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Oft I remember those I have known
In other days, to whom my heart was lead
As by a magnet, and who are not dead,
But absent, and their memories overgrown
With other thoughts and troubles of my own,
As graves with grasses are, and at their head
The stone with moss and lichens so o’er spread,
Nothing is legible but the name alone.
And is it so with them? After long years.
Do they remember me in the same way,
And is the memory pleasant as to me?
I fear to ask; yet wherefore are my fears?
Pleasures, like flowers, may wither and decay,
And yet the root perennial may be.

Robert Graves

You, love, and I,
(He whispers) you and I,
And if no more than only you and I
What care you or I?

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Cloudless day,
Night, and a cloudless day;
Yet the huge storm will burst upon their heads one day
From a bitter sky.

Where shall we be,
(She whispers) where shall we be,
When death strikes home, O where then shall we be
Who were you and I?

Not there but here,
(He whispers) only here,
As we are, here, together, now and here,
Always you and I.

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee Whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

When on my bed the moonlight falls,
I know that in thy place of rest
By that broad water of the west,
There comes a glory on the walls:

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
As slowly steals a silver flame
Along the letters of thy name,
And o'er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;
From off my bed the moonlight dies;
And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray:

And then I know the mist is drawn
A lucid veil from coast to coast,
And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.

Max Eastman

YOU came with your small tapering flame of passion
Thinly burning like a nun's desire,
Your eyes in slim and half-expectant fashion
Faintly painting what your veins require
With little pallid pyramids of fire.

So very small and unfulfilled you sat,
Building a little talk to keep you there,
Your face and body pointed like a cat,
Your legs not reaching down from any chair,
Your thoughts not really reaching anywhere;

So dumb and tiny--yet Love guessed your mood,
And pressed his phial in its fervent bed,
And poured his thrilling philtre in my blood,
And all his lustre on your body shed,
And hot enamel on the words you said;

Your littleness became a monstrous thing,
A rank retort, a hot and waiting vat,
Your eyes green-copper like a snake in spring,
And lusty-bold your laying off your hat,
And fell your purpose like a hungry cat;

The dark fell on us through our narrowed eyes,
The heat lashed up around us from the floor,
Encrimsoning the lips of our surprise
To sway like music, and like burning pour
Across the truth that parted us before.

Matsuo Bashō

Awake at night--
the sound of the water jar
    cracking in the cold.

With all the fairest angels nearest God,
The ineffable true of heart around the throne,
There shall I find you waiting when the flown
Dream leaves my heart insentient as the clod;
And when the grief-retracing ways I trod
Become a shining path to thee alone,
My weary feet, that seemed to drag as stone,
Shall once again, with wings of fleetness shod,
Fare on, beloved, to find you!  Just beyond
The seraph throng await me, standing near
  The gentler angels, eager and apart;
Be there, near God's own fairest, with the fond
Sweet smile that was your own, and let me hear
  Your voice again and clasp you to my heart.

Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
  Silent, and soft, and slow
  Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession
  The troubled sky reveals
  The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
  Now whispered and revealed
  To wood and field.

Conrad Aiken

That woman--did she try to attract my attention?
Is it true I saw her smile and nod?
She turned her head and smiled . . . was it for me?
It is better to think of work or god.
The clouds pile coldly above the houses
Slow wind revolves the leaves:
It begins to rain, and the first long drops
Are slantingly blown from eaves.
But it is true she tried to attract my attention!
She pressed a rose to her chin and smiled.
Her hand was white by the richness of her hair,
Her eyes were those of a child.
It is true she looked at me as if she liked me.
And turned away, afraid to look too long!
She watched me out of the corners of her eyes;
And, tapping time with fingers, hummed a song.
. . . Nevertheless, I will think of work,
With a trowel in my hands;
Or the vague god who blows like clouds
Above these dripping lands . . .
But . . . is it sure she tried to attract my attention?
She leaned her elbow in a peculiar way
There in the crowded room . . . she touched my hand . . .
She must have known, and yet,--she let it stay.
Music of flesh! Music of root and sod!
Leaf touching leaf in the rain!
Impalpable clouds of red ascend,
Red clouds blow over my brain.
Did she await from me some sign of acceptance?
I smoothed my hair with a faltering hand.
I started a feeble smile, but the smile was frozen:
Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.
Is it to be conceived that I could attract her--
This dull and futile flesh attract such fire?
I,--with a trowel's dullness in hand and brain!--
Take on some godlike aspect, rouse desire?
Incredible! . . . delicious! . . . I will wear
A brighter color of tie, arranged with care,
I will delight in god as I comb my hair.
And the conquests of my bolder past return
Like strains of music, some lost tune
Recalled from youth and a happier time.
I take my sweetheart's arm in the dusk once more;
One more we climb
Up the forbidden stairway,
Under the flickering light, along the railing:
I catch her hand in the dark, we laugh once more,
I hear the rustle of silk, and follow swiftly,
And softly at last we close the door.
Yes, it is true that woman tried to attract me:
It is true she came out of time for me,
Came from the swirling and savage forest of earth,
The cruel eternity of the sea.
She parted the leaves of waves and rose from silence
Shining with secrets she did not know.
Music of dust! Music of web and web!
And I, bewildered, let her go.
I light my pipe. The flame is yellow,
Edged underneath with blue.
These thoughts are truer of god, perhaps,
Than thoughts of god are true.

