Favourite Poems

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Favourite Poems

Postby Michael » 02 Aug 2011, 18:05

I thought it likely that there would be at least a few people on this forum who enjoyed good poetry. I thought I would start a thread for us to share our favourites. I'll begin with one I have committed to memory:


Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

- Gerald Manley Hopkins
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Andrea » 02 Aug 2011, 23:55

This has always been one of my favourites, so much so I'd like it to be read at my funeral someday (not to be morbid, just truthful).

'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal...' by Arthur, Lord Tennyson

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Now winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thought in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Rachel » 03 Aug 2011, 10:56

I like this poem about nostalgia.


Present met Past,
Said: I am your Future.
But Past walked by
Without look or gesture.

Present then strained
To define Past's nature,
But his sight was too short
To catch every feature.

While Present looked back
Absorbed in the creature,
Future walked by;
Unseen; without gesture.


(c) Gerda Mayer, used with permission.
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Jonathan » 03 Aug 2011, 11:44

Well, if we're quoting Tennyson, I would add these lines of his, from his Morte D'Arthur -

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole ROUND TABLE is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world;
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Christopher » 04 Aug 2011, 20:16

As a corrective to my earlier contribution, I commend to you the final lines of Book XII of John Milton's Paradise Lost - in my view unsurpassed in the whole of English Literature:

So spake our mother Eve, and Adam heard
Well pleased, but answered not; for now too nigh
Th' Archangel stood, and from the other hill
To their fixed station, all in bright array
The Cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as ev'ning mist
Ris'n from a river o'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanced,
The brandished sword of God before them blazed
Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat
In either hand the hast'ning angel caught
Our ling'ring parents, and to th' eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They looking back, all th'eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Michael » 05 Aug 2011, 01:44

A swamp still skirts the mountain chain
And poisons all the land retrieved;
This marshland I hope yet to drain,
And thus surpass what we achieved.
For many millions I shall open regions
To dwell, not safe, in free and active legions.
Green are the meadows, fertile; and in mirth
Both men and herds live on this newest earth,
Settled along the edges of a hill
That has been raised by bold men's zealous will.
A veritable paradise inside,
Then let the dams be licked by raging tide;
And as it nibbles to rush in with force,
A common will fills gaps and checks its course.
This is the highest wisdom that I own,
The best that mankind ever knew:
Freedom and life are earned by those alone
Who conquer them each day anew.
Surrounded by such danger, each one thrives,
Childhood, manhood and age lead active lives.
At such a throng I would fain stare,
With free men on free ground their freedom share.

The quote is from the second part of Goethe's Faust, as translated by Walter Kaufmann. To my regret I do not know the precise location of this excerpt, having not yet read the work in its entirety. As such my interpretation can only be of what it means to me.

To me the poem is a metaphor for civilization. It is the work of generations supported and extended by bold men and women anew in each generation, who actively check any signs of descent into barbarism (the "raging tide" checked by "common will"). Described as "the highest wisdom that I own / The best that mankind ever knew", it is not a stepping stone to some utopia dreamed up by radicals, but its own end, a place for humanity to truly live, not just pass through.
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Location: Canada

Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Rachel » 26 Feb 2012, 01:33

I have been having some problems with my fibromyalgia which is a type of rhumatic pain syndrome with no treatment. By chance I was on a forum of people with both fibromyalgia and M.E. Someone there posted this poem as their signiture. It's good for anyone with chronic illness or who's gone through any difficult time:

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
...My head is bloody, but unbowed.

...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.

- from Invictus
by William Ernest Henley

It's amazing what a great store of Victorian poetry exists that I never heard of at school.

I was born and grew up in Britain and I have now lived in Israel many years. I do not like modern Israeli poetry. (I like *some* older biblical poetry even though I am not religious.)
The only modern Israeli poem I have ever liked is this one called "Satan Said" by Natan Alterman. The poet in it was predicting that the Arabs would not be able to beat Israel militarily but would try to do it through other means.
I have posted this poem here because I think it sort of applies to the West as well.

"Then Satan Said" by Natan Alterman

Satan then said:
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And talent,
And implements of war
And resourcefulness.
…only this shall I do,
I’ll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause.
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Location: Israel

Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Gavin » 26 Feb 2012, 09:51

Thanks for posting these, Rachel.
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Damo » 12 Feb 2013, 20:20

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.

Shakespeare sonnet #138
Posts: 165
Joined: 09 Aug 2011, 16:09

Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Elliott » 12 Feb 2013, 20:51

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling, 1895
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Location: Edinburgh

Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Andreas » 12 Feb 2013, 21:19

A famous poem by Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)

Выхожу один я на дорогу;
Сквозь туман кремнистый путь блестит.
Ночь тиха. Пустыня внемлет Богу,
И звезда с звездою говорит.

В небесах торжественно и чудно!
Спит земля в сиянье голубом...
Что же мне так больно и так трудно?
Жду ль чего? Жалею ли о чём?

Уж не жду от жизни ничего я,
И не жаль мне прошлого ничуть.
Я ищу свободы и покоя!
Я б хотел забыться и заснуть!

Но не тем холодным сном могилы...
Я б желал навеки так заснуть,
Чтоб в груди дремали жизни силы,
Чтоб, дыша, вздымалась тихо грудь,

Чтоб, всю ночь, весь день мой слух лелея,
Про любовь мне сладкий голос пел,
Надо мной чтоб, вечно зеленея,
Темный дуб склонялся и шумел.

Of course this poem loses in translation. Here is a literal translation, with no attempt to be poetic or to imitate the meter or rhyme of the original.

Alone I set out on the road;
Through the mist the flinty path is sparkling.
The night is still. The desert harks to God,
And star speaks with star.

There is a solemn and wonderful feeling in the heavens!
The earth sleeps in a shining blue...
Why do I feel so pained and troubled?
Am I waiting for anything? Do I regret anything?

I no longer expect anything of life,
And I have not the slightest regret for the past.
I seek freedom and peace!
I'd like to lose myself and fall sleep!

But not the cold sleep of the grave...
I'd like to fall asleep forever so that
The forces of life would doze in my breast,
My chest would gently rise and fall with my breath,

All night and all day, caressing my ear,
A sweet voice would sing to me of love,
And over me, forever green,
A dark oak tree would bend and rustle.
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Re: Favourite Poems

Postby Gavin » 12 Feb 2013, 21:45

Thanks for that - lovely.
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