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0524

Captive Bird

This bird was happy once in the high trees.
You cage it in your cellar, bring it seed,
Honey to sip, all that its heart can need
Or human love can think of: till it sees,
Leaping too high within its narrow room
The old familiar shadow of the leaves,
And spurns the seed with tiny desperate claws.
Naught but the woods despairing pleads,
The woods, the woods again, it grieves, it grieves.

0524

Boethius
477 - 524

1609

Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red, than her lips red: If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare.

Full Fathom Five

Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange: Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell. Ding-dong! Hark! now I hear them, Ding-dong, bell!

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1609

William Shakespeare
1564 - 1616

1611

To every thing there is a season

This verse is from the book of Ecclesiastes in The King James version of the Bible.

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

1611

Anonymous 1611
- -

1617

Thrice Toss These Oaken Ashes

Thrice toss these oaken ashes in the air,
Thrice sit thou mute in this enchanted chair;
Then thrice three times tie up this true love’s knot,
And murmur soft ‘She will, or she will not.’

Go burn these poisonous weeds in yon blue fire,
These screech-owl’s feathers and this prickling briar,
This cypress gathered at a dead man’s grave,
That all thy fears and cares an end may have.

Then come, you fairies! dance with me a round;
Melt her hard heart with your melodious sound.
In vain are all the charms I can devise;
She hath an art to break them with her eyes.

1617

Thomas Campion
1567 - 1620

1619

Hymn to the Belly

Room! room! make room for the Bouncing Belly,
First father of sauce, and deviser of jelly;
Prime master of arts, and the giver of wit,
That found out the excellent engine the spit;
The plough and the flail, the mill and the hopper,
The hutch and the boulter, the furnace and copper,
The oven, the bavin, the mawkin, the peel,
The hearth and the range, the dog and the wheel:
He, he first invented the hogshead and tun,
The gimlet and vice too, and taught them to run,
And since with the funnel and Hippocras bag,
He has made of himself, that now he cries swag!
Which shows, though the pleasure be but of four inches,
Yet he is a weasel, the gullet that pinches
Of any delight, and not spares from his back
Whatever to make of the belly a sack!
Hail, hail, plump paunch! O the founder of taste,
For fresh meats, or powder’d, or pickle, or paste,
Devourer of broil’d, baked, roasted or sod;
And emptier of cups, be they even or odd.
All which have now made thee so wide in the waist,
As scarce with no pudding thou art to be laced;
But eating and drinking until thou dost nod,
Thou break’st all thy girdles, and break’st forth a god.

1619

Ben Jonson
1573 - 1637

1633

Heaven

O Who will show me those delights on high?
Echo:I.
Thou Echo, thou art mortall, all men know.
Echo:No.
Wert thou not born among the trees and leaves?
Echo:Leaves.
And are there any leaves, that still abide?
Echo:Bide.
What leaves are they? impart the matter wholly.
Echo:Holy.
Are holy leaves the Echo then of blisse?
Echo:Yes.
Then tell me, what is that supreme delight?
Echo:Light.
Light to the minde: what shall the will enjoy?
Echo:Joy.
But are there cares and businesse with the pleasure?
Echo:Leisure.
Light, joy, and leisure; but shall they persever?
Echo:Ever.

1633

George Herbert
1593 - 1633

1648

The Hag

The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devill and shee together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’r so foule be the weather.

A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Bryars,
O’re Ditches, and Mires,
She follows the Spirit that guides now.

No Beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood;
But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On Land and on Seas,
At noone of Night are a working.

The storme will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Cal’d out by the clap of the Thunder.

1648

Robert Herrick
1591 - 1674

1686

Upon The Snail

She goes but softly, but she goeth sure,
She stumbles not as stronger creatures do;
Her journey’s shorter, so she may endure
Better than they which do much farther go.

She makes no noise, but stilly seizeth on
The flower or herb appointed for her food,
The which she quietly doth feed upon,
While others range and gare, but find no good.

And though she doth but very softly go,
However ’tis not fast, nor slow, but sure;
And certainly they that do travel so,
The prize they do aim at, they do procure.

1686

John Bunyan
1628 - 1688

1748

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

1748

Thomas Gray
1716 - 1771

1763

‘For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry’

This long extract from a very long poem has been divided into four sections. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, you can choose any section.
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.

For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually–Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.

For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Icneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

1763

Christopher Smart
1722 - 1771

1788

Up In The Morning Early

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,
I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no’ for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are covered wi’ snaw,
I’m sure its winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
A’ day they fare but sparely;
And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn,
I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no’ for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are covered wi’ snaw,
I’m sure its winter fairly.

1788

Robert Burns
1759 - 1796

1794

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And, when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered Heaven with their tears, Did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Auguries Of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. A Robin Redbreast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage. A dove house fill'd with doves and pigeons Shudders Hell thro' all its regions. A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate Predicts the ruin of the State. A Horse misused upon the Road Calls to Heaven for Human blood. Each outcry of the hunted Hare A fibre from the Brain does tear. A Skylark wounded in the wing, A Cherubim does cease to sing. The Game Cock clip'd and arm'd for fight Does the Rising Sun affright. Every Wolf's and Lion's howl Raises from Hell a Human Soul. The wild deer, wand'ring here and there, Keeps the Human Soul from Care. The Lamb Misused breeds Public strife, And yet forgives the Butcher's Knife. The Bat that flits at close of Eve Has left the Brain that won't Believe. The Owl that calls upon the Night Speaks the Unbeliever's fright. He who shall hurt the little Wren Shall never be beloved by Men. He who the Ox to wrath has moved Shall never be by Woman loved. The wanton Boy that kills the Fly Shall feel the Spider's enmity. He who torments the Chafer's sprite Weaves a Bower in endless Night. The Caterpillar on the Leaf Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief. Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly, For the Last Judgement draweth nigh.

