Favorite Poems Continued

A while back we had a discussion here about our favorite poems and poets. It was great, except for the random nitwit who showed up and lectured all of us that “Ball Turret Gunner” was OBVIOUSLY about abortion, and gave us some key points on “how” to read poetry.

But let him not ruin our fun.

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69 Responses to Favorite Poems Continued

  1. Curtis says:

    Sonnet To Sleep, by Keats:

    O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
    Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
    Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
    Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
    O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
    In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes.
    Or wait the Amen, ere thy poppy throws
    Around my bed its lulling charities;
    Then save me, or the passed day will shine
    Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
    Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards
    Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
    Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
    And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

    So SAD.. I love that poem..

  2. Bryan says:

    Sorry I missed the original discussion. This is probably my favorite.

    Voyages III

    Infinite consanguinity it bears
    This tendered theme of you that light
    Retrieves from sea plains where the sky
    Resigns a breast that every wave enthrones;
    While ribboned water lanes I wind
    Are laved and scattered with no stroke
    Wide from your side, whereto this hour
    The sea lifts, also, reliquary hands.

    And so, admitted through black swollen gates
    That must arrest all distance otherwise,
    Past whirling pillars and lithe pediments,
    Light wrestling there incessantly with light,
    Star kissing star through wave on wave unto
    Your body rocking!
    and where death, if shed,
    Presumes no carnage, but this single change,-
    Upon the steep floor flung from dawn to dawn
    The silken skilled transmemberment of song;

    Permit me voyage, love, into your hands . . .

    -Hart Crane

  3. Bryan says:

    Sheila and everybody,

    How about if in addition to discussing our favorite poets, we also discuss favorite lines or passages that mean something deep to you or haunt your imagination? Here’s one of mine.

    Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
    We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
    A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

    Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
    We say God and the imagination are one…
    How high that highest candle lights the dark.

    Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
    We make a dwelling in the evening air,
    In which being there together is enough.

    Wallace Stevens
    from “The Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour”

  4. red says:

    Hart Crane is amazing.

  5. red says:

    I would say, in answer to you, Bryan – that that last stanza in The More Loving One, by Auden (posted below) is something I have a deep connection to.

  6. red says:

    Another line which always struck a deep deep chord in me … was from Emily Bronte’s “Once Rebuked”:

    I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading —
    It vexes me to choose another guide.

  7. Bryan says:

    Here is another from Hart Crane.

    Reflective conversion of all things
    At your deep blush, when ecstasies thread
    The limbs and belly, when rainbows spread
    Impinging on the throat and sides
    Inevitable, the body of the world
    Weeps in inventive dust for the hiatus
    That winks above it, bluet in your breasts.

    from “The Marriage of Faustus and Helen”

  8. Bryan says:

    Also from “Faustus”:

    Distinctly praise the years, whose volatile
    Blamed bleeding hands extend and thresh the height
    The imagination spans beyond despair,
    Outpacing bargain, vocable and prayer.

  9. Bryan says:

    Sheila,

    I love that quotation from Bronte. That is so you.

  10. Bryan says:

    The air is sweetest that a thistle guards,
    And purple thistles in our blue air burn,
    And spiny leaves hold back the light we share.
    The loose tides sprawl and turn and overturn

    Distant pearl eaters gorging on the shore
    While taut between those waters and these words
    Our air, our morning these poignant thistles weave
    Nets that bind back, garland the hungering tide.

    -James Merrill

  11. Bryan says:

    Art thou pale for loneliness
    Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
    Wandering companionless
    Among the stars that had a different birth
    And ever changing, like some joyless eye
    That finds no object worth its constancy?

    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Fragment

  12. red says:

    The entirety of Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. I cannot even explain how exciting I found that poem as a kid … I could SEE IT. The boats coming into the harbour at night, the flashing lantern, the hooves on the cobblestone ..

    To me, that entire poem was a magic world – which I was allowed to freely enter. I could participate in it as fully as I wanted to.

    I LOVE that poem.

  13. Bryan says:

    I’ve actually never read that one.

