Thursday, 12 October 2017

To the Terrestrial Globe by William Schwenck Gilbert

by A Miserable Wretch

Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
Through pathless realms of Space
Roll on!
What though I’m in a sorry case?
What though I cannot meet my bills?
What though I suffer toothache’s ills?
What though I swallow countless pills?
Never you mind!
Roll On!

Roll on, thou ball, roll on!
Through seas of inky air
Roll on!
It’s true I have no shirts to wear;
It’s true my butcher’s bill is due;
It’s true my prospects all look blue —
But don’t let that unsettle you:
Never you mind!
Roll on!

                                                     [It rolls on.

From: Gilbert, W.S. and Taylor, Deems, Plays & Poems of W.S. Gilbert, including the complete texts of the fourteen Gilbert & Sullivan operas, three other Gilbert plays and all The Bab Ballads. Illustrations by the Author, 1932, Random House, New York, p. 1179-1180.
(https://archive.org/details/playspoemsofwsgi00gilb)

Date: 1868

By: William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911)

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Damselfly, Trout, Heron by John Engels

The damselfly folds its wings
over its body when at rest. Captured,
it should not be killed
in cyanide, but allowed to die
slowly: then the colors,
especially the reds and blues,
will last. In the hand
it crushes easily into a rosy
slime. Its powers of flight
are weak. The trout

feeds on the living damselfly.
The trout leaps up from the water,
and if there is sun you see
the briefest shiver of gold,
and then the river again.
When the trout dies
it turns its white belly
to the mirror of the sky.
The heron fishes for the trout

in the gravelly shallows on the far
side of the stream. The heron
is the exact blue of the shadows
the sun makes of trees on water.
When you hold the heron most clearly
in your eye, you are least certain
it is there. When the blue heron dies,
it lies beyond reach
on the far side of the river.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48099/damselfly-trout-heron

Date: 1979

By: John Engels (1931-2007)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Life to be Enjoyed by Bion of Smyrna

If sweet my songs, or these sufficient be
Which I have sung to give renown to me,
I know not: but it misbeseems to strain
At things we have not learned, and toil in vain.
If sweet these songs are not, what profit more
Have I to labour at them o’er and o’er?
If Saturn’s son, and changeful Fate, assigned
A double life-time to our mortal kind,
That one in joys and one in woes be past,
Who had his woes first would have joys at last.
But since Heaven wills one life to man should fall,
And this is very brief — too brief for all
We think to do, why should we fret and moil,
And vex ourselves with never-ending toil?
To what end waste we life, exhaust our health
On gainful arts and sigh for greater wealth?
We surely all forget our mortal state —
How brief the life allotted us by Fate!

From: Chapman, M. J. (transl.), The Greek Pastoral Poets, Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus. Done into English, 1836, James Fraser: London, pp. 273-274.
(https://archive.org/details/greekpastoralpo00biongoog)

Date: c100 BCE (original in Greek); 1836 (translation in English)

By: Bion of Smyrna (fl. c100 BCE)

Translated by: Matthew James Chapman (1796-1865)

Monday, 9 October 2017

For My Daughter by Weldon Kees

Looking into my daughter’s eyes I read
Beneath the innocence of morning flesh
Concealed, hintings of death she does not heed.
Coldest of winds have blown this hair, and mesh
Of seaweed snarled these miniatures of hands;
The night’s slow poison, tolerant and bland,
Has moved her blood. Parched years that I have seen
That may be hers appear: foul, lingering
Death in certain war, the slim legs green.
Or, fed on hate, she relishes the sting
Of others’ agony; perhaps the cruel
Bride of a syphilitic or a fool.
These speculations sour in the sun.
I have no daughter. I desire none.

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47574/for-my-daughter

Date: 1943

By: Weldon Kees (1914-1955)

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The American by Roy Addison Helton

I have no race, nor ancient wrongs:
I do not even know
How many of my sires came
From countries far too far to name:
I am a mongrel with no shame
For what is in my blood.

I dare not boast a single line,
Nor show one chance heroic strain;
I cannot feel myself the seed
Of some far patriot’s stirring deed —
It does not seem to be a need
Among my friends.

For of my fathers, some were rude,
Some old and sick for solitude;
A few were mad for blood and gold,
And others merely poor and cold
And kind.

And some sought food and some sought wine;
Some were for lust and some for land —
Now all their gathered griefs are mine,
And all their hopes are in my hand:

Some sought the stars of other skies,
And some new worlds to win and sway;
Some wanted freedom for their eyes
And some had need to think and say;

Some craved the gift to He alone
With labor done and heart at ease,
To heed the pausing monotone
Of laughing winds among the trees;

Some were for women, some for sleep;
Some craved salt kisses of the sea;
And some were fools that sin and weep —
Now all their strains are fleshed in me.

