Poem of the Week: “Mongan Thinks of His Past Greatness”

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”).

Source.

Poem of the Week: “La Belle Dame sans Merci”

La Belle Dame sans Merci by JW Waterhouse
“La Belle Dame sans Merci” by John William Waterhouse (inspired by Keats’s poem, FYI). Image via Art Renewal Center.

Today, October 31, happens to be the 220th birthday of one of the most celebrated poets in English literature, Mr. John Keats. So today, I post one of my favorite poems of his:

“La Belle Dame sans Merci”

by John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

 

Source.

Poem of the Week: “Pied Beauty”

Again, thanks to The Oxford Book of English Verse, I found this lovely little thing:

“Pied Beauty”

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Poem of the Week: “The Pulley”

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.

“The Pulley”

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.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”

Poem of the Week: “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

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,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Poem of the Week: “Evening”

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.

“Evening”

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?

Source.

Poem of the Week: “A Psalm of Life”

Image via Public Domain Archive.
Image via Public Domain Archive.

Please forgive my negligence in updating this series and enjoy this poem by Longfellow:

“A Psalm of Life”

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
 Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Source.

Poem of the Week: “There Is No Frigate Like a Book”

When in doubt, Dickinson.

"Harper's Weekly" by Tom Roberts. Image via The Athenaeum.
“Harper’s Weekly” by Tom Roberts. Image via The Athenaeum.

“There Is No Frigate Like a Book”

by Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul.

Poem of the Week: “Desdichado”

One of my most favorite poems of all time. I hope you all like it!

“Desdichado”

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!”

Source.

Poem of the Week: “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”

If you’re not too sick of all the poetry talk yet, here’s a little gem by Emily Dickinson.

“There’s a Certain Slant of Light”

by Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Source.

Poem of the Week: “If Only We Had Taller Been”

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. 🙂

Poem of the Week: “Flower in the Crannied Wall”

“Flower in the Crannied Wall”

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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.