Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression and we are ever and anon reminded of them.
Henry David Thoreau
Anna Laetitia Barbauld (June 20, 1743 – March 9, 1825)
Awake, my soul! lift up thine eyes,
See where thy foes against thee rise,
In long array, a numerous host;
Awake, my soul! or thou art lost.
Here giant Danger threatening stands
Mustering his pale terrific bands;
There Pleasure’s silken banners spread,
And willing souls are captive led.
See where rebellious passions rage,
And fierce desires and lusts engage;
The meanest foe of all the train
Has thousands and ten thousands slain.
Thou tread’st upon enchanted ground,
Perils and snares beset thee round;
Beware of all, guard every part,
But most, the traitor in thy heart.
“Come then, my soul, now learn to wield
The weight of thine immortal shield;”
Put on the armour from above
Of heavenly truth and heavenly love.
The terror and the charm repel,
And powers of earth, and powers of hell;
The Man of Calvary triumphed here;
Why should his faithful followers fear?
Painting by Nikolay Bogdanov Belsky
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,
Some in their garments though new–fangled ill;
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than hawks and horses be;
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast:
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.
Sculpture by Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi (1460 – 1528)
O Gather Me the Rose by William Ernest Henley (23rd August, 1849 – 11st July, 1903)
O gather me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it.
For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed foreborn forever,
The worm Regret will canker on,
And time will turn him never.
So were it well to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The fate beneath us, and above,
The dark before and after.
The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes
The memories that follow!
Paradise: In a Dream by Christina Rossetti (5th December, 1830 – 29th December, 1894)
Once in a dream I saw the flowers
That bud and bloom in Paradise;
More fair they are than waking eyes
Have seen in all this world of ours.
And faint the perfume–bearing rose,
And faint the lily on its stem,
And faint the perfect violet
Compared with them.
I heard the songs of Paradise:
Each bird sat singing in his place;
A tender song so full of grace
It soared like incense to the skies.
Each bird sat singing to his mate
Soft cooing notes among the trees:
The nightingale herself were cold
To such as these.
I saw the fourfold River flow,
And deep it was, with golden sand;
It flowed between a mossy land
With murmured music grave and low.
It hath refreshment for all thirst,
For fainting spirits strength and rest:
Earth holds not such a draught as this
From east to west.
The Tree of Life stood budding there,
Abundant with its twelvefold fruits;
Eternal sap sustains its roots,
Its shadowing branches fill the air.
Its leaves are healing for the world,
Its fruit the hungry world can feed,
Sweeter than honey to the taste
And balm indeed.
I saw the gate called Beautiful;
And looked, but scarce could look, within;
I saw the golden streets begin,
And outskirts of the glassy pool.
Oh harps, oh crowns of plenteous stars,
Oh green palm-branches many–leaved–
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
Nor heart conceived.
I hope to see these things again,
But not as once in dreams by night;
To see them with my very sight,
And touch, and handle, and attain:
To have all Heaven beneath my feet
For narrow way that once they trod;
To have my part with all the saints,
And with my God.
Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757 – 1825), the illustrious Russian painter of Ukrainian origin, painted the portrait of Maria Lopukhina in 1797.
Poet Yakov Polonsky (18th December, 1819 – 30th October, 1898) paid a glowing tribute to this lyrical creation of Borovikovsk’s.
Long since she passed away: no more those eyes,
No more that smile which tacitly expressed
The suffering of her love and her sad thoughts
But her beauty Borovikovsky has preserved.
Her soul, in part, is therefore with us still
And this her gaze and this her body’s char
Will fascinate indifferent generation,
To love, to suffer, to forgive and to be silent.
- Of My Sweet Ardour by Yakov Polonsky (ipseand.wordpress.com)
Perhaps You’d Like to Buy a Flower?
Emily Dickinson (10th December, 1830 – 15th May, 1886)
Perhaps you’d like to buy a flower?
But I could never sell.
If you would like to borrow
Until the daffodil
Unties her yellow bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the bees, from clover rows
Their hock and sherry draw,
Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!
- I’m Nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson (ipseand.wordpress.com)
- Hope is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson (ipseand.wordpress.com)
- Nobody Knows this Little Rose by Emily Dickinson (ipseand.wordpress.com)
A King’s Soliloquy [On the Night of His Funeral]
Thomas Hardy (2nd June 1840 – 11th January, 1928)
From the slow march and muffled drum,
And crowds distrest,
And book and bell, at length I have come
To my full rest.
A ten years’ rule beneath the sun
Is wound up here,
And what I have done, what left undone,
Figures out clear.
Yet in the estimate of such
It grieves me more
That I by some was loved so much
Than that I bore,
From others, judgment of that hue
Breeds from a theoretic view
Of regal scope.
For kingly opportunities
Right many have sighed;
How best to bear its devilries
Those learn who have tried!
I have eaten the fat and drunk the sweet,
Lived the life out
From the first greeting glad drum-beat
To the last shout.
What pleasure earth affords to kings
I have enjoyed
Through its long vivid pulse-stirrings
Even till it cloyed.
What days of strain, what nights of stress
Can cark a throne,
Even one maintained in peacefulness,
I too have known.
And so, I think, could I step back
To life again,
I should prefer the average track
Of average men,
Since, as with them, what kingship would
It cannot do,
Nor to first thoughts however good
Hold itself true.
Something binds hard the royal hand,
As all that be,
And it is That has shaped, has planned
My acts and me.
Little Night Prayer by Péter Kántor (born November 5, 1949)
(translated by Michael Blumenthal)
Lord, I’m tired,
the bunion on my right foot is throbbing,
I worry about myself.
Who is this anguished man, Lord?
it can’t be me,
so woeful and sluggish.
I would like to trust quietly,
but like waves in the ocean,
tempers bubble up in me.
I try a smile,
but some hairdespair
This isn’t all right, Lord,
feel pity for me, be scared,
reward my endeavors.
Evaluate things with me,
delete with my own hand
what isn’t needed.
Taste with me what needs to be tasted,
and say to me:
this is sweet! this is sour!
of the small red car,
of something that was good.
There was a lot that was good, wasn’t there?
a lot of sunken islands,
Place a net into my hands
to fish with, in the past
and in the present.
I’m a fish too, in the night,
Turn me inside out, freshen me up,
throw me up high and catch me!
What’s it to you, Lord?
If you must,
lay down your cards,
show me something new.
How your leaves fall!
your sun scorches
your wind whistles.
Speak to me!
Talk with me through the night,
it’s nothing to you, Lord!