Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter / Samuel Johnson


No more the morn, with tepid rays,
  Unfolds the flow'r of various hue;
Noon spreads no more the genial blaze,
  Nor gentle eve distils the dew.

The ling'ring hours prolong the night,
  Usurping darkness shares the day;
Her mists restrain the force of light,
  And Phoebus holds a doubtful sway.

By gloomy twilight, half reveal'd,
  With sighs we view the hoary hill,
The leafless wood, the naked field,
  The snow-topp'd cot, the frozen rill.

No musick warbles through the grove,
  No vivid colours paint the plain;
No more, with devious steps, I rove
  Through verdant paths, now sought in vain.

Aloud the driving tempest roars,
  Congeal'd, impetuous show'rs descend;
Haste, close the window, bar the doors,
  Fate leaves me Stella, and a friend.

In nature's aid, let art supply
  With light and heat my little sphere;
Rouse, rouse the fire, and pile it high,
  Light up a constellation here.

Let musick sound the voice of joy,
  Or mirth repeat the jocund tale;
Let love his wanton wiles employ,
  And o'er the season wine prevail.

Yet time life's dreary winter brings,
  When mirth's gay tale shall please no more
Nor musick charm – though Stella sings;
  Nor love, nor wine, the spring restore.

Catch, then, Oh! catch the transient hour,
  Improve each moment as it flies;
Life's a short summer – man a flow'r:
  He dies – alas! how soon he dies!

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter: A dirge / Thomas Stott

Winter: A dirge

Once more the Sire of Storms his cloudy tent
Has pitched upon our Northern hemisphere,
And, from his shadowy seat,
Forc'd Autumn to retire.

The feeble race of flow'rs have breath'd their last,
And sad, and solemn, sounds the frequent knell
Of rural Beauty gone —
Of rural Pleasure lost!

Invidious Hoar-frost, perching on the spray,
Where late the wood-lark sang his sweet farewell,
Pierces, with fatal sting,
The green leaf's tender nerve.

Waving his ebon wand, the surly Pow'r
Calls forth from their dank cells the chilling train
Of foul unwholesome fogs,
And glooms of hideous hue.

The curtain, that enclos'd Morn's rosy couch,
No more its gay embroider'd folds displays,
As from it she descends
To greet the rising Sun.

Eve, like a Mourner, muffled in her weeds,
Beside the tomb of one she dearly lov'd,
Eyes the dull scene awhile —
Then, with a sigh, departs

To light her chariot on its dreary way.
Night, now, needs all her lamps; save when the Moon
Pours from her silver urn
The radiant flood around.

Faint Nature falls a prey to atrophy;
And all her living tribes seem sorrowful
Their common Parent, thus
Declining, to behold.

But those, to whom the God, who governs all,
Gave intellectual light, to see and judge,
They know that, by and by,
Her health will be restor'd.

They know that, by and by, the breath of Spring,
With renovated vigour, will inspire
Her faded form again,
And deck it with new charms.

Robert Potter (1755-1829)
from Walker's Hibernian Magazine, 1802

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Thomas Stott biography

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Blow, blow, thou winter wind / William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
   Thou art not so unkind
      As man’s ingratitude;
   Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
      Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: 
   Then, heigh-ho, the holly! 
      This life is most jolly. 

   Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
   That dost not bite so nigh
      As benefits forgot:
   Though thou the waters warp,
      Thy sting is not so sharp
      As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: 
   Then, heigh-ho, the holly! 
      This life is most jolly. 

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
from As You Like It, 1623

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow / Louis MacNeice


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)
from Poems, 1935

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Louis MacNeice biography

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Ode to Liberty / James G. Percival

from "Carmen Seculare"

Into the gulf of past eternity
Another year, in all its pride, has roll'd,
And soon its brightest pageantry shall be
Lost in the long-forgotten days of old;
Oblivion draws around its darkest fold
To hide the pomp, that millions gaz'd upon;
The curfew of departed joys has toll'd,
Another circle in our life is run,
And nearer draws the goal, where all of earth is won.

A year has ended — let the good man pause,
And think, for he can think, of all its crime,
And toil, and suffering. Nature has her laws,
That will not brook infringement; in all time,
All circumstance, all state, in every clime,
She holds aloft the same avenging sword;
And sitting on her boundless throne sublime,
The vials of her wrath, with justice stor'd,
Shall, in her own good hour, on all that's ill be pour'd.

And Kings, who hug themselves in sordid ease
And revel in their vassals' blood and tears,
Who grasp at all can sense or passion please,
And build their strength on others' wants and fears;
For them, the heap'd up vengeance of long years,
Pois'd like a snow-cliff on a mountain's brow,
Wild as the sounding avalanche careers,
Or oceans rushing in their stormy flow,
Shall bury all their power in one wide overthrow.

