Some favourite short poems

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  • ee cummings:
  • SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED
  • somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
  • any experience,your eyes have their silence:
  • in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
  • or which i cannot touch because they are too near
  • your slightest look easily will unclose me
  • though i have closed myself as fingers,
  • you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
  • (touching skillfully,mysteriously)her first rose
  • or if your wish be to close me,i and
  • my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
  • as when the heart of this flower imagines
  • the snow carefully everywhere descending;
  • nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
  • the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
  • compels me with the colour of its countries,
  • rendering death and forever with each breathing
  • (i do not know what is is about you that closes
  • and opens; only something in me understands
  • the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
  • nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
  • LORD BYRON: THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB
  • The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
  • And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
  • And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
  • When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
  • Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
  • That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
  • Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
  • That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
  • For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
  • And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:
  • And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
  • And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
  • And there lay the steed with his nostrils all wide,
  • But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride:
  • And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
  • And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
  • And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
  • With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
  • And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
  • The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
  • And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
  • And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
  • And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
  • Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
  • ROBERT BROWNING: HOME-THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD
  • O, To be in England
  • Now that April 's there,
  • And whoever wakes in England
  • Sees, some morning, unaware,
  • That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
  • Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
  • While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
  • In England--now!
  • And after April, when May follows,
  • And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
  • Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
  • Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
  • Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent spray's edge--
  • That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
  • Lest you should think he never could recapture
  • The first fine careless rapture!
  • And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
  • All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
  • The buttercups, the little children's dower
  • --Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
  • RAINER MARIA RILKE: THIS IS THE CREATURE
  • This is the creature there has never been.
  • They never knew it, and yet, none the less,
  • They loved the way it moved, its suppleness,
  • Its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.
  • Not there, because they loved it, it behaved
  • as though it were. They always left some space.
  • And in that clear unpeopled space they saved
  • it lightly reared its head, with scarce a trace
  • of not being there. They fed it, not with corn,
  • but only with the possibility of being.
  • And that was able to confer such strength,
  • its brow put forth a horn. One horn.
  • Whitely it stole up to a maid - to be
  • within the silver mirror and in her.
  • (Translation from German)
  • R.S.THOMAS: A MARRIAGE
  • We met
  • under a shower
  • of bird-notes.
  • Fifty years passed,
  • love's moment
  • in a world in
  • servitude to time.
  • She was young;
  • I kissed with my eyes
  • closed and opened
  • them on her wrinkles.
  • `Come,' said death,
  • choosing her as his
  • partner for
  • the last dance, And she,
  • who in life
  • had done everything
  • with a bird's grace,
  • opened her bill now
  • for the shedding
  • of one sigh no
  • heavier than a feather.
  • PO CHU-I: BEING ON DUTY ALL NIGHT IN THE PALACE
  • At the western window i paused from writing rescripts;
  • The pines and bamboos were all buried in stillness.
  • The moon rose and a calm wind came;
  • Suddenly, it was like an evening in the hills.
  • And so, as i dozed, i dreamed of the South West
  • And thought i was staying at the Hsien0yu temple.
  • When i woke and heard the dripping of the Palace clock
  • I still thought it the murmur of a mountain stream.
  • (Translation from Chinese)
  • SEAMUS HEANEY: THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
  • When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
  • We were eye-level with the white cups
  • Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.
  • Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
  • East and miles west beyond us, sagging
  • Under their burden of swallows.
  • We were small and thought we knew nothing
  • Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires
  • In the shiny pouches of raindrops,
  • Each one seeded full with the light
  • Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
  • So infinitesmally scaled
  • We could stream through the eye of a needle.
  • OTOMO NO YAKAMOCHI:
  • From outside my house,
  • only the faint distant sound
  • of gentle breezes
  • wandering through bamboo leaves
  • in the long evening silence.
  • Late evening finally comes:
  • I unlatch the door
  • and quietly await the one
  • who greets me in my dreams.
  • (Translation from Japanese)
  • GARY SNYDER: A SPRING NIGHT IN SHOKOKU-JI
  • Eight years ago this May
  • We walked under cherry blossoms
  • At night in an orchard in Oregon.
  • All that I wanted then
  • Is forgotten now, but you.
  • Here in the night
  • In a garden of the old capital
  • I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
  • I remember your cool body
  • Naked under a summer cotton dress.
  • WILLIAM BLAKE: THE SICK ROSE
  • O Rose, thou art sick!
  • The invisible worm
  • That flies in the night,
  • In the howling storm,
  • Has found out thy bed
  • Of crimson joy:
  • And his dark secret love
  • Does thy life destroy.
  • EMILY DICKINSON: AS IMPERCEPTIBLY AS GRIEF
  • As imperceptibly as Grief
  • The Summer lapsed away-
  • -Too imperceptible, at last,
  • To seem like Perfidy-
  • -A Quietness distilled,
  • As Twilight long begun,
  • Or Nature, spending with herself
  • Sequestered Afternoon-
  • -The Dusk drew earlier in-
  • -The Morning foreign shone-
  • -A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
  • As Guest who would be gone-
  • -And thus, without a Wing,
  • Or service of a Keel,
  • Our Summer made her light escape
  • Into the Beautiful.
  • SALVADOR ESPRIU:THE GARDEN OF FIVE TREES
  • Later, when i was already in great pain and almost all
  • I could do was smile,
  • I chose the simplestwords to tell myself
  • how the sun's momentary gold had crossed the ivy
  • of the garden of five trees.
  • Fleeting yellow, of sunset,in winter, while the winding
  • water's final fingers
  • fell from the high clouds
  • and the strange time entered me
  • in jails of silence.
  • (Translation from Catalan)

Never read Rilke's poem "The Panther"?