  14. Bryan says:

    It is full fair a man to bear him even,
    For alday meeteth man at unset stevene.

    Chaucer
    from “The Knight’s Tale”

  15. red says:

    You’ve got to read the poem out loud. Whatever you do, do not read it silently – because it doesn’t lift off the page that way. It’s meant to be heard. I know huge sections of it by heart:

    “Listen my children and you will hear
    of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
    On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
    Hardly a man is now alive
    Who remembers that famous day and year.”

    Shivers!!!

    Also:

    “And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
    A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
    He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
    But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
    A second lamp in the belfry burns.”

    I just don’t know of anything more SATISFYING than that.

  16. Chris says:

    Here’s one of my favourite poems:

    The Kiss, by Sassoon

    To these I turn, in these I trust—  
    Brother Lead and Sister Steel.  
    To his blind power I make appeal,  
    I guard her beauty clean from rust.  
      
    He spins and burns and loves the air,          
    And splits a skull to win my praise;  
    But up the nobly marching days  
    She glitters naked, cold and fair.  
      
    Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:  
    That in good fury he may feel   
    The body where he sets his heel  
    Quail from your downward darting kiss.

  17. Has anyone mentioned Milton yet? I don’t think so. “Paradise Lost” is, IMHO, the greatest epic poem ever written in the language.

  18. Bryan says:

    For some reason this is the one passage from Paradise Lost that burns in my consciousness the most.

    Nathless he so endur’d, till on the Beach
    Of that inflamed Sea, he stood and call’d
    His Legions, Angel Forms, who lay intrans’t
    Thick as Autumnal Leaves that strow the Brooks
    In VALLOMBROSA, where th’ ETRURIAN shades
    High overarch’t imbowr; or scatterd sedge
    Afloat, when with fierce Winds ORION arm’d
    Hath vext the Red-Sea Coast, whose waves orethrew
    BUSIRIS and his MEMPHIAN Chivalrie,
    VVhile with perfidious hatred they pursu’d
    The Sojourners of GOSHEN, who beheld
    From the safe shore their floating Carkases
    And broken Chariot Wheels, so thick bestrown
    Abject and lost lay these, covering the Flood,
    Under amazement of their hideous change.

  19. red says:

    I don’t know how I could have left off the following sonnet – written by the great Milton – He wrote it to his own blindness. I can’t even conceive of … what he was going through … and yet … This poem may be the most important poem in my life:

    When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one Talent which is death to hide,
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, least he returning chide,
    Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,
    I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
    Bar his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
    Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and waite.

  20. red says:

    “They also serve who only stand and waite.”

    I can barely type those words without my eyes filling up with tears. Jesus.

    Also:

    “that one Talent which is death to hide”

    It kills me.

  21. Jeff says:

    When despair grows in me
    and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting for their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    The Peace of Wild Things
    Wendell Berry

  22. Bryan says:

    Great as Milton was, I tend to prefer Blake’s Milton to the original, at least from a spiritual point of view.

    The Negation is the Spectre, the Reasoning Power in Man:
    This is a false Body, an Incrustation over my Immortal
    Spirit, a Selfhood which must be put off and annihilated alway.
    To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by self-examination,
    To bathe in the waters of Life, to wash off the Not Human,
    I come in Self-annihilation and the grandeur of Inspiration;
    To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour,
    To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration,
    To cast off Bacon, Locke, and Newton from Albion’s covering,
    To take off his filthy garments and clothe him with Imagination;
    To cast aside from Poetry all that is not Inspiration,
    That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness
    Cast on the Inspirèd by the tame high finisher of paltry Blots
    Indefinite or paltry Rhymes, or paltry Harmonies,
    Who creeps into State Government like a caterpillar to destroy;
    To cast off the idiot Questioner, who is always questioning,
    But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin
    Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;
    Who publishes Doubt and calls it Knowledge; whose Science is Despair,
    Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is
    To destroy the wisdom of ages, to gratify ravenous 9d0 Envy
    That rages round him like a Wolf, day and night, without rest.
    He smiles with condescension; he talks of Benevolence and Virtue,
    And those who act with Benevolence and Virtue they murder time on time.
    These are the destroyers of Jerusalem! these are the murderers
    Of Jesus! who deny the Faith and mock at Eternal Life,
    Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination
    By imitation of Nature’s Images drawn from Remembrance.
    These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation,
    Hiding the Human Lineaments, as with an Ark and Curtains
    Which Jesus rent, and now shall wholly purge away with Fire,
    Till Generation is swallow’d up in Regeneration.

