Poem of the day

Our Little Ghost
by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Oft, in the silence of the night,
      When the lonely moon rides high,
When wintry winds are whistling,
      And we hear the owl’s shrill cry,
In the quiet, dusky chamber,
      By the flickering firelight,
Rising up between two sleepers,
      Comes a spirit all in white.

A winsome little ghost it is,
      Rosy-cheeked, and bright of eye;
With yellow curls all breaking loose
      From the small cap pushed awry.
Up it climbs among the pillows,
      For the “big dark” brings no dread,
And a baby’s boundless fancy
      Makes a kingdom of a bed.

A fearless little ghost it is;
      Safe the night seems as the day;
The moon is but a gentle face,
      And the sighing winds are gay.
The solitude is full of friends,
      And the hour brings no regrets;
For, in this happy little soul,
      Shines a sun that never sets.

A merry little ghost it is,
      Dancing gayly by itself,
On the flowery counterpane,
      Like a tricksy household elf;
Nodding to the fitful shadows,
      As they flicker on the wall;
Talking to familiar pictures,
      Mimicking the owl’s shrill call.

A thoughtful little ghost if is;
      And, when lonely gambols tire,
With chubby hands on chubby knees,
      It sits winking at the fire.
Fancies innocent and lovely
      Shine before those baby-eyes, —
Endless fields of dandelions,
      Brooks, and birds, and butterflies.

A loving little ghost it is:
      When crept into its nest,
Its hand on father’s shoulder laid,
      Its head on mother’s breast,
It watches each familiar face,
      With a tranquil, trusting eye;
And, like a sleepy little bird,
      Sings its own soft lullaby.

Then those who feigned to sleep before,
      Lest baby play till dawn,
Wake and watch their folded flower —
      Little rose without a thorn.
And, in the silence of the night,
      The hearts that love it most
Pray tenderly above its sleep,
      “God bless our little ghost!”

Poem of the day

The Zealless Zylographer
by Mary Mapes Dodge (1830-1905)

A xylographer started to cross the sea
         By means of a Xanthic Xebec;
But, alas! he sighed for the Zuyder Zee,
         And feared he was in for a wreck.
He tried to smile, but all in vain,
         Because of a Zygomatic pain;
And as for singing, his cheeriest tone
         Reminded him of a Xylophone–
Or else, when the pain would sharper grow,
         His notes were as keen as a Zuffolo.
And so it is likely he did not find
         On board Xenodochy to his mind.
The fare was poor, and he was sure
         Xerofphagy he could not endure;
Zoöphagous surely he was, I aver,
         This dainty and starving Xylographer.
Xylophagous truly he could not be–
         No sickly vegetarian he!
He’d have blubbered like any old Zeuglodon
         Had Xerophthalmia not come on.
And the end of it was he never again
         In a Xanthic Xebec went sailing the main.

Poem of the day

John Hancock Otis
by Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950)

As to democracy, fellow citizens,
Are you not prepared to admit
That I, who inherited riches and was to the manner born,
Was second to none in Spoon River
In my devotion to the cause of Liberty?
While my contemporary, Anthony Findlay,
Born in a shanty and beginning life
As a water carrier to the section hands,
Then becoming a section hand when he was grown,
Afterwards foreman of the gang, until he rose
To the superintendency of the railroad,
Living in Chicago,
Was a veritable slave driver,
Grinding the faces of labor,
And a bitter enemy of democracy.
And I say to you, Spoon River,
And to you, O republic,
Beware of the man who rises to power
From one suspender.

Poem of the day

To My Mother
by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
⁠The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
⁠None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
⁠You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
⁠In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
⁠Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
⁠And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
⁠Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

How not to handle a pandemic

On an epidemiological map of the world, the Czech Republic shows up as a tiny island of doom and gloom. While the global number of new coronavirus cases has been dropping for six consecutive weeks, the Central European nation of 10 million has been experiencing near record levels of new infections.

Poem of the day

Apology for Having Loved Before
by Edmund Waller (1606-1687)

They that never had the use
Of the grape’s surprising juice,
To the first delicious cup
All their reason render up:
Neither do, nor care to, know,
Whether it be best or no.

So they that are to love inclined,
Swayed by chance, nor choice or art,
To the first that’s fair or kind,
Make a present of their heart:
’Tis not she that first we love,
But whom dying we approve.

To man, that was i’th’ evening made,
Stars gave the first delight;
Admiring in the gloomy shade
Those little drops of light.

Then, at Aurora, whose fair hand
Removed them from the skies,
He gazing toward the east did stand,
She entertained his eyes.

But when the bright sun did appear,
All those he ’gan despise;
His wonder was determined there,
And could no higher rise.

He neither might nor wished to know
A more refulgent light;
For that (as mine your beauties now),
Employed his utmost sight.

Poem of the day

The Dropped Shield
by Archilochus (c. 680-c. 645 BCE)

Ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἥν παρὰ θάμνῳ
      ἔντος ἀμώμητον κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ’ ἔκ μ’ ἐσάωσα· τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
      Ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.

Poem of the day

Death
by George Herbert (1593-1633)

Death, thou wast once an uncouth hideous thing,
                  Nothing but bones,
         The sad effect of sadder groans:
Thy mouth was open, but thou couldst not sing.

For we considered thee as at some six
                  Or ten years hence,
         After the loss of life and sense,
Flesh being turned to dust, and bones to sticks.

We looked on this side of thee, shooting short;
                  Where we did find
         The shells of fledge souls left behind,
Dry dust, which sheds no tears, but may extort.

But since our Savior’s death did put some blood
                  Into thy face,
         Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
                  As at Doomsday;
         When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.

Therefore we can go die as sleep, and trust
                  Half that we have
         Unto an honest faithful grave;
Making our pillows either down, or dust.

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