Saturday, May 24, 2008

Poem for this Week

by 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
As ice-storms do. 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-colored
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 willfully 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.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Poem for this week

Ode to a Nightingale
by John Keats


MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
  But being too happy in thine happiness,—
    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
        In some melodious plot
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
  Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
        And purple-stained mouth;
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
        And leaden-eyed despairs,
  Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
  Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
  Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
  And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
    Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
        But here there is no light,
  Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.


I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
  Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
  White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
    Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
        And mid-May’s eldest child,
  The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
        In such an ecstasy!
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
  In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
  Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
        The same that oft-times hath
  Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
  Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
        In the next valley-glades:
  Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Poem for Friday - May 9

Today’s poem is by Friedrich Schiller (b. 1759), who died on this day in 1805. The poem, “Ode to Joy” (1785), is the original source text of the famous last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is worth noting, however, that the “Joyful, joyful we adore thee…” that appears in most American church hymnals, while often entitled “Ode to Joy,” was written by American writer Hen­ry van Dyke in 1907. Schiller, a noted poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist, is considered one of the preeminent pillars of German intellectual history.

Ode To Joy
by Friedrich Schiller

Joy, beautiful spark of Gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.
Thy magic powers re-unite
What custom's sword has divided
Beggars become Princes' brothers
Where thy gentle wing abides.

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss to the entire world!
Brothers—above the starry canopy
A loving father must dwell.
Whoever has had the great fortune,
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won the love of a devoted wife,
Add his to our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to must creep
Tearfully away from this circle.

Those who dwell in the great circle,
Pay homage to sympathy!
It leads to the stars,
Where the Unknown reigns.
Joy all creatures drink
At nature's bosoms;
All, Just and Unjust,
Follow her rose-petalled path.
Kisses she gave us, and Wine,
A friend, proven in death,
Pleasure was given (even) to the worm,
And the Cherub stands before God.

You bough down, millions?
Can you sense the Creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy.
Above the stars He must dwell.
Joy is called the strong motivation
In eternal nature.
Joy, joy moves the wheels
In the universal time machine.
Flowers it calls forth from their buds,
Suns from the Firmament,
Spheres it moves far out in Space,
Where our telescopes cannot reach.

Joyful, as His suns are flying,
Across the Firmament's splendid design,
Run, brothers, run your race,
Joyful, as a hero going to conquest.
As truth's fiery reflection
It smiles at the scientist.
To virtue's steep hill
It leads the sufferer on.
Atop faith's lofty summit
One sees its flags in the wind,
Through the cracks of burst-open coffins,
One sees it stand in the angels' chorus.

Endure courageously, millions!
Endure for the better world!
Above the starry canopy
A great God will reward you.
Gods one cannot ever repay,
It is beautiful, though, to be like them.
Sorrow and Poverty, come forth
And rejoice with the Joyful ones.
Anger and revenge be forgotten,
Our deadly enemy be forgiven,
Not one tear shall he shed anymore,
No feeling of remorse shall pain him.

The account of our misdeeds be destroyed!
Reconciled the entire world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
God judges as we judged.
Joy is bubbling in the glasses,
Through the grapes' golden blood
Cannibals drink gentleness,
And despair drinks courage—
Brothers, fly from your seats,
When the full rummer is going around,
Let the foam gush up to heaven:
This glass to the good spirit.

He whom star clusters adore,
He whom the Seraphs' hymn praises,
This glass to him, the good spirit,
Above the starry canopy!
Resolve and courage for great suffering,
Help there, where innocence weeps,
Eternally may last all sworn Oaths,
Truth towards friend and enemy,
Men's pride before Kings' thrones—
Brothers, even it if meant our Life and blood,
Give the crowns to those who earn them,
Defeat to the pack of liars!

Close the holy circle tighter,
Swear by this golden wine:
To remain true to the Oath,
Swear it by the Judge above the stars!
Delivery from tyrants' chains,
Generosity also towards the villain,
Hope on the deathbeds,
Mercy from the final judge!
Also the dead shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more.

A serene hour of farewell!
Sweet rest in the shroud!
Brothers—a mild sentence
From the mouth of the final judge!