  23. Bryan says:

    Hear the voice of the prophet!

  24. Steve says:

    From Dante’s Inferno:

    Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
    from the straight road and woke to find myself
    alone in a dark wood. How shall I say

    what wood that was! I never saw so drear,
    so rank, so arduous a wilderness!
    Its very memory gives a shape to fear.

    Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!
    But since it came to good, I will recount
    all that I found revealed there by God’s grace.

    How I came to it I cannot rightly say,
    so drugged and so loose with sleep had I become
    when I first wandered there from the True Way.

  25. red says:

    William Blake was such a freakin’ rock star. I love that wacko visionary.

  26. Steve says:

    Damn, that’s some good Blake, Bryan. Thanks for that.

  27. red says:

    Jeff – Oh, Wendell Berry is so wonderful … I always forget about him for some reason … thanks for that!

  28. red says:

    I think one of my favorite Blake lines comes from (I think) Marriage of Heaven and Hell – this might be a bit of a paraphrase – forgive:

    “The eagle never lost so time
    As when he stooped to learn from the crow.”

    That, to me, encapsulated my entire grad school experience. They tried to make everyone into crows. They had deep suspicion of eagles.

  29. Emily says:

    How many slams in an old screen door?
    Depends how loud you shut it.
    How many slices in a bread?
    Depends how thin you cut it.
    How much good inside a day?
    Depends how good you live ’em.
    How much love inside a friend?
    Depends how much you give ’em.

    “How much, how many”
    Shel Silverstein.

  30. Steve says:

    I don’t think mass education is ever designed for eagles. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, but it’s pretty apparent that modern educational systems were invented at the height of the industrial revolution.

  31. red says:

    Steve – I’m talkin’ about GRAD school though. Which I don’t classify as “mass education”.

  32. red says:

    Oh Shel. Shel Silverstein … I can still see his crazy grinning bald-headed photo on the back of “The Giving Tree” to this day!

  33. Bryan says:

    “William Blake was such a freakin’ rock star.” Sheila, that’s great! Can’t you just imagine him as a long-haired maniac with a guitar screaming the Everlasting Gospel into a microphone?

    Come to think of it, Ezekiel might have made a good rock star too.

  34. jess says:

    I’ve always had it bad for Edna St. Vincent Millay:

    I, being born a woman and distressed
    By all the needs and notions of my kind,
    Am urged by your propinquity to find
    Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
    To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
    So subtly is the fume of life designed,
    To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
    And leave me once again undone, possessed.
    Think not for this, however, the poor treason
    Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
    I shall remember you with love, or season
    My scorn with pity,—let me make it plain:
    I find this frenzy insufficient reason
    For conversation when we meet again.

  35. red says:

    Edna’s stuff hurts my heart – I love it. There’s that one sonnet about time healing everything and what bullshit that is … Hm. Let me look it up.

  36. red says:

    Blake always struck me as totally psychedelic (I’m sure you’ve seen his drawings) … and very wise … and also a nutjob of the 1st degree. He saw angels in the trees … I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that!! He just seems, even to our modern eyes, to be very very unconventional.

  37. red says:

    Jess – here’s the sonnet of hers I mentioned – she’s awesome.

    Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
    Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
    I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
    I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
    The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
    And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
    But last year’s bitter loving must remain
    Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
    There are a hundred places where I fear
    To go, — so with his memory they brim!
    And entering with relief some quiet place
    Where never fell his foot or shone his face
    I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
    And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

  38. Steve says:

    Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to rethink my opinion of grad school. Everything I’ve heard about it hasn’t been positive, though.