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1794

William Blake
1757 - 1827

1807

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

1807

William Wordsworth
1770 - 1850

1818

Meg Merrilies

Old Meg she was a Gipsy, And liv'd upon the Moors: Her bed it was the brown heath turf, And her house was out of doors. Her apples were swart blackberries, Her currants pods o' broom; Her wine was dew of the wild white rose, Her book a churchyard tomb. Her Brothers were the craggy hills, Her Sisters larchen trees— Alone with her great family She liv'd as she did please. No breakfast had she many a morn, No dinner many a noon, And 'stead of supper she would stare Full hard against the Moon. But every morn of woodbine fresh She made her garlanding, And every night the dark glen Yew She wove, and she would sing. And with her fingers old and brown She plaited Mats o' Rushes, And gave them to the Cottagers She met among the Bushes. Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen And tall as Amazon: An old red blanket cloak she wore; A chip hat had she on. God rest her aged bones somewhere— She died full long agone!

Song: ‘I had a dove and the sweet dove died’

I had a dove and the sweet dove died; And I have thought it died of grieving. O, what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied, With a silken thread of my own hand's weaving; Sweet little red feet! why should you die - Why should you leave me, sweet bird! why? You lived alone in the forest-tree, Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me? I kissed you oft and gave you white peas; Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?

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1818

John Keats
1795 - 1821

1820

The Cataract Of Lodore

This poem has seven sections. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, we recommend sections two or three.

 

“How does the Water,
Come down at Lodore?”
My little boy asked me
Thus, once on a time;
And moreover he tasked me
To tell him in rhyme.
Anon at the word,
There first came one daughter
And then came another,
To second and third
The request of their brother,
And to hear how the Water
Comes down at Lodore,
With its rush and its roar,
As many a time
They had seen it before.
So I told them in rhyme,
For of rhymes I had store;
And ’twas in my vocation
For their recreation
That so I should sing;
Because I was Laureate
To them and the King.

From its sources which well
In the Tarn on the fell;
From its fountains
In the mountains,
Its rills and its gills;
Through moss and through brake,
It runs and it creeps
For awhile, till it sleeps
In its own little Lake.
And thence at departing,
Awakening and starting,
It runs through the reeds,
And away it proceeds,
Through meadow and glade,
In sun and in shade,
And through the wood-shelter,
Among crags in its flurry,
Helter-skelter,
Hurry-skurry.
Here it comes sparkling,
And there it lies darkling;
Now smoking and frothing
Its tumult and wrath in,
Till, in this rapid race
On which it is bent,
It reaches the place
Of its steep descent.

The Cataract strong
Then plunges along,
Striking and raging
As if a war raging
Its caverns and rocks among:
Rising and leaping,
Sinking and creeping,
Swelling and sweeping,
Showering and springing,
Flying and flinging,
Writhing and ringing,
Eddying and whisking,
Spouting and frisking,
Turning and twisting,
Around and around
With endless rebound;
Smiting and fighting,
A sight to delight in;
Confounding, astounding,
Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound.

Collecting, projecting,
Receding and speeding,
And shocking and rocking,
And darting and parting,
And threading and spreading,
And whizzing and hissing,
And dripping and skipping,
And hitting and splitting,
And shining and twining,
And rattling and battling,
And shaking and quaking,
And pouring and roaring,
And waving and raving,
And tossing and crossing,
And flowing and going,
And running and stunning,
And foaming and roaming,
And dinning and spinning,
And dropping and hopping,
And working and jerking,
And guggling and struggling,
And heaving and cleaving,
And moaning and groaning;

And glittering and frittering,
And gathering and feathering,
And whitening and brightening,
And quivering and shivering,
And hurrying and skurrying,
And thundering and floundering;

Dividing and gliding and sliding,
And falling and brawling and sprawling,
And driving and riving and striving,
And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling,
And sounding and bounding and rounding,
And bubbling and troubling and doubling,
And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling,
And clattering and battering and shattering;

Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting,
Delaying and straying and playing and spraying,
Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing,
Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling,
And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming,
And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing,
And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping,
And curling and whirling and purling and twirling,
And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping,
And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing;
And so never ending, but always descending,
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending,
All at once and all o’er, with a mighty uproar,
And this way the Water comes down at Lodore.

1820

Robert Southey
1774 - 1843

1820

The Vixen

Among the taller wood with ivy hung, The old fox plays and dances round her young. She snuffs and barks if any passes by And swings her tail and turns prepared to fly. The horseman hurries by, she bolts to see, And turns agen, from danger never free. If any stands she runs among the poles And barks and snaps and drive them in the holes. The shepherd sees them and the boy goes by And gets a stick and progs the hole to try. They get all still and lie in safety sure, And out again when everything’s secure, And start and snap at blackbirds bouncing by To fight and catch the great white butterfly.

I Am

I am — yet what I am, none cares or knows; My friends forsake me like a memory lost: — I am the self-consumer of my woes; — They rise and vanish in oblivion’s host, Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes: — And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, — Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life or joys, But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems; Even the dearest, that I love the best Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest. I long for scenes where man hath never trod A place where woman never smiled or wept There to abide with my Creator, God; And sleep as I in childhood, sweetly slept, Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie, The grass below — above the vaulted sky.

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1820

John Clare
1793 - 1864

1826

Casabianca

The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.

The flames rolled on – he would not go,
Without his father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud – ‘Say, father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
– And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath
And in his waving hair;
And look’d from that lone post of death,
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapped the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound –
The boy – oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part,
But the noblest thing which perished there,
Was that young faithful heart.

1826

Felicia Hemans
1793 - 1835

1830

So We’ll Go No More a Roving

So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.

1830

George Gordon Byron
1788 - 1824

1836

To A Fish/A Fish Answers

To A Fish

You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced,
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea,
Gulping salt-water everlastingly,
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced,
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste;
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be,–
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry,
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste:–

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights,
What is’t ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles?
How do ye vary your vile days and nights?
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites,
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?

 

A Fish Answers

Amazing monster! that, for aught I know,
With the first sight of thee didst make our race
For ever stare! O flat and shocking face,
Grimly divided from the breast below!
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go
With a split body and most ridiculous pace,
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace,
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow!

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air,
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry
And dreary sloth? What particle canst share
Of the only blessed life, the watery?
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.

1836

Leigh Hunt
1784 - 1859

1837

Spellbound

The night is darkening round me, The wild winds coldly blow; But a tyrant spell has bound me And I cannot, cannot go. The giant trees are bending Their bare boughs weighed with snow. And the storm is fast descending, And yet I cannot go. Clouds beyond clouds above me, Wastes beyond wastes below; But nothing drear can move me; I will not, cannot go.

