Vintage verse – Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden


Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

by W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Vintage verse – The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face by James Weldon Johnson

The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face

The glory of the day was in her face,
The beauty of the night was in her eyes.
And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early skies.

And in her voice, the calling of the dove;
Like music of a sweet, melodious part.
And in her smile, the breaking light of love;
And all the gentle virtues in her heart.

And now the glorious day, the beauteous night,
The birds that signal to their mates at dawn,
To my dull ears, to my tear-blinded sight
Are one with all the dead, since she is gone.

by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Passers-by by Carl Sandburg

Passers-by

Passers-by,
Out of your many faces
Flash memories to me
Now at the day end
Away from the sidewalks
Where your shoe soles traveled
And your voices rose and blent
To form the city’s afternoon roar
Hindering an old silence.

Passers-by,
I remember lean ones among you,
Throats in the clutch of a hope,
Lips written over with strivings,
Mouths that kiss only for love,
Records of great wishes slept with,
. . . .Held long
And prayed and toiled for:

. . . .Yes,
Written on
Your mouths

by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day by Anne Brontë

Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
. . . .And carried aloft on the winds of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
. . . .Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.

The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
. . . .The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing,
. . . .The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.

I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
. . . .The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray;
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing,
. . . .And hear the wild roar of their thunder to-day!

by Anne Brontë (1820-1849)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recuerdo

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Life by Charlotte Brontë

Life

Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Vintage verse – Park Going to Sleep by Helen Hoyt

Park Going to Sleep

The shadows under the trees
And in the vines by the boat-house
Grow dark,
And the lamps gleam softly.

On the street, far off,
The sound of the cars, rumbling,
Moves drowsily.
The rocks grow dim on the edges of the shore.

The boats with tired prows against the landing
Have fallen asleep heavily:
The monuments sleep
And the trees
And the smooth slow-winding empty paths sleep.

by Helen Hoyt (1887-1972)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Vintage verse – A Bird came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – At Last by Christina Rossetti

At Last

Many have sung of love a root of bane:
. . . . . . .While to my mind a root of balm it is,
. . . .For love at length breeds love; sufficient bliss
For life and death and rising up again.
Surely when light of Heaven makes all things plain,
. . . .Love will grow plain with all its mysteries;
. . . .Nor shall we need to fetch from over seas
Wisdom or wealth or pleasure safe from pain.
Love in our borders, love within our heart,
. . . .Love all in all, we then shall bide at rest,
. . . .Ended for ever life’s unending quest,
. . . . . . .Ended for ever effort, change and fear:
Love all in all; —no more that better part
. . . . . . .Purchased, but at the cost of all things here.

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.