The keen stars were twinkling,
And the fair moon was rising among them,
Dear Jane.
The guitar was tinkling,
But the notes were not sweet till you sung them

As the moon’s soft splendour
O’er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter

Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

Georg Trakl

Gone and passed is the gold of day,
And the evening’s brown and blue:
Silenced the shepherd’s tender flute
And the evening’s brown and blue
Gone and passed as is the gold of day.

L'anémone et l'ancolie
Ont poussé dans le jardin
Où dort la mélancolie
Entre l'amour et le dédain

Il y vient aussi nos ombres
Que la nuit dissipera
Le soleil qui les rend sombres
Avec elles disparaîtra

Les déités des eaux vives
Laissent couler leurs cheveux
Passe il faut que tu poursuives
Cette belle ombre que tu veux.

(For G. H.)

Say, does that stupid earth
Where they have laid her,
Bind still her sullen mirth,
Mirth which betrayed her?
Do the lush grasses hold,
Greenly and glad,
That brittle-perfect gold
She alone had?

Smugly the common crew,
Over their knitting,
Mourn her -- as butchers do
Sheep-throats they're slitting!
She was my enemy,
One of the best of them.
Would she come back to me,
God damn the rest of them!

Damn them, the flabby, fat,
Sleek little darlings!
We gave them tit for tat,
Snarlings for snarlings!
Squashy pomposities,
Shocked at our violence,
Let not one tactful hiss
Break her new silence!

Maids of antiquity,
Look well upon her;
Ice was her chastity,
Spotless her honor.
Neighbors, with breasts of snow,
Dames of much virtue,
How she could flame and glow!
Lord, how she hurt you!

She was a woman, and
Tender -- at times!
(Delicate was her hand)
One of her crimes!
Hair that strayed elfinly,
Lips red as haws,
You, with the ready lie,
Was that the cause?

Rest you, my enemy,
Slain without fault,
Life smacks but tastelessly
Lacking your salt!
Stuck in a bog whence naught
May catapult me,
Come from the grave, long-sought,
Come and insult me!

WE knew that sugared stuff
Poisoned the other;
Rough as the wind is rough,
Sister and brother!
Breathing the ether clear
Others forlorn have found --
Oh, for that peace austere
She and her scorn have found!

Alda Merini

All'amore non si resiste
perché le mani vogliono possedere la bellezza
e non lasciare tramortite anni di silenzio.
Perché l'amore è vivere duemila sogni
fino al bacio sublime.

Alda Merini

Cara, ti vorrei scrivere il mio amore;
cara, ti vorrei dire che sei come
un purissimo vaso che si incrina,
ma se tu vuoi riuscire
a guardarmi nel viso come Psiche
fece nel tempo andato con Amore
tu rimarrai delusa e poi ferita.
No, non volgerti indietro, la vestale
cammina adagio, lenta, a sé davanti
guardando sempre; no, non ritornare
su ciò che hai fatto, può essere morte:
te lo dice un'antica profetessa
che è una povera madre e ti vuol bene.