  39. red says:

    Steve – Maybe we’re saying the same thing. I thought that I would find myself surrounded by eagles at grad school – because it’s more elite, you have to apply to get in, blah blah – Instead, the majority of the other students were crows – and I, being an eagle (I say it without embarrassment), never “wasted so much time” – as when I hung out with mostly crows. Waste o’ freakin’ TIME.

    It’s like slowing down the fastest kid in the class so the slowest kid won’t develop bad self-esteem.

    But this was GRAD SCHOOL. A fucking EXPENSIVE grad school.

    Perhaps we’re saying the same thing. I had great teachers, great training, and made a couple of great friends – but other than that? 2 thumbs down.

  40. jess says:

    Sheila, I LOVE that one. It’s beautiful. I love this one, too. I promise I won’t post any more after this one ;)

    Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!
    Give back my book and take my kiss instead.
    Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,
    “What a big book for such a little head!”
    Come, I will show you now my newest hat,
    And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!
    Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.
    I never again shall tell you what I think.
    I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;
    You will not catch me reading any more:
    I shall be called a wife to pattern by.
    And some day when you knock and push the door,
    Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,
    I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

  41. Bryan says:

    I didn’t have a good experience in grad school either, although I had more respect for some of my fellow students than for most of my professors.

  42. red says:

    Jess – she’s so awesome. The sonnets are just perfect. Post as many as you like! I never get tired of her.

  43. Chrees says:

    I recently ran across this poem while reading The Iliad. It was written by Patrick Shaw-Stewart in 1915 while he was on a three-day leave from Gallipoli. (On a side note, I have heard that there will be a book soon about poetry inspired by World War I–I look forward to discovering more such gems). Most people have probably heard the first stanza (I saw a man this morning/ Who did not wish to die/ I ask, and cannot answer,/ If otherwise wish I.) But the second half is what really moves me. Especially the last two lines…

    O hell of ships and cities,
    Hell of men like me,
    Fatal second Helen,
    Why must I follow thee ?

    Achilles came to Troyland
    And I to Chersonese :
    He turned from wrath to battle,
    And I from three days’ peace.

    Was it so hard, Achilles,
    So very hard to die ?
    Thou knewest and I know not-
    So much the happier I.

    I will go back this morning
    From Imbros over the sea ;
    Stand in the trench, Achilles,
    Flame-capped, and shout for me.

  44. Steve says:

    Ah. I thought you were complaining about the teachers and the system of grad school in general. Yeah. Dumb people suck.

    That’s my main beef with education in general though. The smart ones come out smart, the dumb ones come out dumb, and they take all your money no matter what effect they have.

  45. red says:

    Steve:

    “Dumb people suck”. I just BURST into laughter when I read that. heh heh heh Yup, that pretty much sums it all up!!

  46. red says:

    Chrees: Do you know Rupert Brooke? He was quite amazing and he died in battle in 1915 at a very young age. More information on him.

    I posted his very moving “Song of the Pilgrims” here …

  47. Steve says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I just walked out of class because I couldn’t take the questions from students. In computer science, mostly. I’m usually not a snob, but there’s a difference between doing your stuff and trying to get the teacher to hold your hand.

    I really wasn’t as social in undergrad as I should have been. It seemed like it’d be easier to be social in grad school, but maybe it wasn’t worth it. I took a grad course in Nietzsche one semester and enjoyed it. But I think I’d tire of doing a PhD in philosophy, as much as I love the subject, because there’s only so much pomo bullshit one can take.

  48. Chrees says:

    I had read a little of Brooke’s poems. That era has seemed to drop off the popular literary landscape unless it is something by Faulkner/Fitzgerald/Hemingway/etc. The more I dig, the more gems I find.

    And I’ve had that image of Achilles with me all day now…

  49. red says:

    Chrees –

    Did you read the excerpt in the post below about Ben Jonson and Shakespeare? Ben Jonson, quite a formidable poet in his own right, happened to be a contemporary (sort of) of Shakespeare’s – and so … there it goes. He will never ever escape from the dude’s shadow. That’s the way it goes.