Revenge may hold her breath awhile, but still
The spirit boils within, and soon will burst,
Like lavas from their vaults — the long-check'd will
Breaks out with deeper fury, fed and nurst
By ever-growing outrage, till the worst,
And reddest, scourge of tyranny unbinds
The rusted links of cent'ries, which long curs'd
But dreaded, now the vassal rends, and finds
At once his gall'd limbs free and chainless as the winds.

Sov'reigns may band in holy leagues, and lock
Their fetters on a continent, which springs
To claim its birth right — they may coldly mock
The strivings of young Liberty, as things,
That are to them but toys to play with — Kings
Have long enough made men their play — the hour
When wrath shall wake, and triumph clap her wings
Over the broken images of power,
Draws nigh, and they, who rear the haught crest, soon will cower.

* * *

There is a twilight dawning on the world,
The herald of a full and perfect day,
When Liberty's wide flag shall be unfurl'd,
And kings shall bow to her superior sway:
Already she is on her august way,
And marching upward to her final goal;
Nations the warning of her voice obey,
Away the clouds of fear and error roll,
The chain is broke, that bound the thrall'd and fetter'd soul.

James G. Percival (1795-1856)
from Clio, 1822

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

James G. Percival biography

Penny's Top 20 / December 2016

Penny's Top 20
The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in December 2016:

  1.  I Heard a Bird Sing, Oliver Hereford
  2.  The Reader, Wallace Stevens 
  3.  The Waits, Margaret Deland
  4.  Snowstorm in December, Ilya Shambat
  5.  Whilst Shepherds Watch't, Nahum Tate
  6.  Frost at Midnight, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  7.  King Kong, James D. Senetto
  8.  Before the Snow, Andrew Laing

  9.  The Journey of the Magi, T.S. Eliot

10.  The Fall of the Leaf, Richard Watson Dixon

11.  Evil / Le Mal, Arthur Rimbaud
Esthetique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
13.  Penny, or Penny's Hat, George J. Dance  
14.  Lines to the New Year, 1822, Adam Hood Burwell
15.  Long May You Live, George J. Dance
16.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
17.  Skating, William Wordsworth
18.  A Winter's Tale, D.H. Lawrence
19.  Penny's OS, George J. Dance
20.  Puella Parvula, Wallace Stevens

Source: Blogger, "Stats"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lines to the New Year, 1822 / Adam Hood Burwell

Lines to the New Year, 1822

Now dark December, with his stormy hand,
Hath closed the circle of the rolling year,
That rearward glides along the length of ages,
And yields his place to coming months which spring
                             New from the lap of time.

Sad was the scene; no incense-breathing gales
Caught his last sigh; no choral groves their hymns
Or joy and love, gave as he quit, the scene,
Nor genial suns, with love-inspiring ray,
                             Shone on his parting hour.

But sullen winter with congealing touch,
Seal’d first his eyes, and howling Boreas blew
His fiercest blast, and hurl’d the snowy shroud
Furious around him, and flung o’er his grave
                             An icy monument.

Nature convulsed, confest the parting pangs,
And, as the year sunk in the grave of time,
She travail’d with his sun and heir, and lo!
The mid-night hour received the new-born babe,
                             Cradled in wintery storms.

And we, frail mortals, hail’d th’ auspicious hour
That told the coming of another year,
With light and life, and all the blessing he,
The sire of being, gives; and grateful hearts
                             Our joyful bosoms swell’d.

Offspring of time! thrice welcome to our world;
Tho’ storms obscure thy birth, and Winter hold
His iron sceptre o’er thy wide domains,
Yet spring succeeds them, and her virgin-charms
                             Shall warm thee into life.

The peeping violet on its grassy couch,
Each fairy flower, the dew-bespangled mead,
The forest clothed in green, the joyous birds
That tune their throats to love; all that hath life,
                             Their all shall bring to thee.

The fervid suns that Summer’s long arch sweeps,
The thunder cloud that wets the teeming earth,
The beauteous harvests rising on the plain,
The gales that fan them; All conspiring, shall
                             Thy ripening manhood fill.

Matured with Autumn, thou shalt with her too
Decline; and as she sheds her honours round,
In manly age thy mellow self shalt sink,
And pale October’s latests sun shall shine
                             Upon thy lockless brow.

And, like thy sire, hoar Winter’s heavy hand
Thou shalt confess, and feel the blasting storms
That shook his from his hold of earthly things —
And, as he gave thee place, so shalt thou cede
                             Unto another year.

Frail man! behold a picture of thyself —
Thy life is but the circle of a year,
Which death will surely close — Then, to the work
Thou hast to do! That, when thy year’s complete,
                             Life may be thine hereafter.

Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849)
from the Montreal Sribbler, 1821

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Adam Hood Burwell biography