Hermann Hesse

Only on me, the lonely one,
The unending stars of the night shine,
The stone fountain whispers its magic song,
To me alone, to me the lonely one
The colorful shadows of the wandering clouds
Move like dreams over the open countryside.
Neither house nor farmland,
Neither forest nor hunting privilege is given to me,
What is mine belongs to no one,
The plunging brook behind the veil of the woods,
The frightening sea,
The bird whir of children at play,
The weeping and singing, lonely in the evening, of a man secretly in love.
The temples of the gods are mine also, and mine
the aristocratic groves of the past.
And no less, the luminous
Vault of heaven in the future is my home:
Often in full flight of longing my soul storms upward,
To gaze on the future of blessed men,
Love, overcoming the law, love from people to people.
I find them all again, nobly transformed:
Farmer, king, tradesman, busy sailors,
Shepherd and gardener, all of them
Gratefully celebrate the festival of the future world.
Only the poet is missing,
The lonely one who looks on,
The bearer of human longing, the pale image
Of whom the future, the fulfillment of the world
Has no further need. Many garlands
Wilt on his grave,
But no one remembers him.

Nuevas disposiciones de la noche,
sórdidos ejercicios  al dictado, lecciones del deseo
que yo aprendí, pirata,
oh joven pirata de los ojos azules.
En calles resonantes la oscuridad tenía
todavía la misma espesura total
que recuerdo en mi infancia.
Y dramáticas sombras, revestidas
con el prestigio de la prostitución,
a mi lado venían de un infierno
grasiento y sofocante como un cuarto de máquinas.
¡Largas últimas horas,
en mundos amueblados
con deslustrada loza sanitaria
y cortinas manchadas de permanganato!
Como un operario que pule una pieza,
como un afilador,
fornicar poco a poco mordiéndome los labios.
Y sentirse morir por cada pelo
de gusto, y hacer daño.
La luz amarillenta, la escalera
estremecida toda de susurros, mis pasos,
eran aún una prolongación
que me exaltaba,
lo mismo que el olor en las manos
-o que al salir el frío de la madrugada, intenso
como el recuerdo de una sensación.

Alfonsina Storni

Soy un alma desnuda en estos versos,
Alma desnuda que angustiada y sola
Va dejando sus pétalos dispersos.
Alma que puede ser una amapola,
Que puede ser un lirio, una violeta,
Un peñasco, una selva y una ola.
Alma que como el viento vaga inquieta
Y ruge cuando está sobre los mares,
Y duerme dulcemente en una grieta.
Alma que adora sobre sus altares,
Dioses que no se bajan a cegarla;
Alma que no conoce valladares.
Alma que fuera fácil dominarla
Con sólo un corazón que se partiera
Para en su sangre cálida regarla.
Alma que cuando está en la primavera
Dice al invierno que demora: vuelve,
Caiga tu nieve sobre la pradera.
Alma que cuando nieva se disuelve
En tristezas, clamando por las rosas(*)
con que la primavera nos envuelve.
Alma que a ratos suelta mariposas
A campo abierto, sin fijar distancia,
Y les dice: libad sobre las cosas.
Alma que ha de morir de una fragancia
De un suspiro, de un verso en que se ruega,
Sin perder, a poderlo, su elegancia.
Alma que nada sabe y todo niega
Y negando lo bueno el bien propicia
Porque es negando como más se entrega.
Alma que suele haber como delicia
Palpar las almas, despreciar la huella,
Y sentir en la mano una caricia.
Alma que siempre disconforme de ella,
Como los vientos vaga, corre y gira;
Alma que sangra y sin cesar delira
Por ser el buque en marcha de la estrella.

Le jour tombait, une pâle nuée

Du haut du ciel laissait nonchalamment,

Dans l'eau du fleuve à peine remuée,

Tremper les plis de son blanc vêtement.

La nuit parut, la nuit morne et sereine,

Portant le deuil de son frère le jour,

Et chaque étoile à son trône de reine,

En habits d'or, s'en vint faire sa cour.

On entendait pleurer les tourterelles

Et les enfants rêver dans leurs berceaux ;

C'était dans l'air comme un frôlement d'ailes,

Comme le bruit d'invisibles oiseaux.

Le ciel parlait à voix basse à la terre ;

Comme au vieux temps, ils parlaient en hébreu,

Et répétaient un acte du mystère ;

Je n'y compris qu'un seul mot, c'était : Dieu.

Luis Cernuda

Aquella noche el mar no tuvo sueño
cansado de contar siempre contar a tantas olas
quiso vivir hacia lo lejos
donde supiera alguien de su color amargo.

Con una voz insomne decía cosas vagas
barcos entrelazados dulcemente
en un fondo de noche
o cuerpos siempre pálidos con su traje de olvido
viajando hacia nada.

