One of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets. If you’re curious about who Mongan is, there’s a good little explanation here.
“Mongan Thinks of His Past Greatness”
by William Butler Yeats
I have drunk ale from the Country of the Young
And weep because I know all things now:
I have been a hazel tree and they hung
The Pilot Star and the Crooked Plough
Among my leaves in times out of mind:
I became a rush that horses tread:
I became a man, a hater of the wind,
Knowing one, out of all things, alone, that his head
Would not lie on the breast or his lips on the hair
Of the woman that he loves, until he dies;
Although the rushes and the fowl of the air
Cry of his love with their pitiful cries.
And if you’re in the mood for something extra awesome, you’ll find a recording of the great Dylan Thomas reciting this poem here (under the title “He Thinks of His Past Greatness”).
During a recent book haul (more on that next week), I bought an old copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse for the exorbitant amount of $2. 😉 Since then, I’ve been poking around it, reading all the poets that my fellow bloggers swear by whom I’ve never read. One of them is George Herbert, from whom I found this little gem today.
by George Herbert
When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”
So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
This past week, most of my poetry reading has centered on the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. I would love to post one of his poems here, but, because he had the audacity to be born in 1939 and thus all of his poems are still under copyright, I’ll instead post this one from his literary forefather, W. B. Yeats.
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
by William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
As far as I know, this poem was never published during Chesterton’s lifetime: he wrote it down in a notebook somewhere when he was about 21 and kept it to himself. True, it’s not as intricate as Chesterton’s later poems and the style seems quite unlike him, but for whatever reason, I think this might be my favorite Chesterton poem.
by G. K. Chesterton
Here dies another day During which I have had eyes, ears, hands And the great world round me; And with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?
One of my most favorite poems of all time. I hope you all like it!
by Dorothy L. Sayers
Christ walks the world again, His lute upon His back, His red robe rent to tatters, His riches gone to rack, The wind that wakes the morning blows His hair about His face, His hands and feet are ragged with the ragged briar’s embrace, For the hunt is up behind Him and His sword is at His side, . . . Christ the bonny outlaw walks the whole world wide,
Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me, Lie among the bracken and break the barley bread? We will see new suns arise in golden, far-off skies, For the Son of God and Woman hath not where to lay His head.”
Christ walks the world again, a prince of fairy-tale, He roams, a rascal fiddler, over mountain and down dale, Cast forth to seek His fortune in a bitter world and grim, For the stepsons of His Father’s house would steal His Bride from Him; They have weirded Him to wander till He bring within His hands The water of eternal youth from black-enchanted lands,
Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me, Or sleep on silken cushions in the bower of wicked men? For if we walk together through the wet and windy weather, When I ride back home triumphant you will ride beside Me then.”
Christ walks the world again, new-bound on high emprise, With music in His golden mouth and laughter in His eyes; The primrose springs before Him as He treads the dusty way, His singer’s crown of thorn has burst in blossom like the may, He heedeth not the morrow and He never looks behind, Singing: “Glory to the open skies and peace to all mankind.”
Singing: “Lady, lady, will you come away with Me? Was never man lived longer for the hoarding of his breath; Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain . . . If we perish in the seeking, . . . why, how small a thing is death!”
In honor of the ninety-fifth birthday of the wonderful, beautiful, talented, exuberant, incandescent Ray Bradbury, I’m posting this video of him reciting his poem “If Only We Had Taller Been.” How fortunate that his birthday would fall on a Saturday. 🙂
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower–but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.