224 Total Quotes

Poems about Life Quotes

Carl Sandburg
Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders; They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Bulding, breaking, rebuilding, Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, pround to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
Carl Sandburg
#Poems about Life

Carl Sandburg
THE fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.
Carl Sandburg
#Poems about Life

This is to the crown and blessing of my life, The much loved husband of a happy wife; To him whose constant passion found the art To win a stubborn and ungrateful heart, And to the world by tenderest proof discovers They err, who say that husbands can't be lovers. With such return of passion, as is due, Daphnis I love, Daphinis my thoughts pursue; Daphnis, my hopes and joys are bounded all in you. Even I, for Daphnis' and my promise' sake, What I in woman censure, undertake. But this from love, not vanity proceeds; You know who writes, and I who 'tis that reads. Judge not my passion by my want of skill: Many love well, though they express it ill; And I your censure could with pleasure bear, Would you but soon return, and speak it here.
Anne Finch
#Poems about Life

What is our life? A play of passion, Our mirth the music of division, Our mother's wombs the tiring-houses be, Where we are dressed for this short comedy. Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is, That sits and marks still who doth act amiss. Our graves that hide us from the setting sun Are like drawn curtains when the play is done. Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest, Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.
Sir Walter Raleigh
#Poems about Life

A quay with vessels moored Thomas To India! Yea, here I may take ship; From here the courses go over the seas, Along which the intent prows wonderfully Nose like lean hounds, and tack their journeys out, Making for harbours as some sleuth was laid For them to follow on their shifting road. Again I front my appointed ministry. -- But why the Indian lot to me? Why mine Such fearful gospelling? For the Lord knew What a frail soul He gave me, and a heart Lame and unlikely for the large events. -- And this is worse than Baghdad! though that was A fearful brink of travel. But if the lots, That gave to me the Indian duty, were Shuffled by the unseen skill of Heaven, surely That fear of mine in Baghdad was the same Marvellous Hand working again, to guard The landward gate of India from me. There I stood, waiting in the weak early dawn To start my journey; the great caravan's Strange cattle with their snoring breaths made steam Upon the air, and (as I thought) sadly The beasts at market-booths and awnings gay Of shops, the city's comfortable trade, Lookt, and then into months of plodding lookt. And swiftly on my brain there came a wind Of vision; and I saw the road mapt out Along the desert with a chalk of bones; I saw a famine and the Afghan greed Waiting for us, spears at our throats, all we Made women by our hunger; and I saw Gigantic thirst grieving our mouths with dust, Scattering up against our breathing salt Of blown dried dung, till the taste eat like fires Of a wild vinegar into our sheathèd marrows; And a sudden decay thicken'd all our bloods As rotten leaves in fall will baulk a stream; Then my kill'd life the muncht food of jackals. -- The wind of vision died in my brain; and lo, The jangling of the caravan's long gait Was small as the luting of a breeze in grass Upon my ears. Into the waiting thirst Camels and merchants all were gone, while I Had been in my amazement. Was this not A sign? God with a vision tript me, lest Those tall fiends that ken for my approach In middle Asia, Thirst and his grisly band Of plagues, should with their brigand fingers stop His message in my mouth. Therefore I said, If India is the place where I must preach, I am to go by ship, not overland. And here my ship is berthed. But worse, far worse Than Baghdad, is this roadstead, the brown sails, All the enginery of going on sea, The tackle and the rigging, tholes and sweeps, The prows built to put by the waves, the masts Stayed for a hurricane; and lo, that line Of gilded water there! the sun has drawn In a long narrow band of shining oil His light over the sea; how evilly move Ripples along that golden skin! -- the gleam Works like a muscular thing! like the half-gorged Sleepy swallowing of a serpent's neck. The sea lives, surely! My eyes swear to it; And, like a murderous smile that glimpses through A villain's courtesy, that twitching dazzle Parts the kind mood of weather to bewray The feasted waters of the sea, stretched out In lazy gluttony, expecting prey. How fearful is this trade of sailing! Worse Than all land-evils is the water-way Before me now. -- What, cowardice? Nay, why Trouble myself with ugly words? 'Tis prudence, And prudence is an admirable thing. Yet here's much cost -- these packages piled up, Ivory doubless, emeralds, gums, and silks, All these they trust on shipboard? Ah, but I, I who have seen God, I to put myself Amid the heathen outrage of the sea In a deal-wood box! It were plain folly. There is naught more precious in the world than I: I carry God in me, to give to men. And when has the sea been friendly unto man? Let it but guess my errand, it will call The dangers of the air to wreak upon me, Winds to juggle the puny boat and pinch The water into unbelievable creases. And shall my soul, and God in my soul, drown? Or venture drowning? -- But no, no; I am safe. Smooth as believing souls over their deaths And over agonies shall slide henceforth To God, so shall my way be blest amid The quiet crouching terrors of the sea, Like panthers when a fire weakens their hearts; Ay, this huge sin of nature, the salt sea, Shall be afraid of me, and of the mind Within me, that with gesture, speech and eyes Of the Messiah flames. What element Dare snarl against my going, what incubus dare Remember to be fiendish, when I light My whole being with memory of Him? The malice of the sea will slink from me, And the air be harmless as a muzzled wolf; For I am a torch, and the flame of me is God. A Ship's Captain You are my man, my passenger? Thomas I am. I go to India with you. Captain Well, I hope so. There's threatening in the weather. Have you a mind To hug your belly to the slanted deck, Like a louse on a whip-top, when the boat Spins on an axlie in the hissing gales? Thomas Fear not. 'Tis likely indeed that storms are now Plotting against our voyage; ay, no doubt The very bottom of the sea prepares To stand up mountainous or reach a limb Out of his night of water and huge shingles, That he and the waves may break our keel. Fear not; Like those who manage horses, I've a word Will fasten up within their evil natures The meanings of the winds and waves and reefs. Captain You have a talisman? I have one too; I know not if the storms think much of it. I may be shark's meat yet. And would your spell Be daunting to a cuttle, think you now? We had a bout with one on our way here; It had green lidless eyes like lanterns, arms As many as the branches of a tree, But limber, and each one of them wise as a snake. It laid hold of our bulwarks, and with three Long knowing arms, slimy, and of a flesh So tough they'ld fool a hatchet, searcht the ship, And stole out of the midst of us all a man; Yes, and he the proudest man upon the seas For the rare powerful talisman he'd got. And would yours have done better? Thomas I am one Not easily frightened. I'm for India. You will not putme from my way with talk. Captain My heart, I never thought of frightening you. -- Well, here's both tide and wind, and we may not start. Thomas Not start? I pray you, do. Captain It's no use praying; I dare not. I've not half my cargo yet. Thomas What do you wait for, then? Captain A carpenter. Thomas You are talking strangely. Captain But not idly. I might as well broach all my blood at once, Here as I stand, as sail to India back Without a carpenter on board; -- O strangely Wise are our kings in the killing of men! Thomas But does your king then need a carpenter? Captain Yes, for he dreamed a dream; and(like a man Who, having eaten poison, and with all Force of his life turned out the crazing drug, Has only a weak and wrestled nature left That gives in foolishly to some bad desire A healthy man would laught at; so our king Is left desiring by his venomous dream. But, being a king, the whole land aches with him. Thomas What dream was that? Captain A palace made of souls; -- Ay, there's a folly for a man to dream! He saw a palace covering all the land, Big as the day itself, made of a stone That answered with a better gleam than glass To the sun's greeting, fashioned like the sound Of laughter copied into shining shape: So the king said. And with him in the dream There was a voice that fleered upon the king: 'This is the man who makes much of himself For filling the common eyes with palaces Gorgeously bragging out his royalty: Whereas he hath not one that seemeth not In work, in height, in posture on the ground, A hut, a peasant's dingy shed, to mine. And all his excellent woods, metals, and stones, The things he's filched out of the earth's old pockets And hoisted up into walls and domes; the gold, Ebony, agate stairs, wainscots of jade, The windows of jargoon, and heavenly lofts Of marble, all the stuff he takes to be wealth, Reckons like savage mud and wattle against The matter of my building.' -- And the king, Gloating upon the white sheen of that palace, And weeping like a girl ashamed, inquired 'What is that stone?' And the voice answered him, 'Soul.' 'But in my palaces too,' said he, 'There should be soul built: I have driven nations, What with quarrying, what with craning, down To death, and sure their souls stay in my work.' And 'Mud and wattle' sneered the voice again; But added, 'In the west there is a man, A slave, a carpenter, whose heart has been Apprenticed to the skill that built my reign, This beauty; and were he master of your gangs, He'ld build you a palace that would look like mine.' -- So now no ship may sail from India, Since the king's scornful dream, unless it bring A carpenter among its homeward lading: And carpenters are getting hard to find. Thomas And have none made for the king his desire? Captain Many have tried, with roasting living men In queer huge kilns, and other sleights, to found A glass of human souls; and others seek With marvellous stone to please our desperate king. Always at last their own tormented bodies Delight the cruelty of the king's heart. Thomas Well then, I hope you'll find your carpenter, And soon. I would not that we wait too long; I loathe a dallying journey. -- I should suppose We'ld have good sailing at this season, now? Captain Why, you were looking, a few minutes gone, For rare wild storms: I hope we'll have them too; I want to see you work that talisman You boast about: I've a great love for spells. Thomas Let it be storm or calm, so we be sailing. I long have wished to voyage into mid sea, To give my senses rest from wondering On this preplexèd grammar of the land Written in men and women, the strange trees, Herbs, and those things so like to souls, the beasts. My wilful senses will keep perilously Employed with these my brain, and weary it Still to be asking. But on the high seas Such throng'd reality is left behind, -- Only vast air and water, and the hue That always seems like special news of God. Surely 'tis half way to eternity To go where only size and colour live; And I could purify my mind from all Worldly amazement by imagining Beyond my senses into God's great Heaven, If I were in mid sea. I have dreamed of this. Wondrous too, I think, to sail at night While shaols of moonlight flickers dance beside, Like swimming glee of fishes scaled in gold, Curvetting in thwart bounds over the swell; The perceiving flesh, in bliss of such a beauty, Must sure feel fine as spiritual sight. -- Moods have been on me, too, when I would be Sailing recklessly through wild darkness, where Gigantic whispers of a harassed sea Fill the whole world of air, and I stand up To breast the danger of the loosen'd sky, And feel my immortality like music, -- Yea, I alone in the broken world, firm things All gone to monstrous flurry, knowing myself An indestructible word spoken by God. -- This is a small, small boat? Captain Small is nothing, A bucket will do, so it know how to ride Top upward: cleverness is the thing in boats. And I wish this were cleverer: she goes crank At times just when she should go sober. But what? Boats are but girls for