    Reminds me of a GREAT quote from Bing Crosby:

    “Frank Sinatra is a singer that comes along once in a lifetime. But why oh why did he have to come along in mine?”

    HAHAHA

  50. Mjf says:

    my favorite last line of a poem is by Frank O’Hara..i love him(in the interst of full disclosure, i also played him in a beautiful play by Jay Skelton)…the poem is called “Lana Turner Collapsed”..cut to the last line…
    “Get up Lana, We need you.”

    Love it.

  51. Chrees says:

    Totally off-topic, but related to the Crosby quote. A friend’s dad told the story of why he never played in golf tournaments… he was quite good in high school and was looking forward to getting a college scholarship. That is, until he played in the Ohio junior championship in the early ’50s and got spanked badly. He thought he wasn’t in the same league as “those guys” and wouldn’t amount to anything and he never touched his clubs for about 10 years. Of course, one of “those guys” was Jack Nicklaus.

    I always doubted his story, but who knows…

  52. Bryan says:

    One of my favorite love poems:

    These are amazing: each
    Joining a neighbor, as though speech
    Were a still performance.
    Arranging by chance

    To meet as far this morning
    From the world as agreeing
    With it, you and I
    Are suddenly what the trees try

    To tell us we are:
    That their merely being there
    Means something; that soon
    We may touch, love, explain.

    And glad not to have invented
    Such comeliness, we are surrounded:
    A silence already filled with noises,
    A canvas on which emerges

    A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
    Placed in a puzzling light, and moving,
    Our days put on such reticence
    These accents seem their own defense.

    John Ashbery
    “Some Trees”

  53. susie says:

    Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! What a great day to know about. It made me think of all of my favorite poets and poems and I went and found a lot of them and read them again. I also loved discovering new poets here in the comments. One of my favorite poems is by Billy Collins.

    Nightclub

    You are so beautiful and I am a fool
    to be in love with you
    is a theme that keeps coming up
    in songs and poems.
    There seems to be no room for variation.
    I have never heard anyone sing
    I am so beautiful
    and you are a fool to be in love with me,
    even though this notion has surely
    crossed the minds of women and men alike.
    You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
    is another one you don’t hear.
    Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
    That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

    For no particular reason this afternoon
    I am listening to Johnny Hartman
    whose dark voice can curl around
    the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
    like no one else’s can.
    It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
    someone left burning on a baby grand piano
    around three o’clock in the morning;
    smoke that billows up into the bright lights
    while out there in the darkness
    some of the beautiful fools have gathered
    around little tables to listen,
    some with their eyes closed,
    others leaning forward into the music
    as if it were holding them up,
    or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
    slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

    Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
    borne beyond midnight,
    that has no desire to go home,
    especially now when everyone in the room
    is watching the large man with the tenor sax
    that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
    He moves forward to the edge of the stage
    and hands the instrument down to me
    and nods that I should play.
    So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
    and blow into it with all my living breath.
    We are all so foolish,
    my long bebop solo begins by saying,
    so damn foolish
    we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

  54. David Foster says:

    From the 15th century..”Mannerly Margery Milk & Ale”

    Ay besherew you! By my fay
    This wanton clerkes be nice aways.
    Avent, avent, my popagay!
    What will you do nothing but play?
    Tilly vally straw, let be I say
    Gup Christian Clout gup Jack of the vale
    With mannerly Margery, milk and ale
    Be Gad, ye be a pretty pode
    And I love you an hole cart load
    Straw, James fodder, ye play the fode
    I am no hackney for your road;
    Go watch a bole, your back is broad.
    Gup Christian Clout gup Jack of the vale
    With mannerly Margery, milk and ale

    Iwis ye deal uncourteously;
    What would you frumple me now? Fy, fy!
    What and ye shall be my piggesnye
    By Christ ye shall not! No, no hardely!
    I will not be japed bodily
    Gup Christian Clout gup Jack of the vale
    With mannerly Margery, milk and ale

    Walk forth your way, ye cost me nought
    Now I have found that I have sought
    The best chepe flesh that ever I bought
    Yet for his love that all hath wrought
    Wed me, or else I die for thought
    Gup Christian Clout gup Jack of the vale
    With mannerly Margery, milk and ale

    ..not sure I understand it, but I like it!

