Poem of the day

The Isles of Greece
by George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
in honor of Greek Independence Day

The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
   Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
   Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,
   The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
   Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires’ “Islands of the Blest.”

The mountains look on Marathon—
   And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
   I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

A king sat on the rocky brow
   Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
   And men in nations;—all were his!
He counted them at break of day—
And when the sun set, where were they?

And where are they? And where art thou?
   My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now—
   The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?

’Tis something, in the dearth of fame,
   Though linked among a fettered race,
To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
   Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
   Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
   A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

What, silent still? and silent all?
   Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent’s fall,
   And answer, “Let one living head,
But one arise,—we come, we come!”
’Tis but the living who are dumb.

In vain—in vain: strike other chords;
   Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
   And shed the blood of Scio’s vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call—
How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
   Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
   The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave—
Think ye he meant them for a slave?

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon’s song divine:
   He served—but served Polycrates—
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The tyrant of the Chersonese
   Was freedom’s best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
   Oh! that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
   Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.

Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
   They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords, and native ranks,
   The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
   Our virgins dance beneath the shade—
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
   But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning teardrop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
   Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
   There, swanlike, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Game of the week

Poem of the day

Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Poem of the day

The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
because it’s World Meteorological Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

A plea for pragmatism

Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “Every two years the Commonwealth Fund provides an invaluable survey of major nations’ health care systems. America always comes in last; in the latest edition, the three leaders are Britain, Australia and the Netherlands.

“What’s remarkable about those top three is that they have radically different systems. Britain has true socialized medicine — direct government provision of health care. Australia has single-payer — it’s basically Bernie down under. But the Dutch rely on private insurance companies — heavily regulated, with lots of subsidies, but looking more like a better-funded version of Obamacare than like Medicare for All. And the Netherlands actually tops the Commonwealth Fund rankings.

“So which system should Democrats advocate? The answer, I’d argue, is the system we’re most likely actually to create — the one that will play best in the general election, and is then most likely to pass Congress if the Democrat wins.”

Poem of the day

Mutability
by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

From low to high doth dissolution climb,
   And sink from high to low, along a scale
   Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail;
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
   Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
   Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whitened hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
   Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
   Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time.

Poem of the day

My Love Is Strengthen’d (Sonnet 102)
by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

My love is strengthen’d, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandiz’d, whose rich esteeming,
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
      Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
      Because I would not dull you with my song.

Poem of the day

The Author to Her Book
by Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst Vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy Father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.