whimsies: men Must let them have their freaks. Thomas Have you good skill In seamanship? Captain Well, I am not drowned yet, Though I'm a grey man and have been at sea Longer than you've been walking. My old sight Can tell Mizar from Alcor still. Thomas Ay, so; Doubtless you'll bring me safe to India. But being there -- tell me now of the land: How use they strangers there? Captain Queerly, sometimes If the king's moody, and tired of feeling nerves Mildly made happy with soft jewels of silk, Odours and wines and slim lascivious girls, And yearns for sharper thrills to pierce his brain, He often finds a stranger handy then. Thomas Why, what do you mean? Captain There was a merchant came To Travancore, and could not speak our talk; And, it chanced, he was brought before the throne Just when the king was weary of sweet pleasures. So, to better his tongue, a rope was bent Beneath his oxters, up he was hauled, and fire Let singe the soles of his feet, until his legs Wriggled like frying eels; then the king's dogs Were set to hunt the hirpling man. The king Laught greatly and cried, 'But give the dogs words they know, And they'll be tame.' -- Have you the Indian speech? Thomas Not yet: it will be given me, I trust. Captain You'd best make sure of the gift. Another stranger, Who swore he knew of better gods than ours, Seemed to the king troubled with fleas, and slaves Were told to groom him smartly, which they did Thoroughly with steel combs, until at last They curried the living flesh from his bones And stript his face of gristle, till he was Skull and half skeleton and yet alive. You're not for dealing in new gods? Thomas Not I. Was the man killed? Captain He lived a little while; But the flies killed him. Thomas Flies? I hope India Is not a fly-plagued land? I abhor flies. Captain You will see strange ones, for our Indian life Hath wonderful fierce breeding. Common earth With us quickens to buzzing flights of wings As readily as a week-old carcase here Thrown in a sunny marsh. Why, we have wasps That make your hornets seem like pretty midges; And there be flies in India will drink Not only blood of bulls, tigers, and bears, But pierce the river-horses' creasy leather, Ay, worry crocodiles through their cuirasses And prick the metal fishes when they bask. You'll feel them soon, with beaks like sturdy pins, Treating their stinging thirsts with your best blood. A man can't walk a mile in India Without being the business of a throng'd And moving town of flies; they hawk at a man As bold as little eagles, and as wild. And, I suppose, only a fool will blame them. Flies have the right to sink wells in our skin All as men to bore parcht earth for water. But I must do a job on board, and then Search the town afresh for a carpenter. Thomas (alone) Ay, loose tongue, I know how thou art prompted. Satan's cunning device thou art, to sap My heart with chatter'd fears. How easy it is For a stiff mind to hold itself upright Against the cords of devilish suggestion Tackled about it, though kept downward strained With sly, masterful winches made of fear. Yea, when the mind is warned what engines mean To ply it into grovelling, and thought set firm, The tugging strings fail like a cobweb-stuff. Not as in Baghdad is it with me now; Nor canst thou, Satan, by a prating mouth, Fell my tall purpose to a flatlong scorn. I can divide the check of God's own hand From tempting such as this: India is mine! -- Ay, fiend, and if thou utter thy storming heart Into the ocean sea, as into mob A rebel utters turbulence and rage, And raise before my path swelling barriers Of hatred soul'd in water, yet will I strike My purpose, and God's purpose, clean through all The ridges of thy power. And I will show This mask that the devil wears, this old shipman, A thing to make his proud heart of evil Writhe like a trodden snake; yea, he shall see How godly faith can go upon the huge Fury of forces bursting out of law, Easily as a boy goes on windy grass. -- O marvel! that my little life of mind Can by mere thinking the unsizeable Creatures of sea enslave! I must believe it. The mind hath many powers beyond name Deep womb'd within it, and can shoot strange vigours: Men there have been who could so grimly look That soldiers' hearts went out like candle flames Before their eyes, and the blood perisht in them. -- But I -- could I do that? Would I not feel The power in me if 'twas there? And yet 'Twere a child's game to what I have to do, For days and days with sleepless faith oppress And terrorise the demon sea. I think A man might, as I saw my Master once, Pass unharmed through a storm of men, yet fail At this that lies before me: men are mind, And mind can conquer mind; but how can it quell The unappointed purpose of great waters? -- Well, say the sea is past: why, then, I have My feet but on the threshold of my task, To gospel India, -- my single heart To seize into the order of its beat All the strange blood of India, my brain To lord the dark thought of that tann'd mankind! -- O, horrible those sweltry places are, Where the sun comes so close, it makes the earth Burn in a frenzy of breeding, -- smoke and flame Of lives burning up from agoniz'd loam! Those monstrous sappy jungles of clutcht growth, What can such fearful increase have to do With prospering bounty? A rage works in the ground, Incurably, like frantic lechery, Pouring its passion out in crops and spawns. 'Tis as the mighty spirit of life, that here Walketh beautifully praising, glad of God, Should, stepping on the poison'd Indian shore, Breathing the Indian air of fire snd steams, Fling herself into a craze of hideous dancing, The green gown whipping her swift limbs, all her body Writhen to speak inutterable desire, Tormented by a glee of hating God. Nay, it must be, to visit India, That frantic pomp and hurrying forth of life, As if a man should enter at unawares The dreaming mind of Satan, gorgeously Imagining his eternal hell of lust. -- They say the land is full of apes, which have Their own gods and worship: how ghastly, this! -- That demons (for it must be so) should build, In mockery of man's upward faith, the souls Of monkeys, those lewd mammets of mankind, Into a dreadful farce of adoration! And flies! a land of flies! where the hot soil Foul with ceaseless decay steams into flies! So thick they pile themselves in the air above Their meal of filth, they seem like breathing heaps Of formless life mounded upon the earth; And buzzing always like the pipes and strings Of solemn music made for sorcerers. -- I abhor flies, -- to see them stare upon me Out of their little faces of gibbous eyes; To feel the dry cool skin of their bodies alight Perching upon my lips! -- O yea, a dream, A dream of impious obscene Satan, this Monstrous frenzy of life, the Indian being! And there are men in the dream! What men are they? I've heard, naught relishes their brains so much As to tie down a man and tease his flesh Infamously, until a hundred pains Hound the desiring life out of his body, Filling his nerves with such a fearful zest That the soul overstrained shatters beneath it. Must I preach God to these murderous hearts? I would my lot had fallen to go and dare Death from the silent dealing of Northern cold! -- O, but I would face all these Indian fears, The horror of the huge power of life, The beasts all fierce and venomous, the men With cruel souls, learned to invent pain, All these and more, if I had any hope That, braving them, Lord Christ prosper'd through me. If Christ desired India, He had sent The band of us, solder'd in one great purpose, To strike His message through those dark vast tribes. But one man! -- O surely it is folly, And we misread the lot! One man, to thrust, Even though in his soul the lamp was kindled At God's own hands, one man's lit soul to thrust The immense Indian darkness out of the world! For human flesh there breeds as furiously As the green things and the cattle; and it is all, All this enormity of measureless folk, Penn'd in a land so close to the devil's reign The very apes have faith in him. -- No, no; Impetuous brains mistake the signs of God Too easily. God would not have me waste My zeal for Him in this wild enterprise, Of going alone to swarming India; -- one man, One mortal voice, to charm those myriad ears Away from the fiendish clamour of Indian gods, One man preaching the truth against the huge Bray of the gongs and horns of the Indian priests! A cup of wine poured in the sea were not More surely lost in the green and brackish depths, Than the fire and fragrance of my doctrine poured Into that multitudinous pond of men, India. -- Shipman! Master of the ship! -- I have thought better of this journey; now I find I am not meant to go. Captain Not meant? Thomas I would say, I had forgotten Indian air Is full of fevers; and my health is bad For holding out against fever. Captain As you please. I keep your fare, though. Thomas O,{ 'tis yours. -- Good sailing! As he makes to depart, a Noble Stranger is seen approaching along the quay. Captain Well, here's a marvel: 'Tis a king, for sure! 'Twould take the taxes of a world to dress A man in that silken gold, and all those gems. What a flash the light makes of him, nay, he burns; And he's here on the quay all by himself, Not even a slave to fan him! -- Man, you're ailing! You look like death; is it the falling sickness? Or has the mere thought of the Indian journey Made your marrow quail with a cold fever? The Stranger (to the Captain) You are the master of this ship? Captain I am. Stranger This huddled man belongs to me: a slave Escaped my service. Captain Lord, I knew not that. But you are in good time. Stranger And was the slave For putting out with you? Where are your bound? Captain To India. First he would sail, and then Again he would not. But, my Lord, I swear I never guesst he was a runaway. Stranger Well, he shall have his mind and go with you To India: a good slave he is, but bears A restless thought. He has slipt off before, And vexes me still to be watching him. We'll make a bargain of him. Captain I, my Lord? I have no need of slaves: I am too poor. Stranger For twenty silver pieces he is yours. Captain That's cheap, if he has a skill. Yes, there might be Profit in him at that. Has he a trade? Stranger He is a carpenter. Captain A carpenter! Why, for a good one I'ld give all my purse. Stranger No, twenty silver pieces is the price; Though 'tis a slave a king might joy to own. I've taught him to imagine palaces So high, and tower'd so nobly, they might seem The marvelling of a God-delighted heart Escaping into ecstasy; he knows, Moreover, of a stuff so rare it makes Smaragdus and the dragon-stone despised; And yet the quarries whereof he is wise Would yield enough to house the tribes of the world In palaces of beautiful shining work. Captain Lo there! why, that is it: the carpenter I am to bring is needed for to build The king's new palace. Stranger Yea? He is your man. Captain Come on, my man. I'll put your cunning heels Where they'll not budge more than a shuffled inch. My lord, if you'll bide with the rascal here I'll get the irons ready. Here's your sum. -- Stranger Now, Thomas, know thy sin. It was not fear; Easily may a man crouch down for fear, And yet rise up on firmer knees, and face The hailing storm of the world with graver courage. But prudence, prudence is the deadly sin, And one that groweth deep into a life, With hardening roots that clutch about the breast. For this refuses faith in the unknown powers Within man's nature; shrewdly bringeth all Their inspiration of strange eagerness( To a judgment bought by safe experience; Narrows desire into the scope of thought. But it is written in the heart of man, Thou shalt no larger be than thy desire. Thou must not therefore stoop thy spirit's sight To pore only within the candle-gleam Of conscious wit and reasonable brain; But search into the sacred darkness lying Outside thy knowledge of thyself, the vast Measureless fate, full of the power of stars, The outer noiseless heavens of thy soul. Keep thy desire closed in the room of light The labouring fires of thy mind have made, And thou shalt find the vision of thy spirit Pitifully dazzled to so shrunk a ken, There are no spacious puissances about it. But send desire often forth to scan The immense night which is thy greater soul; Knowing the possible, see thou try beyond it Into impossible things, unlikely ends; And thou shalt find thy knowledgeable desire Grow large as all the regions of thy soul, Whose firmament doth cover the whole of Being, And of created purpose reach the ends.
Lascelles Abercrombie
#Poems about Life

