Greatest Poem

  • #51
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"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
 
  • #52
29
0
Note the last few lines of this poem :)

"Lobsters," by Howard Nemerov

Here at the Super Duper, in a glass tank
Supplied by a rill of cold fresh water
Running down a glass washboard at one end
And siphoned off at the other, and so
Perpetually renewed, a herd of lobster
Is made available to the customer
Who may choose whichever one he wants
to carry home and drop into boiling water
And serve with a sauce of melted butter.
Meanwhile, the beauty of strangeness marks
These creatures, who move (when they do)
With a slow, vague wavering of claws,
The somnambulist's effortless clambering
As he crawls over the shell of a dream
Resembling himself. Their velvet colors,
Mud red, bruise purple, cadaver green
Speckled with black, their camouflage at home,
Make them conspicuous here in the strong
Day-imitating light, the incommensurable
Philosophers and at the same time victims
Herded together in the marketplace, asleep
Except for certain tentative gestures
Of their antennae, or their imperial claws
Pegged shut with a whittled stick at the wrist.
We inlanders, buying our needful food,
Pause over these slow, gigantic spiders
That spin not. We pause and are bemused,
And sometimes it happens that a mind sinks down
to the blind abyss in a swirl of sand, goes cold
And archaic in a carapace of horn,
Thinking: There's something underneath the world.
The flame beneath the pot that boils the water.
 
  • #53
29
0
The Buried Life by Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!

Fate, which forsaw
How frivolous a baby man would be--
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity--
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And wehave been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one at all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course of for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well--but t'is not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power,
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.
Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur, and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm prevades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.
 
  • #54
29
0
Two poems by Dorothy Parker

Interior

Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat
And set in decorous lines;
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.
-----

Godmother

The day that I was christened-
It's a hundred years, and more!-
A hag came and listened
At the white church door,
A-hearing her that bore me
And all my kith and kin
Considerately, for me,
Renouncing sin.
While some gave me corals,
And some gave me gold,
And porringers, with morals
Agreeably scrolled,
The hag stood, buckled
In a dim gray cloak;
Stood there and chuckled,
Spat, and spoke:
"There's few enough in life'll
Be needing my help,
But I've got a trifle
For your fine young whelp.
I give her sadness,
And the gift of pain,
The new-moon madness,
And the love of rain."
And little good to lave me
In their holy silver bowl
After what she gave me-
Rest her soul!
 
  • #55
29
0
This one is nice in some quite causal way -

"If I should learn, in some quite casual way" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
 
  • #56
469
0
Not into much poety, but I'd have to go with The Raven.
 
  • #57
marcus
Science Advisor
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Tigers2B1 said:
"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

this of mary oliver is so nice I have to go find another of hers to put with it.
I am thinking of "hummingbird stops by a trumpet vine" or some such title. You probably know it. Having two will show to what extent you chose best.

Mary Oliver
Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine


Who doesn't love
roses, and who
doesn't love the lilies
of the black ponds

floating like flocks
of tiny swans,
and of course the flaming
trumpet vine

where the hummingbird comes
like a small green angel, to soak
his dark tongue
in happiness---

and who doesn't want
to live with the brisk
motor of his heart
singing

like a Schubert,
and his eyes
working and working like those days of rapture,
by Van Gogh, in Arles?

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering---
most of the world is time

when we're not here,
not born yet, or died---
a slow fire
under the earth with all

our dumb wild blind cousins
who also
can't even remember anymore
their own happiness---

Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost
forever.
 
Last edited:
  • #58
marcus
Science Advisor
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Tigers2B1 said:
This one is nice in some quite causal way -

"If I should learn, in some quite casual way" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

this is extremely fine
and makes me want to put another one of hers with it
you know the one I will chose and probably would not have
included it in you sample---it is so well-known. another sonnet
but the form is Petrarchian rather than, as with the one you chose, Shakespearian


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
 
  • #59
reilly
Science Advisor
1,077
1
This thread is turning into a wonderful anthology indeed.

I'm very partial to Louis MacNeice, in no small measure for the four lines:

Good-bye now Plato and Hegel,
The shop is closing down;
They don't want any philosopher-kings in England.
There ain't no universals in this man's town.

From Autumn Journal(1939), his long, long journal during the time of the ascent of Hitler, Stalin, the brutality of the Spanish Civil War, British appeasement and the tango of the English and American intellectuals with the left.

