A couple of my favorite poems

Nearly everyone has their own favorite poems. Some are poems we were exposed to growing up, others are poems we were forced to study in high school or college English classes, and still others are poems that we discovered on our own. In my case, I discovered the first of the two following poems while growing up. I remember reading the first to my fellow 4th grade students and realizing just what it was I’d selected for that day’s reading as a girl burst into tears.

The second I discovered as I was reading through a book of poems by a poet whose other work I’d been forced to read and analyze in AP English class, and it struck me in much the same way as Machiavelli’s The Prince, Orwell’s 1984, Card’s Ender’s Game, and Dante’s Inferno had – like someone had reached over, smacked me upside the head with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick, and demanded that I pay attention.

So, without further ado, two of my favorite poems:

Arrows, by Shel Silverstein

I shot an arrow toward the sky,
It hit a white cloud floating by.
The clould fell dying to the shore,
I don’t shoot arrows anymore.

Fire and Ice, by 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 favor 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.

Feel free to add your own in the comments. And thanks to Whythawk, whose post on Harry Potter inspired today’s rambling.

Categories: Scholarship/Theory

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  1. I think that I shall write a poem today.
    For I like to take some words and play.
    But, I really have nothing important to say,
    So, I guess the poem will end this way.

  2. “When You Are Old

    When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
    And paced among the mountains overhead
    And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

    William Butler Yeats”

    “A Drinking Song

    Wine comes in at the mouth
    And love comes in at the eye;
    That’s all we shall know for truth
    Before we grow old and die.
    I lift the glass to my mouth,
    I look at you, and sigh.

    William Butler Yeats”

    Clever guy that Yeats fellow.

    …and who cares if the book is Ms Rowling’s.

  3. Oh my – Elaine is quoting Yeats, who’s probably the greatest pure poet the English language has ever produced. Ten points to Gryffindor.

  4. Make that 20 points to Gryffindor…

    Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
    – W. B. Yeats

    Thanks, Brian, for this oasis….

  5. [sigh][smile][bask]

    t’anks for the lines by the fine Irishman. I shall scurry home and promptly find me a favorite to post.

    I have some poetry here, but it isn’t close to this league.

  6. We bind ourselves with ice and darkening sky,
    we are blood music lingering in a booth at the back of the bar,
    we fumble for wavelength on an antique dial….

    We are the disconnected generation:

    our fathers and mothers, broken on the Christian Wheel
    our unborn, more circuitry than flesh

    our brothers and sisters and friends and lovers,
    whose anesthetic memories of us are dust motes
    floating in a stained glass haze….

    But you shimmer,
    vermillion gash ripping the afterdark,
    haunting the dollhouses in Daddy’s little dreams.

    Shine it on
    burn it down
    scream until the night sky shatters

    raining shards of star and borealis
    caught, like glitterpits

    black and sparkle in the laughter of your eyes.

  7. Come, you last thing, which I acknowledge,
    unholy agony in the fleshly weave;
    just as I burned in spirit, look, I burn
    in you; the wood has long held back,
    long recoiled from those flames you blaze,
    but now I feed you and burn in you.
    Inside your rage my native mildness becomes
    a raging hell, unlike anything here.
    Without plan, completely pure, free of future
    I mounted suffering’s tangled pyre,
    so sure of nowhere buying times to come
    for this heart, its store so mute.
    Is it still I, burning here beyond recognition?
    I will not drag memories inside.
    O life, life: externality.
    And I in flame. No one knowing me.


    Love After Love

    The time will come
    when, with elation,
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror,
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

    And say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

    –Derek Walcott

    From long ago
    I had heard that to meet in love
    Could only mean to part,
    And yet I gave myself to you
    Unconscious of the coming dawn.

  8. I have returned with one of my favorites:


    The grey sea and the long black land;
    And the yellow half-moon large and low;
    And the startled little waves that leap
    In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
    As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
    And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.


    Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
    Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
    A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
    And blue spurt of a lighted match,
    And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
    Than the two hearts beating each to each!

