, is gone,

Empties his hand, begins again:

I dream, a silent looker-on,

While night commences to unfurl

The darkness in which murmers flower,

Extending, to where planets whirl,

The stately gestures of the sower.


This one is sheer shoutingly quiet delight, in which what could be bitter turns sweet.

In Early Spring

How gaily laughs the morn at roses' tears!

What charming little lovers woo the flowers!

Around the jasmine bloom and periwinkle

Delirious, dazzling white wings wildly twinkle;

They close, reopen, flutter, come and go

In one vast whirl, like flakes of driven snow.

O spring-time! when one thinks of missives streaming

To fair ones from fond lovers rapt and dreaming;

Of ardent souls that on pure paper pour

Their hearts out to the goddess they adore;

Of hymns by homespun unto satin sent

In April, to be torn ere May is spent;

Then, flitting in the breeze before one's eyes,

Wandering flowerwards, leaving womankind,

In ceaseless search for loving souls more kind,

----Then in that whirling snowstorm one descries

Torn love-letters transformed into butterflies.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my favorite poems is an excerpt from Tamburlaine the Great, a play in verse by Christopher Marlowe. Written in the late 16th century, it celebrates the Renaissance's adoration for reason, knowledge, and this world.


Nature, that framed us of four elements

Warring within our breasts for regiment,

Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.

Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend

The wondrous architecture of the world

And measure every wandering planet's course

Still climbing after knowledge infinite,

And always moving as the restless spheres,

Will us to wear ourselves and never rest

Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,

That perfect bliss and sole felicity,

The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A few charming poems taken from E. V. Lucas's "The Friendly Town", subtitled "A Little Book for the Urbane" (1926).

The Argument, by E.V.Lucas (introductory page)

When still in the season

Of sunshine and leisure,

While blithe yet we wander

O'er meadow and down,

O say is it treason

To think of the treasure

Heaped up for us yonder

In grey London town?

We hunt the sweet berry

With purple-stained ardour;

Each bramble one hooks in

Is bent 'neath its load:

It's free and it's merry

In nature's rich larder----

But O to hunt books in

The Charing Cross Road!

As daylight expires in

This best of Septembers,

A coolness comes blowing----

A chill wintry hint!

But---think!---it blows fires in,

And dream-kindling embers,

And candle-light glowing

On time-mellowed print!

The glory of summer

One's being rejoices,

Yet hail to this flavour

Of summer's decay;

It's bringing the glamour,

The lights and the voices,

The dear homely savour

Of London this way!


Some lines by T. Sheridan

While you converse with lords and dukes,

I have my betters here----my books:

Fixed in an elbow-chair at ease,

I choose companions as I please.

I'd rather have one single shelf

Than all my friends, except yourself;

For, after all that can be said,

Our best acqaintance are the dead.


My Books, by Austin Dobson

They dwell in the odour of camphor,

They stand in a Sheraton shrine,

They are "warranted early editions",

These worshipful tomes of mine;----

In their creamiest "Oxford vellum",

In their redolent "crushed Levant",

With their delicate watered linings,

They are jewels of price, I grant;----

Blind-tooled and morocco-jointed,

They have Bedford's daintiest dress,

They are graceful, attenuate, polished,

But they gather the dust, no less;---

For the row that I prize is yonder,

Away on the unglazed shelves,

The bulged and bruised octavos,

The dear and the dumpy twelves,---

Montaigne with his sheepskin blistered,

And Howell the worse for wear,

And the worm-drilled Jesuit's Horace,

And the little old cropped Moliere,---

And the Burton I bought for a florin,

And the Rabelais foxed and flea'd,---

For the others I never have opened,

But those are the books I read.


