Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed
by John Donne (1572-1631)
Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times, having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing, though they never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glistering
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breast-plate, which you wear
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there:
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now ’tis your bed time.
Off with that happy busk, whom I envy
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown’s going off such beauteous state reveals
As when from flowery meads th’hills shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow.
Off with those shoes: and then safely tread
In this love’s hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven’s angels used to be
Received by men; thou Angel bring’st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these Angels from an evil sprite:
They set out hairs, but these the flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go
Behind before, above, between, below.
Oh my America, my new found land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my Empery,
How blessed am I in this discovering thee.
To enter in these bonds is to be free,
Then where my hand is set my seal shall be.
Full nakedness, all joys are due to thee.
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are as Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem
His earthly soul may covet theirs not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For laymen, are all women thus arrayed;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
Whom their imputed grace will dignify
Must see revealed. Then since I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife show
Thyself; cast all, yea this white linen hence.
Here is no penance, much less innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first: why then
What need’st thou have more covering than a man.
The Flaming Heart
Upon the Book and Picture of the Seraphical Saint Teresa
by Richard Crashaw (1612 or 1613-1649)
O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dower of lights and fires;
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove;
By all thy lives and deaths of love;
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they;
By all thy brim-filled bowls of fierce desire,
By thy last morning’s draught of liquid fire;
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seized thy parting soul, and sealed thee His,
By all the Heavens thou hast in him,
(Fair sister of the seraphim!)
By all of Him we have in thee;
Leave nothing of my self in me.
Let me so read thy life, that I
Unto all life of mine may die!
A Dream Within a Dream
by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Sat est Scriptisse
by Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921)
When you and I have wandered beyond the reach of call,
And all our works immortal are scattered on the Stall,
It may be some new Reader, in that remoter age,
Will find this present volume, and listless turn the page.
For him I write these Verses. And “Sir” (I say to him),
“This little Book you see here—this masterpiece of Whim,
Of Wisdom, Learning, Fancy (if you will, please, attend),
Was written by its Author, who gave it to his Friend.
“For they had worked together, been Comrades of the Pen;
They had their points at issue, they differed now and then;
But both loved Song and Letters, and each had close at heart
The dreams, the aspirations, the ‛dear delays’ of Art.
“And much they talk’d of Metre, and more they talked of Style,
Of Form and ‛lucid Order’, of labour of the File;
And he who wrote the writing, as sheet by sheet was penned,
(This all was long ago, Sir!) would read it to his Friend.
“They knew not, nor cared greatly, if they were spark or star,
They knew to move is somewhat, although the goal be far;
And larger light or lesser, this thing at least is clear,—
They served the Muses truly, their service was sincere.
“This tattered page you see, Sir, is all that now remains
(Yes, fourpence is the lowest!) of all those pleasant pains;
And as for him that read it, and as for him that wrote,—
No Golden Book enrolls them among its ‛Names of Note.’
“And yet they had their office. Though they to-day are passed,
They marched in that procession where is no first or last;
Though cold is now their hoping, though they no more aspire,
They, too, had once their ardour:—they handed on the fire.”
by Johann Elias Schlegel (1719-1749)
Meine Liebe gleicht der Schwalbe,
Die zwar ihre Wohnung flieht,
Aber immer wiederkehret
Und von neuem ungestöret.
Ihr gewohntes Nest bezieht.
Meine Liebe gleicht der Bäume
Unbeständig grünem Haupt;
Hat der Frost es gleich entblättert,
Wenn im Mai der Lenzsturm wettert,
Steht es wiederum belaubt.
Meine Liebe gleicht dem Schatten,
Der sich auf dem Boden malt,
Mit des Lichtes Scheine schwindet,
Mit dem Licht sich wiederfindet,
Wenn sein Glanz von neuem strahlt.
The Spell of the Yukon
by Robert Service (1874-1958)
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.
No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth—and I’m one.
You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.
I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.
The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.
The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.
There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back—and I will.
They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight—and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell!—but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite—
So me for the Yukon once more.
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.
The Man With the Hoe
by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this—
More tongued with censure of the world’s blind greed—
More filled with signs and portents for the soul—
More fraught with menace to the universe.
What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in the aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
A protest that is also a prophecy.
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings—
With those who shaped him to the thing he is—
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?