    Robert Browning

  9. I must go down to the sea again
    The lonely sea and the sky
    I left my vest and socks there
    I wonder if they’re dry?

    Spike Milligan

  10. To Hope

    WHEN by my solitary hearth I sit,
    And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
    When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
    And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
    Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

    Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
    Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
    Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
    And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
    Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
    And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

    Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
    Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
    When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
    Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
    Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
    And fright him as the morning frightens night!

    Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
    Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
    O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
    Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
    Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

    Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
    From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
    O let me think it is not quite in vain
    To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
    Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

    In the long vista of the years to roll,
    Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
    O let me see our land retain her soul,
    Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
    From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed–
    Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

    Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
    Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
    With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
    Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
    But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
    That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

    And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
    Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
    Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
    So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
    Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
    Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.(1815)

    – John Keats

  11. ZaphodFreek: He WAS a great poet. Arguably the best who ever lived. Yes, there was a substantial measure off self-consciousness to that – he was early on a central figure – a VERY central figure – in the greatest drama in his nation’s history, its struggle for revolution. That can’t help but focus you on the idea that you’re significant. Nothing wrong with that – a lot of other writers and artists could use an equal measure of self-awareness.

    Ghost: Yeats (and Eliot and others) were coming of age at a time when Communism loomed over Europe – this was the subject of “The Second Coming,” in fact – and I think that dynamic polarized a lot of people in ways that aren’t entirely different from the polarization we have today (whatever fascist tendencies he had at the time, they were certainly no more pronounced than what we see in some of our leaders in 2007). Still, I’d argue the word “fascist,” although clearly he was an elitist in a mode that wasn’t far removed from somebody like Arnold. The things he valued were threatened and a measure of elite power was required to preserve them.

    Was he authoritarian? Sure. Was he a friend of the idea that all people are equal? Probably not. But looking back, all these decades later, I’m glad it isn’t my job to prove to a radical postmodern notion of equality, which is in reality a grand leveling project that seeks to destroy the very possibility of greatness in art, has been a good thing. We live in a culture of uncritical relativism that sneers at claims to greatness and pretend that the voice of the base and uneducated is as valid as the voice of one who has devoted his or her life to excellence.

    If we find ourselves in a public debate on the subject you can have that side.

  12. I know, I know.
    I’m Irish myself actually.
    But I still can’t help but feel a certain mesure of pretensiousness
    from his poetry.
    But that’s just personal preference.

    And he did have that whole weird thing about the universe being a giant ‘gyre’.

  13. To Ghost of Orwell: Sure, Yeats was elitist – most artists, including this one, (and Eric Blair), are. Yeats’s comment you quote, taken out of context, looks bad – but Yeats was more interested in poetry than politics – as was Orwell. As this poem demonstrates:

    `In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in
    political terms’ – Thomas Mann

    HOW can I, that girl standing there,
    My attention fix
    On Roman or on Russian
    Or on Spanish politics?
    Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
    What he talks about,
    And there’s a politician
    That has read and thought,
    And maybe what they say is true
    Of war and war’s alarms,
    But O that I were young again
    And held her in my arms!

    And can you point at one – one – communist regime that didn’t/hasn’t turned into a cult of personality totalitarian regime or an old boy oligarchy?

  14. I’m not interested in defending communism, as you know.
    There’s nothing in Orwell that is part of a great leveling, the leveling comes from people who hate science and progress. And always has.
    The poems are lovely for the most part.

    A Chamberlain of the heart is as good as a Chamberlain in action.

  15. Too few Merkins in this thread . . . .

    Portrait of a Lady, by William Carlos Williams

    YOUR thighs are appletrees
    whose blossoms touch the sky.
    Which sky? The sky
    where Watteau hung a lady’s
    slipper. Your knees
    are a southern breeze–or
    a gust of snow. Agh! what
    sort of man was Fragonard?
    –as if that answered
    anything. Ah, yes–below
    the knees, since the tune
    drops that way, it is
    one of those white summer days,
    the tall grass of your ankles
    flickers upon the shore–
    Which shore?–
    the sand clings to my lips–
    Which shore?
    Agh, petals maybe. How
    should I know?
    Which shore? Which shore?
    I said petals from an appletree.