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day! Every leaf speaks bliss to me, Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay Ushers in a drearier day.

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1837

Emily Brontë
1818 - 1848

1845

The Arrow And The Song

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

1845

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807 - 1882

1849

Eldorado

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow—
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
‘Shadow,’ said he,
‘Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?’

‘Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,’
The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

1849

Edgar Allan Poe
1809 - 1849

1854

The Charge of the Light Brigade

I Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. II “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. III Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell Rode the six hundred. IV Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre stroke Shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not, Not the six hundred. V Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came through the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred. VI When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!

I Stood On A Tower

I stood on a tower in the wet, And New Year and Old Year met, And winds were roaring and blowing; And I said, 'O years, that meet in tears, Have you all that is worth the knowing? Science enough and exploring, Wanderers coming and going, Matter enough for deploring, But aught that is worth the knowing? Seas at my feet were flowing, Waves on the shingle pouring, Old year roaring and blowing, And New Year blowing and roaring.

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1854

Alfred Tennyson
1809 - 1892

1855

‘Say not the struggle nought availeth’

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main,

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.

1855

Arthur Hugh Clough
1819 - 1861

1855

The Beasts

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied—not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.

1855

Walt Whitman
1819 - 1892

1861

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all, And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm. I've heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

I'm nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there's a pair of us! – don't tell! They'd banish us, you know! How dreary to be somebody! How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring Bog!

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1861

Emily Dickinson
1830 - 1886

1862

Remember

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

1862

Christina Rossetti
1830 - 1894

1864

Heaven-Haven

A nun takes the veil I have desired to go Where springs not fail, To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail, And a few lilies blow. And I have asked to be Where no storms come, Where the green swell is in the havens dumb, And out of the swing of the sea.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things – For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.

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1864

Gerard Manley Hopkins
1844 - 1889

1867

Brahma

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode.
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

1867

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803 - 1882

1871

Jabberwocky

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

1871

Lewis Carroll
1832 - 1898

1885

Escape At Bedtime

The lights from the parlour and kitchen shone out Through the blinds and the windows and bars; And high overhead and all moving about, There were thousands of millions of stars. There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree, Nor of people in church or the Park, As the crowds of the stars looked down upon me, And that glittered and winked in the dark. The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all, And the star of the sailor, and Mars, These shone in the sky, and the pail by the wall Would be half full of water and stars. They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries, And they soon had me packed into bed; But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes, And the stars going round in my head.

Where Go The Boats?

Dark brown is the river. Golden is the sand. It flows along for ever, With trees on either hand. Green leaves a-floating, Castles of the foam, Boats of mine a-boating— Where will all come home? On goes the river And out past the mill, Away down the valley, Away down the hill. Away down the river, A hundred miles or more, Other little children Shall bring my boats ashore.

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1885

Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 - 1894

1888

The Maldive Shark

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat—
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

1888

Herman Melville
1819 - 1891

1889

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, There lies a leafy island Where flapping herons wake The drowsy water-rats; There we've hid our faery vats, Full of berries And of reddest stolen cherries. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. Where the wave of moonlight glosses The dim grey sands with light, Far off by furthest Rosses We foot it all the night, Weaving olden dances Mingling hands and mingling glances Till the moon has taken flight; To and fro we leap And chase the frothy bubbles, While the world is full of troubles And anxious in its sleep. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. Where the wandering water gushes From the hills above Glen-Car, In pools among the rushes That scarce could bathe a star, We seek for slumbering trout And whispering in their ears Give them unquiet dreams; Leaning softly out From ferns that drop their tears Over the young streams. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. Away with us he's going, The solemn-eyed: He'll hear no more the lowing Of the calves on the warm hillside Or the kettle on the hob Sing peace into his breast, Or see the brown mice bob Round and round the oatmeal-chest. For he comes, the human child, To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there And the moon spun round like a top, And the nearest kin of the moon The creeping cat, looked up. Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood. Minnaloushe runs in the grass Lifting his delicate feet. Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance? When two close kindred meet, What better than call a dance? Maybe the moon may learn, Tired of that courtly fashion, A new dance turn. Minnaloushe creeps through the grass From moonlit place to place, The sacred moon overhead Has taken a new phase. Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils Will pass from change to change, And that from round to crescent, From crescent to round they range? Minnaloushe creeps through the grass Alone, important and wise, And lifts to the changing moon His changing eyes.

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1889

W.B. Yeats
1865 - 1939

1893

The Witch

I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

1893

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
1861 - 1907

1896

‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now’

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

1896

A.E. Housman
1859 - 1936

1897

Invitation to Love

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the reddening cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome.

1897

Paul Dunbar
1872 - 1906

1901

An August Midnight

I

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands…

II

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests parade my new-penned ink,
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl and sink.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

1901

Thomas Hardy
1840 - 1928

1902

Sea Fever

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 knife;
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.

1902

John Masefield
1878 - 1967

1904

Rhapsody

I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
Like sheep from the rains and thunders.

1904

William Stanley Braithwaite
1878 - 1962

1905

Village-Song

Honey, child, honey, child, whither are you going?
Would you cast your jewels all to the breezes blowing?
Would you leave the mother who on golden grain has fed you?
Would you grieve the lover who is riding forth to wed you?

Mother mine, to the wild forest I am going,
Where upon the champa boughs the champ buds are blowing;
To the köil-haunted river-isles where lotus lilies glisten,
The voices of the fairy-folk are calling me listen!

Honey, child, honey, child, the world is full of pleasure,
Of bridal-songs and cradle-songs and sandal-scented leisure.
Your bridal robes are in the loom, silver and saffron glowing,
Your bridal cakes are on the hearth: O whither are you going?

The bridal-songs and cradle-songs have cadences of sorrow,
The laughter of the sun to-day, the wind of death to-morrow.
Far sweeter sound the forest-notes where forest-streams are falling;
O mother mine, I cannot stay, the fairy-folk are calling.

1905

Sarojini Naidu
1879 - 1949

1910

The Way Through the Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.

It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods…
But there is no road through the woods.

