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Our Favorite Poems

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Poetry - by Duane Bristow

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by Henry David Thoreau
Light-winged Smoke, Icarian bird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight,
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn
Circling above the hamlets as they nest;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
By night star-veiling, and by day
Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
Go thou my incense upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.
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by Henry David Thoreau
Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the dasied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of the lake and seas and rivers,
Bear only purfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men's fields!
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by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

                    By Robert Frost

        Whose woods these are I think I know,
        His house is in the village though.
        He will not see me stopping here,
        To watch his woods fill up with snow.

        My little horse must think it queer,
        To stop without a farmhouse near,
        Between the woods and frozen lake,
        The darkest evening of the year.

        He gives his harness bells a shake,
        To ask if there is some mistake.
        The only other sound's the sweep,
        Of easy wind and downy flake.

        The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
        But I have promises to keep,
        And miles to go before I sleep,
        And miles to go before I sleep.

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Do You Fear the Wind?

                                By Hamlin Garland

        Do you fear the force of the wind,
        The slash of the rain?
        Go face them and fight them,
        Be savage again.
        Go hungry and cold like the wolf.
        Go wade like the crane.
        The palms of your hands will thicken.
        The skin of your cheek will tan.
        You'll grow ragged and weary and swarthy.
        But you'll walk like a man!

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Apparently with no Surprise

              By Emily Dickenson

        Apparently with no surprise,
        To any happy flower, 
        The frost beheads it at its play,
        In accidental power.
        The blond assassin passes on.
        The sun proceeds unmoved,
        To measure off another day,
        For an approving God.

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The Day Came Slow

               By Emily Dickenson

        The day came slow, till five o'clock,
        Then sprang before the hills,
        Like hindered rubies, or the light,
        A sudden musket spills.

        The purple could not keep the east.
        The sunrise shook from fold.
        Like breadths of topaz, packed a night,
        The lady just unrolled.

        The happy winds their timbrels took;
        The birds in docile rows,
        Arranged themselves around their prince.
        (The wind is prince of those.)

        The orchard sparkled like a Jew,---
        How mighty 'twas to stay, 
        A guest in this stupendous place,
        The parlor of the day.

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The Isles of Greece

                    By Lord Byron

        The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
        Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
        Where grew the arts of war and peace,
        Where Delos rose, and Phoebus
        Eternal summer gilds them yet,
        But all, except their sun, is set...

        The mountains look on Marathon--
        And Marathon looks on the sea;
        And musing there an hour alone,
        I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
        For standing on the Persians' grave,
        I could not deem myself a slave.

        A king sat on the rocky brow
        Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis;
        And ships, by thousands, lay below,
        And men in nations--all were his!
        He counted them at break of day--
        And when the sun set, where were they?

        And where are they?  And where art thou?
        My country?  On thy voiceless shore
        The heroic lay is tuneless now--
        The heroic bosom beats no more!
        And must thy lyre, so long divine,
        Degenerate into hands like mine?

        'Tis something, in the dearth of fame, 
        Though linked among a fettered race,
        To feel at least a patriot's shame,
        Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
        For what is left the poet here?
        For Greeks a blush--for Greece a tear....

        Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
        Our virgins dance beneath the shade--
        I see their glorious black eyes shine;
        But gazing on each glowing maid,
        My own the burning teardrop laves,
        To think such breasts must suckle slaves.

        Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,
        Where nothing, save the waves and I,
        May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
        There, swanlike, let me sing and die:
        A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine--
        Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

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The Day is Done

          By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

        The day is done, and the darkness
        Falls from the wing of Night,
        As a feather is wafted downward 
        From an eagle in its flight.

        I see the lights of the village 
        Gleam through the rain and mist,
        And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me,
        That my soul cannot resist.

        A feeling of sadness and longing,
        That is not akin to pain,
        And resembles sorrow only
        As the mist resembles rain.

        Come, read to me some poem,
        Some simple and heartfelt lay,
        That shall soothe this restless feeling
        And banish the thoughts of day....
        Not from the grand old masters, 
        Not from the bards sublime,
        Whose distant footsteps echo 
        Through the corridors of Time.
        For, like strains of martial music, 
        Their mighty thoughts suggest
        Life's endless toil and endeavor; 
        And to-night I long for rest.
        Read from some humbler poet, 
        Whose songs gush'd from his heart,
        As showers from the clouds of summer, 
        Or tears from the eyelids start,
        Who, through long days of labor, 
        And nights devoid of ease,
        Still heard in his soul the music 
        Of wonderful melodies.
        Such songs have power to quiet 
        The restless pulse of care,
        And come like the benediction 
        That follows after prayer.
        Then read from the treasured volume 
        The poem of thy choice;
        And lend to the rhyme of the poet 
        The beauty of thy voice.
        And the night shall be filled with music, 
        And the cares that infest the day,
        Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
        And as silently steal away.