Long ago in a poultry yard One dull November morn, Beneath a motherly soft wing A little goose was born. Who straightway peeped out of the shell To view the world beyond, Longing at once to sally forth And paddle in the pond. "Oh! be not rash," her father said, A mild Socratic bird; Her mother begged her not to stray With many a warning word. But little goosey was perverse, And eagerly did cry, "I've got a lovely pair of wings, Of course I ought to fly." In vain parental cacklings, In vain the cold sky's frown, Ambitious goosey tried to soar, But always tumbled down. The farmyard jeered at her attempts, The peacocks screamed, "Oh fie! You're only a domestic goose, So don't pretend to fly." Great cock-a-doodle from his perch Crowed daily loud and clear, "Stay in the puddle, foolish bird, That is your proper sphere," The ducks and hens said, one and all, In gossip by the pool, "Our children never play such pranks; My dear, that fowl's a fool." The owls came out and flew about, Hooting above the rest, "No useful egg was ever hatched From transcendental nest." Good little goslings at their play And well-conducted chicks Were taught to think poor goosey's flights Were naughty, ill-bred tricks. They were content to swim and scratch, And not at all inclined For any wild goose chase in search Of something undefined. Hard times she had as one may guess, That young aspiring bird, Who still from every fall arose Saddened but undeterred. She knew she was no nightingale Yet spite of much abuse, She longed to help and cheer the world, Although a plain gray goose She could not sing, she could not fly, Nor even walk, with grace, And all the farmyard had declared A puddle was her place. But something stronger than herself Would cry, "Go on, go on! Remember, though an humble fowl, You're cousin to a swan." So up and down poor goosey went, A busy, hopeful bird. Searched many wide unfruitful fields, And many waters stirred. At length she came unto a stream Most fertile of all Niles, Where tuneful birds might soar and sing Among the leafy isles. Here did she build a little nest Beside the waters still, Where the parental goose could rest Unvexed by any bill. And here she paused to smooth her plumes, Ruffled by many plagues; When suddenly arose the cry, "This goose lays golden eggs." At once the farmyard was agog; The ducks began to quack; Prim Guinea fowls relenting called, "Come back, come back, come back." Great chanticleer was pleased to give A patronizing crow, And the contemptuous biddies clucked, "I wish my chicks did so." The peacocks spread their shining tails, And cried in accents soft, "We want to know you, gifted one, Come up and sit aloft." Wise owls awoke and gravely said, With proudly swelling breasts, "Rare birds have always been evoked From transcendental nests!" News-hunting turkeys from afar Now ran with all thin legs To gobble facts and fictions of The goose with golden eggs. But best of all the little fowls Still playing on the shore, Soft downy chicks and goslings gay, Chirped out, "Dear Goose, lay more." But goosey all these weary years Had toiled like any ant, And wearied out she now replied "My little dears, I can't. "When I was starving, half this corn Had been of vital use, Now I am surfeited with food Like any Strasbourg goose." So to escape too many friends, Without uncivil strife, She ran to the Atlantic pond And paddled for her life. Soon up among the grand old Alps She found two blessed things, The health she had so nearly lost, And rest for weary limbs. But still across the briny deep Couched in most friendly words, Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse From literary birds. Whereat the renovated fowl With grateful thanks profuse, Took from her wing a quill and wrote This lay of a Golden Goose.
Louisa May Alcott
#Poems about Life

