Theme:

Life

Browse poems about

Life

History

I am the owner of the sphere,
Of the seven stars and the solar year,
of Caesar’s hand, and Plato’s brain,
Of Lord Christ’s heart, and Shakespeare’s strain.

History
True Dignity

If thou be one whose heart the holy forms
Of young imagination have kept pure,
Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know that pride,
Howe’er disguised in its own majesty,
Is littleness; that he who feels contempt
For any living thing hath faculties
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
Is ever on himself doth look on one
The least of Nature’s works, one who might move
The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
Unlawful ever. O be wiser, Thou!
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love;
True dignity abides with him alone
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Can still suspect, and still revere himself,
In lowliness of heart.

True Dignity
Eternity

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

Eternity
The First Snowfall

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud-like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
“The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.

The First Snowfall
Yussouf

A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,

Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,

Against whose life the bow of power is bent,

Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;

I come to thee for shelter and for food,

To Yussouf, called through all our tribes ‘The Good.’”

“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more

Than it is God’s; come in, and be at peace;

Freely shalt thou partake of all my store

As I of his who buildeth over these

Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,

And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”

So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,

And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold,

My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight,

Depart before the prying day grow bold.”

As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,

So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,

Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,

He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,

Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;

I will repay thee; all this thou hast done

Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”

“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee

Into the desert, never to return,

My one black thought shall ride away from me;

First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,

Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;

Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”

Yussouf
Diogenes

A hut, and a tree,

And a hill for me,

And a piece of a weedy meadow.

I’ll ask no thing,

Of God or king,

But to clear away his shadow.

Diogenes
The Hope Of My Heart

"Delicta juventutis et ignorantius ejus, quoesumus ne memineris, Domine."

I left, to earth, a little maiden fair,

With locks of gold, and eyes that shamed the light;

I prayed that God might have her in His care

And sight.

Earth's love was false; her voice, a siren's song;

(Sweet mother-earth was but a lying name)

The path she showed was but the path of wrong

And shame.

"Cast her not out!" I cry. God's kind words come --

"Her future is with Me, as was her past;

It shall be My good will to bring her home

At last."

The Hope Of My Heart
The Voyage

But the real travelers are those who leave for leaving’s sake;

Their hearts are light as balloons,

They never diverge from the path of their fate

And, without knowing why, always say, ‘Let’s go.’

They are the ones whose desires have the shape of clouds,

And who dream as a new recruit dreams of cannon fire,

Of limitless pleasures, ever-changing, unknown,

Which the human mind has never been able to name.

The Voyage
The Slave’s Dream

The forests, with their myriad tongues,

Shouted of liberty;

And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,

With a voice so wild and free,

That he started in his sleep and smiled

At their tempestuous glee.

He did not feel the driver’s whip,

Nor the burning heat of day;

For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,

And his lifeless body lay

A worn-out fetter, that the soul

Had broken and thrown away!

The Slave’s Dream
Mimnermus in Church

You promise heavens free from strife,

Pure truth, and perfect change of will;

But sweet, sweet is this human life,

So sweet, I fain would breathe it still:

Your chilly stars I can forego,

This warm kind world is all I know.

You say there is no substance here,

One great reality above:

Back from that void I shrink in fear,

And child-like hide myself in love:

Show me what angels feel. Till then,

I cling, a mere weak man, to men.

You bid me lift my mean desires

From faltering lips and fitful veins

To sexless souls, ideal quires,

Unwearied voices, wordless strains:

My mind with fonder welcome owns

One dear dead friend’s remembered tones.

Forsooth the present we must give

To that which cannot pass away;

All beauteous things for which we live

By laws of time and space decay.

But oh, the very reason why

I clasp them, is because they die.

Mimnermus in Church