Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Prophecy / Arthur Wentworth Eaton


Christmas Prophecy

Silvery-bearded, bent, and gray,
The Old Year passeth swift away,
Yet the ringers he keeps in his belfry tower
Peal no dirge for his waning power.

He is bidding them ring so joyously,
Can the Year of his end forgetful be ?
"Ah, no," he says, "I am old and worn
But the young Christ-life to-day is born;

"I have led the world to its Christmas-tide,
I have opened the door of Heaven wide,
And bells of the ages hung on high
Are chiming out God's charity.

"O welcome, then, the Bethlehem Boy,
Sing at his cradle songs of joy,
Wreathe for his altars holly red,
For the shames of earth at last are dead."

~~
Arthur Wentworth Eaton
from Songs of the Christian Year, 1905

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Arthur Wentworth Eaton biography

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Christmas Carol for 1862 / George Macdonald


A Christmas Carol For 1862

The Year Of The Trouble In Lancashire 

The skies are pale, the trees are stiff,
The earth is dull and old;
The frost is glittering as if
The very sun were cold.
And hunger fell is joined with frost,
To make men thin and wan:
Come, babe, from heaven, or we are lost;
Be born, O child of man.

The children cry, the women shake,
The strong men stare about;
They sleep when they should be awake,
They wake ere night is out.
For they have lost their heritage –
No sweat is on their brow:
Come, babe, and bring them work and wage;
Be born, and save us now.

Across the sea, beyond our sight,
Roars on the fierce debate;
The men go down in bloody fight,
The women weep and hate;
And in the right be which that may,
Surely the strife is long!
Come, son of man, thy righteous way,
And right will have no wrong.

Good men speak lies against thine own –
Tongue quick, and hearing slow;
They will not let thee walk alone,
And think to serve thee so:
If they the children's freedom saw
In thee, the children's king,
They would be still with holy awe,
Or only speak to sing.

Some neither lie nor starve nor fight,
Nor yet the poor deny;
But in their hearts all is not right,–
They often sit and sigh.
We need thee every day and hour,
In sunshine and in snow:
Child-king, we pray with all our power –
Be born, and save us so.

We are but men and women, Lord;
Thou art a gracious child!
O fill our hearts, and heap our board,
Pray thee – the winter's wild!
The sky is sad, the trees are bare,
Hunger and hate about:
Come, child, and ill deeds and ill fare
Will soon be driven out.

~~
George Macdonald
from The Disciple, and other poems, 1867

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

George Macdonald biography

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Morn / Thomas D'Arcy McGee


Christmas Morn

            I

Up, Christian! hark, the crowing cock
Proclaims the break of day!
Up! light the lamp, undo the lock,
And take the well-known way —
Already through the painted glass
Streams forth the light of early mass.


            II

Our Altar! oh, how fair it shows,
Unto the night-dimm’d eyes —
Oh, surely yonder wreath that glows
Was plucked in paradise!
Without — it snows, the wind is loud,
Earth sleeps wrapped in her yearly shroud.


            III

Within — the organ’s soaring peal,
The choir’s sweet chant, the bells,
The surging crowd who stand or kneel,
The glorious errand tells;
Rejoice! rejoice! ye sons of men,


            IV

’Tis but a step, a threshold cros’d,
Yet such the change we find —
Without the wandering worldling tost
By every gust of wind —
Within there reigns a holy calm,
For here abides the dread I AM.

~~
Thomas D'Arcy McGee
from Canadian Ballads, and occasional verses, 1858

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Song / Bliss Carman


Christmas Song

Above the weary waiting world,
Asleep in chill despair,
There breaks a sound of joyous bells
Upon the frosted air.
And o’er the humblest rooftree, lo,
A star is dancing on the snow.

What makes the yellow star to dance
Upon the brink of night?
What makes the breaking dawn to glow
So magically bright,—
And all the earth to be renewed
With infinite beatitude?

The singing bells, the throbbing star,
The sunbeams on the snow,
And the awakening heart that leaps
New ecstasy to know,—
They all are dancing in the morn
Because a little child is born.