Oh! a bare, brown rock Stood up in the sea, The waves at its feet Dancing merrily. A little bubble Once came sailing by, And thus to the rock Did it gayly cry,-- "Ho! clumsy brown stone, Quick, make way for me: I'm the fairest thing That floats on the sea. "See my rainbow-robe, See my crown of light, My glittering form, So airy and bright. "O'er the waters blue, I'm floating away, To dance by the shore With the foam and spray. "Now, make way, make way; For the waves are strong, And their rippling feet Bear me fast along." But the great rock stood Straight up in the sea: It looked gravely down, And said pleasantly-- "Little friend, you must Go some other way; For I have not stirred this many a long day. "Great billows have dashed, And angry winds blown; But my sturdy form Is not overthrown. "Nothing can stir me In the air or sea; Then, how can I move, Little friend, for thee?" Then the waves all laughed In their voices sweet; And the sea-birds looked, From their rocky seat, At the bubble gay, Who angrily cried, While its round cheek glowed With a foolish pride,-- "You SHALL move for me; And you shall not mock At the words I say, You ugly, rough rock. "Be silent, wild birds! While stare you so? Stop laughing, rude waves, And help me to go! "For I am the queen Of the ocean here, And this cruel stone Cannot make me fear." Dashing fiercely up, With a scornful word, Foolish Bubble broke; But Rock never stirred. Then said the sea-birds, Sitting in their nests To the little ones Leaning on their breasts,-- "Be not like Bubble, Headstrong, rude, and vain, Seeking by violence Your object to gain; "But be like the rock, Steadfast, true, and strong, Yet cheerful and kind, And firm against wrong. "Heed, little birdlings, And wiser you'll be For the lesson learned To-day by the sea."
Louisa May Alcott
#Poems about Life

Matthew Arnold
Who prop, thou ask'st in these bad days, my mind?-- He much, the old man, who, clearest-souled of men, Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen, And Tmolus hill, and Smyrna bay, though blind. Much he, whose friendship I not long since won, That halting slave, who in Nicopolis Taught Arrian, when Vespasian's brutal son Cleared Rome of what most shamed him. But be his My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul, From first youth tested up to extreme old age, Business could not make dull, nor passion wild; Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole; The mellow glory of the Attic stage, Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.
Matthew Arnold
#Poems about Life

Matthew Arnold
Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet, Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet! I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll. Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, We know, we know that we can smile! But there's a something in this breast, To which thy light words bring no rest, And thy gay smiles no anodyne. Give me thy hand, and hush awhile, And turn those limpid eyes on mine, And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul. Alas! is even love too weak To unlock the heart, and let it speak? Are even lovers powerless to reveal To one another what indeed they feel? I knew the mass of men conceal'd Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd They would by other men be met With blank indifference, or with blame reproved; I knew they lived and moved Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet The same heart beats in every human breast! But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb? Ah! well for us, if even we, Even for a moment, can get free Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd; For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd! Fate, which foresaw How frivolous a baby man would be-- By what distractions he would be possess'd, How he would pour himself in every strife, And well-nigh change his own identity-- That it might keep from his capricious play His genuine self, and force him to obey Even in his own despite his being's law, Bade through the deep recesses of our breast The unregarded river of our life Pursue with indiscernible flow its way; And that we should not see The buried stream, and seem to be Eddying at large in blind uncertainty, Though driving on with it eternally. But often, in the world's most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There rises an unspeakable desire After the knowledge of our buried life; A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course; A longing to inquire Into the mystery of this heart which beats So wild, so deep in us--to know Whence our lives come and where they go. And many a man in his own breast then delves, But deep enough, alas! none ever mines. And we have been on many thousand lines, And we have shown, on each, spirit and power; But hardly have we, for one little hour, Been on our own line, have we been ourselves-- Hardly had skill to utter one of all The nameless feelings that course through our breast, But they course on for ever unexpress'd. And long we try in vain to speak and act Our hidden self, and what we say and do Is eloquent, is well--but 't#is not true! And then we will no more be rack'd With inward striving, and demand Of all the thousand nothings of the hour Their stupefying power; Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call! Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn, From the soul's subterranean depth upborne As from an infinitely distant land, Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey A melancholy into all our day. Only--but this is rare-- When a belov{'e}d hand is laid in ours, When, jaded with the rush and glare Of the interminable hours, Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, When our world-deafen'd ear Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd-- A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast, And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again. The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know. A man becomes aware of his life's flow, And hears its winding murmur; and he sees The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze. And there arrives a lull in the hot race Wherein he doth for ever chase That flying and elusive shadow, rest. An air of coolness plays upon his face, And an unwonted calm pervades his breast. And then he thinks he knows The hills where his life rose, And the sea where it goes.
Matthew Arnold
#Poems about Life

I leave the office, take the stairs, in time to mail a letter before 3 in the afternoon--the last dispatch. The red, white and blue air mail falls past the slot for foreign mail and hits bottom with a sound that tells me my letter is alone. They will have to bring in a plane from a place of coastline and beaches, from a climate of fresh figs and apricot, to cradle my one letter. Up in the air it will leave behind some of its ugly nuance, its unpleasant habit of humanity which wants to smear itself over others: the spot in which it wasn't clear, perhaps, how to take my words, which were suggestive, the paragraph in which the names of flowers, ostensibly to indicate travel, make a bed for lovers, the parts that contain spit and phlegm, the words only a wet tongue can manage, hissing sounds and letters of the alphabet which can only be formed by biting down on the bottom lip. In the next-to-last paragraph, some hair came off in the comb. Then clothes were gathered from everywhere in the room in one sentence, and the sun rose while a door closed with sincerity. No doubt such sincerity will be judged, but first the investigation of the postmark. Am I where I was expected? Did I have at hand the right denominations of stamps, or did I make a childish quilt of ones and sevens? Ah yes, they will have to cancel me twice. Once to make my words worthless. Once more to stop me from writing.
Marvin Bell
#Poems about Life

Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.
Robert Frost
#Poems about Life

Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it And spills the upper boulder in the sun, And make gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there, I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There were it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: "Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him, But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather He said it for himself. I see him there, Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father's saying, And he likes having though of it so well He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Robert Frost
#Poems about Life

Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them. But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay. Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-coloured As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed So low for long, they never right themselves: You may see their trunks arching in the woods Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground, Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. But I was going to say when Truth broke in With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm, I should prefer to have some boy bend them As he went out and in to fetch the cows-- Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, Whose only play was what he found himself, Summer or winter, and could play alone. One by one he subdued his father's trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them, And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer. He learned all there was To learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise To the top branches, climbing carefully With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim, and even above the brim. Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, Kicking his way down through the air to the ground. So was I once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May no fate wilfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~ And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Robert Frost
#Poems about Life

I've been home a long time among the vast porticos, Which the mariner sun has tinged with a million fires, Whose grandest pillars, upright, majestic and cold Render them the same, this evening, as caves with basalt spires. The swells' overwhelming accords of rich music, Heaving images of heaven to the skies, Mingle in a way solemn and mystic With the colors of the horizon reflected by my eyes. It was here I was true to the voluptuous calm, The milieu of azure, the waves, the splendors, And the nude slaves, all impregnated with odors, Who refreshed my brow with waving palms My only care to bring to meaning from anguish The sad secret in which I languish.
Charles Baudelaire
#Poems about Life

