Vintage verse – I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

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I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
. . . .and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
. . . .deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
. . . .as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
. . . .morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
. . . .work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
. . . .fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Hysteria by T. S. Eliot

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Hysteria

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: “If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden…” I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.

by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – A Violin at Dusk by Lizette Woodworth Reese

A Violin at Dusk

Stumble to silence, all you uneasy things,
That pack the day with bluster and with fret.
For here is music at each window set;
Here is a cup which drips with all the springs
That ever bud a cowslip flower; a roof
To shelter till the argent weathers break;
A candle with enough of light to make
My courage bright against each dark reproof.
A hand’s width of clear gold, unraveled out
The rosy sky, the little moon appears;
As they were splashed upon the paling red,
Vast, blurred, the village poplars lift about.
I think of young, lost things: of lilacs; tears;
I think of an old neighbor, long since dead.

by Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – The Star by Jane Taylor

The Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is set,
And the grass with dew is wet,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see where to go
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

by Jane Taylor (1783-1824)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – I Know It Will Be Quiet When You Come by Joseph Auslander

I Know It Will Be Quiet When You Come

I know it will be quiet when you come:
No wind; the water breathing steadily;
A light like ghost of silver on the sea;
And the surf dreamily fingering his drum.
Twilight will drift in large and leave me numb
With nearness to the last tranquility;
And then the slow and languorous tyranny
Of orange moon, pale night, and cricket hum.

And suddenly there will be twist of tide,
A rustling as of thin silk on the sand,
The tremor of a presence at my side,
The tremble of a hand upon my hand:
And pulses sharp with pain, and fires fanned,
And words that stumble into stars and hide.

by Joseph Auslander (1897-1965)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – The Cold Heaven by W. B. Yeats

The Cold Heaven

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

by W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Color – Caste – Denomination by Emily Dickinson

Color — Caste — Denomination

Color — Caste — Denomination —
These — are Time’s Affair —
Death’s diviner Classifying
Does not know they are —

As in sleep — all Hue forgotten —
Tenets — put behind —
Death’s large — Democratic fingers
Rub away the Brand —

If Circassian — He is careless —
If He put away
Chrysalis of Blonde — or Umber —
Equal Butterfly —

They emerge from His Obscuring —
What Death – knows so well —
Our minuter intuitions —
Deem unplausible

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim