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Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow’d.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its aereal hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embower’d
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower’d,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awaken’d flowers,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus Hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Match’d with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

 

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I

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

II

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!

III

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!

IV

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

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The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armor against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
….Scepter and crown
….Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field
And plant fresh laurels where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still.
….Early or late
….They stoop to fate
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death’s purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
….Your heads must come
….To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

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..(from Much Ado About Nothing)

 

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
……Then sigh not so,
……But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny. 

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
……Then sigh not so,
……But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

 

 

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As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

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When I do count the clock that tells the time
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,
When I behold the violet past prime
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white,
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard –
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow,
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

 

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The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given:
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour:
Frail spells whose utter’d charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance and mutability.
Thy light alone like mist o’er mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers’ eyes;
Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call’d on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek’d, and clasp’d my hands in ecstasy!

I vow’d that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision’d bowers
Of studious zeal or love’s delight
Outwatch’d with me the envious night:
They know that never joy illum’d my brow
Unlink’d with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past; there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm, to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.

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St. Peter stood guard at the golden gate
With a solemn mien and air sedate.
When up to the top of the golden stair
A man and a woman ascending there.
Applied for admission, they came and stood
Before St. Peter, so great and good.
In hopes the City of Peace to win —
And asked St. Peter to let them in.

The woman was tall, and lank and thin,
With a scraggy beardlet upon her chin.
The man was short and thick and stout,
His stomach was built so it rounded out.
His face was pleasant and all the while
He wore a kindly and genial smile.
The choirs in the distance the echoes woke,
And the man kept still while the woman spoke:

“O, thou who guardest the gate,” said she,
“We two come hither beseeching thee
To let us enter the heavenly land
And play our harps with the angel band.
Of me, St. Peter, there is no doubt,
There is nothing from heaven to bar me out.
I’ve been to meeting three times a week,
And almost always I’d rise to speak.

“I’ve told the sinners about the day
When they’d repent of their evil way.
I’ve told my neighbors — I’ve told them all —
‘Bout Adam and Eve and the primal fall.
I’ve shown them what they’d have to do
If they’d pass in with the chosen few.
I’ve marked their path of duty clear —
Laid out the plan for their whole career.

“I’ve talked and talked to ’em loud and long,
For my lungs are good and my voice is strong.
So, good St. Peter, you will clearly see
The gate of heaven is open for me.
But my old man, I regret to say,
Hasn’t walked in exactly the narrow way;
He smokes and he swears, and grave faults he’s got,
And I don’t know whether he’ll pass or not.

“He never would pray with an earnest vim,
Or go to revival, or join in a hymn.
So I had to leave him in sorrow there
While I, with the chosen, united in prayer.
He ate what the pantry chanced to afford,
While I, in my purity, sang to the lord.
And if cucumbers were all he got,
It’s a chance if he merited them or not.

“But oh, St. Peter, I love him so,
To the pleasures of heaven please let him go.
I’ve done enough — a saint I’ve been,
Won’t that atone? Can’t you let him in —
By my grim gospel, I know ’tis so
That the unrepentant must fry below;
But isn’t there some way you can see
That he may enter whose dear to me?

“It’s a narrow gospel by which I pray,
But the chosen expect to find some way
Of coaxing, or fooling, or bribing you,
So that their relations can amble through.
And say, St. Peter, it seems to me
This gate isn’t kept as it ought to be.
You ought to stand right by the opening there,
And never sit down in that easy chair.

“And say, St. Peter, my sight is dimmed,
But I don’t like the way your whiskers are trimmed;
They’re cut too wide, and outward toss,
They’d look better narrow, cut straight across.
Well, we must be going our crown to win.
So open, St. Peter, and we’ll pass in!”

St. Peter sat quiet, and stroked his staff,
But in spite of his office he had to laugh,
Then said, with a fiery gleam in his eye,
“Who’s tending this gateway? you or I? —
Then he arose in his stature tall,
And pressed a button upon the wall.
And said to an imp, who answered the bell,
“Escort this lady around to hell.”