LONG since, I lived beneath vast porticoes, By many ocean-sunsets tinged and fired, Where mighty pillars, in majestic rows, Seemed like basaltic caves when day expired. The rolling surge that mirrored all the skies Mingled its music, turbulent and rich, Solemn and mystic, with the colours which The setting sun reflected in my eyes. And there I lived amid voluptuous calms, In splendours of blue sky and wandering wave, Tended by many a naked, perfumed slave, Who fanned my languid brow with waving palms. They were my slaves--the only care they had To know what secret grief had made me sad.
Charles Baudelaire
#Poems about Life

Robert Frost
Something inspires the only cow of late To make no more of a wall than an open gate, And think no more of wall-builders than fools. Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit, She scorns a pasture withering to the root. She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten. The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten. She leaves them bitten when she has to fly. She bellows on a knoll against the sky. Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.
Robert Frost
#Poems about Life

Carl Sandburg
COOL your heels on the rail of an observation car. Let the engineer open her up for ninety miles an hour. Take in the prairie right and left, rolling land and new hay crops, swaths of new hay laid in the sun. A gray village flecks by and the horses hitched in front of the post-office never blink an eye. A barnyard and fifteen Holstein cows, dabs of white on a black wall map, never blink an eye. A signalman in a tower, the outpost of Kansas City, keeps his place at a window with the serenity of a bronze statue on a dark night when lovers pass whispering.
Carl Sandburg
#Poems about Life

William Blake
When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue, Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep, So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head That curled like a lambs back was shav'd, so I said. Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair And so he was quiet. & that very night. As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black, And by came an Angel who had a bright key And he open'd the coffins & set them all free. Then down a green plain leaping laughing they run And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. Then naked & white, all their bags left behind. They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind. And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God for his father & never want joy. And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark And got with our bags & our brushes to work. Tho' the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
William Blake
#Poems about Life

William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England's pleasant pastures seen? And did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark Satanic mills? Bring me my bow of burning gold: Bring me my arrows of desire: Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire. I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand Till we have built Jerusalem In England's green and pleasant land.
William Blake
#Poems about Life

All the names I know from nurse: Gardener's garters, Shepherd's purse, Bachelor's buttons, Lady's smock, And the Lady Hollyhock. Fairy places, fairy things, Fairy woods where the wild bee wings, Tiny trees for tiny dames-- These must all be fairy names! Tiny woods below whose boughs Shady fairies weave a house; Tiny tree-tops, rose or thyme, Where the braver fairies climb! Fair are grown-up people's trees, But the fairest woods are these; Where, if I were not so tall, I should live for good and all.
Robert Stevenson
#Poems about Life

Khalil Gibran
The dark wings of night enfolded the city upon which Nature had spread a pure white garment of snow; and men deserted the streets for their houses in search of warmth, while the north wind probed in contemplation of laying waste the gardens. There in the suburb stood an old hut heavily laden with snow and on the verge of falling. In a dark recess of that hovel was a poor bed in which a dying youth was lying, staring at the dim light of his oil lamp, made to flicker by the entering winds. He a man in the spring of life who foresaw fully that the peaceful hour of freeing himself from the clutches of life was fast nearing. He was awaiting Death's visit gratefully, and upon his pale face appeared the dawn of hope; and on his lops a sorrowful smile; and in his eyes forgiveness. He was poet perishing from hunger in the city of living rich. He was placed in the earthly world to enliven the heart of man with his beautiful and profound sayings. He as noble soul, sent by the Goddess of Understanding to soothe and make gentle the human spirit. But alas! He gladly bade the cold earth farewell without receiving a smile from its strange occupants. He was breathing his last and had no one at his bedside save the oil lamp, his only companion, and some parchments upon which he had inscribed his heart's feeling. As he salvaged the remnants of his withering strength he lifted his hands heavenward; he moved his eyes hopelessly, as if wanting to penetrate the ceiling in order to see the stars from behind the veil clouds. And he said, "Come, oh beautiful Death; my soul is longing for you. Come close to me and unfasten the irons life, for I am weary of dragging them. Come, oh sweet Death, and deliver me from my neighbors who looked upon me as a stranger because I interpret to them the language of the angels. Hurry, oh peaceful Death, and carry me from these multitudes who left me in the dark corner of oblivion because I do not bleed the weak as they do. Come, oh gentle Death, and enfold me under your white wings, for my fellowmen are not in want of me. Embrace me, oh Death, full of love and mercy; let your lips touch my lips which never tasted a mother's kiss, not touched a sister's cheeks, not caresses a sweetheart's fingertips. Come and take me, by beloved Death." Then, at the bedside of the dying poet appeared an angel who possessed a supernatural and divine beauty, holding in her hand a wreath of lilies. She embraced him and closed his eyes so he could see no more, except with the eye of his spirit. She impressed a deep and long and gently withdrawn kiss that left and eternal smile of fulfillment upon his lips. Then the hovel became empty and nothing was lest save parchments and papers which the poet had strewn with bitter futility. Hundreds of years later, when the people of the city arose from the diseases slumber of ignorance and saw the dawn of knowledge, they erected a monument in the most beautiful garden of the city and celebrated a feast every year in honor of that poet, whose writings had freed them. Oh, how cruel is man's ignorance!
Khalil Gibran
#Poems about Life

Khalil Gibran
Spring Come, my beloved; let us walk amidst the knolls, For the snow is water, and Life is alive from its Slumber and is roaming the hills and valleys. Let us follow the footprints of Spring into the Distant fields, and mount the hilltops to draw Inspiration high above the cool green plains. Dawn of Spring has unfolded her winter-kept garment And placed it on the peach and citrus trees; and They appear as brides in the ceremonial custom of the Night of Kedre. The sprigs of grapevine embrace each other like Sweethearts, and the brooks burst out in dance Between the rocks, repeating the song of joy; And the flowers bud suddenly from the heart of Nature, like foam from the rich heart of the sea. Come, my beloved; let us drink the last of Winter's Tears from the cupped lilies, and soothe our spirits With the shower of notes from the birds, and wander In exhilaration through the intoxicating breeze. Let us sit by that rock, where violets hide; let us Pursue their exchange of the sweetness of kisses. Summer Let us go into the fields, my beloved, for the Time of harvest approaches, and the sun's eyes Are ripening the grain. Let us tend the fruit of the earth, as the Spirit nourishes the grains of Joy from the Seeds of Love, sowed deep in our hearts. Let us fill our bins with the products of Nature, as life fills so abundantly the Domain of our hearts with her endless bounty. Let us make the flowers our bed, and the Sky our blanket, and rest our heads together Upon pillows of soft hay. Let us relax after the day's toil, and listen To the provoking murmur of the brook. Autumn Let us go and gather grapes in the vineyard For the winepress, and keep the wine in old Vases, as the spirit keeps Knowledge of the Ages in eternal vessels. Let us return to our dwelling, for the wind has Caused the yellow leaves to fall and shroud the Withering flowers that whisper elegy to Summer. Come home, my eternal sweetheart, for the birds Have made pilgrimage to warmth and lest the chilled Prairies suffering pangs of solitude. The jasmine And myrtle have no more tears. Let us retreat, for the tired brook has Ceased its song; and the bubblesome springs Are drained of their copious weeping; and Their cautious old hills have stored away Their colorful garments. Come, my beloved; Nature is justly weary And is bidding her enthusiasm farewell With quiet and contented melody. Winter Come close to me, oh companion of my full life; Come close to me and let not Winter's touch Enter between us. Sit by me before the hearth, For fire is the only fruit of Winter. Speak to me of the glory of your heart, for That is greater than the shrieking elements Beyond our door. Bind the door and seal the transoms, for the Angry countenance of the heaven depresses my Spirit, and the face of our snow-laden fields Makes my soul cry. Feed the lamp with oil and let it not dim, and Place it by you, so I can read with tears what Your life with me has written upon your face. Bring Autumn's wine. Let us drink and sing the Song of remembrance to Spring's carefree sowing, And Summer's watchful tending, and Autumn's Reward in harvest. Come close to me, oh beloved of my soul; the Fire is cooling and fleeing under the ashes. Embrace me, for I fear loneliness; the lamp is Dim, and the wine which we pressed is closing Our eyes. Let us look upon each other before They are shut. Find me with your arms and embrace me; let Slumber then embrace our souls as one. Kiss me, my beloved, for Winter has stolen All but our moving lips. You are close by me, My Forever. How deep and wide will be the ocean of Slumber, And how recent was the dawn!
Khalil Gibran
#Poems about Life