  55. El Capitan says:

    How about a smidgen (’cause that’s all there is of this one…) of William Carlos Williams?

    So much depends
    on a red wheelbarrow
    glazed with rainwater
    beside the white chickens

    I dunno why I always liked that one. Probably because it’s easy to remember.

    I’d quote my REAL favorite, Rudyard Kipling, but I fear the Politically Correct Police would swoop down and subject me to sensitivity training. Oh, hell with it. Here’s a bit.

    Brown Bess – Rudyard Kipling

    In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise–
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes–
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

    Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
    Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
    And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
    On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
    Half Europe admitted the striking success
    Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

    When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
    And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
    Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
    She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
    “Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
    And I think am killing enough,” said Brown Bess.

    So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
    From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
    From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
    And nothing about her was changed on the way;
    (But most of the Empire which now we possess
    Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

    In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
    From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
    She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
    Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
    But later, near Brussels, Napoleon–no less–
    Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

    She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day–
    She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
    And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
    And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
    And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
    “I have danced my last dance for the world!” said Brown Bess.

    If you go to Museums–there’s one in Whitehall–
    Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
    You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
    As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
    And if ever we English had reason to bless
    Any arm save our mothers’, that arm is Brown Bess!

  56. Tim Worstall says:

    Apologies for being so in touch with my inner child that I present a piece of Spike Milligan’s kiddies stuff. Works for me:
    “A thousand hairy savages
    Sitting down to lunch.
    Gobble, gobble, glup, glup,
    Munch, munch, munch.”
    I’ll come back in a few decades when I’ve grown up shall I?

  57. red says:

    MJF: heh heh heh

    “Get up, Lana.”

    bwahahaha

  58. red says:

    Bryan – I think this is my favorite love poem. Or one of them anyway. It’s by DH Lawrence and it’s called “An Elephant is Slow to Mate”:

    The elephant, the huge old beast,
    is slow to mate;
    he finds a female, they show no haste
    they wait

    for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
    slowly, slowly to rouse
    as they loiter along the river-beds
    and drink and browse

    and dash in panic through the brake
    of forest with the herd,
    and sleep in massive silence, and wake
    together, without a word.

    So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
    grow full of desire,
    and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
    hiding their fire.

    Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
    so they know at last
    how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
    for the full repast.

    They do not snatch, they do not tear;
    their massive blood
    moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
    till they touch in flood.

  59. red says:

    Susie –

    A wonderful poem. Billy Collins is so full of heart – I love it.

  60. red says:

    David Foster –

    I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I certainly get the gist – and the TONE of it makes me laugh. The bawdiness of early English, the rollicking robust-ness – nothing quite like it.

  61. David Foster says:

    I *think* that the speaker is a woman, mocking various guys who are attempting to seduce her…but I’m not sure. Any experts in the house?

  62. red says:

    It appears that she is saying she will not be taken advantage of … “I will not be japed bodily” … and that in the last stanza is she saying: I’ve finally found the man for me. I’ve found love. After all the gropers and popagays who want to do nothing but “play” … she’s found a man.

    Something like that.

  63. red says:

    I’m no expert, though. Reading it out loud is helpful. I learned that in the class I took on Chaucer in college. I was like: what the hell??? And then I read it out loud and it made perfect sense. Kind of like Finnegans Wake, too.

  64. beth says:

    no one’s mentioned anne sexton yet, so i will.

    MUSIC SWIMS BACK TO ME

    Wait Mister. Which way is home?
    They turned the light out
    and the dark is moving in the corner.
    There are no sign posts in this room,
    four ladies, over eighty,
    in diapers every one of them.
    La la la, Oh music swims back to me
    and I can feel the tune they played
    the night they left me
    in this private institution on a hill.