The man stood still as a piece of stone —
Stood sadly, gloomily there alone.
A life-long settled idea he had
That his wife was good and he was bad.
He thought, if the woman went down below,
That he would certainly have to go —
That if she went to the regions dim,
There wasn’t a ghost of a show for him.

Slowly he turned, by habit bent,
To follow wherever the woman went.
St. Peter, standing in duty there,
Observed that the top of his head was bare.
He called the gentleman back, and said,
“Friend, how long have you been wed? —
“Thirty years” (with a weary sigh),
And then he thoughtfully added, “Why?”

St. Peter was silent. With head bent down,
He raised his hand and scratched his crown.
Then seeming a different thought to take,
Slowly, half to himself, he spake:
“Thirty years with that woman there —
No wonder the man hasn’t any hair!
Swearing is wicked, smoke’s not good,
He smoked and swore — I should think he would,
Thirty years with that tongue so sharp!
Ho! Angel Gabriel! Give him a harp.
A jeweled harp with a golden string!
Good sir, pass in where the angels sing!

“Gabriel, give him a seat alone —
One with a cushion — up near the throne.
Call up some angels to play their best,
Let him enjoy the music and rest!
See that on finest ambrosia he feeds,
He’s had about all the hell he needs.
It isn’t just hardly the thing to do,
To roast him on earth and the future too.”

They gave him a harp with golden strings,
A glittering robe and a pair of wings,
And he said, as he entered the Realm of Day,
“Well, this beats cucumbers, any way.”
And so, the scripture had come to pass,
That “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

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Calm was the day, and through the trembling air
Sweet breathing Zephyrus did softly play,
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan’s beams, which then did glister fair;
When I whose sullen care,
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In prince’s court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,
Walked forth to ease my pain
Along the shore of silver streaming Thames,
Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,
Was painted all with variable flowers,
And all the meads adorned with dainty gems,
Fit to deck maidens’ bowers,
And crown their paramours,
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

There, in a meadow, by the river’s side,
A flock of nymphs I chanced to espy,
All lovely daughters of the flood thereby,
With goodly greenish locks, all loose untied,
As each had been a bride;
And each one had a little wicker basket,
Made of fine twigs, entrailed curiously,
In which they gathered flowers to fill their flasket,
And with fine fingers cropt full featously
The tender stalks on high.
Of every sort, which in that meadow grew,
They gathered some; the violet pallid blue,
The little daisy, that at evening closes,
The virgin lily, and the primrose true,
With store of vermeil roses,
To deck their bridegrooms’ posies
Against the bridal day, which was not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

With that, I saw two swans of goodly hue
Come softly swimming down along the Lee;
Two fairer birds I yet did never see.
The snow which doth the top of Pindus strew,
Did never whiter shew,
Nor Jove himself, when he a swan would be
For love of Leda, whiter did appear:
Yet Leda was they say as white as he,
Yet not so white as these, nor nothing near.
So purely white they were,
That even the gentle stream, the which them bare,
Seemed foul to them, and bade his billows spare
To wet their silken feathers, lest they might
Soil their fair plumes with water not so fair,
And mar their beauties bright,
That shone as heaven’s light,
Against their bridal day, which was not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Eftsoons the nymphs, which now had flowers their fill,
Ran all in haste, to see that silver brood,
As they came floating on the crystal flood.
Whom when they saw, they stood amazed still,
Their wondering eyes to fill.
Them seemed they never saw a sight so fair,
Of fowls so lovely, that they sure did deem
Them heavenly born, or to be that same pair
Which through the sky draw Venus’ silver team;
For sure they did not seem
To be begot of any earthly seed,
But rather angels, or of angels’ breed:
Yet were they bred of Somers-heat they say,
In sweetest season, when each flower and weed
The earth did fresh array,
So fresh they seemed as day,
Even as their bridal day, which was not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Then forth they all out of their baskets drew
Great store of flowers, the honour of the field,
That to the sense did fragrant odours yield,
All which upon those goodly birds they threw,
And all the waves did strew,
That like old Peneus’ waters they did seem,
When down along by pleasant Tempe’s shore,
Scattered with flowers, through Thessaly they stream,
That they appear through lilies’ plenteous store,
Like a bride’s chamber floor.
Two of those nymphs meanwhile, two garlands bound,
Of freshest flowers which in that mead they found,
The which presenting all in trim array,
Their snowy foreheads therewithal they crowned,
Whilst one did sing this lay,
Prepared against that day,
Against their bridal day, which was not long:
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