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First Fig

        My candle burns at both ends,
        It will not last the night, 
        But ah my foes and oh my friends 
        It gives a lovely light.

                                Edna St. Vincent Millay

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                By William Cullen Bryant

        To him who in the love of nature holds
        Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
        A various language; for his gayer hours
        She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
        And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
        Into his darker musings, with a mild
        And healing sympathy, that steals away
        Their sharpness, ere he is aware.  When thoughts
        Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
        Over thy spirit, and sad images
        Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
        And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
        Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart-
        Go forth, under the open sky, and list
        To nature's teachings, while from all around-
        Earth and her waters, and the depths of air-
        Comes a still voice-yet a few days, and thee
        The all-beholding sun shall see no more
        In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
        Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
        Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
        Thy images.  Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
        Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
        And, lost each human trace, surrending up
        Thine individual being, shalt thou go
        To mix forever with the elements,
        To be a brother to the insensible rock
        And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
        Turns with his share, and treads upon.  The oak
        Shall send his roots a broad, and pierce thy mold.

        Yet not to thine eternal resting place
        Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
        Couch more magnificent.  Thou shalt lie down
        With patriarchs of the infant world - with kings,
        The powerful of the earth - the wise, the good, 
        Fair forms, and hoary seen of ages past,
        All in one mighty sepulcher.  The hills
        Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun - the vales
        Stretching in pensive quietness between;
        The venerable woods - rivers that move
        In majesty, and the complaining brooks
        That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,

        Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste -
        Are but the solemn decorations all
        Of the great tomb of man.  The golden sun,
        The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
        Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
        Through the still lapse of ages.  All that tread
        The globe are but a handful to the tribes
        That slumber in its bosom.  Take the wings
        Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
        Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
        Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
        Save his own dashings - yet the dead are there;
        And millions in those solitudes, since first
        The flight of years began, have laid them down
        In their last sleep - the dead reign there alone.
        So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
        In silence from the living, and no friend 
        Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
        Will share thy destiny.  The gay will laugh 
        When thou art gone, the solemn broad of care
        Plod on, and each one as before will chase 
        His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
        Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
        And make their bed with thee.  As the long train
        Of ages glides away, the sons of men,
        The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
        In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
        The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man -
        Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
        By those who in their turn shall follow them.

        So live, that when thy summons comes to join
        The innumerable caravan, which moves
        To that mysterious realm where each shall take 
        His chamber in the silent halls of death, 
        Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
        Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed 
        By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
        Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
        About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

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Annabel Lee

        "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

        It was many and many a year ago,
          In a kingdom by the sea
        That a maiden there lived whom you may know
          By the name of Annabel Lee--
        And this maiden she lived with no other thought
          Than to love and be loved by me.

        *I* was a child and *she* was a child,
          In this kingdom by the sea,
        But we loved with a love that was more than love--
          I and my Annabel Lee--
        With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
          Coveted her and me.

        And this was the reason that, long ago,
          In this kingdom by the sea,
        A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
          My beautiful Annabel Lee;
        So that her highborn kinsmen came
          And bore her away from me,
        To shut her up in a sepulchre
          In this kingdom by the sea.

        The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
          Went envying her and me--
        Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
          In this kingdom by the sea)
        That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
          Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

        But our love it was stronger by far than the love
          Of those who were older than we--
          Of many far wiser than we--
        And neither the angels in heaven above,
          Nor the demons down under the sea,
        Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

        For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
        And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
        And so, all the night-tide, I lay down by the side
        Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
          In the sepulchre there by the sea--
          In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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The Cremation of Sam McGee

        There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold,
        And the arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold.
        The northern lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
        Was the night on the marge of Lake LaBarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.

        Now, Sam McGee was from Tennessee
        Where the cotton blooms and blows.
        Why he left his home in the south to roam
        'Round the pole, God only knows.
        He was always cold, but the land of gold
        Seemed to hold him like a spell,
        Though he'd often say, in his homely way,
        He'd sooner live in hell.

        On a Christmas day we were mushing our way
        Over the Dawson Trail.
        Talk of your cold--through the parka's fold
        It stabbed like a driven nail.
        If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze
        'Till sometimes we couldn't see.
        It wasn't much fun, but the only one
        To whimper was Sam McGee.

        And that very night as we lay packed tight
        In our robes beneath the snow,
        And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead
        Were dancing heel and toe,
        He turned to me, and "Cap", says he,
        "I'll cash in this trip, I guess,
        And if I do, I'm asking that you
        Won't refuse my last request."

        Well, he seemed so low I couldn't say no,
        And he says with a sort of moan,
        "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold
        'Till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
        Yet 'ta'int being dead, it's my awful dread
        Of the icy grave that pains,
        So I want you to swear that, foul or fair,
        You'll cremate my last remains."