Here is the great sonnet by Wordsworth,

Composed upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This city now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky,

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you tried reading English translations of Homer and been disappointed? Well, there shall be an end to your disappointment. Frank Laurence Lucas published his translations of the major sections of The Iliad, Odyssey, and the Homeric Hymns in 1951, in Greek Poetry For Everyman. Using a basic six foot iambic line, in rhyming couplets, he was able to avoid the awkward heaviness of Chapman and the end-stopped boredom of Pope. His verse moves swiftly (as Homer's verse is said to move) and smoothly. If you were not told it was a translation you well might think it was excellent original English poetry. What I give here is from books 19 and 20.

Achilles has been reconciled with Agamemnon. The horse Xanthus warns Achilles as he arms himself.

But Alcimus and Automedon toiled busily

Yoking his steeds, and buckled the breast-straps fair to see,

And set the bits in the horses' jaws, and drew back tight

The reins to his stout-built chariot's rail. Then in his right

Automedon gripped the glittering lash, and leapt upon his car;

And donning his helm, Achilles, in arms that gleamed afar

Like the blaze of Hyperion, sprang after in his turn

And cried to his father's horses, in a fearful voice and stern:

"Now, then, my steeds of glory, ye whom Podarge bare,

Balius and Xanthus, bring back with better care

Your master, after battle, safe to the Danai,

Nor leave him, like Patroclus, upon the field to die."

Then Xanthus of the glancing feet bent suddenly

His head and answered Achilles, with long mane falling free

Over the yoke from the yokestrap, till to the dust it bowed,

(For the white-armed goddess Hera his tongue with speech endowed):

"For thy safety, great Achilles, this day we WILL take heed;

And yet thy death-day now is near. Not ours the deed----

A mighty god shall do it, and a resistless fate.

Not because WE were heedless, or lagards, did the hate

Of the Trojans strip Patroclus. He fell in the front of war

By the noblest of Immortals, whom fair-tressed Leto bore,

That Hector might have the glory. We are fleet as the western blast----

Of winds, men say, the swiftest----and yet thy doom is cast.

By a god and a man together in the dust shalt thou be flung."

When Xanthus so had spoken, the Erinyes stayed his tongue.

But the swift-footed Achilles made answer, gloomily:

"Why warn me, Xanthus, of my doom? No need for thee!

Well enough I too know it, that here in the Trojan land,

Far from my own loved parents, I shall perish. Yet this hand

Shall stay not till Troy has swallowed its surfeit of my spear."

Then he lashed his swift steeds, shouting, forward in full career.

And so Achilles plunged into the fight.

But as o'er some parched mountain sweeps a portentous blaze,

Deep through its glens, devouring, deep through its woodland ways----

On every side the whirling wind drives on the flame;

So, like a god, on every side Achilles ryushing came

With murderous spear pursuing, till the dark earth ran red.

And as, when a man has yoked his broad-browed steers to tread,

On some faitr threshing-floor, white barley in the ear,

Under the hoofs of his lowing beasts swiftly the grain falls clear;

So, while the dauntless Achilles flung to his steeds the rein,

Their hoofs trod down the bodies and the bucklers of the slain.

The rails of his chariot reddened, red ran his axletree,

As from his wheels and his chargers' hoofs the blood-drops scattered free.

On, in pursuit of glory, the son of Peleus drave,

Dyeing deep in crimson those hands no man might brave.

But when they came to the ford, where eddied swift and fair

Xanthus, begot of Zeus most high, Achilles there

Sunderered the fleeing Trojans; and half towards where Troy lay,

Across the plain he hunted (where only yesterday

Before the fury of Hector, headlong the Achaeans fled).

In the path of these, to check them, the hand of Hera spread

A wall of mist; but the others ran huddling in their haste

Where down the deeps of Xanthus the silver whirlpools raced.

Loud the steep channel echoed, as splashing in they sprang;

Loudly the banks resounded; loudly the shouting rang,

As men swam hither and thither, round in the eddies whirled.

And as when swarming locusts by the fire's hot blast are hurled,

Flying, into a river----for rising suddenly

That blaze flares up resistless, and into the waves they flee;

So were the roaring depths of eddying Xanthus then

Filled by Achilles' fury with jostling steeds and men.

