Category Archives: Poetry

‘If you were coming in the fall’

Women at the Sea. Jan Toorop. 1891.
Women at the Sea. Jan Toorop. 1891.

Emily Dickinson


If you were coming in the fall,

I’d brush the summer by

With half a smile and half a spurn,

As housewives do a fly.


If I could see you in a year,

I’d wind the months in balls,

And put them each in separate drawers,

Until their time befalls.


If only centuries delayed,

I’d count them on my hand,

Subtracting till my fingers dropped

Into Van Diemens land.


If certain, when this life was out,

That yours and mine should be,

I’d toss it yonder like a rind,

And taste eternity.


But now, all ignorant of the length

Of time’s uncertain wing,

It goads me, like the goblin bee,

That will not state its sting.

“From off his horse the Emperor now descends”

Grandes Chroniques Roland. Eight Stages of The Song of Roland in One Picture.
Grandes Chroniques Roland. Eight Stages of The Song of Roland in One Picture.

from La Chanson de Roland

trans. Dorothy L. Sayers



From off his horse the Emperor now descends;

On the green grass he kneels with bended head,

Then to the sunrise he lifts his face addressed

And prays to God with heartfelt reverence:

“Father most true, this day my cause defend!

Thou that to Jonah Thy succour didst extend

In the whale’s belly, and safely draw him thence,

And after, spare the king of Nineveh;

Thou that didst save Thy servant Daniel

From torments dire within the lions’ den,

And the Three Children amid the fire protect,

Lord, be thy love this day my present help;

And, if it please Thee, grant that ere this day’s end

Roland my nephew may fully be avenged!”

His prayer is done; rising, he stands erect;

The sign of power he makes on brow and breast.

Now to the saddle once more the King has leapt,

Joz’ran and Naimon to hold his stirrup bend;

He takes his shield, his sharpened spear as well;

Comely his body and straight and nobly held,

His face is frank, his looks are confident;

Forward he rides, firm in the stirrup set.

To van, to rear, the braying clarions swell;

Olifant’s voice resounds above the rest;

The thought of Roland draws tears from all the French.


‘Many marvels walk through the world’

Antigone and Polynice. Benjamin Constant.
Antigone and Polynice. Benjamin Constant.


Sophocles (trans. Richard Emil Braun)



Many marvels walk through the world,

terrible, wonderful,

but none more than humanity,

which makes a way under winter rain,

over the gray deep of the sea,

proceeds where it swells and swallows;

that grinds at the Earth—

undwindling, unwearied, first of the gods—

to its own purpose,

as the plow is driven, turning year into year,

through generations as colt follows mare.


Weaves and braids the meshes to hurl—

circumspect man—

and to drive lightheaded tribes of birds his prisoners,

and the animals,

nations in fields, race of the salty ocean;

and fools and conquers the monsters

whose roads and houses are hills,

the shaggy-necked horse that he holds subject,

and the mountain oxen that he yokes under beams,

bowing their heads,

his unwearying team.


The breath of his life he has taught to be

language, be the spirit of thought;

griefs, to give laws to nations;

fears, to dodge weapons

of rains and winds and the homeless cold—

always clever,

he never fails to find ways

for whatever future;

manages cures for the hardest maladies;

from death alone he has secured no refuge.


With learning and with ingenuity

over his horizon of faith

mankind crawls

now to failure, now to worth.

And when he has bound the laws of this earth

beside Justice pledged to the gods,

he rules his homeland;

but he has no home

who recklessly marries an illegitimate cause.

Fend this stranger from my mind’s home and home’s hearth.


Strawberries. Bella and Ida at the Table. Marc Chagall. 1916.
Strawberries. Bella and Ida at the Table. Marc Chagall. 1916.