Khalil Gibran
One hour devoted to the pursuit of Beauty And Love is worth a full century of glory Given by the frightened weak to the strong. From that hour comes man's Truth; and During that century Truth sleeps between The restless arms of disturbing dreams. In that hour the soul sees for herself The Natural Law, and for that century she Imprisons herself behind the law of man; And she is shackled with irons of oppression. That hour was the inspiration of the Songs Of Solomon, an that century was the blind Power which destroyed the temple of Baalbek. That hour was the birth of the Sermon on the Mount, and that century wrecked the castles of Palmyra and the Tower of Babylon. That hour was the Hegira of Mohammed and that Century forgot Allah, Golgotha, and Sinai. One hour devoted to mourning and lamenting the Stolen equality of the weak is nobler than a Century filled with greed and usurpation. It is at that hour when the heart is Purified by flaming sorrow and Illuminated by the torch of Love. And in that century, desires for Truth Are buried in the bosom of the earth. That hour is the root which must flourish. That hour of meditation, the hour of Prayer, and the hour of a new era of good. And that century is a life of Nero spent On self-investment taken solely from Earthly substance. This is life. Portrayed on the stage for ages; Recorded earthly for centuries; Lived in strangeness for years; Sung as a hymn for days; Exalted but for an hour, but the Hour is treasured by Eternity as a jewel.
Khalil Gibran
#Poems about Life

James Joyce
Goldbrown upon the sated flood The rockvine clusters lift and sway; Vast wings above the lambent waters brood Of sullen day. A waste of waters ruthlessly Sways and uplifts its weedy mane Where brooding day stares down upon the sea In dull disdain. Uplift and sway, O golden vine, Your clustered fruits to love's full flood, Lambent and vast and ruthless as is thine Incertitude!
James Joyce
#Poems about Life

Carl Sandburg
She loves blood-red poppies for a garden to walk in. In a loose white gown she walks and a new child tugs at cords in her body. Her head to the west at evening when the dew is creeping, A shudder of gladness runs in her bones and torsal fiber: She loves blood-red poppies for a garden to walk in.
Carl Sandburg
#Poems about Life

Let me but live my life from year to year, With forward face and unreluctant soul; Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal; Not mourning for the things that disappear In the dim past, nor holding back in fear From what the future veils; but with a whole And happy heart, that pays its toll To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer. So let the way wind up the hill or down, O'er rough or smooth, the journey will be joy: Still seeking what I sought when but a boy, New friendship, high adventure, and a crown, My heart will keep the courage of the quest, And hope the road's last turn will be the best.
Henry Dyke
#Poems about Life

John Ashbery
Just when I thought there wasn't room enough for another thought in my head, I had this great idea-- call it a philosophy of life, if you will.Briefly, it involved living the way philosophers live, according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones? That was the hardest part, I admit, but I had a kind of dark foreknowledge of what it would be like. Everything, from eating watermelon or going to the bathroom or just standing on a subway platform, lost in thought for a few minutes, or worrying about rain forests, would be affected, or more precisely, inflected by my new attitude.I wouldn't be preachy, or worry about children and old people, except in the general way prescribed by our clockwork universe. Instead I'd sort of let things be what they are while injecting them with the serum of the new moral climate I thought I'd stumbled into, as a stranger accidentally presses against a panel and a bookcase slides back, revealing a winding staircase with greenish light somewhere down below, and he automatically steps inside and the bookcase slides shut, as is customary on such occasions. At once a fragrance overwhelms him--not saffron, not lavender, but something in between.He thinks of cushions, like the one his uncle's Boston bull terrier used to lie on watching him quizzically, pointed ear-tips folded over. And then the great rush is on.Not a single idea emerges from it.It's enough to disgust you with thought.But then you remember something William James wrote in some book of his you never read--it was fine, it had the fineness, the powder of life dusted over it, by chance, of course, yet still looking for evidence of fingerprints. Someone had handled it even before he formulated it, though the thought was his and his alone. It's fine, in summer, to visit the seashore. There are lots of little trips to be made. A grove of fledgling aspens welcomes the traveler.Nearby are the public toilets where weary pilgrims have carved their names and addresses, and perhaps messages as well, messages to the world, as they sat and thought about what they'd do after using the toilet and washing their hands at the sink, prior to stepping out into the open again.Had they been coaxed in by principles, and were their words philosophy, of however crude a sort? I confess I can move no farther along this train of thought-- something's blocking it.Something I'm not big enough to see over.Or maybe I'm frankly scared. What was the matter with how I acted before? But maybe I can come up with a compromise--I'll let things be what they are, sort of.In the autumn I'll put up jellies and preserves, against the winter cold and futility, and that will be a human thing, and intelligent as well. I won't be embarrassed by my friends' dumb remarks, or even my own, though admittedly that's the hardest part, as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say riles the spectator in front of you, who doesn't even like the idea of two people near him talking together. Well he's got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him-- this thing works both ways, you know. You can't always be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself at the same time.That would be abusive, and about as much fun as attending the wedding of two people you don't know. Still, there's a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas. That's what they're made for!Now I want you to go out there and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too. They don't come along every day. Look out!There's a big one...
John Ashbery
#Poems about Life