1910

Rudyard Kipling
1865 - 1936

1911

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?-

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

1911

W.H. Davies
1871 - 1940

1912

The Listeners

Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

1912

Walter de la Mare
1873 - 1956

1913

‘Over the green and yellow rice fields’

Over the green and yellow rice-fields sweep the
shadows of the autumn clouds followed by the swift-
chasing sun.
The bees forget to sip their honey; drunken with
light they foolishly hover and hum.
The ducks in the islands of the river clamour in joy
for mere nothing.
Let none go back home, brothers, this morning, let
none go to work.
Let us take the blue sky by storm and plunder space
as we run.
Laughter floats in the air like foam on the flood.
Brothers, let us squander our morning in futile songs.

1913

Rabindranath Tagore
1861 - 1941

1917

Moonlit Apples

At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

1917

John Drinkwater
1882 - 1937

1918

Snow

In the gloom of whiteness,
In the great silence of snow,
A child was sighing
And bitterly saying: “Oh,
They have killed a white bird up there on her nest,
The down is fluttering from her breast.”
And still it fell through that dusky brightness
On the child crying for the bird of the snow.

1918

Edward Thomas
1878 - 1917

1921

Travel

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing,
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

1921

Edna St Vincent Millay
1892 - 1950

1921

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

1921

William Carlos Williams
1883 - 1963

1922

Spring in New Hampshire

Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors.

Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.

1922

Claude McKay
1889 - 1948

1923

Humming-Bird

I can imagine, in some other world
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

1923

D.H. Lawrence
1885 - 1930

1923

Tarantella

Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark verandah)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! Hop! Hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Glancing,
Dancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in–
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Miranda,
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar:
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

1923

Hilaire Belloc
1870 - 1953

1923

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

1923

Robert Frost
1874 - 1963

1926

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide In some place of the sun, To whirl and to dance Till the white day is done. Then rest at cool evening Beneath a tall tree While night comes on gently, Dark like me— That is my dream! To fling my arms wide In the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done. Rest at pale evening . . . A tall, slim tree . . . Night coming tenderly Black like me.

In Time of Silver Rain

In time of silver rain The earth Puts forth new life again, Green grasses grow And flowers lift their heads, And over all the plain The wonder spreads Of life, of life, of life! In time of silver rain The butterflies lift silken wings To catch a rainbow cry, And trees put forth New leaves to sing In joy beneath the sky As down the roadway passing boys And girls go singing, too, In time of silver rain When spring And life are new.

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1926

Langston Hughes
1902 - 1967

1941

‘I’ve learned to sing a song of hope’

I’ve learned to sing a song of hope,
I’ve said goodbye to despair,
I caught the note in a thrush’s throat,
I sang – and the world was fair!
I’ve learned to sing a song of joy
It bends the skies to me,
The song of joy is the song of hope
Grown to maturity.

I’ve learned to laugh away my tears
As through the dark I go,
For love and laughter conquer fears
My heart has come to know.

I’ve learned a song of happiness
It is a song of love,
For love alone is happiness
And happiness is love.

1941

Georgia Douglas Johnson
1880 - 1966

1942

Childhood

When I was a child I knew red miners
dressed raggedly and wearing carbide lamps.
I saw them come down red hills to their camps
dyed with red dust from old Ishkooda mines.
Night after night I met them on the roads,
or on the streets in town I caught their glance;
the swing of dinner buckets in their hands,
and grumbling undermining all their words.

I also lived in low cotton country
where moonlight hovered over ripe haystacks,
or stumps of trees, and croppers’ rotting shacks
with famine, terror, flood, and plague near by;
where sentiment and hatred still held sway
and only bitter land was washed away.

1942

Margaret Walker
1915 - 1998

1956

‘maggie and milly and molly and may’

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

1956

E.E. Cummings
1894 - 1962

1959

Mushrooms

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

1959

Sylvia Plath
1932 - 1963

1960

We Real Cool

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

1960

Gwendolyn Brooks
1917 - 2000

1960

Pike

Pike, three inches long, perfect Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold. Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin. They dance on the surface among the flies. Or move, stunned by their own grandeur, Over a bed of emerald, silhouette Of submarine delicacy and horror. A hundred feet long in their world. In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads - Gloom of their stillness: Logged on last year's black leaves, watching upwards. Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds The jaws' hooked clamp and fangs Not to be changed at this date; A life subdued to its instrument; The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals. Three we kept behind glass, Jungled in weed: three inches, four, And four and a half: fed fry to them - Suddenly there were two. Finally one With a sag belly and the grin it was born with. And indeed they spare nobody. Two, six pounds each, over two foot long. High and dry in the willow-herb - One jammed past its gills down the other's gullet: The outside eye stared: as a vice locks - The same iron in his eye Though its film shrank in death. A pond I fished, fifty yards across, Whose lilies and muscular tench Had outlasted every visible stone Of the monastery that planted them - Stilled legendary depth: It was as deep as England. It held Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old That past nightfall I dared not cast But silently cast and fished With the hair frozen on my head For what might move, for what eye might move. The still splashes on the dark pond, Owls hushing the floating woods Frail on my ear against the dream Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed, That rose slowly towards me, watching.

Thistles

Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men Thistles spike the summer air Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure. Every one a revengeful burst Of resurrection, a grasped fistful Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up From the underground stain of a decayed Viking. They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects. Every one manages a plume of blood. Then they grow grey, like men. Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear, Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.

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1960

Ted Hughes
1930 - 1998

1962

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

1962

Robert Hayden
1913 - 1980

1963

A Boy’s Head

In it there is a space-ship
and a project
for doing away with piano lessons

And there is
Noah’s ark,
which shall be first.

And there is
an entirely new bird
an entirely new hare
an entirely new bumble-bee.

There is a river
that flows upwards.

There is a multiplication table.

There is anti-matter.

And it just cannot be trimmed.

I believe
that only what cannot be trimmed
is a head.

There is much promise
in the circumstance
that so many people have heads.