~~
Bliss Carman
from April Airs: A book of lyrics, 1916

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Bliss Carman biography

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Lullaby / John Addington Symonds


A Christmas Lullaby

Sleep, baby, sleep! The Mother sings:
Heaven's angels kneel and fold their wings.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

With swathes of scented hay Thy bed
By Mary's hand at eve was spread.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

At midnight came the shepherds, they
Whom seraphs wakened by the way.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

And three kings from the East afar,
Ere dawn came, guided by the star.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

They brought Thee gifts of gold and gems,
Pure orient pearls, rich diadems.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

Thou who liest slumbering there,
Art King of Kings, earth, ocean, air.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

Sleep, baby, sleep! The shepherds sing:
Through heaven, through earth, hosannas ring.
                            Sleep, baby, sleep!

~~
John Addington Symonds
from Christmas: Its origin, celebration and significance as related in prose and verse, 1907 

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]


John Addington Symonds biography

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Silence / Margaret Deland


The Christmas Silence

Hushed are the pigeons cooing low
    On dusty rafters of the loft;
    And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft,
Sleep on the fragrant hay below.

Dim shadows in the corner hide;
    The glimmering lantern's rays are shed
    Where one young lamb just lifts his head,
Then huddles 'gainst his mother's side.

Strange silence tingles in the air;
    Through the half-open door a bar
    Of light from one low-hanging star
Touches a baby's radiant hair.

No sound: the mother, kneeling, lays
    Her cheek against the little face.
    Oh human love! Oh heavenly grace!
'Tis yet in silence that she prays!

Ages of silence end to-night;
    Then to the long-expectant earth
    Glad angels come to greet His birth
In burst of music, love, and light!

~~
Margaret Deland
from Christmas: Its origin, celebration and significance as related in prose and verse, 1907 

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

Margaret Deland biography

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bells Across the Snow / Frances Ridley Havergal


Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
    With its joy and with its pain?
There's a minor in the carol,
    And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
    With the holly wreath to-night.
And the hush is never broken
    By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the bells across the snow.

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    'Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
    With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing
    As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
    Of the crown on each dear brow;
There would be no sigh to smother,
    No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the bells across the snow.

O Christmas, merry Christmas!
    This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
    Of our unshadowed glee.
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
    Sweet herald of good-will,
With holy songs of glory
    Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
    And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
    To the bells across the snow.

~~
Frances Ridley Havergal
from Under the Surface, 1874

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Frances Ridley Havergal biography

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December / John Clare


December

Glad Christmas comes, and every hearth
   Makes room to give him welcome now,
E’en want will dry its tears in mirth,
   And crown him with a holly bough;
Though tramping ’neath a winter sky,
   O’er snowy paths and rimy stiles,
The housewife sets her spinning by
   To bid him welcome with her smiles.

Each house is swept the day before,
   And windows stuck with ever-greens,              
The snow is besom’d from the door,
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes.
Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks,
   And yew and box, with berries small,
These deck the unused candlesticks,
   And pictures hanging by the wall.

Neighbours resume their annual cheer,
   Wishing, with smiles and spirits high,
Glad Christmas and a happy year,
   To every morning passer-by;                      
Milkmaids their Christmas journeys go,
   Accompanied with favour’d swain;
And children pace the crumping snow,
   To taste their granny’s cake again.

The shepherd, now no more afraid,
   Since custom doth the chance bestow,
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
   Beneath the branch of misletoe
That ’neath each cottage beam is seen,
   With pearl-like berries shining gay;            
The shadow still of what hath been,
   Which fashion yearly fades away.

The singing wates, a merry throng,
   At early morn, with simple skill,
Yet imitate the angels song,
   And chant their Christmas ditty still;
And, ’mid the storm that dies and swells
   By fits—in hummings softly steals
The music of the village bells,
   Ringing round their merry peals.
                                         
When this is past, a merry crew,
   Bedeck’d in masks and ribbons gay,
The “Morris-dance,” their sports renew,
   And act their winter evening play.
The clown turn’d king, for penny-praise,
   Storms with the actor’s strut and swell;
And Harlequin, a laugh to raise,
   Wears his hunch-back and tinkling bell.