‘Ye gentle birds, the world’s fair ornament,
And heaven’s glory, whom this happy hour
Doth lead unto your lovers’ blissful bower,
Joy may you have and gentle heart’s content
Of your love’s complement:
And let fair Venus, that is queen of love,
With her heart-quelling son upon you smile,
Whose smile, they say, hath virtue to remove
All love’s dislike, and friendship’s faulty guile
For ever to assoil.
Let endless peace your steadfast hearts accord,
And blessed plenty wait upon your board,
And let your bed with pleasures chaste abound,
That fruitful issue may to you afford,
Which may your foes confound,
And make your joys redound
Upon your bridal day, which is not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.’

So ended she; and all the rest around
To her redoubled that her undersong,
Which said their bridal day should not be long.
And gentle echo from the neighbour ground
Their accents did resound.
So forth those joyous birds did pass along,
Adown the Lee, that to them murmured low,
As he would speak, but that he lacked a tongue,
Yet did by signs his glad affection show,
Making his stream run slow.
And all the fowl which in his flood did dwell
Gan flock about these twain, that did excel
The rest so far as Cynthia doth shend
The lesser stars. So they, enranged well,
Did on those two attend,
And their best service lend,
Against their wedding day, which was not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

At length they all to merry London came,
To merry London, my most kindly nurse,
That to me gave this life’s first native source;
Though from another place I take my name,
An house of ancient fame.
There when they came, whereas those bricky towers,
The which on Thames’ broad aged back do ride,
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers
There whilom wont the Templar Knights to bide,
Till they decayed through pride:
Next whereunto there stands a stately place,
Where oft I gained gifts and goodly grace
Of that great lord, which therein wont to dwell,
Whose want too well now feels my friendless case.
But ah, here fits not well
Old woes but joys to tell
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

Yet therein now doth lodge a noble peer,
Great England’s glory, and the world’s wide wonder,
Whose dreadful name late through all Spain did thunder,
And Hercules’ two pillars standing near
Did make to quake and fear:
Fair branch of honour, flower of chivalry,
That fillest England with thy triumph’s fame,
Joy have thou of thy noble victory,
And endless happiness of thine own name
That promiseth the same:
That through thy prowess and victorious arms,
Thy country may be freed from foreign harms;
And great Elisa’s glorious name may ring
Through all the world, filled with thy wide alarms,
Which some brave Muse may sing
To ages following,
Upon the bridal day, which is not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

From those high towers this noble lord issuing,
Like radiant Hesper when his golden hair
In th’Ocean billows he hath bathed fair,
Descended to the river’s open viewing,
With a great train ensuing.
Above the rest were goodly to be seen
Two gentle knights of lovely face and feature
Beseeming well the bower of any queen,
With gifts of wit and ornaments of nature,
Fit for so goodly stature;
That like the twins of Jove they seemed in sight,
Which deck the baldric of the heavens bright.
They two forth pacing to the river’s side,
Received those two fair birds, their love’s delight;
Which, at th’ appointed tide,
Each one did make his bride
Against their bridal day, which is not long:
…..Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

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As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st
Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase;
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay.
If all were minded so, the times should cease,
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish.
Look, whom she best endow’d she gave the more,
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish.
She carv’d thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

 

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