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A 12-Poem Anthology
3 years ago

ONE

Invictus

 

By William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

 

I like Henley’s “Invictus” for the way it celebrates the human spirit. Henley’s poem was inspired by a personal tragedy. But when Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa triumphed over apartheid, the lines: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” became larger than life and never failed to produce a tingle in my spine every time I came across them. To me, that became applied poetry!

           

Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.

3 years ago

TWO

Suicide in the Trenches

 

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

 

The same tricks they played on kids years ago to send them to war are still being used in the twenty-first century. Now they promise those kids a college education after they serve their country, but they never offer them that education to really serve their country. I see soldiers as the first victims of war, even before a single shot is fired. Sassoon seems to shame those who are too eager to send kids (other than their own) to war.

 

I KNEW a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.

 

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

   

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

3 years ago

THREE

Is There Any Reward?

 

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

 

God is one funny dude. The clergy are not going to quarrel with Him. After all, He signs their paychecks. So leave it to a poet, who’s going for broke, to give God a piece of his mind. Belloc seems to be waking up to some hard reality!

 

Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.
I am broken and bored,
Is there any reward
Reassure me, Good Lord,
And inform me about it.
Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.

3 years ago

FOUR

The House on the Hill

 

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

 

It is extremely sad to realize that the house you grew up in is in ruins, and the people you knew growing up “are all gone away.” Robinson says it very well for me. I was getting ready to post the poem when I discovered an earlier version of it. I included both to shed some light on how the poem was edited, revised, improved (or maybe not) by the poet. Version II is considered his final version.

 

I

 

They are all gone away,

  The house is shut and still:

There is nothing more to say.

 

Malign them as we may,

  We cannot do them ill:

They are all gone away.

 

Are we more fit than they

  To meet the Master's will?--

There is nothing more to say.

 

What matters it who stray

  Around the sunken sill?--

They are all gone away,

 

And our poor fancy-play

  For them is wasted skill:

There is nothing more to say.

 

There is ruin and decay

  In the House on the Hill:

They are all gone away,

There is nothing more to say.

3 years ago

            II

 

They are all gone away,

  The House is shut and still,

There is nothing more to say.

 

Through broken walls and gray

  The winds blow bleak and shrill:

They are all gone away.

 

Nor is there one to-day

  To speak them good or ill:

There is nothing more to say.

 

Why is it then we stray

  Around that sunken sill?

They are all gone away.

 

And our poor fancy-play

  For them is wasted skill:

There is nothing more to say.

 

There is ruin and decay

  In the House on the Hill:

They are all gone away,

There is nothing more to say.

3 years ago

FIVE

If You Could Come

 

Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)

 

I don’t know if my mind is playing tricks on me, but this poem deserves an R rating or better!  Of course, it could be my sick mind at work here or Katharine’s. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this poem is kind of suggestive.

 

My love, my love, if you could come once more
From your high place,
I would not question you for heavenly lore,
But, silent, take the comfort of your face.

 

I would not ask you if those golden spheres
In love rejoice,
If only our stained star hath sin and tears,
But fill my famished hearing with your voice.

 

One touch of you were worth a thousand creeds.
My wound is numb
Through toil-pressed, but all night long it bleeds
In aching dreams, and still you cannot come.

3 years ago

SIX

The Pull Toy

By A. E. Stallings (1968-    )

 

Stallings packs a lot into this simple, easy poem without overloading it. She makes writing poetry seems so easy. And when we’re ready to bemoan poetry’s current state of affairs, Stallings is there to remind us, ever so gently, that poetry is in good hands—hers! I can’t get enough of this poem.

 

You squeezed its leash in your fist,

It followed where you led:

Tick, tock, tick, tock,

Nodding its wooden head.

 

Wagging a tail on a spring,

Its wheels gearing lackety-clack,

Dogging your heels the length of the house,

Though you seldom glanced back.

 

It didn’t mind being dragged

When it toppled on its side

Scraping its coat of primary colors:

Love has no pride.

 

But now that you run and climb

And leap, it has no hope

Of keeping up, so it sits, hunched

At the end of its short rope

 

And dreams of a rummage sale

Where it’s snapped up for a song,

And of somebody—somebody just like you—

Stringing it along.

3 years ago

SEVEN

If I Could Tell You

 

By W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

 

For all the bad side effects they keep spreading about boozing up, they never bring up that one good side effect—Auden. I don’t think this is his best, but at least it’s not one of those overly anthologized poems of his. The poem is contemplative without being deeply philosophical. I find the fact that he’s acknowledging his inability, for whatever reason, to express his love and offer answers to be quite refreshing.