    Imagine it. A radio playing
    and everyone here was crazy.
    I liked it and danced in a circle.
    Music pours over the sense
    and in a funny way
    music sees more than I.
    I mean it remembers better;
    remembers the first night here.
    It was the strangled cold of November;
    even the stars were strapped in the sky
    and that moon too bright
    forking through the bars to stick me
    with a singing in the head.
    I have forgotten all the rest.

    They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
    and there are no signs to tell the way,
    just the radio beating to itself
    and the song that remembers
    more than I. Oh, la la la,
    this music swims back to me.
    The night I came I danced a circle
    and was not afraid.
    Mister?

    Also, Sylvia Plath:

    I have done it again.
    One year in every ten
    I manage it–

    A sort of walking miracle, my skin
    Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
    My right foot

    A paperweight,
    My face featureless, fine
    Jew linen.

    Peel off the napkin
    O my enemy.
    Do I terrify?–

    The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
    The sour breath
    Will vanish in a day.

    Soon, soon the flesh
    The grave cave ate will be
    At home on me

    And I a smiling woman.
    I am only thirty.
    And like the cat I have nine times to die.

    This is Number Three.
    What a trash
    To annihilate each decade.

    What a million filaments.
    The peanut-crunching crowd
    Shoves in to see

    Them unwrap me hand and foot–
    The big strip tease.
    Gentlemen, ladies

    These are my hands
    My knees.
    I may be skin and bone,

    Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
    The first time it happened I was ten.
    It was an accident.

    The second time I meant
    To last it out and not come back at all.
    I rocked shut

    As a seashell.
    They had to call and call
    And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.

    I do it so it feels like hell.
    I do it so it feels real.
    I guess you could say I’ve a call.

    It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
    It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
    It’s the theatrical

    Comeback in broad day
    To the same place, the same face, the same brute
    Amused shout:

    ‘A miracle!’
    That knocks me out.
    There is a charge

    For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
    For the hearing of my heart–
    It really goes.

    And there is a charge, a very large charge
    For a word or a touch
    Or a bit of blood

    Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
    So, so, Herr Doktor.
    So, Herr Enemy.

    I am your opus,
    I am your valuable,
    The pure gold baby

    That melts to a shriek.
    I turn and burn.
    Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

    Ash, ash–
    You poke and stir.
    Flesh, bone, there is nothing there–

    A cake of soap,
    A wedding ring,
    A gold filling.

    Herr god, Herr Lucifer
    Beware
    Beware.

    Out of the ash
    I rise with my red hair
    And I eat men like air.

    The most chilling single line of poetry, though, is “Till human voices wake us and we drown,” with “I have heard the Eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker/and in short, I was afraid.” a close second.

  65. Cassandra says:

    I have no idea why I love this sonnet, but it has always just stunned me:

    That time of year thou mayst in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
    Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
    In me thou seest the twilight of such day
    As after sunset fadeth in the west,
    Which by and by black night doth take away,
    Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
    In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
    As the death-bed whereon it must expire
    Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
    This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

  66. jess says:

    Beth, I love that one!

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.

    LOVE it.

  67. dano says:

    Dorothy Parker? I love her.

    I always remember this snippet of what I used to believe was a Robinson Jeffers poem, but it’s really Sidney Lanier (thank you, Google).:

    Inward and outward
    to northward and southward
    the beach-lines linger and curl
    As a silverwrought garment that clings to and follows the firm sweet limbs of a girl.
    — “The Marshes of Glynn”

    I think I originally read it either in a John Brunner novel, or some Stanley Booth piece from on the edge of fact and fiction (memory’s a funny thing)

    I must’ve kept Jeffers in mind more after I discovered Big Sur … oh, and girls.

  68. beth says:

    jess,

    my favorite part of that plath poem is the last verse. it hits you like a punch in the gut. it does to the reader what the speaker in the poem is describing herself doing. form + function and all that.

    anne sexton it’s harder for me to pick out a single “best” poem of hers. i have a dog-eared copy of her complete works that i’ve carried around for years, though.

    ever read gwendolyn brooks?

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