Saturday, September 29, 2012


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   "Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Finds us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
   Learn to labor and to wait.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Te Deum

by Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

by Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That's what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand 
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain--
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Nobody Knows But Mother

   By Mary Morrison

How many buttons are missing today?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many playthings are strewn in her way?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many thimbles and spools has she missed?
How many burns on each fat little fist?
How many bumps to be cuddled and kissed?
   Nobody knows but Mother.

How many hats has she hunted today?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
Carelessly hiding themselves in the hay---
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many handkerchiefs willfully strayed?
How many ribbons for each little maid?
How for her care can a mother be paid?
  Nobody knows but Mother.

How many muddy shoes all in a row?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many stockings to darn do you know?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many little torn aprons to mend?
How many hours of toil must she spend?
What is the time when her day's work shall end?
   Nobody knows but Mother.

How many lunches for Tommy and Sam?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
Cookies and apples and blackberry jam--
   Nobody knows but Mother.
Nourishing dainties for every "sweet tooth,"
Toddling Dottie or dignified Ruth--
How much love sweetens the labor, forsooth?
   Nobody knows but Mother.

How many cares does a mother's heart know?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many joys from her mother love flow?
   Nobody knows but Mother.
How many prayers for each little white bed?
How many tears for her babes has she shed?
How many kisses for each curly head?
   Nobody knows but Mother.

We All Know It

by Marianne Moore

That silence is best: that action and re-
Action are equal: that control, discipline, and
Liberation are bywords when spoken by an appraiser, that the
   Accidental sometimes achieves perfection, loath though
     we may be to admit it:

And that the realm of art is the realm in
Which to look for "fishbones in the throat of the gang."  Pin-
Pricks and the unstereotyped embarrassment being the contin-
   Ual diet of artists.   And in spite of it all, poets ask us just what it

Is in them that we cannot subscribe to:
People overbear till told to stop:  no matter through
What sobering process they have gone, some inquire if emotion,
   And stimulated are not the same thing:  promoters request us to
     take our oath

That appearances are not cosmis:  mis-
Fits in the world of achievement want to know what bus-
Iness people have to reserve judgement about undertakings.  It is
   A strange idea that one must say what one thinks in order to
     be understood.

Prayer by Gloria Fuertes

translated from the Spanish by John Haines

You are here on earth, our Father,
for I see you in the pine needle,
in the blue torso of the worker,
in the small girl who embroiders
with bent shoulder, mixing the thread on her finger.
Our Father here on earth,
in the furrow,
in the orchard,
in the mine,
in the seaport,
in the movie house,
in the wine,
in the house of the doctor.
Our Father here on earth,
where you have your glory and your hell,
and your limbo in the cafes
where the rich have their cool drink.
Our Father who sits in school without paying,
you are in the groceryman,
and in the man who is hungry,
and in the poet--never in the usurer!
Our Father here on earth,
reading on a bench of the Prado,
you are the old man feeding breadcrumbs to the birds on the walk.
Our Father here on earth,
in the cigarette, in the kiss,
in the grain of wheat, in the hearts
of all those who are good.
Father who can live anywhere,
God who moves into any loneliness,
You who quiet our anguish, here on earth,
Our Father, yes we see you,
those of us who will see you soon,
wherever you are, or there in heaven.

Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move to keep things whole.

From A Letter to His Daughter by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit 
to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley


by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   
Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   
It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.