 

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

3 years ago

 

EIGHT

The Tavern


By Willa Cather (1873-1947)
 
I never thought of Willa Cather as a poet, but “The Tavern” changed all of that. It reminded me of a poem by friend of mine that expresses the same sentiment. I probably should have chosen my friend’s poem instead, but I saved that for another anthology.
 
In the tavern of my heart
Many a one has sat before,
Drunk red wine and sung a stave,
And, departing, come no more.
When the night was cold without,
And the ravens croaked of storm,
They have sat them at my hearth,
Telling me my house was warm.
 
As the lute and cup went round,
They have rhymed me well in lay; —
When the hunt was on at morn,
Each, departing, went his way.
On the walls, in compliment,
Some would scrawl a verse or two,
Some have hung a willow branch,
Or a wreath of corn-flowers blue.
 
Ah! my friend, when thou dost go,
Leave no wreath of flowers for me;
Not pale daffodils nor rue,
Violets nor rosemary.
Spill the wine upon the lamps,
Tread the fire, and bar the door;
So despoil the wretched place,
None will come forevermore.

3 years ago

NINE

Faults


By Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
  

Given the brevity, simplicity and readability of this poem, it was hard not to fall in love with it. Add to that the subject matter and you have a winner. I like to think that “them” in the fourth line could refer not only to “your faults,” but also to those who came to tell “me” about them. Teasdale neutralized backstabbing in six short lines. 

They came to tell your faults to me,

They named them over one by one;

I laughed aloud when they were done,

I knew them all so well before,

Oh, they were blind, too blind to see

Your faults had made me love you more.

3 years ago

TEN

Lord Randall


Anonymous (Most Likely Dead Already)
  

Probably no anthology would be complete without an entry by our prolific, anonymous poet. “Lord Randall” is among the best poems “Anonymous” has ever written!

 

“Oh where ha’e ye been, Lord Randall my son?

O where ha’e ye been, my handsome young man?”

     “I ha’e been to the wild wood: mother, make my bed soon,

     For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”

 

   “Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randall my son?

Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?”

     “I dined wi’ my true love; mother, make my bed soon,

     For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”

 

   “What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randall my son?

What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?”

     “I gat eels boiled in broo: mother, make my bed soon,

     For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”

 

   “What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randall my son?

What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?”

     “O they swelled and they died: mother, make my bed soon,

     for I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”

 

   “O I fear ye are poisoned, Lord Randall my son!

O I fear ye are poisoned, my handsome young man!”

     “O yes, I am poisoned: mother, make my bed soon,

     For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down.”

3 years ago

ELEVEN

Richard Cory*

 

By Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935)

*

Even if you didn’t care for Robinson’s social commentary, you got to admire his poetry. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not squeezing it in here somewhere. I say a little more about it at the end of the anthology.*

 

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

*

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

*

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

*

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.



This post was modified from its original form on 20 Apr, 19:41
3 years ago

TWELVE

Mnemosyne**

 

By Trumbull Stickney (1874–1904)

*

With this poem I could hear the music on paper. The word “remember” adds a lot to its musicality. The fact that it’s also nostalgic left me no other choice but to give it a place in my anthology. You can listen to the poem being performed at the link provided at the end of the anthology.

*

It’s autumn in the country I remember.

*

How warm a wind blew here about the ways!

And shadows on the hillside lay to slumber

During the long sun-sweetened summer-days.

*

It’s cold abroad the country I remember.

*

The swallows veering skimmed the golden grain

At midday with a wing aslant and limber;

And yellow cattle browsed upon the plain.

*

It’s empty down the country I remember.

*

I had a sister lovely in my sight:

Her hair was dark, her eyes were very sombre;

We sang together in the woods at night.

*

It’s lonely in the country I remember.

*

The babble of our children fills my ears,

And on our hearth I stare the perished ember

To flames that show all starry thro’ my tears.

*

It’s dark about the country I remember.

*

There are the mountains where I lived. The path

Is slushed with cattle-tracks and fallen timber,

The stumps are twisted by the tempests’ wrath.

*

But that I knew these places are my own,

I’d ask how came such wretchedness to cumber

The earth, and I to people it alone.

*

It rains across the country I remember.

*

THE END

3 years ago

*“Richard Cory”was adapted by Simon & Garfunkel. You can listen to their version RIGHT HERE!

*

Them (ft. Van Morrison) also performed the adaptation. It’s RIGHT HERE!

*

Paul McCartney & Wings also performed it live RIGHT HERE!

*

Ken Boothe performed a version of it RIGHT HERE!

*

John Duke performed the original poem RIGHT HERE!

*

** You may enjoy listening to “Mnemosyne” RIGHT HERE!

*

THE END, FOR REAL!

3 years ago

Thse are wonderful 

3 years ago

 These speak volumes 

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