1963

Miroslav Holub
1923 - 1998

1964

Mr Kartoffel

Mr Kartoffel’s a whimsical man;
He drinks his beer from a watering-can,
And for no good reason that I can see
He fills his pockets with china tea.
He parts his hair with a knife and fork
And takes his ducks on a Sunday walk.
Says he, “If my wife and I should choose
To wear our stockings outside our shoes,
Plant tulip bulbs in the baby’s pram
And eat tobacco instead of jam,
And fill the bath with cauliflowers,
That’s nobody’s business at all but ours.”
Says Mrs. K., “I may choose to travel
With a sack of grass or a sack of gravel,
Or paint my toes, one black, one white,
Or sit on a bird’s nest half the night –
But whatever I do that is rum or rare,
I rather think that is my affair.
So fill up your pockets with stamps and string,
And let us be ready for anything!”
Says Mr. K. to his whimsical wife,
“How can we face the storms of life,
Unless we are ready for anything?
So if you’ve provided the stamps and the string,
Let us pump up the saddle and harness the horse
And fill him with carrots and custard and sauce,
Let us leap on him lightly and give him a shove
And it’s over the sea and away, my love!”

1964

James Reeves
1909 - 1978

1966

Colonization In Reverse

Wat a joyful news, miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.

By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out a Jamaica
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!

Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
To-Englan agency.

An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.

Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see de tunabout?
Jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout’.

For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.

Jane say de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
Dat suit her dignity.

Me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.

Wat a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But me wonderin how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.

1966

Louise Bennett-Coverley
1919 - 2006

1966

Fairy Story

I went into the wood one day
And there I walked and lost my way

When it was so dark I could not see
A little creature came to me

He said if I would sing a song
The time would not be very long

But first I must let him hold my hand tight
Or else the wood would give me a fright

I sang a song, he let me go
But now I am home again there is nobody I know.

1966

Stevie Smith
1902 - 1971

1970

Who?

Who is that child I see wandering, wandering Down by the side of the quivering stream? Why does he seem not to hear, though I call to him? Where does he come from, and what is his name? Why do I see him at sunrise and sunset Taking, in old-fashioned clothes, the same track? Why, when he walks, does he cast not a shadow Though the sun rises and falls at his back? Why does the dust lie so thick on the hedgerow By the great field where a horse pulls the plough? Why do I see only meadows, where houses Stand in a line by the riverside now? Why does he move like a wraith by the water, Soft as the thistledown on the breeze blown? When I draw near him so that I may hear him, Why does he say that his name is my own?

Tell me, tell me, Sarah Jane

Tell me, tell me, Sarah Jane, Tell me, dearest daughter, Why are you holding in your hand A thimbleful of water? Why do you hold it to your eye And gaze both late and soon From early morning light until The rising of the moon? Mother, I hear the mermaids cry, I hear the mermen sing, And I can see the sailing-ships All made of sticks and string. And I can see the jumping fish, The whales that fall and rise And swim about the waterspout That swarms up to the skies. Tell me, tell me, Sarah Jane, Tell your darling mother, Why do you walk beside the tide As though you loved none other? Why do you listen to a shell And watch the billows curl, And throw away your diamond ring And wear instead the pearl? Mother, I hear the water Beneath the headland pinned, And I can see the sea-gull Sliding down the wind. I taste the salt upon my tongue As sweet as sweet can be. Tell me, my dear, whose voice you hear? It is the sea, the sea.

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1970

Charles Causley
1917 - 2003

1973

Hyena

I am waiting for you.
I have been travelling all morning through the bush
and not eaten.
I am lying at the edge of the bush
on a dusty path that leads from the burnt-out kraal.
I am panting, it is midday, I found no water-hole.
I am very fierce without food and although my eyes
are screwed to slits against the sun
you must believe I am prepared to spring.

What do you think of me?
I have a rough coat like Africa.
I am crafty with dark spots
like the bush-tufted plains of Africa.
I sprawl as a shaggy bundle of gathered energy
like Africa sprawling in its waters.
I trot, I lope, I slaver, I am a ranger.
I hunch my shoulders. I eat the dead.

Do you like my song?
When the moon pours hard and cold on the veldt
I sing, and I am the slave of darkness.
Over the stone walls and the mud walls and the ruined places
and the owls, the moonlight falls.
I sniff a broken drum. I bristle. My pelt is silver.
I howl my song to the moon – up it goes.
Would you meet me there in the waste places?

It is said I am a good match
for a dead lion. I put my muzzle
at his golden flanks, and tear. He
is my golden supper, but my tastes are easy.
I have a crowd of fangs, and I use them.
Oh and my tongue – do you like me
when it comes lolling out over my jaw
very long, and I am laughing?
I am not laughing.
But I am not snarling either, only
panting in the sun, showing you
what I grip
carrion with.

I am waiting
for the foot to slide,
for the heart to seize,
for the leaping sinews to go slack,
for the fight to the death to be fought to the death,
for a glazing eye and the rumour of blood.
I am crouching in my dry shadows
till you are ready for me.
My place is to pick you clean
and leave your bones to the wind.

1973

Edwin Morgan
1920 - 2010

1974

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

1974

Philip Larkin
1922 - 1985

1978

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman didn’t take no stuff
Wasn’t scared of nothing neither
Didn’t come in this world to be no slave
And wasn’t going to stay one either

“Farewell!” she sang to her friends one night
She was mighty sad to leave ’em
But she ran away that dark, hot night
Ran looking for her freedom

She ran to the woods and she ran through the woods
With the slave catchers right behind her
And she kept on going till she got to the North
Where those mean men couldn’t find her

Nineteen times she went back South
To get three hundred others
She ran for her freedom nineteen times
To save Black sisters and brothers
Harriet Tubman didn’t take no stuff
Wasn’t scared of nothing neither
Didn’t come in this world to be no slave
And didn’t stay one either

And didn’t stay one either

1978

Eloise Greenfield
1929 -

1978

Not My Best Side

I

Not my best side, I’m afraid.
The artist didn’t give me a chance to
Pose properly, and as you can see,
Poor chap, he had this obsession with
Triangles, so he left off two of my
Feet. I didn’t comment at the time
(What, after all, are two feet
To a monster?) but afterwards
I was sorry for the bad publicity.
Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror
Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride
A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?
Why should my victim be so
Unattractive as to be inedible,
And why should she have me literally
On a string? I don’t mind dying
Ritually, since I always rise again,
But I should have liked a little more blood
To show they were taking me seriously.

II

It’s hard for a girl to be sure if
She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite
Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be
Liked, if you know what I mean. He was
So nicely physical, with his claws
And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,
And the way he looked at me,
He made me feel he was all ready to
Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.
So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,
On a really dangerous horse, to be honest
I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,
What was he like underneath the hardware?
He might have acne, blackheads or even
Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–
Well, you could see all his equipment
At a glance. Still, what could I do?
The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,
And a girl’s got to think of her future.

