Poems

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).

 

Hymn to Love – Lascelles Abercrombie

 

We are thine, O Love, being in thee and made of thee,
As thou, Love, were the deep thought
And we the speech of the thought; yea, spoken are we,
Thy fires of thought out-spoken:

But burn’d not through us thy imagining
Like fierce mood in a song caught,
We were as clamour’d words a fool may fling,
Loose words, of meaning broken.

For what more like the brainless speech of a fool,–
The lives travelling dark fears,
And as a boy throws pebbles in a pool
Thrown down abysmal places?

Hazardous are the stars, yet is our birth
And our journeying time theirs;
As words of air, life makes of starry earth
Sweet soul-delighted faces;

As voices are we in the worldly wind;
The great wind of the world’s fate
Is turned, as air to a shapen sound, to mind
And marvellous desires.

But not in the world as voices storm-shatter’d,
Not borne down by the wind’s weight;
The rushing time rings with our splendid word
Like darkness filled with fires.

For Love doth use us for a sound of song,
And Love’s meaning our life wields,
Making our souls like syllables to throng
His tunes of exultation.

Down the blind speed of a fatal world we fly,
As rain blown along earth’s fields;
Yet are we god-desiring liturgy,
Sung joys of adoration;

Yea, made of chance and all a labouring strife,
We go charged with a strong flame;
For as a language Love hath seized on life
His burning heart to story.

Yea, Love, we are thine, the liturgy of thee.
Thy thought’s golden and glad name,
The mortal conscience of immortal glee,
Love’s zeal in Love’s own glory.

“Hymn to Love”

—written by Lascelles Abercrombie, narrated by Jordan Harling.

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

 

Song at Sunset – Walt Whitman

Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!
Hour prophetic–hour resuming the past!
Inflating my throat–you, divine average!
You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing.

Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness,
Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection,
Natural life of me, faithfully praising things;
Corroborating forever the triumph of things.

Illustrious every one!
Illustrious what we name space–sphere of unnumber’d spirits;
Illustrious the mystery of motion, in all beings, even the tiniest
insect;
Illustrious the attribute of speech–the senses–the body;
Illustrious the passing light! Illustrious the pale reflection on the
new moon in the western sky!
Illustrious whatever I see, or hear, or touch, to the last.

Good in all,
In the satisfaction and aplomb of animals,
In the annual return of the seasons,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age,
In the superb vistas of Death.

Wonderful to depart;
Wonderful to be here!
The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood!
To breathe the air, how delicious!
To speak! to walk! to seize something by the hand!
To prepare for sleep, for bed–to look on my rose-color’d flesh;
To be conscious of my body, so satisfied, so large;
To be this incredible God I am;
To have gone forth among other Gods–these men and women I love.

Wonderful how I celebrate you and myself!
How my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around!
How the clouds pass silently overhead!
How the earth darts on and on! and how the sun, moon, stars, dart on
and on!
How the water sports and sings! (Surely it is alive!)
How the trees rise and stand up–with strong trunks–with branches
and leaves!
(Surely there is something more in each of the tree–some living
Soul.)

O amazement of things! even the least particle!
O spirituality of things!
O strain musical, flowing through ages and continents–now reaching
me and America!
I take your strong chords–I intersperse them, and cheerfully pass
them forward.

I too carol the sun, usher’d, or at noon, or, as now, setting,
I too throb to the brain and beauty of the earth, and of all the
growths of the earth,
I too have felt the resistless call of myself.

As I sail’d down the Mississippi,
As I wander’d over the prairies,
As I have lived–As I have look’d through my windows, my eyes,
As I went forth in the morning–As I beheld the light breaking in the
east;
As I bathed on the beach of the Eastern Sea, and again on the beach
of the Western Sea;
As I roam’d the streets of inland Chicago–whatever streets I have
roam’d;
Or cities, or silent woods, or peace, or even amid the sights of war;
Wherever I have been, I have charged myself with contentment and
triumph.

I sing the Equalities, modern or old,
I sing the endless finales of things;
I say Nature continues–Glory continues;
I praise with electric voice;
For I do not see one imperfection in the universe;
And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the
universe.

O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated
adoration.

“Song at Sunset”

—written by Walt Whitman, narrated by Jordan Harling.

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

 

La Belle Dame Sans Merci – John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing

“La Belle Dame sans Merci”

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

 

The Ruined Maid – Thomas Hardy

“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “At home in the barton you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

———————————————–

The Ruined Maid – written by Thomas Hardy. Narrated by Jordan Harling.

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

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