        A pal's last need is a thing to heed,
        And I swore that I would not fail.
        We started on at the streak of dawn,
        But, God, he looked ghastly pale.
        He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
        Of his home in Tennessee,
        And before nightfall, a corpse was all
        That was left of Sam McGee.

        There wasn't a breath in that land of death
        As I hurried, horror driven,
        With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid
        Because of a promise given.
        It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say,
        "You may tax your brawn and brains,
        But you promised true, and it's up to you
        To cremate those last remains."

        Now, a promise made is a debt unpaid,
        And the trail has its own stern code.
        In the days to come, 'though my lips were dumb,
        In my heart, how I cursed the load.
        In the long, long night by the lone firelight
        While the huskies 'round in a ring
        Howled out their woes to the homeless snows
        Oh, God, how I loathed the thing.

        And every day that quiet clay
        Seemed to heavy and heavier grow.
        And on I went, though the dogs were spent
        And the grub was getting low.
        The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
        But I swore I would not give in,
        And often I'd sing to the hateful thing,
        And it hearkened with a grin.

        'Till I came to the marge of Lake LaBarge,
        And a derelict there lay.
        It was jammed in the ice, and I saw in a trice
        It was called the "Alice May".
        I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
        And I looked at my frozen chum,
        Then, "Here", said I, with a sudden cry,
        "Is my crematorium."

        Some planks I tore from the cabin floor
        And lit the boiler fire.
        Some coal I found that was lying around
        And heaped the fuel higher.
        The flames just soared, and the furnace roared,
        Such a blaze you seldom see.
        Then I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal
        And I stuffed in Sam McGee.

        Then I made a hike, for I didn't like
        To hear him sizzle so.
        And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
        And the wind began to blow.
        It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
        Down my cheek, and I don't know why,
        And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
        Went streaking down the sky.

        I do not know how long in the snow
        I wrestled with gristly fear.
        But the stars came out, and they danced about
        'Ere again I ventured near.
        I was sick with dread, but I bravely said,
        "I'll just take a peek inside.
        I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked",
        And the door I opened wide.

        And there sat Sam, looking calm and cool
        In the heart of the furnace roar.
        He wore a smile you could see a mile,
        And he said, "Please close that door.
        It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
        You'll let in the cold and storm.
        Since I left Plumbtree down in Tennessee
        It's the first time I've been warm."

        There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold,
        And the arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold.
        The northern lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
        Was the night on the marge of Lake LaBarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.


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Kansas - Vachel Lindsay

Thanks to SBellatti@aol.com for sending me this poem.
        Oh, I have walked in Kansas
        Through many a harvest field,
        And piled the sheaves of glory there
        And down the wild rows reeled:
        Each sheaf a little yellow sun,
        A heap of hot-rayed gold;
        Each binder like Creation's hand
        To mold suns, as of old.
        Straight overhead the orb of noon
        Beat down with brimstone breath:
        The desert wind from south and west 
        Was blistering flame and death.
        Yet it was gay in Kansas,
        A-fighting that strong sun;
        And I and many a fellow-tramp
        Defied that wind and won.
        And we felt free in Kansas
        From any sort of fear,
        For thirty thousand tramps like us
        There harvest every year.
        She stretches arms for them to come,
        She roars for helpers then,
        And so it is in Kansas
        That tramps, one month, are men.
        We sang in burning Kansas
        The songs of Sabbath-school,
        The "Day Star" flashing in the East,
        The "Vale of Eden" cool.
        We sang in splendid Kansas
        "The flag that set us free"--
        That march of fifty thousand men
        With Sherman to the sea.
        We feasted high in Kansas
        And had much milk and meat.
        The tables groaned to give us power
        Wherewith to save the wheat.
        Our beds were sweet alfalfa hay
        Within the barn-loft wide.
        The loft doors opened out upon
        The endless wheat-field tide.
        I loved to watch the windmills spin
        And watch that big moon rise.
        I dreamed and dreamed with lids half-shut,
        The moonlight in my eyes.
        For all men dream in Kansas
        By noonday and by night,
        By sunrise yellow, red and wild,
        And moonrise wild and white.
        The wind would drive the glittering clouds,
        The cottonwoods would croon,
        And past the sheaves and through the leaves
        Came whispers from the moon.

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The Rainy Day - by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust more dead leaves fall,.
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold and dark and dreary.
It rains and the wind is never weary.
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past.
And youth's fond hopes fall thick in the blast.
And my life is dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart and cease repining
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining
Thy fate is the common fate of all
Into each life some rain must fall
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Thanks to RosieV1@aol.com and to Crystal for sending me this poem.

        It was a marvelous night, the sort of night one only experiences
when one is young.  The sky was so bright, and there were so many stars
that, gazing upward, one couldn't help wondering how so many whimsical, 
wicked people could live under such a sky.  This too is a question that
would only occur to the young, to the very young; but may God make you
wonder like that as often as possible!
                                    - _White Nights_

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Last revised March 1, 2000.

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