III

I have diplomas in Dragon
Management and Virgin Reclamation.
My horse is the latest model, with
Automatic transmission and built-in
Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,
And my prototype armour
Still on the secret list. You can’t
Do better than me at the moment.
I’m qualified and equipped to the
Eyebrow. So why be difficult?
Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued
In the most contemporary way? Don’t
You want to carry out the roles
That sociology and myth have designed for you?
Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,
You are endangering job-prospects
In the spear- and horse-building industries?
What, in any case, does it matter what
You want? You’re in my way.

1978

U.A. Fanthorpe
1929 - 2009

1982

Miracle on St David’s Day

‘They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude’
The Daffodils by W. Wordsworth

An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.

I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coal as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic

on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big, mild man is tenderly led

to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.

He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.

The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still.

Forty years ago, in a Valleys school,
the class recited poetry by rote.
Since the dumbness of misery fell
he has remembered there was a music
of speech and that once he had something to say.

When he’s done, before the applause, we observe
the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings
and the daffodils are flame.

1982

Gillian Clarke
1937 -

1983

The Ideal

This is where I came from.
I passed this way.
This should not be shameful
Or hard to say.

A self is a self.
It is not a screen.
A person should respect
What he has been.

This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.

1983

James Fenton
1949 -

1983

Remember

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

1983

Joy Harjo
1951 -

1983

Five Years Old

Stars fell all night.
The iceman had been very generous that day
with his chips and slivers.

And I had buried my pouch of jewels
inside a stone casket under the porch,
their beauty saved for another world.

And then my sister came home
and I threw a dart through her cheek
and cried all night,

so much did I worship her.

1983

James Tate
1943 - 2015

1984

Nothingmas Day

No it wasn’t.

It was Nothingmas Eve and all the children in Notown were not
tingling with excitement as they lay unawake in their heaps.

D
o
w
n
s
t
a
i
r
s their parents were busily not placing the last
crackermugs, glimmerslips and sweetlumps on the Nothingmas
Tree.
Hey! But what was that invisible trail of chummy sparks or
vaulting stars across the sky
Father Nothingmas – drawn by 18 or 21 rainmaidens!
Father Nothingmas – his sackbut bulging with air!
Father Nothingmas – was not on his way!
(From the streets of the snowless town came the quiet of
unsung carols and the merry silence of the steeple bell.)

Next morning the children did not fountain out of bed with cries
of WHOOPERATION! They picked up their Nothingmas
Stockings and with traditional quiperamas such as: “Look what
I haven’t got! It’s just what I didn’t want!” pulled their stockings
on their ordinary legs.

For breakfast they ate – breakfast.

After woods they all avoided the Nothingmas Tree, where
Daddy, his face failing to beam like a leaky torch, was not
distributing gemgames, sodaguns, golly-trolleys, jars of
humdrums and packets of slubberated croakers.

Off, off, off, went the children to school, soaking each other with
no howls of “Merry Nothingmas and a Happy No Year!”, and
not pulping each other with no-balls.

At school Miss Whatnot taught them how to write No Thank
You Letters.

Home they burrowed for Nothingmas Dinner.
The table was not groaning under all manner of
NO TURKEY
NO SPICED HAM
NO SPROUTS
NO CRANBERRY JELLYSAUCE
NO NOT NOWT
There was not one (1) shoot of glee as the Nothingmas
Pudding, unlit, was not brought in. Mince pies were not
available, nor was there any demand for them.

Then, as another Nothingmas clobbered to a close, they
haggled off to bed where they slept happily never after.

and that is not the end of the story…

1984

Adrian Mitchell
1932 - 2008

1984

Praise Song For My Mother

You were
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming…

 

We hope to have the full text of this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the Children’s Poetry Archive website here.
1984

Grace Nichols
1950 -

1990

The End

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

1990

Mark Strand
1934 - 2014

1993

I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miró

Barely distinguishable from other dots,
it’s true, but quite uniquely placed.
And from my dark centre

I’d survey the beauty of the linescape
and wonder — would it be worthwhile
to roll myself towards the lemon stripe,

Centrally poised, and push my curves
against its edge, to give myself
a little attention?

But it’s fine where I am.
I’ll never make out what’s going on
around me, and that’s the joy of it.

The fact that I’m not a perfect circle
makes me more interesting in this world.
People will stare forever —

Even the most unemotional get excited.
So here I am, on the edge of animation,
a dream, a dance,a fantastic construction,

A child’s adventure.
And nothing in this tawny sky
can get too close, or move too far away.

1993

Moniza Alvi
1954 -

1995

Benediction

Thanks to the ear that someone may hear Thanks to seeing that someone may see Thanks to feeling that someone may feel Thanks to touch that one may be touched Thanks to flowering of white moon and spreading shawl of black night holding villages and cities together.

Trick A Duppy

If you wahn trick a duppy and wahn walk on happy happy in a moonshine - bright moonshine - hear how and how things work out fine. You see duppy. No whisper. No shout. Make not the least sound from you mouth. One after the other straight straight, strike three matchsticks alight. Drop one then two of the sticks ablaze and before you walk a steady pace flash dead last match like you drop it when smart smart it slipped in you pocket to have duppy haunted in a spell and why so you cannot tell. But duppy search search for third match stick to vanish only when 6 a.m. come tick.

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1995

James Berry
1924 - 2017

1995

House Of Air

a letter was sent but no one was there no one at home in the house of air no window no frame no number no door between sixty eight and sixty four just a pit prop joist wedged there to shore two end walls peeling patchwork squares paint patterns plaster layers on layers unpicked by rain and roots and years like generations a stray cat stirs in the deep pile carpet of rubble and briars it’s one big room just follow the stairs zig zag to the sky through invisible floors a fireplace smoulders green then flares mauve buddleia the postman stares number sixty six strange it was there this time yesterday he could swear

Trick of The Lights

Late, late at night you may never get home. They wink the word from light to light

all down the long straight empty road. Each one in turn will turn against you, but they wait

green as grass on the opposite side of a triptrap bridge, where amber teeth and bloodshot eyes might hide

as you pedal for home, too fast. Too late.

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1995

Philip Gross
1952 -

1997

What If This Road

What if this road, that has held no surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way, around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side, who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?