Amy Lowell, 1919


When I have baked white cakes
And grated green almonds to spread upon them;
When I have picked the green crowns from the strawberries
And piled them, cone-pointed, in a blue and yellow platter;
When I have smoothed the seam of the linen I have been working;
What then?
To-morrow it will be the same:
Cakes and strawberries,
And needles in and out of cloth.
If the sun is beautiful on bricks and pewter,
How much more beautiful is the moon,
Slanting down the gauffered branches of a plum-tree;
The moon,
Wavering across a bed of tulips;
The moon,
Upon your face.
You shine, Beloved,
You and the moon.
But which is the reflection?
The clock is striking eleven.
I think, when we have shut and barred the door,
The night will be dark


Hurrahing in Harvest

Wheat Field with Cypresses. Vincent van Gogh. 1889.
Wheat Field with Cypresses. Vincent van Gogh. 1889.

Hurrahing in Harvest

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise

Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour

Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier

Meal-drift moulded ever and melded across the skies?


I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,

Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour,

And éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a

Rapturous loves’ greeting of realer, of rounder replies?


And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder

Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—

These things, these things were here and but the beholder

Wanting; which two when they once meet,

The heart rears wings bold and bolder

And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.


A Birthday

Birthday. Marc Chagall. 1915.
Birthday. Marc Chagall. 1915.


A Birthday

Christina Rossetti


My heart is like a singing bird

Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell

That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these

Because my love is come to me.


Raise me a dais of silk and down;

Hang it with vair and purple dyes;

Carve it in doves and pomegranates,

And peacocks with a hundred eyes;

Work it in gold and silver grapes,

In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;

Because the birthday of my life

Is come, my love is come to me.



A Chameleon. Ustad Mansur. 1612.
A Chameleon. Ustad Mansur. 1612.



George Herbert


Oh, what a thing is man! how far from power,

From settled peace and rest!

He is some twenty sev’ral men at least

Each sev’ral hour.


One while he counts of heav’n, as of his treasure:

But then a thought creeps in,

And calls him coward, who for fear of sin

Will lose a pleasure.


Now he will fight it out, and to the wars;

Now eat his bread in peace,

And snudge in quiet: now he scorns increase;

Now all day spares.


He builds  a house, which quickly down must go,

As if a whirlwind blew

And crushed the building: and it’s partly true,

His mind is so.


O what a sight were Man if his attires

Did alter with his mind;

And like a Dolphin’s skin, his clothes combin’d

With his desires!


Surely if each one saw another’s heart,

There would be no commerce,

No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse

And live apart.


Lord, mend or rather make us: one creation

Will not suffice our turn:

Except thou make us daily, we shall spurn

Our own salvation.


After the Drought. Eric Forster.
After the Drought. Eric Forster.



George Herbert


My stock lies dead, and no increase

Doth my dull husbandry improve:

O let thy graces without cease

Drop from above!


If still the sun should hide its face,

Thy house would still a dungeon prove,

The works night’s captives: O let grace

Drop from above!


The dew doth ev’ry morning fall;

And shall the dew out-strip thy Dove?

The dew, for which grass cannot call,

Drop from above.

Death is still working like a mole,

And digs my grave at each remove:

Let grace work too, and on my soul

Drop from above.


Sin is still hammering my heart

Unto a hardness, void of love:

Let suppling grace, to cross his art,

Drop from above.


O come! for thou dost know the way:

Or if to me thou wilt not move,

Remove me, where I need not say,

Drop from above.

Clasping of Hands

Hand. Tribute to Ingres, Abidin Dino. 1980.
Hand. Tribute to Ingres, Abidin Dino. 1980.


Clasping of Hands

George Herbert


Lord, thou art mine, and I am thine,

If mine I am: and thine much more,

Then I or ought, or can be mine.

Yet to be thine, doth me restore;

So that again I now am mine,

And with advantage mine the more

Since this being mine, brings with it thine,

And thou with me dost thee restore.

If I without thee would me mine,

I neither should me mine nor thine.


Lord, I am thine, and thou art mine:

So mine thou art, that something more

I may presume thee mine, then thine.

For thou didst suffer to restore

Not thee, but me, and to be mine,

And with advantage mine the more,

Since thou in death wast none of thine,

Yet then as mine didst me restore.

O be mine still! still make me thine!

Or rather make no Thine and Mine!