Cantaba tempestades estruendos desbocados
bajo cielos con sombra
como la sombra misma
como la sombra siempre
rencorosa de pájaros estrellas.

Su voz atravesando luces lluvia frío
alcanzaba ciudades elevadas a nubes
Cielo Sereno Colorado Glaciar del infierno
todas puras de anuncios o de astros caídos
en sus manos de tierra.

Mas el mar se cansaba de esperar las ciudades
allí su amor tan sólo era un pretexto vago
con sonrisa de antaño
ignorado de todos.

Y con sueño de nuevo se volvió lentamente
adonde nadie
sabe nada de nadie
adonde acaba el mundo.

Robert Herrick

Wassail the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum, and many a pear:
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.

Stefano Benni

I giudici se vogliono giudicare bisogna che si facciano eleggere
i giornalisti se vogliono scrivere non devono criticare
i sindacalisti devono alzarsi in piedi quando mi vedono entrare
l'opposizione non deve opporsi se no non vale
e insomma una buona volta lasciatemi lavorare
ho sei ville in Sardegna e le bollette da pagare
e forse dovrei farmi ricoverare
Mi consenta mi consenta senta
c'è troppa anomalia in questa società violenta

I giudici se vogliono restare non ci devono arrestare
la stampa estera l'Italia non la deve riguardare
e io a casa mia mangio con chi mi pare
e insomma Bettino smettila di telefonare
più di quello che ho fatto proprio non lo posso fare
ho sei televisioni sulle spalle da mantenere
e forse mi dovrei far ricoverare
Mi consenta mi consenta senta
c'è troppa finanza in questa società violenta

E i tre saggi se sono saggi non si devono impicciare
e la Rai deve essere complementare
e perdio spiegatemi cosa vuol dire complementare
e non dite che non so l'italiano che mi fate incazzare
e i giudici i processi li devono stipulare
e i giornalisti non devono esageracerbare
e forse mi dovrei far ricoverare
Mi consenta mi consenta senta
c'è troppa poca Fininvest in questa società violenta

E i giudici si alzino in piedi prima di giudicare
e se la mafia mi vota cosa ci posso fare
e il milione di posti l'avevo detto per scherzare
e voglio tremila guardie del corpo che mi devono guardare
e un ritratto di sei metri vestito da imperatore
e che sono fascista non me lo dovete dire
e i giornalisti prima di scrivere si facciano eleggere
e i rigori contro il Milan non li dovete dare
e gli agit-prop vadano in Russia ad agitproppare
e non chiamatemi Bokassa o vi faccio fucilare
e i giudici il paese non lo possono sventrare
e a me gli avvisi di garanzia non li dovete mandare
e forse mi dovrei un po' calmare
ma se io sono Dio cosa ci posso fare
Mi consenta mi consenta senta
no c'è più religione in questa società violenta.

Lisa Zaran

Born woman. Go on.
It's farther than it seems,
but okay.

Credit card's been stolen.
Go on.

Above all, remember,
whenever you cry,
husbands roll their eyes,

and children worry.

Go on.

The father that was yours
gets killed by a lung disease.

He loved you, at least you think so.
Go on.

Drink, smoke, do drugs.

Go on.

Drag your crippled bones
to work. Hate your boss
behind her back. Smile

to her face. Go on.

Eat. Don't eat. Get fat.
Get skinny. Go on.

Time fragments.
Space fractures.
Lives intersect.
Wombs bloom

with new life. Go on.

Hold on.


Before they were mothers
Leto and Niobe
had been the most
devoted of friends

Anais Nin

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

What do you think of the murder of the Prime Minister?
Yes, what do you think of the murder
of the Prime Minister?
And what do you feel?
Are you in shock
or depressed?
A question was asked.
And do you stutter
or are you unsure of what will happen,
or do you speak with such bewilderment
because of the future or the present—
A question was asked.
And perhaps you feel stupid
or without a point of view?
And I reply:
All that you say is right
and you are a dear person.
And I want to add one more thing:
The Prime minister died a happy man.
Peace to the dust of the Prime Minister
Husband and father and something more:
the son of Red Rosa.

Translated from the original Hebrew by Karen Alkalay-Gut.

At my house
I sowed and nurtured cockscomb
It withered, yet
No wiser, once again
I'll sow, I feel.