And oft for pence and spicy ale,
   With winter nosegays pinn’d before,              
The wassail-singer tells her tale,
   And drawls her Christmas carols o’er.
While ’prentice boy, with ruddy face,
   And rime-bepowder’d, dancing locks,
From door to door with happy pace,
   Runs round to claim his “Christmas box.”

The block upon the fire is put,
   To sanction custom’s old desires;
And many a fagot's bands are cut,
   For the old farmers’ Christmas fires;            
Where loud-tongued Gladness joins the throng,
   And Winter meets the warmth of May,
Till feeling soon the heat too strong,
   He rubs his shins, and draws away.

While snows the window-panes bedim,
   The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o’er the pitcher’s rim,
   The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
   Sits there, its pleasures to impart,            
And children, ’tween their parent’s knees,
   Sing scraps of carols o’er by heart.

And some, to view the winter weathers,
   Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
   In Fancy’s infant ecstasy;
Laughing, with superstitious love,
   O’er visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
   And keeping Christmas in the skies.              

As tho’ the homestead trees were drest,
   In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves;
As tho’ the sun-dried martin’s nest,
   Instead of i’cles hung the eaves;
The children hail the happy day—
   As if the snow were April’s grass,
And pleas’d, as ’neath the warmth of May,
   Sport o’er the water froze to glass.

Thou day of happy sound and mirth,
   That long with childish memory stays,            
How blest around the cottage hearth
   I met thee in my younger days!
Harping, with rapture’s dreaming joys,
   On presents which thy coming found,
The welcome sight of little toys,
   The Christmas gift of cousins round.

The wooden horse with arching head,
   Drawn upon wheels around the room;
The gilded coach of gingerbread,
   And many-colour’d sugar plum;                    
Gilt cover’d books for pictures sought,
   Or stories childhood loves to tell,
With many an urgent promise bought,
   To get to-morrow’s lesson well.

And many a thing, a minute’s sport,
   Left broken on the sanded floor,
When we would leave our play, and court
   Our parents’ promises for more.
Tho’ manhood bids such raptures die,
   And throws such toys aside as vain,              
Yet memory loves to turn her eye,
   And count past pleasures o’er again.

Around the glowing hearth at night,
   The harmless laugh and winter tale
Go round, while parting friends delight
   To toast each other o’er their ale;
The cotter oft with quiet zeal
   Will musing o’er his Bible lean;
While in the dark the lovers steal
   To kiss and toy behind the screen.  
           
Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
   However simple they may be:
Whate’er with time hath sanction found,
   Is welcome, and is dear to me.
Pride grows above simplicity,
   And spurns them from her haughty mind,
And soon the poet’s song will be
   The only refuge they can find.

~~
John Clare
from The Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Read The Shepherd's Calendar complete
John Clare biography

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In a drear-nighted December / John Keats


In a drear-nighted December,
   Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne'er remember
   Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
   From budding at the prime.

In a drear-nighted December,
   Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne'er remember
   Apollo's summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
   About the frozen time.

Ah! would 'twere so with many
   A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
   Writh'd not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it,
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
   Was never said in rhyme.

~~
John Keats
from The Poetical Works of John Keats, 1840

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Keats biography 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December / Christopher Pearse Cranch


December

No more the scarlet maples flash and burn
Their beacon-fires from hilltop and from plain;
The meadow-grasses and the woodland fern
In the bleak woods lie withered once again.

The trees stand bare, and bare each stony scar
Upon the cliffs; half frozen glide the rills;
The steel-blue river like a scimitar
Lies cold and curved between the dusky hills.

Over the upland farm I take my walk,
And miss the flaunting flocks of golden-rod;
Each autumn flower a dry and leafless stalk,
Each mossy field a track of frozen sod.

I hear no more the robin's summer song
Through the gray network of the wintry woods;
Only the cawing crows that all day long
Clamor about the windy solitudes.