Regards,
Reilly Atkinson
 
  • #60
Stevie Smith - Our Bog is Dood

Our Bog is dood, our Bog is dood,
They lisped in accents mild,
But when I asked them to explain
They grew a little wild.
How do you know your Bog is dood
My darling little child?

We know because we wish it so
That is enough, they cried,
And straight within each infant eye
Stood up the flame of pride,
And if you do not think it so
You shall be crucified.

Then tell me, darling little ones,
What's dood, suppose Bog is?
Just what we think, the answer came,
Just what we think it is.
They bowed their heads. Our Bog is ours
And we are wholly his.

But when they raised them up again
They had forgotten me
Each one upon each other glared
In pride and misery
For what was dood, and what their Bog
They never could agree.

Oh sweet it was to leave them then,
And sweeter not to see,
And sweetest of all to walk alone
Beside the encroaching sea,
The sea that soon should drown them all,
That never yet drowned me.
 
  • #61
Njorl
Science Advisor
267
14
I can't believe I haven't added Jabberwocky to the list

JABBERWOCKY
by 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.
 
  • #62
marcus
Science Advisor
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Dearly Missed
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One could have a thread just for sonnets. this is my second response to the Edna St.V.M. sonnet that Tiger posted earlier

Brennen, in this thread, put some tercets of Dante and then translated them. I liked this. It is good to see a formal poem in two languages.

So I will do that with the Borges sonnet---first try to recall Richard Wilbur's english from memory and then go find a link to the original

One thing does not exist. Oblivion.
god saves the metal and he saves the dross
and his prophetic memory guards from loss
the moons to come and those of evenings gone
everything IS--the shadows in the glass
which in between the days two twilights, you
have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
henceforward in the mirror as you pass.

And everything is part of that diverse
crystalline memory, the universe
Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
hears door on door click shut, behind his stride,
and only from the sunset's farther side
shall view at last the Archetypes and Splendors.

yeeeee hahhhh!

I think of this sonnet as being about the 4D universe--- about a spacetime
which is a crystalline memory of all that has happened and will happen

Here is a link to the spanish original (and the English properly punctuated, not from memory)
Thanks to Letralia.com for posting the poem
http://www.letralia.com/58/en02-058.htm
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=247183#post247183



A sonnet is like a Law of Nature, I mean, a really good sonnet, like the one
that tiger posted by Edna StVM

Tigers2B1 said:
This one is nice in some quite casual way
"If I should learn, in some quite casual way" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
 
Last edited:
  • #63
933
0
This poem of Whitman has always given me the chills:
"WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars."
 
  • #64
Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
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That Whitman poem reminded me of the following (not a poem, so I don't know if it's okay to post it here) :

Metallica's Lyrics - Wherever I May Roam

...and the road becomes my bride
I have stripped of all but pride
So in her I do confide
And she keeps me satisfied
Gives me all I need

...and with dust in throat I crave
Only knowledge will I save
To the game you stay a slave
Rover wanderer
Nomad vagabond
Call me what you will

But I’ll take my time anywhere
Free to speak my mind anywhere
And I’ll redefine anywhere
Anywhere I may roam
Where I lay my head is home

...and the earth becomes my throne
I adapt to the unknown
Under wandering stars I’ve grown
By myself but not alone
I ask no one

...and my ties are severed clean
The less I have the more I gain
Off the beaten path I reign
Rover wanderer
Nomad vagabond
Call me what you will

But I’ll take my time anywhere
I’m free to speak my mind anywhere
And I’ll never mind anywhere
Anywhere I may roam
Where I lay my head is home

But I’ll take my time anywhere
Free to speak my mind
And I’ll take my find anywhere
Anywhere I may roam
Where I lay my head is home

Carved upon my stone
My body lies, but still I roam
Wherever I may roam
 
  • #65
My favorite poem as a spoonerism

Wopping by Stoods on an Owing Stevening
Woose hoods ease thare; I knink i thoe.
His vouse is in; The thillage hoe.
We hill sot nee me hopping stere;
Woo hotch his foods will up snith woe.

My hittle lorse must quink it theer;
To wop stithout a narmhouse fear.
Wetween the boods and lozen frake;
The arkest deevening of yuh dear.

He hives his garness shells a bake;
To thask if air is mum sistake.
The unly oather swounds the seep;
of weasy ind and flowny dake.

The doods are dovely, wark, and leep;
Hut I bav kromises to peep.
And giles to mow sefore I bleep;
And giles to mow sefore I bleep.

~Frobert Rost
 
  • #66
Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
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Hey, you really have sand in yor ears, don't you ?
 

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