My Comforter – Emily Brontë

Well hast thou spoken, and yet, not taught
A feeling strange or new;
Thou hast but roused a latent thought,
A cloud-closed beam of sunshine, brought
To gleam in open view.

Deep down, concealed within my soul,
That light lies hid from men;
Yet, glows unquenched – though shadows roll,
Its gentle ray cannot control,
About the sullen den.

Was I not vexed, in these gloomy ways
To walk alone so long?
Around me, wretches uttering praise,
Or howling o’er their hopeless days,
And each with Frenzy’s tongue; –

A brotherhood of misery,
Their smiles as sad as sighs;
Whose madness daily maddened me,
Distorting into agony
The bliss before my eyes!

So stood I, in Heaven’s glorious sun,
And in the glare of Hell;
My spirit drank a mingled tone,
Of seraph’s song, and demon’s moan;
What my soul bore, my soul alone
Within itself may tell!

Like a soft air, above a sea,
Tossed by the tempest’s stir;
A thaw-wind, melting quietly
The snow-drift, on some wintry lea;
No: what sweet thing resembles thee,
My thoughtful Comforter?

And yet a little longer speak,
Calm this resentful mood;
And while the savage heart grows meek,
For other token do not seek,
But let the tear upon my cheek
Evince my gratitude!

“My Comforter”

—written by Emily Bronte, narrated by Jordan Harling.
Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

The Walrus and the Carpenter – Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done —
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun.”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
If this were only cleared away,’
They said, it would be grand!’

If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,’ the Walrus said,
That they could get it clear?’
I doubt it,’ said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

O Oysters, come and walk with us!’
The Walrus did beseech.
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

But wait a bit,’ the Oysters cried,
Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!’
No hurry!’ said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said,
Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed —
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.’

But not on us!’ the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!’
The night is fine,’ the Walrus said.
Do you admire the view?

It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf —
I’ve had to ask you twice!’

It seems a shame,’ the Walrus said,
To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
The butter’s spread too thick!’

I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

“The Walrus and the Carpenter”

—written by Lewis Carroll, narrated by Jordan Harling.
Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

 

A Broken Appointment – Thomas Hardy

You did not come
And marching Time drew on and wore me numb—
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I when as the hope-hour stroked its sum
You did not come.

You love not me
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
–I know and knew it. But unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you a woman came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?

“A Broken Appointment”

—written by Thomas Hardy, narrated by Jordan Harling.
Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

Jabberwocky – Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock my son!
The jaws that bite the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood
The Jabberwock with eyes of flame
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Jabberwocky”

—written by Lewis Carrol, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

The Land – Rudyard Kipling

When Julius Fabricius Sub-Prefect of the Weald
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field
He called to him Hobdenius—a Briton of the Clay
Saying: “What about that River-piece for layin’ in to hay?”

And the aged Hobden answered: “I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin’ bad.
An’ the more that you neeglect her the less you’ll get her clean.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to but if I was you I’d dreen.”

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style —
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile
And in drouthy middle August when the bones of meadows show
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.

Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do
And after certain centuries Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main
And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.

Well could Ogier work his war-boat—well could Ogier wield his brand—
Much he knew of foaming waters—not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood
Saying: “What about that River-piece; she doesn’t look no good ?”

And that aged Hobden answered “‘Tain’t for me to interfere.
But I’ve known that bit o’ meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to but I’ve proved it time on ‘ time
If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!”

Ogier sent his wains to Lewes twenty hours’ solemn walk
And drew back great abundance of the cool grey healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast never heeding what was in’t—
Which is why in cleaning ditches now and then we find a flint.

Ogier died. His sons grew English—Anglo-Saxon was their name—
Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came;
For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men
And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.

But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night
And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds:
“Hob what about that River-bit—the Brook’s got up no bounds ?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “‘Tain’t my business to advise
But ye might ha’ known ‘twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can’t hold back the water you must try and save the sile.
Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to but if I was you I’d spile!”

They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willow-trees
And planks of elms behind ’em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away
You can see their faithful fragments iron-hard in iron clay.

Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto I who own the River-field
Am fortified with title-deeds attested signed and sealed
Guaranteeing me my assigns my executors and heirs
All sorts of powers and profits which—are neither mine nor theirs

I have rights of chase and warren as my dignity requires.
I can fish—but Hobden tickles—I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
I repair but he reopens certain gaps which men allege
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o’er the track-betraying dew ?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew ?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which my conies ran
And summons him to judgment ? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard—thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made;
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded rooted fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

Not for any beast that burrows not for any bird that flies
Would I lose his large sound counsel miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff woodman wheelwright field-surveyor engineer
And if flagrantly a poacher—’tain’t for me to interfere.

“Hob what about that River-bit ?” I turn to him again
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
“Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to but”—and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus’ Hobden owns the land.

“The Land”

—written by Rudyard Kipling, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

Little Birds – Lewis Carroll

Little Birds are dining
Warily and well
Hid in mossy cell:
Hid I say by waiters
Gorgeous in their gaiters –
I’ve a Tale to tell.

Little Birds are feeding
Justices with jam
Rich in frizzled ham:
Rich I say in oysters
Haunting shady cloisters –
That is what I am.

Little Birds are teaching
Tigresses to smile
Innocent of guile:
Smile I say not smirkle –
Mouth a semicircle
That’s the proper style!

Little Birds are sleeping
All among the pins
Where the loser wins:
Where I say he sneezes
When and how he pleases –
So the Tale begins.

Little Birds are writing
Interesting books
To be read by cooks:
Read I say not roasted –
Letterpress when toasted
Loses its good looks.

