Tag Archives: poetry

E. E. Cummings

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine! said he
(you are Mine said she)

E. E. Cummings, ‘may i feel said she’

Willard Van Orman Quine

Life is agid, life is fulgid.
Life is a burgeoning, a
quickening of the dim primordial
urge in the murky wastes
of time. Life is what the
least of us make most of
us feel the least of us
make the most of.

Willard Van Orman Quine, in Hugh S. Moorhead (ed.) The Meaning of Life: According to Our Century’s Greatest Writers and Thinkers, Chicago, 1988, pp. 154-155

Jorge Luis Borges

De las generaciones de las rosas
Que en el fondo del tiempo se han perdido
Quiero que una se salve del olvido,
Una sin marca o signo entre las cosas

Que fueron. El destino me depara
Este don de nombrar por vez primera
Esa flor silenciosa, la postrera
Rosa que Milton acercó a su cara,

Sin verla. Oh tú bermeja o amarilla
O blanca rosa de un jardín borrado,
Deja mágicamente tu pasado

Inmemorial y en este verso brilla,
Oro, sangre o marfil o tenebrosa
Como en sus manos, invisible rosa.

Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Una rosa y Milton’, in El otro, el mismo, Buenos Aires, 1964

Robert Louis Stevenson

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘Romance’, in Songs of Travel, London, 1895

Edgar Allan Poe

Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicæan barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs, have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
Are Holy Land!

Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Helen’, 1831

Michael Pearce

Three pigs were brought in to the town,
They all began to squeal;
A man with long and pointed knives
Their fate was set to seal.

They kicked and pushed and shook in fer,
Yet could they know just why?
Perhaps it was a hidden sense
Told them they were to die.

But just as they got to the place
Which was their journey’s end,
The pigs shoved hard with all their might
And posts began to bend.

The fence fell down and off two went
As fast as they could go,
And that they swam from bank to bank
The world was soon to know.

As word got out of their escape
Folk came to have some fun;
To catch a sight of two young pigs
Who now were on the run.

The press came in from near and far,
The T.V. cameras too;
With ‘copters flying overhead,
What would our two pigs do?

They hid and ate in field and copse,
Rejoicing to be free;
They led the press a merry dance,
What was their fate to be?

“They’re for the chop, they will not live!”
Their owner said aloud;
‘Twas something that he said most clear,
Almost as if quite proud.

Oh No! Oh No! They must not die!”
The cry was heard all round,
“They’ve won their right to live in peace,
A new home must be found.”

So when they’re caught and that man says
They will not have to die,
The fact he got some fifteen grand
Could be the reason why.

Of those two pigs we heard a lot,
But not so much their mate;
What was to be the end of him?
What was to be his fate?

At five months old unlike his friends
His future was less sweet;
With fear and pain, then blood and guts,
He ended up as meat.

No matter just how far it is
From abattoir to plate,
The suffering of those who die
Is always just as great.

What right have we to take the lives
Of those who are so mild?
To sex, to fix, to cage, these ones,
When each is like a child?

Our brains and might give us much power
O’er all that is around;
We must make sure we live our lives
On principles more sound.

If who shall live and who shall die
Is based on power and taste,
‘Tis surely not their lives alone
That we do choose to waste;

For when we hurt and maim and kill,
And then the victims eat,
Something inside each one of us
Will also face defeat.

What would be lost, I ask you all,
But chains and ties that bind,
If we should choose a way of life
That is not cruel but kind?

For health, for wealth, for man or beast,
Please contemplate the choice;
I write these lines as best I can
For those who have no voice.

Michael Pearce, ‘Three Little Pigs’

Edgar Allan Poe

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere –
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir –
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through and alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul –
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll –
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole –
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere –
Our memories were treacherous and sere, –
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!) –
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here) –
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn –
As the star-dials hinted of morn –
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn –
Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said: “She is warmer than Dian;
She rolls through an ether of sighs –
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies –
To the Lethean peace of the skies –
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes –
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes.”

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said: “Sadly this star I mistrust –
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:
Ah, hasten! -ah, let us not linger!
Ah, fly! -let us fly! -for we must.”
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust –
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust –
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied: “This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendour is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty tonight! –
See! -it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright –
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom –
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb –
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said: “What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?”
She replied: “Ulalume -Ulalume –
‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere –
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: “It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed -I journeyed down here! –
That I brought a dread burden down here –
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber –
This misty mid region of Weir –
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

Edgar Allan Poe, ‘Ulalume’, 1847

Bertrand Russell

Through the long years
I sought peace
I found ecstasy, I found anguish,
I found madness,
I found loneliness,
I found the solitary pain
that gnaws the heart,
But peace I did not find.

Now, old & near my end,
I have known you,
And, knowing you,
I have found both ecstasy & peace
I know rest
After so many lonely years.
I know what life & love may be.
Now, if I sleep
I shall sleep fulfilled.

Bertrand Russell, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1872-1914, London, 1967, dedication [‘To Edith’]

George Herbert

Sweet day! so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie :
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night ;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring! full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My musick shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives ;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

George Herbert, ‘Vertue’, 1663

Percy Bysshe Shelley

A vision on his sleep
There came, a dream of hopes that never yet
Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veiled maid
Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones.
Her voice was like the voice of his own soul
Heard in the calm of thought; its music long,
Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held
His inmost sense suspended in its web
Of many-colored woof and shifting hues.
Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme,
And lofty hopes of divine liberty,
Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy,
Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood
Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame
A permeating fire; wild numbers then
She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs
Subdued by its own pathos; her fair hands
Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp
Strange symphony, and in their branching veins
The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale.
The beating of her heart was heard to fill
The pauses of her music, and her breath
Tumultuously accorded with those fits
Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose,
As if her heart impatiently endured
Its bursting burden; at the sound he turned,
And saw by the warm light of their own life
Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil
Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare,
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly.
His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs, and quelled
His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
Her panting bosom:–she drew back awhile,
Then, yielding to the irresistible joy,
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night
Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep,
Like a dark flood suspended in its course,
Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Alastor: or, the Spirit of Solitude’, 1816, pp. 149-191

Robert Graves

Close bound in a familiar bed
All night I tossed, rolling my head;
Now dawn returns in vain, for still
The vulture squats on her warm hill.
I am in love as giants are
That dote upon the evening star,
And this lank bird is come to prove
The intractability of love.
Yet still, with greedy eye half shut,
Rend the raw liver from its gut:
Feed, jealousy, do not fly away –
If she who fetched you also stay.

Robert Graves, Prometheus’, in The Complete Poems, Manchester, 1999

Friedrich Nietzsche

Oh Mensch! Gieb Acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
Ich schlief, ich schlief -,
Auf tiefen Traum bin ich erwacht:-
Die Welt ist tief,
Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist ihr Weh -,
Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit -,
– will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!

Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra, 1883-5, pt. 3, sect. 15

Oscar Wilde

Spirit of Beauty! tarry still awhile,
They are not dead, thine ancient votaries;
Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile
Is better than a thousand victories[.]

Oscar Wilde, ‘The Garden of Eros’, 1881