Robert Frost

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
I the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ’twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clovers.
’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasking flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once—could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might out meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

Eugenio Montale

..uno sbaglio di natura il punto morto del mondo, l'anello che non tiene, il filo da disbrogliare che finalmente ci metta nel mezzo di una verità....

Rabia al Basri

Eyes are at rest, the stars are setting.

Hushed are the stirrings of birds in their nests,

Of monsters in the ocean.

You are the Just who knows no change,

The Balance that can never swerve,

The Eternal which never passes away.

The doors of Kings are bolted now and guarded by soldiers.

Your Door is open to all who call upon You.

My Lord,

Each love is now alone with his beloved.

And I am alone with You.

- Rabia al Basri

From Perfume of the Desert – Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom

Edited: A. Harvey and E. Hanut

Elizabeth Bishop

In the cold, cold parlor
my mother laid out Arthur
beneath the chromographs:
Edward, Prince of Wales,
with Princess Alexandra,
and King George with Queen Mary.
Below them on the table
stood a stuffed loon
shot and stuffed by Uncle
Arthur, Arthur's father.

Since Uncle Arthur fired
a bullet into him,
he hadn't said a word.
He kept his own counsel
on his white, frozen lake,
the marble-topped table.
His breast was deep and white,
cold and caressable;
his eyes were red glass,
much to be desired.

"Come," said my mother,
"Come and say good-bye
to your little cousin Arthur."
I was lifted up and given
one lily of the valley
to put in Arthur's hand.
Arthur's coffin was
a little frosted cake,
and the red-eyed loon eyed it
from his white, frozen lake.

Arthur was very small.
He was all white, like a doll
that hadn't been painted yet.
Jack Frost had started to paint him
the way he always painted
the Maple Leaf (Forever).
He had just begun on his hair,
a few red strokes, and then
Jack Frost had dropped the brush
and left him white, forever.

The gracious royal couples
were warm in red and ermine;
their feet were well wrapped up
in the ladies' ermine trains.
They invited Arthur to be
the smallest page at court.
But how could Arthur go,
clutching his tiny lily,
with his eyes shut up so tight
and the roads deep in snow?

"There's a wild duck's nest in a sheltered spot,
And I'll go right down and I'll eat the lot."
But when he got to his destined prey
He found that the ducks had flown away.

But an egg was left that would quench his thirst,
So he bit the egg and it straightway burst.
It burst with a bang, and he turned and fled,
For he thought that the egg had shot him dead.

"Oh, mother," he said, "let us clear right out
Or we'll lose our lives with the bombs about;
And it's lucky I am that I'm not blown up -
It's a very hard life," said the dingo pup.

Ni el tiempo que al pasar me repetía
que no tendría fin mi desventura
será capaz con su palabra obscura
de resistir la luz de mi alegría,
ni el espacio que un día y otro día
convertía distancia en amargura
me apartará de la persona pura
que se confunde con mi poesía.
Porque para el Amor que se prolonga
por encima de cada sepultura
no existe tiempo donde el sol se ponga.
Porque para el Amor omnipotente,
que todo lo transforma y transfigura,
no existe espacio que no esté presente.

