Archive for October, 2013

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Will-o’-the-Wisp by by Madison Julius Cawein

There in the calamus he stands
With frog-webbed feet and bat-winged hands;
His glow-worm garb glints goblin-wise;
And elfishly, and elfishly,
Above the gleam of owlet eyes,
A death’s-moth cap of downy dyes
Nods out at me, nods out at me.

Now in the reeds his face looks white
As witch-down on a witches’ night;
Now through the dark old haunted mill,
So eerily, so eerily,
He flits; and with a whippoorwill
Mouth calls, and seems to syllable,
“Come follow me! come follow me!”

Now o’er the sluggish stream he wends,
A slim light at his finger-ends;
The spotted spawn, the toad hath clomb,
Slips oozily, slips oozily;
His easy footsteps seem to come—
Like bubble-gaspings of the scum—
Now near to me, now near to me.

There by the stagnant pool he stands,
A fox-fire lamp in flickering hands;
The weeds are slimy to the tread,
And mockingly, and mockingly,
With slanted eyes and eldritch head
He leans above a face long dead,—
The face of me! the face of me!

From: Cawein, Madison, Undertones, 1896, Copeland and Day: Boston, pp. 57-58.

Date: 1896

By: Madison Julius Cawein (1865-1914)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Djinn by Rae Armantrout

Haunted, they say, believing
the soft, shifty
dunes are made up
of false promises.

Many believe
whatever happens
is the other half
of a conversation.

Many whisper
white lies
to the dead.

“The boys are doing really well.”

Some think
nothing is so
until it has been witnessed.

They believe
the bits are iffy;

the forces that bind them,


Date: 2008

By: Rae Armantrout (1947- )

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Doomed Ship by William Morris

The doomed ship drives on helpless through the sea,
All that the mariners may do is done
And death is left for men to gaze upon,
While side by side two friends sit silently;
Friends once, foes once, and now by death made free
Of Love and Hate, of all things lost or won;
Yet still the wonder of that strife bygone
Clouds all the hope or horror that may be.

Thus, Sorrow, are we sitting side by side
Amid this welter of the grey despair,
Nor have we images of foul or fair
To vex, save of thy kissed face of a bride,
Thy scornful face of tears when I was tried,
And failed neath pain I was not made to bear.


Date: 1871

By: William Morris (1834-1896)

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Intruder by Carolyn Kizer

My mother– preferring the strange to the tame:
Dove-note, bone marrow, deer dung,
Frog’s belly distended with finny young,
Leaf-mould wilderness, hare-bell, toadstool,
Odd, small snakes loving through the leaves,
Metallic beetles rambling over stones: all
Wild and natural -flashed out her instinctive love, and quick, she
Picked up the fluttering, bleeding bat the cat laid at her feet,
And held the little horror to the mirror, where
He gazed on himself and shrieked like an old screen door far off.

Depended from her pinched thumb, each wing
Came clattering down like a small black shutter.
Still tranquil, she began, “It’s rather sweet…”
The soft mouse body, the hard feral glint
In the caught eyes. Then we saw
And recoiled: lice, pallid, yellow,
Nested within the wing-pits, cozily sucked and snoozed.
The thing dropped from her hands, and with its thud,
Swiftly, the cat with a clean careful mouth
Closed on the soiled webs, growling, took them out to the back stoop.

But still, dark blood, a sticky puddle on the floor
Remained, of all my mother’s tender, wounding passion
For a whole wild, lost, betrayed and secret life
Among its dens and burrows, its clean stones,
Whose denizens can turn upon the world
With spitting tongue, an odor, talon, claw
To sting or soil benevolence, alien
As our clumsy traps, our random scatter of shot,
She swept to the kitchen. Turning on the tap,
She washed and washed the pity from her hands.


Date: 1959

By: Carolyn Kizer (1925- )

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sonnet to Ingratitude by Mary Darby Robinson

He that’s ungrateful, has no guilt but one;
All other crimes may pass for virtues in him.

I could have borne affliction’s sharpest thorn;
The sting of malice–poverty’s deep wound;
The sneers of vulgar pride, the idiot’s scorn;
Neglected Love, false Friendship’s treach’rous sound;

I could, with patient smile, extract the dart
Base calumny had planted in my heart;
The fangs of envy; agonizing pain;
ALL, ALL, nor should my steady soul complain:

E’en had relentless FATE, with cruel pow’r,
Darken’d the sunshine of each youthful day;
While from my path she snatch’d each transient flow’r.
Not one soft sigh my sorrow should betray;
But where INGRATITUDE’S fell poisons pour,
HOPE shrinks subdued–and LIFE’S BEST JOYS DECAY.

