Archive for Poetry

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on October 26, 2016 by telescoper

This very famous and very wonderful sonnet, considered the highlight of Keats’s first volume of poetry, was written on this day in October 1816 and is thus exactly 200 years old.  It was originally a gift for his friend, Charles Cowden Clarke. The two men had spent an evening reading George Chapman’s superb 17th century translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. Here is the original hand-written version (which I got here)


And here’s a more legible version:

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific–and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise–
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

A Day in Autumn – National Poetry Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on October 6, 2016 by telescoper

It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Posted to mark National Poetry Day.

Autumn Dreams

Posted in Open Access, Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , on October 2, 2016 by telescoper

I know the year is dying,
Soon the summer will be dead.
I can trace it in the flying
Of the black crows overhead;
I can hear it in the rustle
Of the dead leaves as I pass,
And the south wind’s plaintive sighing
Through the dry and withered grass.

Ah, ’tis then I love to wander,
Wander idly and alone,
Listening to the solemn music
Of sweet nature’s undertone;
Wrapt in thoughts I cannot utter,
Dreams my tongue cannot express,
Dreams that match the autumn’s sadness
In their longing tenderness.

by Mortimer Crane Brown (1857-1907)

Indian Summer, by Emily Dickinson

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on September 15, 2016 by telescoper

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, —
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).



Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on September 11, 2016 by telescoper

What’s that fluttering in a breeze?
Its just a piece of cloth
that brings a nation to its knees.

What’s that unfurling from a pole?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that makes the guts of men grow bold.

What’s that rising over a tent?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that dares the coward to relent.

What’s that flying across a field?
It’s just a piece of cloth
that will outlive the blood you bleed.

How can I possess such a cloth?
Just ask for a flag my friend.
Then blind your conscience to the end.

by John Agard (b. 1949)

The Summer Rain

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 20, 2016 by telescoper

And now the cordial clouds have shut all in, 
And gently swells the wind to say all’s well; 
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin, 
Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell. 

I am well drenched upon my bed of oats; 
But see that globe come rolling down its stem, 
Now like a lonely planet there it floats, 
And now it sinks into my garment’s hem. 

Drip drip the trees for all the country round, 
And richness rare distills from every bough; 
The wind alone it is makes every sound, 
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below. 

For shame the sun will never show himself, 
Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so; 
My dripping locks–they would become an elf, 
Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

I Journeyed from University to University

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 14, 2016 by telescoper

I journeyed from university to university, and I saw everywhere the past rebuilt before the eyes of young men and young women — Egypt, Greece, Rome; language, architecture, laws –saw the earth and sky explained, and the habits of mind and the habits of body —

Everywhere chairs of this and that, largely endowed.

But nowhere saw I a chair of the human heart.

by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)