1997

Sheenagh Pugh
1950 -

1997

From The Irish

According to Dinneen, a Gael unsurpassed
in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish
for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice
of half-boiled potato or turnip’. A star
is the mark on the forehead of a beast
and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well

Well if I say to you your face
is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,
your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom
and at the centre of each or your eyes
is the mark of the beast, it is because
I want to love you properly, according to Dinneen.

1997

Ian Duhig
1954 -

1999

Rosa

How she sat there,
the time right inside a place
so wrong it was ready.

That trim name with
its dream of a bench
to rest on. Her sensible coat.

Doing nothing was the doing:
the clean flame of her gaze
carved by a camera flash.

How she stood up
when they bent down to retrieve
her purse. That courtesy.

1999

Rita Dove
1952 -

2000

Time

Time’s a bird, which leaves its footprints
At the corners of your eyes,
Time’s a jockey, racing horses,
The sun and moon across the skies.
Time’s a thief, stealing your beauty,
Leaving you with tears and sighs,
But you waste time trying to catch him,
Time’s a bird and Time just flies.

2000

Valerie Bloom
1956 -

2002

The Meaning Of Existence

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

2002

Les Murray
1938 - 2019

2004

Checking Out Me History

Dem tell me Dem tell me Wha dem want to tell me Bandage up me eye with me own history Blind me to my own identity Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat But Touissant L'Ouverture no dem never tell me bout dat

Toussaint a slave with vision lick back Napoleon battalion and first Black Republic born Toussaint de thorn to de French Toussaint de beacon of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon and de cow who jump over de moon Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon

Nanny see-far woman of mountain dream fire-woman struggle hopeful stream to freedom river

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492 but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp and how Robin Hood used to camp Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

From Jamaica she travel far to the Crimean War she volunteer to go and even when de British said no she still brave the Russian snow a healing star among the wounded a yellow sunrise to the dying

Dem tell me Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me But now I checking out me own history I carving out me identity

Maimonides Discourses on the One

Glory be to the one of a hundred names for the gift of the marvellous and the mundane. The one who causes the sun to wheel, the sky to rain. The one who causes the stars to shine, the moon to wane. The one who conducts the winds, the birds’ refrain. The one who shatters the seas’ sinews into waves. The one who commands the sap of vine and grain. The one cried to by the soldier in the arms of pain. The one who grants the atheist a clever brain.

Explore poems

2004

John Agard
1949 -

2005

Finding Your Stone

Gardening in the Tropics
you never know what you’ll
turn up. Yesterday it was bones,
today: stones. Here’s one
that might be holy. To test,
tie white cotton thread
around it. Hold over a flame.
If the thread doesn’t burn
you’ve found it: a power stone.
Breathe lightly on it to confirm.
You see it sweating? Even the gods
perspire. Take your pierre home
and feed it. The heart gets weak
if the spirit is kept
too dry.

2005

Olive Senior
1941 -

2005

At The Parrot Sanctuary

our presence disturbs their sleep:
heads bob and weave,
beaks biting the wire.

Some have plucked the feathers
from their tails,
their breasts,
as if trying to find out love.

Bright eyes stare out
from circles of wizened skin,
fix us,

and then the dead begin to speak:

a chorus of greetings and goodbyes,
nicknames, profanities,
the ghost of a woman’s laugh.

No one can live long
with this ventriloquy,
voices thrown from the dark.

Not us,
who leave them quickly to their cages,
to the silence that only comes
when we are gone.

2005

Esther Morgan
1970 -

2005

December

The year dwindles and glows
to December’s red jewel,
my birth month.

The sky blushes,
and lays its cheek
on the sparkling fields.

Then dusk swaddles the cattle,
their silhouettes
simple as faith.

These nights are gifts,
our hands unwrapping the darkness
to see what we have.

The train rushes, ecstatic,
to where you are,
my bright star.

2005

Carol-Ann Duffy
1955 -

2006

A Chant Against Death

for Aidan & Ruth

 

say family
say friends
say wife
say love
say life

 

say learning
laughter
sunlight
rain

 

say cycle
circle
music
memory

 

say night & day
say sun & moon

 

say
see you soon

2006

Mervyn Morris
1937 -

2011

The Language Of Cat

Teach me the language of Cat; the slow-motion blink, that crystal stare, a tight-lipped purr and a wide-mouthed hiss. Let me walk with a saunter, nose in the air. Teach my ears the way to ignore names that I’m called. May they only twitch to the distant shake of a boxful of biscuits, the clink of a fork on a china dish. Teach me that vanishing trick where dents in cushions appear, and I’m missed. Show me the high-wire trip along fences to hideaway places, that no-one but me knows exist. Don’t teach me Dog, all eager to please, that slobbers, yaps and begs for a pat, that sits when told by its owner, that’s led on a lead. No, not that. Teach me the language of Cat.

Russian Doll

All you see is outside me: my painted smile, the rosy-posy shell, the fluttery eyes. A butter-won’t-melt-in-my-mouth-type me But inside there’s another me, bored till playtime. The wasting paper, daytime dreamer. A can’t-be-bothered-sort-of me. And inside there’s another me, full of cheek. The quick, slick joker with a poking tongue. A class-clown-funny-one-of me And inside there’s another me who’s smaller, scared. The scurrying, worrying, yes miss whisperer. A wouldn’t-say-boo-to-a-goosey me And inside there’s another me, all cross and bothered. The scowling hot-head, stamping feet. A didn’t-do-it-blameless me. And inside there’s another me, forever jealous who never gets enough, compared. A grass-is-always-greener me. And deepest down, kept secretly a tiny, solid skittle doll. The girl that hides inside of me.

Explore poems

2011

Rachel Rooney
1962 -

2014

Speech Balloon

The Liverpool boss was pretty chuffed with himself,
said the news report, for being so tough
when he decided to snub the obvious choice
and go instead for the goal machine.
I’m over the moon, they said he said.
I’m over the moon, he said.

The Barnsley manager was lost for words
to describe his feelings when Chelsea fell
to the Tykes. We played fantastic.
I never thought we’d do it again
but we did, we did, and all I can say is
I’m over the moon, they said he said.
I’m over the moon, he said.