From: Robinson, Mrs M, Poems, 1791, J Bell: London, p. 176.

Date: 1791

By: Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Misgivings by Herman Melville

When ocean-clouds over inland hills
Sweep storming in late autumn brown,
And horror the sodden valley fills,
And the spire falls crashing in the town,
I muse upon my country’s ills —
The tempest bursting from the waste of Time
On the world’s fairest hope linked with man’s foulest crime.

Nature’s dark side is heeded now —
(Ah! Optimist-cheer disheartened flown) —
A child may read the moody brow
Of yon black mountain lone.
With shouts the torrents down the gorges go,
And storms are formed behind the storm we feel:
The hemlock shakes in the rafter; the oak in the driving keel.


Date: 1860

By: Herman Melville (1819-1891)

Friday, 25 October 2013

Disparity in Despair by Leslie Poles Hartley

If the despair that you and I have known
Were accurately apportioned, each to each,
Not every pebble on a shingly beach
Not every grain of wheat for harvest sown
Mustered and piled, would bear comparison
With your despair; for your despair would reach
The stars : the volume of your griefs would teach
Astronomers a new dimension.

But mine, I think, would be a small despair
That I could carry with me, portable;
A caked cold cinder from the fires of hell
A souvenir, a trophy. I would wear
It carelessly, and sometimes I would tell
Its story, all save this: who found it there.

From: Oxford Poetry, 1922, Basil Blackwell: Oxford, p. 10.

Date: 1922

By: Leslie Poles Hartley (1895-1972)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

How She Felt in Her First Corset by Matthew W Alderson

It occurred at Belgrade, where the genial Tom Quaw,
Gave a party, the first that the town ever saw;
The youth and the beauty, the tillers of soil,
Attended that night, seeking surcease from toil.

There were farmers whose hair had a tinge of the gray;
There were maidens than whom none were ever more gay;
There were youths who could ride anything that wears hair,
And matrons whose faces showed lines of dull care.

Of the ladies who on this occasion took part,
Some were dressed in the nobbiest style of the art;
And the others, unmindful of fashion’s decrees,
Were attired to have much more comfort and ease.

There was one blushing damsel, just budding sixteen,
Whose waist by a corset ne’er encircled had been,
But whose mother insisted that on such a night
One should find a place there, and the lacing be tight.

So the girl was rigged out as the mother desired,
But of dancing ’twas noticed the damsel soon tired.
“What’s the matter?” was asked by some one at her side.
“I feel just like bucking,” the maiden replied.

From: Alderson, Matt W, How She Felt in Her First Corset and Other Poems, 1887, Miner Publishing Co; Butte, Montana, pp. 3-4.

Date: 1887

By: Matthew W Alderson (1855-1916)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Change by John Freeman

I am that creature and creator who
Loosens and reins the waters of the sea,
Forming the rocky marge anon anew.
I stir the cold breasts of antiquity,
And in the soft stone of the pyramid
Move wormlike; and I flutter all those sands
Whereunder lost and soundless time is hid.
I shape the hills and valleys with these hands,
And darken forests on their naked sides,
And call the rivers from the vexing springs,
And lead the blind winds into deserts strange.
And in firm human bones the ill that hides
Is mine, the fear that cries, the hope that sings.
I am that creature and creator, Change.

From: Marsh, Edward Howard (ed), Georgian Poetry 1920-22, 1922, The Poetry Bookshop: London.

Date: 1922

By: John Freeman (1880-1929)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

She Passed Me By by Henry Abbey

She bowed, and smiled, and passed me by,
She passed me by!
O love, O lava breath that burns,
‘Tis hard indeed to think she spurns
Such worshippers as you and I.
She smiled, and bowed, with stately pride;
The bow the frosty smile belied.
She passed me by.

She bowed, and smiled, and passed me by,
She passed me by.
What more could any maiden do?
It did not prove she was untrue.
My heart is tired, I know not why.
I only know I weep and pray.
Love has its night as well as day.
She passed me by.

From: Abbey, Henry, Stories in Verse, 1869, A D F Randolph & Co, Publishers: New York , pp. 15-16.

Date: 1869

By: Henry Abbey (1842-1911)