John Ashbery
As Parmigianino did it, the right hand Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer And swerving easily away, as though to protect What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams, Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together In a movement supporting the face, which swims Toward and away like the hand Except that it is in repose. It is what is Sequestered. Vasari says, "Francesco one day set himself To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . . He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made By a turner, and having divided it in half and Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass," Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait Is the reflection, of which the portrait Is the reflection once removed. The glass chose to reflect only what he saw Which was enough for his purpose: his image Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle. The time of day or the density of the light Adhering to the face keeps it Lively and intact in a recurring wave Of arrival. The soul establishes itself. But how far can it swim out through the eyes And still return safely to its nest? The surface Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases Significantly; that is, enough to make the point That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept In suspension, unable to advance much farther Than your look as it intercepts the picture. Pope Clement and his court were "stupefied" By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission That never materialized. The soul has to stay where it is, Even though restless, hearing raindrops at the pane, The sighing of autumn leaves thrashed by the wind, Longing to be free, outside, but it must stay Posing in this place. It must move As little as possible. This is what the portrait says. But there is in that gaze a combination Of tenderness, amusement and regret, so powerful In its restraint that one cannot look for long. The secret is too plain. The pity of it smarts, Makes hot tears spurt: that the soul is not a soul, Has no secret, is small, and it fits Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention. That is the tune but there are no words. The words are only speculation (From the Latin speculum, mirror): They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music. We see only postures of the dream, Riders of the motion that swings the face Into view under evening skies, with no False disarray as proof of authenticity. But it is life englobed. One would like to stick one's hand Out of the globe, but its dimension, What carries it, will not allow it. No doubt it is this, not the reflex To hide something, which makes the hand loom large As it retreats slightly. There is no way To build it flat like a section of wall: It must join the segment of a circle, Roving back to the body of which it seems So unlikely a part, to fence in and shore up the face On which the effort of this condition reads Like a pinpoint of a smile, a spark Or star one is not sure of having seen As darkness resumes. A perverse light whose Imperative of subtlety dooms in advance its Conceit to light up: unimportant but meant. Francesco, your hand is big enough To wreck the sphere, and too big, One would think, to weave delicate meshes That only argue its further detention. (Big, but not coarse, merely on another scale, Like a dozing whale on the sea bottom In relation to the tiny, self-important ship On the surface.) But your eyes proclaim That everything is surface. The surface is what's there And nothing can exist except what's there. There are no recesses in the room, only alcoves, And the window doesn't matter much, or that Sliver of window or mirror on the right, even As a gauge of the weather, which in French is Le temps, the word for time, and which Follows a course wherein changes are merely Features of the whole. The whole is stable within Instability, a globe like ours, resting On a pedestal of vacuum, a ping-pong ball Secure on its jet of water. And just as there are no words for the surface, that is, No words to say what it really is, that it is not Superficial but a visible core, then there is No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience. You will stay on, restive, serene in Your gesture which is neither embrace nor warning But which holds something of both in pure Affirmation that doesn't affirm anything. The balloon pops, the attention Turns dully away. Clouds In the puddle stir up into sawtoothed fragments. I think of the friends Who came to see me, of what yesterday Was like. A peculiar slant Of memory that intrudes on the dreaming model In the silence of the studio as he considers Lifting the pencil to the self-portrait. How many people came and stayed a certain time, Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you Like light behind windblown fog and sand, Filtered and influenced by it, until no part Remains that is surely you. Those voices in the dusk Have told you all and still the tale goes on In the form of memories deposited in irregular Clumps of crystals. Whose curved hand controls, Francesco, the turning seasons and the thoughts That peel off and fly away at breathless speeds Like the last stubborn leaves ripped From wet branches? I see in this only the chaos Of your round mirror which organizes everything Around the polestar of your eyes which are empty, Know nothing, dream but reveal nothing. I feel the carousel starting slowly And going faster and faster: desk, papers, books, Photographs of friends, the window and the trees Merging in one neutral band that surrounds Me on all sides, everywhere I look. And I cannot explain the action of leveling, Why it should all boil down to one Uniform substance, a magma of interiors. My guide in these matters is your self, Firm, oblique, accepting everything with the same Wraith of a smile, and as time speeds up so that it is soon Much later, I can know only the straight way out, The distance between us. Long ago The strewn evidence meant something, The small accidents and pleasures Of the day as it moved gracelessly on, A housewife doing chores. Impossible now To restore those properties in the silver blur that is The record of what you accomplished by sitting down "With great art to copy all that you saw in the glass" So as to perfect and rule out the extraneous Forever. In the circle of your intentions certain spars Remain that perpetuate the enchantment of self with self: Eyebeams, muslin, coral. It doesn't matter Because these are things as they are today Before one's shadow ever grew Out of the field into thoughts of tomorrow. Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted, Desolate, reluctant as any landscape To yield what are laws of perspective After all only to the painter's deep Mistrust, a weak instrument though Necessary. Of course some things Are possible, it knows, but it doesn't know Which ones. Some day we will try To do as many things as are possible And perhaps we shall succeed at a handful Of them, but this will not have anything To do with what is promised today, our Landscape sweeping out from us to disappear On the horizon. Today enough of a cover burnishes To keep the supposition of promises together In one piece of surface, letting one ramble Back home from them so that these Even stronger possibilities can remain Whole without being tested. Actually The skin of the bubble-chamber's as tough as Reptile eggs; everything gets "programmed" there In due course: more keeps getting included Without adding to the sum, and just as one Gets accustomed to a noise that Kept one awake but now no longer does, So the room contains this flow like an hourglass Without varying in climate or quality (Except perhaps to brighten bleakly and almost Invisibly, in a focus sharpening toward death--more Of this later). What should be the vacuum of a dream Becomes continually replete as the source of dreams Is being tapped so that this one dream May wax, flourish like a cabbage rose, Defying sumptuary laws, leaving us To awake and try to begin living in what Has now become a slum. Sydney Freedberg in his Parmigianino says of it: "Realism in this portrait No longer produces and objective truth, but a bizarria . . . . However its distortion does not create A feeling of disharmony . . . . The forms retain A strong measure of ideal beauty," because Fed by our dreams, so inconsequential until one day We notice the hole they left. Now their importance If not their meaning is plain. They were to nourish A dream which includes them all, as they are Finally reversed in the accumulating mirror. They seemed strange because we couldn't actually see them. And we realize this only at a point where they lapse Like a wave breaking on a rock, giving up Its shape in a gesture which expresses that shape. The forms retain a strong measure of ideal beauty As they forage in secret on our idea of distortion. Why be unhappy with this arrangement, since Dreams prolong us as they are absorbed? Something like living occurs, a movement Out of the dream into its codification. As I start to forget it It presents its stereotype again But it is an unfamiliar stereotype, the face Riding at anchor, issued from hazards, soon To accost others, "rather angel than man" (Vasari). Perhaps an angel looks like everything We have forgotten, I mean forgotten Things that don't seem familiar when We meet them again, lost beyond telling, Which were ours once. This would be the point Of invading the privacy of this man who "Dabbled in alchemy, but whose wish Here was not to examine the subtleties of art In a detached, scientific spirit: he wished through them To impart the sense of novelty and amazement to the spectator" (Freedberg). Later portraits such as the Uffizi "Gentleman," the Borghese "Young Prelate" and The Naples "Antea" issue from Mannerist Tensions, but here, as Freedberg points out, The surprise, the tension are in the concept Rather than its realization. The consonance of the High Renaissance Is present, though distorted by the mirror. What is novel is the extreme care in rendering The velleities of the rounded reflecting surface (It is the first mirror portrait), So that you could be fooled for a moment Before you realize the reflection Isn't yours. You feel then like one of those Hoffmann characters who have been deprived Of a reflection, except that the whole of me Is seen to be supplanted by the strict Otherness of the painter in his Other room. We have surprised him At work, but no, he has surprised us As he works. The picture is almost finished, The surprise almost over, as when one looks out, Startled by a snowfall which even now is Ending in specks and sparkles of snow. It happened while you were inside, asleep, And there is no reason why you should have Been awake for it, except that the day Is ending and it will be hard for you To get to sleep tonight, at least until late. The shadow of the city injects its own Urgency: Rome where Francesco Was at work during the Sack: his inventions Amazed the soldiers who burst in on him; They decided to spare his life, but he left soon after; Vienna where the painting is today, where I saw it with Pierre in the summer of 1959; New York Where I am now, which is a logarithm Of other cities. Our landscape Is alive with filiations, shuttlings; Business is carried on by look, gesture, Hearsay. It is another life to the city, The backing of the looking glass of the Unidentified but precisely sketched studio. It wants To siphon off the life of the studio, deflate Its mapped space to enactments, island it. That operation has been temporarily stalled But something new is on the way, a new preciosity In the wind. Can you stand it, Francesco? Are you strong enough for it? This wind brings what it knows not, is Self--propelled, blind, has no notion Of itself. It is inertia that once Acknowledged saps all activity, secret or public: Whispers of the word that can't be understood But can be felt, a chill, a blight Moving outward along the capes and peninsulas Of your nervures and so to the archipelagoes And to the bathed, aired secrecy of the open sea. This is its negative side. Its positive side is Making you notice life and the stresses That only seemed to go away, but now, As this new mode questions, are seen to be Hastening out of style. If they are to become classics They must decide which side they are on. Their reticence has undermined The urban