And now the Zeus-sprung hero, dread as a god to behold,

Planted his spear by the tamarisks, and plunged where the river rolled.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a few ancient Greek lyrics, translated by Wallace Rice, a Chicago engineer, in 1927. Some of the authors are unknown.

The Pathway to the Stars

Oh, proud am I and proud my Love,

For proud with love are we,

Our joy the eternal essence of

The starlight on the sea;

For winds may blow and billows rise

And foam spin o'er the bars,

But there is ever in her eyes

The pathway to the stars.



Slumber Song In Spring

Lay thy soft body, lay thy sweet head,

Softly and sweetly along thy warm bed;

So shall he find thee, coming afar,

Sped to thee under the evening star.

Soft are the trees in the mist of the moon,

Sweet in the twilight the wood-thrush's tune;

Softer, caresses that cluster and cling,

Sweeter the love that hath charm of the spring.

There shall he find thee, florets thy lips;

Gently around thee his fondling hand slips;

How thy mouth welcomes the kisses that sing

April's bright showers the roses to bring!

So falls the sun on the brake with its buds,

Bringing the scent of the pear on its floods;

So drip the warmth of the day and its showers

Down to the lips of the shy woodland flowers.

So shall the blossom and fruit of the year

Seek out thy dearness to leave thee more dear;

So thro' thy slumber thy lover's fond dream

Seeking shall find thee and over thee stream.




Our cloaks are off. We'd best be bare

To gain the whole of love's embrace;

Even your veil of tissue there

Is Babylon's wall in such a place.

When each in th'other twines and chains,

My lip and breast your own to bless,

Only then ardent love remains----

Ah, yes; and lovers' silences.

Paulus Silentiarius


Love's Going

When my Love comes to me she brings

Three several and delightful things:

The thought that she is coming here----

No earthly thing could seem so dear;

Unless it is the fond delight

That dawns when she is in my sight;

Or all the sweets I think upon

After she's been here and has gone.

She comes, she goes, and here or there

She or her memory makes life fair.




Who fears his body fears his soul

And goes with an unequal mind

Wavering to an uncertain goal

Never to round a perfect whole

Which he may seek but shall not find.

Wisdom doth nothing human shun,

Knows spirit, passion, mind as one.




Forth from the Fetid East comes filthiness:

Belief that mortals so divinely made

Have wicked bodies thro' which are displayed

Vile thoughts whene'er their true selves they confess;

That Nature's evil and some god will bless

Each sacrifice of her; that sore afraid

Man should be of the mirth in spring arrayed;

And nought so ill as joy in loveliness.

But we, our splendid frames bare to the sun,

Our maidens, like the flowers, unknowing grief,

Our glorious women with their ripening sheaf

Of children at Love's rosy altar won,

With wine and song cry down this foul belief

To take from Beauty life's high benison.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

B. Royce --

Were these translations from Ancient Greek published somewhere? Where did you find them? I find the love poems intriguing, being that women were considered inferior to men legally and intellectually.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
B. Royce --

Were these translations from Ancient Greek published somewhere? Where did you find them? I find the love poems intriguing, being that women were considered inferior to men legally and intellectually.

Michelle, I found them in a book titled "Pagan Pictures", published in 1927 by Boni & Liveright. The subtitle is--- Freely Translated and Fully Expanded From The Anthology and The Greek Lyrical Poets, Variously Augmented by Modern Instances. Just how freely is meant, I don't know. There are many Greek names I have not seen elsewhere, as Xenos Paloestes. Here is his----

Rhoda's Hands

I ask of Love not overmuch:

Warm hands whose wandering grace is such

Their palms shall double every touch

With high delight in each caress,

Tapering fingers there to bless

With all of Beauty's tenderness.

I would fulfill all Love's commands

Conveyed by your white, vagrant hands.