From: Helton, Roy, Outcasts in Beulah Land, and Other Poems, 1918, Henry Holt and Company: New York, pp. 74-75.
(https://archive.org/details/outcastsinbeulah00heltrich)

Date: 1918

By: Roy Addison Helton (1886-1977)

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Dream by Charles Godfrey Leland

‘Life’s sweetest dreams
Are foam on streams.’

An ancient dream has wandered
Through earth since the earliest time,
And he o’er whom it sweepeth
Grows stern — or it may be weepeth,
Like one who suffers with longing
For a sweet yet terrible crime.

It hath but a single picture;
A fountain which leaps and foams,
And by it a woman sits yearning,
Starting ‘mid reveries — burning
For a love which never comes.

The fountain leaps up in passion,
Darts out in a gleaming pain;
And the longing of him who dreameth,
And the passion of her who seemeth,
Fall back into foam again.

From: Leland, Charles Godfrey, The Music-Lesson of Confucius, and Other Poems, 1872, Trübner & Co: London, p. 88.
(https://archive.org/details/musiclessonconf01conggoog)

Date: 1872

By: Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903)

Friday, 6 October 2017

Witch-Burning by Mary Elizabeth Counselman

They burned a witch in Bingham Square
Last Friday afternoon.
The faggot-smoke was blacker than
The shadows on the moon;
The licking flames were strangely green
Like fox-fire on the fen…
And she who cursed the godly folk
Will never curse again.

They burned a witch in Bingham Square;
Before the village gate.
A huswife raised a skinny hand
To damn her, tense with hate.
A huckster threw a jagged stone—
Her pallid cheek ran red…
But there was something scornful in
The way she held her head.

They burned a witch in Bingham Square;
Her eyes were terror-wild.
She was a slight, a comely maid,
No taller than a child.
They bound her fast against the stake
And laughed to see her fear…
Her red lips muttered secret words
That no one dared to hear.

They burned a witch in Bingham Square—
But ere she swooned with pain
And ere her bones were sodden ash
Beneath the sudden rain,
She set her mark upon that throng…
For time can not erase
The echo of her anguished cries,
The memory of her face.

From: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Weird_Tales/Volume_28/Issue_3/Witch-Burning

Date: 1936

By: Mary Elizabeth Counselman (1911-1995)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Ballad of Insanity by Robert Ervin Howard

Adam was my ball-and-chain,
A tall short mule,
A walking red olay tennis court
In Eden’s judgment pool.

He tore the dubious petticoat
From Eve’s sequestered hips,
Oh, Adam was my elephant
Upon the sea in ships.

From: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Ballad_of_Insanity

Date: 1928

By: Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

White Death by Clark Ashton Smith

Methought the world was bound with final frost:
The sun, made hueless as with fear and awe,
Illumined still the lands it could not thaw.
Then on my road, with instant evening crossed,
Death stood, and in its dusky veils enwound,
Mine eyes forgot the light, until I came
Where poured the inseparate, unshadowed flame
Of phantom suns in self-irradiance drowned.

Death lay revealed in all its haggardness:
Immitigable wastes horizonless;
Profundities that held nor bar nor veil;
All hues wherewith the suns and worlds were dyed
In light invariable nullifed;
All darkness rendered shelterless and pale.

From: http://www.blackcatpoems.com/s/white_death.html

Date: 1912

By: Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Grief, Not Guilt by Jeanann Verlee

I wish you a tongue scalded by tea.
A hangover. Burnt toast. Stubbed toes. A lost job.
I wish you weeping in the shower. Salt in the sugar bowl.
A wishlist of sorrows. Grief, not guilt.
Hole in your favorite coat. Stain on the good suit.
Arthritis for your joints. A broken guitar string at every show.
I wish each breath a little harder. Each workday
an hour longer. I wish your heart a thousand breaks.
All your sports teams, bottom rank. I wish your friends
go quiet. The leaves brown above your head.
A thunderstorm every morning. Nothing but pearls
when you shop for her diamond. I wish you bad knees,
a sore back. Empty sheets. A ghost to haunt your house.
A tub brimming with mud. Closet stuffed with too-small shoes.
Flat beer. Sour milk. Weak coffee. I wish you
flat tires, soggy pasta, a tax audit to fail.
Bent forks, dull knives. A hangnail for every finger.
I wish you a room wallpapered with my photographs.
A chamber filled with empty bassinets.

From: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/4780

Date: 2012

By: Jeanann Verlee (19??- )