scenery, made its ambiguities Look willful and tired, the games of an old man. What we need now is this unlikely Challenger pounding on the gates of an amazed Castle. Your argument, Francesco, Had begun to grow stale as no answer Or answers were forthcoming. If it dissolves now Into dust, that only means its time had come Some time ago, but look now, and listen: It may be that another life is stocked there In recesses no one knew of; that it, Not we, are the change; that we are in fact it If we could get back to it, relive some of the way It looked, turn our faces to the globe as it sets And still be coming out all right: Nerves normal, breath normal. Since it is a metaphor Made to include us, we are a part of it and Can live in it as in fact we have done, Only leaving our minds bare for questioning We now see will not take place at random But in an orderly way that means to menace Nobody--the normal way things are done, Like the concentric growing up of days Around a life: correctly, if you think about it. A breeze like the turning of a page Brings back your face: the moment Takes such a big bite out of the haze Of pleasant intuition it comes after. The locking into place is "death itself," As Berg said of a phrase in Mahler's Ninth; Or, to quote Imogen in Cymbeline, "There cannot Be a pinch in death more sharp than this," for, Though only exercise or tactic, it carries The momentum of a conviction that had been building. Mere forgetfulness cannot remove it Nor wishing bring it back, as long as it remains The white precipitate of its dream In the climate of sighs flung across our world, A cloth over a birdcage. But it is certain that What is beautiful seems so only in relation to a specific Life, experienced or not, channeled into some form Steeped in the nostalgia of a collective past. The light sinks today with an enthusiasm I have known elsewhere, and known why It seemed meaningful, that others felt this way Years ago. I go on consulting This mirror that is no longer mine For as much brisk vacancy as is to be My portion this time. And the vase is always full Because there is only just so much room And it accommodates everything. The sample One sees is not to be taken as Merely that, but as everything as it May be imagined outside time--not as a gesture But as all, in the refined, assimilable state. But what is this universe the porch of As it veers in and out, back and forth, Refusing to surround us and still the only Thing we can see? Love once Tipped the scales but now is shadowed, invisible, Though mysteriously present, around somewhere. But we know it cannot be sandwiched Between two adjacent moments, that its windings Lead nowhere except to further tributaries And that these empty themselves into a vague Sense of something that can never be known Even though it seems likely that each of us Knows what it is and is capable of Communicating it to the other. But the look Some wear as a sign makes one want to Push forward ignoring the apparent NaÏveté of the attempt, not caring That no one is listening, since the light Has been lit once and for all in their eyes And is present, unimpaired, a permanent anomaly, Awake and silent. On the surface of it There seems no special reason why that light Should be focused by love, or why The city falling with its beautiful suburbs Into space always less clear, less defined, Should read as the support of its progress, The easel upon which the drama unfolded To its own satisfaction and to the end Of our dreaming, as we had never imagined It would end, in worn daylight with the painted Promise showing through as a gage, a bond. This nondescript, never-to-be defined daytime is The secret of where it takes place And we can no longer return to the various Conflicting statements gathered, lapses of memory Of the principal witnesses. All we know Is that we are a little early, that Today has that special, lapidary Todayness that the sunlight reproduces Faithfully in casting twig-shadows on blithe Sidewalks. No previous day would have been like this. I used to think they were all alike, That the present always looked the same to everybody But this confusion drains away as one Is always cresting into one's present. Yet the "poetic," straw-colored space Of the long corridor that leads back to the painting, Its darkening opposite--is this Some figment of "art," not to be imagined As real, let alone special? Hasn't it too its lair In the present we are always escaping from And falling back into, as the waterwheel of days Pursues its uneventful, even serene course? I think it is trying to say it is today And we must get out of it even as the public Is pushing through the museum now so as to Be out by closing time. You can't live there. The gray glaze of the past attacks all know-how: Secrets of wash and finish that took a lifetime To learn and are reduced to the status of Black-and-white illustrations in a book where colorplates Are rare. That is, all time Reduces to no special time. No one Alludes to the change; to do so might Involve calling attention to oneself Which would augment the dread of not getting out Before having seen the whole collection (Except for the sculptures in the basement: They are where they belong). Our time gets to be veiled, compromised By the portrait's will to endure. It hints at Our own, which we were hoping to keep hidden. We don't need paintings or Doggerel written by mature poets when The explosion is so precise, so fine. Is there any point even in acknowledging The existence of all that? Does it Exist? Certainly the leisure to Indulge stately pastimes doesn't, Any more. Today has no margins, the event arrives Flush with its edges, is of the same substance, Indistinguishable. "Play" is something else; It exists, in a society specifically Organized as a demonstration of itself. There is no other way, and those assholes Who would confuse everything with their mirror games Which seem to multiply stakes and possibilities, or At least confuse issues by means of an investing Aura that would corrode the architecture Of the whole in a haze of suppressed mockery, Are beside the point. They are out of the game, Which doesn't exist until they are out of it. It seems like a very hostile universe But as the principle of each individual thing is Hostile to, exists at the expense of all the others As philosophers have often pointed out, at least This thing, the mute, undivided present, Has the justification of logic, which In this instance isn't a bad thing Or wouldn't be, if the way of telling Didn't somehow intrude, twisting the end result Into a caricature of itself. This always Happens, as in the game where A whispered phrase passed around the room Ends up as something completely different. It is the principle that makes works of art so unlike What the artist intended. Often he finds He has omitted the thing he started out to say In the first place. Seduced by flowers, Explicit pleasures, he blames himself (though Secretly satisfied with the result), imagining He had a say in the matter and exercised An option of which he was hardly conscious, Unaware that necessity circumvents such resolutions. So as to create something new For itself, that there is no other way, That the history of creation proceeds according to Stringent laws, and that things Do get done in this way, but never the things We set out to accomplish and wanted so desperately To see come into being. Parmigianino Must have realized this as he worked at his Life-obstructing task. One is forced to read The perfectly plausible accomplishment of a purpose Into the smooth, perhaps even bland (but so Enigmatic) finish. Is there anything To be serious about beyond this otherness That gets included in the most ordinary Forms of daily activity, changing everything Slightly and profoundly, and tearing the matter Of creation, any creation, not just artistic creation Out of our hands, to install it on some monstrous, near Peak, too close to ignore, too far For one to intervene? This otherness, this "Not-being-us" is all there is to look at In the mirror, though no one can say How it came to be this way. A ship Flying unknown colors has entered the harbor. You are allowing extraneous matters To break up your day, cloud the focus Of the crystal ball. Its scene drifts away Like vapor scattered on the wind. The fertile Thought-associations that until now came So easily, appear no more, or rarely. Their Colorings are less intense, washed out By autumn rains and winds, spoiled, muddied, Given back to you because they are worthless. Yet we are such creatures of habit that their Implications are still around en permanence, confusing Issues. To be serious only about sex Is perhaps one way, but the sands are hissing As they approach the beginning of the big slide Into what happened. This past Is now here: the painter's Reflected face, in which we linger, receiving Dreams and inspirations on an unassigned Frequency, but the hues have turned metallic, The curves and edges are not so rich. Each person Has one big theory to explain the universe But it doesn't tell the whole story And in the end it is what is outside him That matters, to him and especially to us Who have been given no help whatever In decoding our own man-size quotient and must rely On second-hand knowledge. Yet I know That no one else's taste is going to be Any help, and might as well be ignored. Once it seemed so perfect--gloss on the fine Freckled skin, lips moistened as though about to part Releasing speech, and the familiar look Of clothes and furniture that one forgets. This could have been our paradise: exotic Refuge within an exhausted world, but that wasn't In the cards, because it couldn't have been The point. Aping naturalness may be the first step Toward achieving an inner calm But it is the first step only, and often Remains a frozen gesture of welcome etched On the air materializing behind it, A convention. And we have really No time for these, except to use them For kindling. The sooner they are burnt up The better for the roles we have to play. Therefore I beseech you, withdraw that hand, Offer it no longer as shield or greeting, The shield of a greeting, Francesco: There is room for one bullet in the chamber: Our looking through the wrong end Of the telescope as you fall back at a speed Faster than that of light to flatten ultimately Among the features of the room, an invitation Never mailed, the "it was all a dream" Syndrome, though the "all" tells tersely Enough how it wasn't. Its existence Was real, though troubled, and the ache Of this waking dream can never drown out The diagram still sketched on the wind, Chosen, meant for me and materialized In the disguising radiance of my room. We have seen the city; it is the gibbous Mirrored eye of an insect. All things happen On its balcony and are resumed within, But the action is the cold, syrupy flow Of a pageant. One feels too confined, Sifting the April sunlight for clues, In the mere stillness of the ease of its Parameter. The hand holds no chalk And each part of the whole falls off And cannot know it knew, except Here and there, in cold pockets Of remembrance, whispers out of time.
John Ashbery
#Poems about Life

Not while the fever of the blood is strong, The heart throbs loud, the eyes are veiled, no less With passion than with tears, the Muse shall bless The poet-sould to help and soothe with song. Not then she bids his trembling lips express The aching gladness, the voluptuous pain. Life is his poem then; flesh, sense, and brain One full-stringed lyre attuned to happiness. But when the dream is done, the pulses fail, The day's illusion, with the day's sun set, He, lonely in the twilight, sees the pale Divine Consoler, featured like Regret, Enter and clasp his hand and kiss his brow. Then his lips ope to sing--as mine do now.
Emma Lazarus
#Poems about Life

No idle gold -- since this fine sun, my friend, Is no mean miser, but doth freely spend. No prescious stones -- since these green mornings show, Without a charge, their pearls where'er I go. No lifeless books -- since birds with their sweet tongues Will read aloud to me their happier songs. No painted scenes -- since clouds can change their skies A hundred times a day to please my eyes. No headstrong wine -- since, when I drink, the spring Into my eager ears will softly sing. No surplus clothes -- since every simple beast Can teach me to be happy with the least.
William Davies
#Poems about Life