Little Birds are playing
Bagpipes on the shore
Where the tourists snore:
“Thanks!” they cry. “‘Tis thrilling!
Take oh take this shilling!
Let us have no more!”

Little Birds are bathing
Crocodiles in cream
Like a happy dream:
Like but not so lasting –
Crocodiles when fasting
Are not all they seem!

Little Birds are choking
Baronets with bun
Taught to fire a gun:
Taught I say to splinter
Salmon in the winter –
Merely for the fun.

Little Birds are hiding
Crimes in carpet-bags
Blessed by happy stags:
Blessed I say though beaten –
Since our friends are eaten
When the memory flags.

Little Birds are tasting
Gratitude and gold
Pale with sudden cold:
Pale I say and wrinkled –
When the bells have tinkled
And the Tale is told

“Little Birds”

—written by Lewis Carroll, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

Hélas – Oscar Wilde

To drift with every passion till my soul
Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play
Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom and austere control?
Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll
Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay
Which do but mar the secret of the whole.
Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights and from life’s dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God:
Is that time dead? Lo with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance—
And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?

“Hélas”

—written by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

Up-hill – Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea beds for all who come.

“Up-hill”

—written by Christina Rossetti, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet – Lord Alfred Tennyson

I

At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay
And a pinnace like a flutter’d bird came flying from far away;
“Spanish ships of war at sea! we have sighted fifty-three!”
Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: “’Fore God I am no coward;
But I cannot meet them here for my ships are out of gear
And the half my men are sick. I must fly but follow quick.
We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-three?”

II

Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: “I know you are no coward;
You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.
But I’ve ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.
I should count myself the coward if I left them my Lord Howard
To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.”

III

So Lord Howard past away with five ships of war that day
Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven;
But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from the land
Very carefully and slow
Men of Bideford in Devon
And we laid them on the ballast down below:
For we brought them all aboard
And they blest him in their pain that they were not left to Spain
To the thumb-screw and the stake for the glory of the Lord.

IV

He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and to fight
And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
“Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard tell us now
For to fight is but to die!
There’ll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.”
And Sir Richard said again: “We be all good Englishmen.
Let us bang these dogs of Seville the children of the devil
For I never turn’d my back upon Don or devil yet.”

V

Sir Richard spoke and he laugh’d and we roar’d a hurrah and so
The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe
With her hundred fighters on deck and her ninety sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen
And the little Revenge ran on thro’ the long sea-lane between.

VI

Thousands of their soldiers look’d down from their decks and laugh’d
Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad little craft
Running on and on till delay’d
By their mountain-like San Philip that of fifteen hundred tons
And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning tiers of guns
Took the breath from our sails and we stay’d.

VII

And while now the great San Philip hung above us like a cloud
Whence the thunderbolt will fall
Long and loud
Four galleons drew away
From the Spanish fleet that day.
And two upon the larboard and two upon the starboard lay
And the battle-thunder broke from them all.

VIII

But anon the great San Philip she bethought herself and went
Having that within her womb that had left her ill content;
And the rest they came aboard us and they fought us hand to hand
For a dozen times they came with their pikes and musqueteers
And a dozen times we shook ’em off as a dog that shakes his ears
When he leaps from the water to the land.

IX

And the sun went down and the stars came out far over the summer sea
But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three.
Ship after ship the whole night long their high-built galleons came
Ship after ship the whole night long with her battle-thunder and flame;
Ship after ship the whole night long drew back with her dead and her shame.
For some were sunk and many were shatter’d and so could fight us no more—
God of battles was ever a battle like this in the world before?

X

For he said “Fight on! fight on!”
Tho’ his vessel was all but a wreck;
And it chanced that when half of the short summer night was gone
With a grisly wound to be drest he had left the deck
But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead
And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head
And he said “Fight on! fight on!”

XI

And the night went down and the sun smiled out far over the summer sea
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round us all in a ring;
But they dared not touch us again for they fear’d that we still could sting
So they watch’d what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain
But in perilous plight were we
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain
And half of the rest of us maim’d for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife;
And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and cold
And the pikes were all broken or bent and the powder was all of it spent;
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride:
“We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore
We die—does it matter when?
Sink me the ship Master Gunner—sink her split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God not into the hands of Spain!”

XII

And the gunner said “Ay ay” but the seamen made reply:
“We have children we have wives
And the Lord hath spared our lives.
We will make the Spaniard promise if we yield to let us go;
We shall live to fight again and to strike another blow.”
And the lion there lay dying and they yielded to the foe.

XIII

And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then
Where they laid him by the mast old Sir Richard caught at last
And they praised him to his face with their courtly foreign grace;
But he rose upon their decks and he cried: 100
“I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do.
With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Grenville die!”
And he fell upon their decks and he died.

XIV

And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant and true
And had holden the power and glory of Spain so cheap
That he dared her with one little ship and his English few;
Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they knew
But they sank his body with honor down into the deep.
And they mann’d the Revenge with a swarthier alien crew
And away she sail’d with her loss and long’d for her own;
When a wind from the lands they had ruin’d awoke from sleep
And the water began to heave and the weather to moan
And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew
And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew
Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and their flags
And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shatter’d navy of Spain
And the little Revenge herself went down by the island crags
To be lost evermore in the main.

“The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet”

—written by Lord Alfred Tennyson, narrated by Jordan Harling.

Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).

 

To Autumn – John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more
And still more later flowers for the bees
Until they think warm days will never cease
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep
Drows’d with the fume of poppies while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press with patient look
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay Where are they?
Think not of them thou hast thy music too—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

“To Autumn”

—written by John Keats, narrated by Jordan Harling.
Full poem text, public domain (also available in subtitles).