The Hollywood mum was way beyond thrilled
according to friends, when she delivered
into the world, not one bouncing baby
but twins instead to the astonished dad.
I’m over the moon, they said she said.
I’m over the moon, she said.

Bollywood’s hottest couple was proud to be blessed
by the jubilant father, the superstar.
It’s a match made in heaven, he said to the press,
Between two shooting stars with shining careers
and I’m over the moon, of course, he said.
I’m over the moon, he said.

The Malaysian nation went mad with joy
on independence day in its fiftieth year
when a doctor-cum-part-time-model,
a local boy, went up into space in a Russian Soyuz
and in zero gravity, performed his namaaz.
All of Malaysia over the moon, they said on the news,
twenty-seven million people over the moon.

You must have noticed, it’s really quite clear,
this condition has spread, it’s happening there,
it’s happening here. It’s full-blown, grown
beyond every border, to the furthest corner
of every country where English is spoken
or English is known.

There’s no-one just satisfied or mildly pleased
or chipper or chirpy, contented or cheerful,
no one glad or gratified, delighted or jubilant,
elated, ecstatic, joyful or gleeful.
All the happy people have left this world.
You won’t come across them any time soon

and if it’s happy sound-bites you’re looking for
you need to look way over your head
for the words in balloons

to the place where the cow keeps jumping
over and over
with all the footballers, team managers
and lottery winners, world superstars,
heroes and champions and legends and lovers
and proud mums and dads

and the whole of Malaysia

over the moon
over the moon
over the over the over the moon.

2014

Imtiaz Dharker
1954 -

2014

Sleeping Black Jaguar

1.

A solar eclipse – his fur
seems to veil light,
the smoulder

of black rosettes
a zoo of sub-atoms
I try to tame –

tritium, lepton, anti-proton.
They collide
as if smashed inside

a particle accelerator.
But it’s just Aramis sleeping,
twitching himself back

to the jungle, where he leaps
into the pool of a spiral
galaxy, to catch a fish.

2.

Later, the keeper tells me
Aramis has had surgery
for swallowing

a hose-head
where his hank of beef
was lodged. But

what vet could take
a scalpel to this
dreaming universe?

What hand could shave
that pelt, to probe
the organs

of dark matter, untwist
time’s intestines
and stitch

night’s belly
together again, only
to return him to a cage?

2014

Pascale Petit
1953 -

2014

Homing

For years you kept your accent
in a box beneath the bed,
the lock rusted shut by hours of elocution
how now brown cow
the teacher’s ruler across your legs.

We heard it escape sometimes,
a guttural uh on the phone to your sister,
saft or blart  to a taxi driver
unpacking your bags from his boot.
I loved its thick drawl, g’s that rang.

Clearing your house, the only thing
I wanted was that box, jemmied open
to let years of lost words spill out –
bibble, fittle, tay, wum,
vowels ferrous as nails, consonants

you could lick the coal from.
I wanted to swallow them all: the pits,
railways, factories thunking and clanging
the night shift, the red brick
back-to-back you were born in.

I wanted to forge your voice
in my mouth, a blacksmith’s furnace;
shout it from the roofs,
send your words, like pigeons,
fluttering for home.

2014

Liz Berry
1980 -

2016

A Short Story of Falling

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again…

 

 

We hope to have the full text of this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the Poetry Foundation website here.

2016

Alice Oswald
1966 -

2017

Talent

my first try I made a hit it dropped from morning gray the smallest shadow both wings slipped inward mid-flight the man barked Now I shot again and again a third time with each arrow through the target I thought was it luck or was it skill luck or skill as the last one fell

its awkward shape made me run there pulsing on the ground I was astounded by its size a gangly white goose throbbed heaved its head my eyes dropped blood flowers opened in the snow of its neck behind my shoulder stepping down from a yellow bus

children made their way across the field I shot once more to end it quickly close range its death did I do this to spare the bird from suffering or to spare the children the sight my motives in humid cold yes my knuckles in the cold steamed bright red

because on my stomach in grass in rubber boots pockets and vest I slid along with that hunter I did as he directed from quiver my draw my black lashes in steely eyed release it felt good there it felt strong my breath in autumn was an animal there I thought did I really do this   did I really yet what difference is muscle is an arrow powered upward or any flight to center when I did not hear it though I clearly mouthed poor thing poor thing poor thing

2017

Layli Long Soldier
1972 -

2018

Happy Birthday Moon

Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.
Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.
He makes the Moon say something new every night
to his deaf son who slurs his speech.

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.
Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it,
his deaf son who slurs his speech.
Dad taps the page, says, try again.

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it.
I say Rain-nan Akabok. He laughs.
Dad taps the page, says, try again,
but I like making him laugh. I say my mistake again.

I say Rain-nan Akabok. He laughs,
says, Raymond you’re something else.
I like making him laugh. I say my mistake again.
Rain-nan Akabok. What else will help us?

He says, Raymond you’re something else.
I’d like to be the Moon, the bear, even the rain.
Rain-nan Akabok, what else will help us
hear each other, really hear each other?

I’d like to be the Moon, the bear, even the rain.
Dad makes the Moon say something new every night
and we hear each other, really hear each other.
As Dad reads aloud, I follow his finger across the page.

2018

Raymond Antrobus
1986 -

2018

The Door

Distracting rays were shining round my door
And so I stood
And stepped across the landing floor
To see if any light-source could
Be ascertained but, once I was outside,
I checked my stride.

Out there I found a stretching corridor,
So down I walked.
I had not noticed it before.
On every lintel, names were chalked
And soon I stalled at one that was well-known:
It was my own.

The hinges creaked. I cautiously went in,
Enjoying there
A room where sunlight lapped my skin
And central was a swivel chair.
It spun about. I felt a smile extend:
‘Good morning, friend.’

This figure gestured me towards an arch
Marked ‘Happiness’
And I, determined, moved to march
Its way, but paused: ‘I should express
Some thanks—’ my friend, however, waved and said,
‘You go ahead.’

Once I had ventured in I felt betrayed,
As I discerned
A maze of winding walls that made
Me dizzy, sad, until I turned
One corner and (in hope of what?) I saw
Another door.

Eager, I entered, to a gallery
Closely comprised
Of portals, each a vacancy
For liberty. I realised
I’d never loved a room. It is the door
That I adore.

2018

Andrew Wynn Owen
- -

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