Like agate stones upon earth's frozen breast,
The little pools of ice lie round and still;
While sullen clouds shut downward east and west
In marble ridges stretched from hill to hill.

Come once again, O southern wind, – once more
Come with thy wet wings flapping at my pane;
Ere snow-drifts pile their mounds about my door,
One parting dream of summer bring again.

Ah, no! I hear the windows rattle fast;
I see the first flakes of the gathering snow,
That dance and whirl before the northern blast.
No countermand the march of days can know.

December drops no weak, relenting tear,
By our fond summer sympathies ensnared;
Nor from the perfect circle of the year
Can even winter's crystal gems be spared.

~~
Christopher Pearse Cranch
from The Bird and the Bell, with other poems, 1875

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Christopher Pearse Cranch biography

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December / John Davidson


December

The heartless, sapless, dying year
     With icy fingers
Clutches the earth in mortal fear;
     And while life lingers

Within his veins that swelled with spring,
     And glowed with summer.
And now are poisoned by the sting
     Of that old-comer.

Who comes to all to end their days,
     Whom men call Death,
He breathes upon the earth's wan face
     His chilly breath,

If it may be to strike her dead
     For company;
To die alone he is afraid;
     And some there be

Of men and flowers as old and frail.
     With blood as sere,
And some both young and sweet, as pale
     As is the year,

Who will be buried in the snow
     With him to sleep;
Their souls came from and now must go
     To the unknown deep.

But those whose lives are dwelling still
     In lively frames
Are full of mirth, and take their fill
     Of works and games:

Make love, make wealth, gain fame, gain power,
     As if for ever.
Forget that life is but an hour,
     A sea-bound river,

And warm with sport laugh at the cold;
     Yet is it true
If they live long they will grow old —
     I mean not you;

Not you, nor me: we only know
     Our blood is fire
Can melt the longest winter's snow,
     And not expire.

~~
John Davidson
from In a Music Hall, and other poems, 1891

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

John Davidson biography

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Autumnal Sonnet / William Allingham


Autumnal Sonnet

Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,
And night by night the monitory blast
Wails in the key-hold, telling how it pass'd
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,
Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt
Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods
Than any joy indulgent summer dealt.
Dear friends, together in the glimmering eve,
Pensive and glad, with tones that recognise
The soft invisible dew in each one's eyes,
It may be, somewhat thus we shall have leave
To walk with memory,– when distant lies
Poor Earth, where we were wont to live and grieve.

~~
William Allingham
from Day and Night Songs, 1854

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

William Allingham biography

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ode to the West Wind / Percy Bysshe Shelley


Ode to the West Wind

             I

O, wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O, thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving every where;
Destroyer and preserver ; hear, O, hear!


            II 

Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of. thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O, hear !


            III 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O, hear !


            IV 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O, uncontroulable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.


            V

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O, wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

~~
Percy Bysshe Shelley
from Prometheus Unbound: A lyrical drama in four acts; with other poems, 1820
http://tinyurl.com/odetothewestwind

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Percy Bysshe Shelley biography

Penny's Top 20 / November 2013


Penny's Top 20

The most-visited poems on  The Penny Blog in November 2013:

  1.  Last Week in October, Thomas Hardy
  2.  Penny (or Penny's Hat), George J. Dance
  3.  Esthétique du Mal, Wallace Stevens
  4.  Night (Fall), George J. Dance 
  5.  Autumn, T.E. Hulme
  6.  Jonah, AE Reiff
  7.  
A City Sunset, T.E. Hulme
  8.  Accompagnement
Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
  9.  Pro Patria Mortui
Helena Coleman
10.  Autumn, Walter de la Mare


11.  Card Game, Frank Prewett
12. 
 The Reader, Wallace Stevens
13.  Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
14.  November Surf, Robinson Jeffers
15.  
Poem in October, Dylan Thomas
16.  November, John Clare
17.  When the Woods Turn Brown, Lucy Larcom

18.  Petit the Poet, Edgar Lee Masters
19.  When Summer Comes, Sophia Almon 
Hensley
20.  Large Red Man Reading, Wallace Stevens



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