Melissa: I've still rever'd your Order [she is responding to a Parson] as Divine;
And when I see unblemish'd Virtue shine,
When solid Learning, and substantial Sense,
Are joyn'd with unaffected Eloquence;
When Lives and Doctrices of a Piece are made,
And holy Truths with humble Zeal convey'd;
When free from Passion, Bigottry, and Pride,
Not sway'd by Int'rest, nor to Parties ty'd,
Contemning Riches, and abhorring strife,
And shunning all the noisy Pomps of Life,
You live the aweful Wonders of your time,
Without the least Suspicion of a Crime:
I shall with Joy the highest Deference pay,
and heedfully attend to all you say.
From such, Reproofs shall always welcome prove,
As being th' Effects of Piety and Love.
But those from me can challenge no Respect,
Who on us all without just Cause reflect:
Who without Mercy all the Sex decry,
And into open Defamations fly:
Who think us Creatures for Derision made,
And the Creator with his Works upbraid:
What he call'd good, they proudly think not so,
And with their Malice, their Prophaneness show.
'Tis hard we shou'd be by the Men despis'd,
Yet kept from knowing what wou'd make us priz'd:
Debarr'd from Knowledge, banish'd from the Schools,
And with the utmost Industry bred Fools.
Laugh'd out of Reason, jested out of Sense,
And nothing left but Native Innocence:
Then told we are incapable of Wit,
And only for the meanest Drudgeries fit:
Made Slaves to serve their Luxury and Pride,
And with innumerable Hardships try'd,
'Till Pitying Heav'n release us from our Pain,
Kind Heav'n to whom alone we dare complain.
Th' ill-natur'd World will no Compassion show;
Such as are wretched, it wou'd still have so:
It gratifies its Envy and its Spight;
The most in others Miseries take Delight.
While we are present they some Pity spare,
And feast us on a thin Repast of Air:
Look Grave and Sigh, when we our Wrongs relate,
An in a Compliment accuse our Fate:
Blame those to whom we our Misfortunes owe,
And all the Signs of real Friendship show.
But when we're absent, we their Sport are made,
They fan the Flame, and our Oppressors aid;
Joyn with the Stronger, the Victorious Side,
And all our Suff'ring, all our griefs deride.
Those gen'rous few, whom kinder Thoughts inspire,
And who the Happiness of all desire;
Who wish we were from barb'rous Usage free,
Exempt from Toils, and shameful Slavery,
Yet let us, unreprov'd, mis. spend our Hours,
And to mean Purposes employ our nobler Pow'rs.
They think, if we our Thoughts can but express,
And know but how to Work, to Dance and Dress,
It is enough, as much as we shou'd mind,
As if we were for nothing else design'd,
But made, like Puppets, to divert Mankind.
O that my Sex wou'd all such Toys despise;
And only study to be Good, and Wise;
Inspect themselves, and every Blemish find,
Search all the close Recesses of the Mind,
And leave no vice, no ruling Passion there,
Nothing to raise a Blush, or cause a Fear:
Their Memories with solid Notions fill,
And let their Reason dictate to their Will,
Instead of Novels, Histories peruse,
And for their Guides the wiser Ancients chuse,
Thro' all the Labyrinths of Learning go,
And grow more humble, as they more do know.
By doing this, they will Respect procure,
Silence the Men, and lasting Fame secure;
And to themselves the best Companions prove,
And neither fear their Malice, nor desire their Love.

Giacomo Leopardi

Che fai tu, luna, in ciel? Dimmi, che fai,
Silenziosa luna?
Sorgi la sera, e vai,
Contemplando i deserti; indi ti posi.
Ancor non sei tu paga
Di riandare i sempiterni calli?
Ancor non prendi a schivo, ancor sei vaga
Di mirar queste valli?
Somiglia alla tua vita
La vita del pastore.
Sorge in sul primo albore;
Move la greggia oltre pel campo, e vede
Greggi, fontane ed erbe;
Poi stanco si riposa in su la sera:
Altro mai non ispera.
Dimmi, o luna: a che vale
Al pastor la sua vita,
La vostra vita a voi? Dimmi: ove tende
Questo vagar mio breve,
Il tuo corso immortale?
Vecchierel bianco, infermo,
Mezzo vestito e scalzo,
Con gravissimo fascio in su le spalle,
Per montagna e per valle,
Per sassi acuti, ed alta rena, e fratte,
Al vento, alla tempesta, e quando avvampa
L'ora, e quando poi gela,
Corre via, corre, anela,
Varca torrenti e stagni,
Cade, risorge, e più e più s'affretta,
Senza posa o ristoro,
Lacero, sanguinoso; infin ch'arriva
Colà dove la via
E dove il tanto affaticar fu volto:
Abisso orrido, immenso,
Ov'ei precipitando, il tutto obblia.
Vergine luna, tale
È la vita mortale.
Nasce l'uomo a fatica,
Ed è rischio di morte il nascimento.
Prova pena e tormento
Per prima cosa; e in sul principio stesso
La madre e il genitore
Il prende a consolar dell'esser nato.
Poi che crescendo viene,
L'uno e l'altro il sostiene, e via pur sempre
Con atti e con parole
Studiasi fargli core,
E consolarlo dell'umano stato:
Altro ufficio più grato
Non si fa da parenti alla lor prole.
Ma perché dare al sole,
Perché reggere in vita
Chi poi di quella consolar convenga?
Se la vita è sventura
Perché da noi si dura?
Intatta luna, tale
È lo stato mortale.
Ma tu mortal non sei,
E forse del mio dir poco ti cale.
Pur tu, solinga, eterna peregrina,
Che sì pensosa sei, tu forse intendi,
Questo viver terreno,
Il patir nostro, il sospirar, che sia;
Che sia questo morir, questo supremo
Scolorar del sembiante,
E perir dalla terra, e venir meno
Ad ogni usata, amante compagnia.
E tu certo comprendi
Il perché delle cose, e vedi il frutto
Del mattin, della sera,
Del tacito, infinito andar del tempo.
Tu sai, tu certo, a qual suo dolce amore
Rida la primavera,
A chi giovi l'ardore, e che procacci
Il verno cò suoi ghiacci.
Mille cose sai tu, mille discopri,
Che son celate al semplice pastore.
Spesso quand'io ti miro
Star così muta in sul deserto piano,
Che, in suo giro lontano, al ciel confina;
Ovver con la mia greggia
Seguirmi viaggiando a mano a mano;
E quando miro in cielo arder le stelle;
Dico fra me pensando:
A che tante facelle?
Che fa l'aria infinita, e quel profondo
Infinito seren? Che vuol dir questa
Solitudine immensa? Ed io che sono?
Così meco ragiono: e della stanza
Smisurata e superba,
E dell'innumerabile famiglia;
Poi di tanto adoprar, di tanti moti
D'ogni celeste, ogni terrena cosa,
Girando senza posa,
Per tornar sempre là donde son mosse;
Uso alcuno, alcun frutto
Indovinar non so. Ma tu per certo,
Giovinetta immortal, conosci il tutto.
Questo io conosco e sento,
Che degli eterni giri,
Che dell'esser mio frale,
Qualche bene o contento
Avrà fors'altri; a me la vita è male.
O greggia mia che posi, oh te beata,
Che la miseria tua, credo, non sai!
Quanta invidia ti porto!
Non sol perché d'affanno
Quasi libera vai;
Ch'ogni stento, ogni danno,
Ogni estremo timor subito scordi;
Ma più perché giammai tedio non provi.
Quando tu siedi all'ombra, sovra l'erbe,
Tu sè queta e contenta;
E gran parte dell'anno
Senza noia consumi in quello stato.
Ed io pur seggo sovra l'erbe, all'ombra,
E un fastidio m'ingombra
La mente, ed uno spron quasi mi punge
Sì che, sedendo, più che mai son lunge
Da trovar pace o loco.
E pur nulla non bramo,
E non ho fino a qui cagion di pianto.
Quel che tu goda o quanto,
Non so già dir; ma fortunata sei.
Ed io godo ancor poco,
O greggia mia, né di ciò sol mi lagno.
Se tu parlar sapessi, io chiederei:
Dimmi: perché giacendo
A bell'agio, ozioso,
S'appaga ogni animale;
Me, s'io giaccio in riposo, il tedio assale?
Forse s'avess'io l'ale
Da volar su le nubi,
E noverar le stelle ad una ad una,
O come il tuono errar di giogo in giogo,
Più felice sarei, dolce mia greggia,
Più felice sarei, candida luna.
O forse erra dal vero,
Mirando all'altrui sorte, il mio pensiero:
Forse in qual forma, in quale
Stato che sia, dentro covile o cuna,
È funesto a chi nasce il dì natale.

Taigu Ryokan

I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deeper despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.

Abraham Lincoln

Canto 1

My childhood’s home I see again,
    And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
    There’s pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
    ‘Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
    In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that’s earthly vile,
    Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle,
    All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye,
    When twilight chases day;
As bugle-notes that, passing by,
    In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
    We, lingering, list its roar—
So memory will hallow all
    We’ve known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
    Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
    And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, how few remain
    Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
    The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
    How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
    And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
    How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
    And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
    And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
    I’m living in the tombs.

        Canto 2

But here’s an object more of dread
    Than ought the grave contains—
A human form with reason fled,
    While wretched life remains.

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
    A fortune-favored child—
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
    A haggard mad-man wild.

Poor Matthew! I have ne’er forgot
    When first, with maddened will,
Yourself you maimed, your father fought,
    And mother strove to kill;

When terror spread, and neighbours ran,
    Your dang’rous strength to bind;
And soon, a howling crazy man
    Your limbs were fast confined.

How then you strove and shrieked aloud,
    Your bones and sinnews bared;
And fiendish on the gazing crowd,
    With burning eye-balls glared—

And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed
    With maniac laughter joined—
How fearful were those signs displayed
    By pangs that killed thy mind!

And when at length, tho’ drear and long,
    Time soothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song,
    Upon the still night rose.

I’ve heard it oft, as if I dreamed,
    Far-distant, sweet, and lone—
The funeral dirge, it ever seemed
    Of reason dead and gone.

To drink its strains, I’ve stole away,
    All stealthily and still,
Ere yet the rising God of day
    Had streaked the Eastern hill.

Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
    Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
    Upon the listening ground.

But this is past; and nought remains,
    That raised thee o’er the brute.
Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,
    Are like, forever mute.

Now fare thee well—more thou the cause,
    Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs, by time’s kind laws,
    Hast lost the power to know.

O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,
    That keepst the world in fear;
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
    And leave him ling’ring here?

Ogden Nash

Foreigners are people somewhere else,
Natives are people at home;
If the place you’re at
Is your habitat,
You’re a foreigner, say in Rome.
But the scales of Justice balance true,
And tit leads into tat,
So the man who’s at home
When he stays in Rome
Is abroad when he’s where you’re at.

When we leave the limits of the land in which
Our birth certificates sat us,
It does not mean
Just a change of scene,
But also a change of status.
The Frenchman with his fetching beard,
The Scot with his kilt and sporran,
One moment he
May a native be,
And the next may find him foreign.

There’s many a difference quickly found
Between the different races,
But the only essential
Is living different places.
Yet such is the pride of prideful man,
From Austrians to Australians,
That wherever he is,
He regards as his,
And the natives there, as aliens.

Oh, I’ll be friends if you’ll be friends,
The foreigner tells the native,
And we’ll work together for our common ends
Like a preposition and a dative.
If our common ends seem mostly mine,
Why not, you ignorant foreigner?
And the native replies
And hence, my dears, the coroner.

So mind your manners when a native, please,
And doubly when you visit
And between us all
A rapport may fall
Ecstatically exquisite.
One simple thought, if you have it pat,
Will eliminate the coroner:
You may be a native in your habitat,
But to foreigners you’re just a foreigner.

T. S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
        A persona che mai tornasse al mondo
        Questa fiamma staria senza più scosse.
        Ma perciocchè giammai di questo fondo
        Non tornò vivo alcun, s’i'odo il vero,
        Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
  And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?

     . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

     . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in
     upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all’—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all.’

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail
     along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  ‘That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.’

     . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Ernest Hemingway

Desire and
All the sweet pulsing aches
And gentle hurtings
That were you,
Are gone into the sullen dark.
Now in the night you come unsmiling
To lie with me
A dull, cold, rigid bayonet
On my hot-swollen, throbbing soul.

Lord Byron

Oh! did those eyes, instead of fire,
  With bright, but mild affection shine:
Though they might kindle less desire,
  Love, more than mortal, would be thine.

For thou art form’d so heavenly fair,
  Howe’er those orbs may wildly beam,
We must admire, but still despair;
  That fatal glance forbids esteem.

When Nature stamp’d thy beauteous birth,
  So much perfection in thee shone,
She fear’d that, too divine for earth,
  The skies might claim thee for their own.

Therefore, to guard her dearest work,
  Lest angels might dispute the prize,
She bade a secret lightning lurk,
  Within those once celestial eyes.

These might the boldest Sylph appall,
  When gleaming with meridian blaze;
Thy beauty must enrapture all;
  But who can dare thine ardent gaze?

’Tis said that Berenice’s hair,
  In stars adorns the vault of heaven;
But they would ne’er permit thee there,
  Thou wouldst so far outshine the seven.

For did those eyes as planets roll,
  Thy sister-lights would scarce appear:
E’en suns, which systems now controul,
  Would twinkle dimly through their sphere.

Claude McKay

When June comes dancing o'er the death of May,
With scarlet roses tinting her green breast,
And mating thrushes ushering in her day,
And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest,

I always see the evening when we met--
The first of June baptized in tender rain--
And walked home through the wide streets, gleaming wet,
Arms locked, our warm flesh pulsing with love's pain.

I always see the cheerful little room,
And in the corner, fresh and white, the bed,
Sweet scented with a delicate perfume,
Wherein for one night only we were wed;

Where in the starlit stillness we lay mute,
And heard the whispering showers all night long,
And your brown burning body was a lute
Whereon my passion played his fevered song.

When June comes dancing o'er the death of May,
With scarlet roses staining her fair feet,
My soul takes leave of me to sing all day
A love so fugitive and so complete.

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