Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
By Thomas Gray
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
“There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.
“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
“The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
We are like the Dreamer …….
By Arthur O’Shaughnessy
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
Bilbo’s Last Song (At the Grey Havens)
Day is ended, dim my eyes,
But journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the sea.
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the star above my mast!
The poem does not itself actually appear in The Return of the King , the
last volume of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but takes place at it’s
very end, when many of the principal heroes of the War of the Ring prepare
to set sail into the West, to leave Middle Earth forever: among them the
great wizard Gandalf the White; Frodo Baggins, the great Ringbearer; and
his elder Bilbo, who found the Ring so long before.
” ‘Well, here at last, dear friends,” [said Gandalf], “on the shores of
the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I
will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’
Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard;
and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped
away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that
Frodo bore glimmered and was lost.
Man’s Coiled Beacon
A gleaming halo of light
Rotates around its fixed staff
Like a relentless lasso
Stretching across a chalky sea,
Covering all it touches
With an adorning hope
That cannot be seized.
At night, its light pulsates
Like a beacon, a constant blaze
Passing over a jaded path.
No footprints are left from
Its endless wanderings,
Repeatedly retracing its steps,
It coils. Built to forget.
The forgetful lantern swings,
Its pendulum never ceasing,
Gliding over lighted buoys,
And boat hulls, and
Dancing on the oily wings of
Cormorants as they plunge
Down to the dark depths
The Valley of Unrest
By Edgar Allan Poe
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
A look at : Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Her most popular poem, Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s “Solitude” is about the relationship between the individual and the outside world. The poem is built on a series of contrasting conditions: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you;/Weep and you weep alone.” At first, the words may seem like a guide advising the reader to maintain a positive attitude. It becomes clear, however, that the poem is more complex than that, operating as a road map for the difficult realities of life. At the core of Wilcox’s philosophy is a belief that we all exist in a state of solitude. Wilcox wrote this poem after encountering a grieving woman on her way to Madison, Wisconsin. Despite her efforts, Wilcox was not able to comfort the woman over her loss. Distraught, Wilcox returned to her hotel and after looking at her own lonely face in the mirror, began to write this poem. The context of the poem suggests that what follows is not a parade of moral platitudes but a series of choices. If you laugh, sing, rejoice, or feast, the world will be drawn to you. If you weep, sigh, fast, or grieve, the world will abandon you. After all, in the end, “one by one we must all file on.” The poem is neither an anthem of positive thinking nor a dour account of existential loneliness. It is an invitation to move through the world with practicality and self-reliance.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850 – October 30, 1919)
A Country Boy in Winter
By Sarah Orne Jewett
The wind may blow the snow about,
For all I care, says Jack,
And I don’t mind how cold it grows,
For then the ice won’t crack.
Old folks may shiver all day long,
But I shall never freeze;
What cares a jolly boy like me
For winter days like these?
Far down the long snow-covered hills
It is such fun to coast,
So clear the road! the fastest sled
There is in school I boast.
The paint is pretty well worn off,
But then I take the lead;
A dandy sled’s a loiterer,
And I go in for speed.
When I go home at supper-time,
Ki! but my cheeks are red!
They burn and sting like anything;
I’m cross until I’m fed.
You ought to see the biscuit go,
I am so hungry then;
And old Aunt Polly says that boys
Eat twice as much as men.
There’s always something I can do
To pass the time away;
The dark comes quick in winter-time—
A short and stormy day
And when I give my mind to it,
It’s just as father says,
I almost do a man’s work now,
And help him many ways.
I shall be glad when I grow up
And get all through with school,
I’ll show them by-and-by that I
Was not meant for a fool.
I’ll take the crops off this old farm,
I’ll do the best I can.
A jolly boy like me won’t be
A dolt when he’s a man.
I like to hear the old horse neigh
Just as I come in sight,
The oxen poke me with their horns
To get their hay at night.
Somehow the creatures seem like friends,
And like to see me come.
Some fellows talk about New York,
But I shall stay at home.
A New Start. – Poem by Bernard Shaw
I have wiped the slate clean,
No more reminders from the past.
Memories of what I have been,
Have vanished at long last.
I look forward to my future new,
Where all is territory strange.
Soon I will be among the few,
That plans their life at long range.
I see my life laid out at my feet,
New friends shall rally at my call.
They will be the first I will greet,
At this my welcoming ball.
Soon all memories will depart,
Of a past left well behind.
I will get off to a new start,
With the best of mankind.
into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter
From Katherine Towers’ The Remedies
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over,
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.
Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
The Water Replies
Maybe we have washed our hands
and drunk deep and swam
and think we know her,
but water’s reputation goes before her like a flood:
she does not suffer fools or gadflies.
Therefore I have prepared some questions.
Where do you get your ideas & your tide from?
Don’t say the moon – that’s really pretentious.
But as I clamber down the coast
I lose my footing and spend our allotted time
tossed around in her backwash,
pummeled by tiny stones.
When I am baptised I ask the water
Where have the demons gone?
Were they hiding behind the H, the 2 or the O?
I emerge finally able to see that I have not changed,
that I can of myself do nothing, that water decides.
On the towpath behind the church
I wring out my jacket. I ask the water:
Will you convey these thoughts away?
These itching hatreds, toothache of jealousy,
These squalid appetites and dog thirsts?
Just as far as the next city will do.
The ripples of the moon’s tablature.
When was the last time you cried, and why?
I ask the water. I ask the water:
Do you have plans later?