Has this poem of absolutely-not-guilty, open delight, been expanded from a few fragmentary lines? I don't think so, because it is the first stanza of a five-stanza poem, and Paloestes name is inserted between this stanza and the second. But with the Anonymous poems there is no indication if there has been a filling out of a fragment.

I think there are about half a dozen "Pagan Pictures" in used book stores, ranging from 10 to 40 dollars. Mine cost $20 and is in very good condition.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a few more poems from Wallace Rice's "Pagan Pictures":

The Oread's Flight

Run, little Oread,

Fast----and yet faster,

After thee speeds a lad

Who'd be thy master!

Swift up the heights of May----

How were they steep!

Swiftly and swift went they;

Now must they creep----

Now with a leap

Bound they away!

Swiftlier, Oread

Of the bared breast,

Run----run as thou wert mad!

Upward lies the rest.

Sighed forth the little maid:

"What fears avail?

What prayers that I have prayed

O'er hill and dale?

Know that I'm most afraid

Lest he should fail.

"Yet, should I run too fast,

Him I'd not humble,

So might I not at last

Artlessly stumble?"

Slower the panting boy,

Breathless goes he;

Still doth she flee.

Lost seemed his dearest joy.

Pity the maiden coy----

Down tumbleth she!

All of her rue,

All of her hope,

Came to be true

There on the slope.


Roses And Kisses

Your kiss is a rose.

Is it ruddy or white

Or golden it glows?

And is there a light

Of pearl in its snows?

There is pearl in its bud;

It is red as your lip;

Golden wine in its flood

For a lover to sip;

And it sings in my blood.

It is cool as the dew;

It is warm as the sun;

There is love in its hue;

Yet your kisses are one.

What are kisses but you?



There was no need to tell, you, smiling, said;

And I replied: The need was instant, great,

As e'er for me to speak or soon or late.

Again you smiled, my words, ere spoken, read.

Yet 'tis not need between us, for so wed

Are these our lives, so surely do they mate,

One to the other wholly compensate,

As one, not twain, they're joined and perfected.

And still, how pressing everywhere our need

For comprehending love and tenderness

What time we come together, heart to press

On heart neglected once and shamed indeed;

And from that moment how has come to bless

This single trust, our lovers' simple creed!


Prayer To Life

Thro' me, a scrannel reed,

Life sings a little glee,

Giving but little heed

To what the notes may be.

Life, do a kindly deed:

Make it a melody.



Love comes in any guise

To greet our mortal eyes:

As gently as a dove

Betimes upcometh Love;

As fierce as any beast

Anon he takes his feast;

He girdles round the waist

The passionate, the chaste;

He sets his lips along

The lips of weak and strong;

His soft caresses hold

Alike the young and old;

With his deft arm he plies

The foolish and the wise;

Nor may man interpose

Along the path Love goes;

Nor woman say him nay

When he leads up the way.

View them with kindness still

Those whom he bends at will,

Nor think them shameless who

Do what he'd have them do;

Their deeds lay at his shrine

And deem the act divine.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Michelle, I found them in a book titled "Pagan Pictures", published in 1927 by Boni & Liveright.  The subtitle is--- Freely Translated and Fully Expanded From The Anthology and The Greek Lyrical Poets, Variously Augmented by Modern Instances.    Just how freely is meant, I don't know. 

By opportune coincidence, this week's New York Times Book Review section has a review of the book The First Poets: Lives of the Ancient Greek Poets, by Michael Schmidt. According to the review:

A constant theme is the tragically fragmentary nature of the Greek poety that we have. Only a fraction has survived, much of it by chance - perhpas becasue it was quoted in an ancient letter or essay. Because of the fragility of papyrus and parchment, Greek literature was decaying by the Roman era. Schmidt stresses what we owe to the Egyptian desert, where papyrus discovereis are still being made in mummy wrappings and trash heaps. Ancient Greek poems today are often merely tentative scholarly reconstructions.

Nevertheless, Schmidt was able to reconstruct in his book the lives of the Greek poets who wrote these poems.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites