At Strife

David Edelstadt
Russian
1866 – 1892

 

Hated are we, and driven from our homes,
Tortured and persecuted, even to blood;
And wherefore? ‘Tis because we love the poor,
The masses of mankind, who starve for food.

We are shot down, and on the gallows hanged,
Robbed of our lives and freedom without ruth,
Because for the enslaved and for the poor
We are demanding liberty and truth.

But we will not be frightened from our path
By darksome prisons or by tyranny;
We must awake humanity from sleep,
Yea, we must make our brothers glad and free.

Secure us fast with fetters made of iron,
Tear us like beasts of blood till life departs,
‘Tis but our bodies that you will destroy,
Never the sacred spirit in our hearts.

You cannot kill it, tyrants of the earth!
Our spirit is a plant immortal, fair;
Its petals, sweet of scent and rich of hue,
Are scattered wide, are blooming everywhere.

In thinking men and women now they bloom,
In souls that love the light and righteousness.
As they strive on toward duty’s sacred goal,
Nature herself doth their endeavor bless—

To liberate the poor and the enslaved
Who suffer now from cold and hunger’s blight,
And to create for all humanity
A world that shall be free, that shall be bright;

A world where tears no longer shall be shed,
A world where guiltless blood no more shall flow,
And men and women, like clear-shining stars,
With courage and with love shall be aglow.

You may destroy us, tyrants! ‘Twill be vain.
Time will bring on new fighters strong as we;
For we shall battle ever, on and on,
Nor cease to strive till all the world is free!

A Vagabond Song

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

Bliss Carman
Canadian
1861 – 1929

 

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

Anywhere Out of the World

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Baudelaire
French
1821 – 1867

 

This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to
suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one
which I discuss incessantly with my soul.
‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there
you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble
and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape
that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’
My soul does not reply.
‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland,
that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired
in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of
houses?’
My soul remains silent.
‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe
married to tropical beauty.’
Not a word. Could my soul be dead?
‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us
flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go
farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There
the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and
increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our
amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own
fireworks!’
At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out
of the world!’

The Last Butterfly

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Rosemonde Gérard
French
1871 – 1953

 

When the cricket no longer sings
And one is faced with the autumn,
One is surprised, on some grey morning,
To see the last butterfly wings.

More gold, azure, or scarlet,
Its colour evenly spread;
The ash found around it
Lost in the earth’s sandy bed.

Whence, and through which door, does it come?
Is this, in the dead leaf of autumn,
The only butterfly living,

Or, dead, midst living snow,
The slight, transparent shadow
Of a butterfly from spring, long ago?

The Jumblies

We present this work in honor of April Fool’s Day.

Edward Lear
English
1812 – 1888

 

I

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

II

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

III

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

IV

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
‘O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

V

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

VI

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’
For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore;
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, ‘If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,—
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The Wanderers

Grace Aguilar
English
1816 – 1847

 

With sadden’d heart and tearful eye the mother went her way,
The Patriarch’s mandate had gone forth, and Hagar must not stay.
Oh! who can tell the emotions deep that pressed on Abra’am’s heart —
As thus, obedient to his God, from Ismael called to part!

But God had spoken, and he knew His word was changeless truth,
He could not doubt His blessing would protect the friendless youth;
He bade him go, nor would he heed the anguish of his soul;
He turned aside, — a father’s woe in silence to control.

Now hand in hand they wend their way, o’er hills and vale and wild;
The mother’s heart was full of grief, but smiled in glee her child:
Fearless and free, he felt restraint would never gall him now —
And hail’d with joy the fresh’ning breeze that fann’d his fair young brow.

His mother’s heart was desolate, and tears swell’d in her eye;
Scarce to his artless words of love her quiv’ring lips reply.
She only saw the future as a lone and dreary wild:
The present stood before the lad in joyance undefil’d.

She knew, alas! his boyish strength too soon would droop and fade;
And who was, in that lonely scene, to give them food and aid?
With trembling gaze she oft would mark the flushing of his cheek,
And list in terror, lest he should ‘gin falteringly to speak!

Fatigue she felt not for herself, nor heeded care nor pain —
But nearer, nearer to her breast her boy at times she’d strain;
Beersheba’s wilderness they see before them dark and wide;
Oh, who across its scorching sand their wandering steps will guide?

The flush departed from the cheek which she so oft has kiss’d;
To his glad tones of childish glee no longer may she list;
A pallor as of death is spread o’er those sweet features now —
She sees him droop before the blast that fann’d his aching brow.

“Oh, mother lay me down,” he cried, “I know not what I feel,
But something cold and rushing seems thro’ all my limbs to steal —
Oh kiss me, mother dear, and then ah, lay me down to sleep —
Nay, do not look upon me thus — kiss me and do not weep!”

Scarce could her feeble arms support her child, and lay him where
Some clustering shrubs might shield him from the heavy scorching air;
His drooping eyelids closed; his breath came painfully and slow —
She bent her head on his a while in wild yet speechless woe.

Then from his side she hurried, as impelled she knew not why,
Save that she could not linger there — she could not see him die —
She lifted up her voice and wept — and o’er the lonely wild
“Let me not see his death!” was borne, “my Ismael, my child!”

And silence came upon her then, her stricken soul to calm;
And suddenly and strange there fell a soft and soothing balm —
And then a voice came stealing, on the still and fragrant air —
A still small voice that would be heard, tho’ solitude was there.

“What aileth thee, oh Hagar?” thus it spoke: fear not, for God hath heard
The lad’s voice where he is, — and thou, trust in thy Maker’s word!
Awake! arise! lift up the lad and hold him in thine hand —
I will of him a nation make, before Me, he shall stand.”

It ceased, that voice; and silence now, as strangely soft and still,
The boundless desert once again with eloquence would fill —
And strength returned to Hagar’s frame, for God hath oped her eyes —
And lo! amid the arid sands a well of water lies!

Quick to her boy, with beating heart, the anxious mother flies,
And to his lips, and hands, and brow, the cooling draught applies —
He wakes! he breathes! the flush of life is mantling on his cheek —
He smiles! he speaks! oh those quick tears his mother’s joy shall speak!

She held him to her throbbing breast, she gazed upon his face —
The beaming features, one by one, in silent love to trace
She bade him kneel to bless the Hand that saved him in the wild —

But oh! few words her lips could speak, save these — “My child, my child!”

from The Path of Truth

Nana Asma’u
Nigerian
1793 – 1864

 

The usurers will see their bellies swell bigger than gourds
In size and exposed to Ahmada.
They will rise on the Last Day as if possessed of the Devil
The Qur’an told their fate, Ahmada.
The stink of the adulterer is worse than the stench of carrion:
He will be driven away, so that he is far from Ahmada.
The slanderer, the hypocrite
And he who gives false witness will not see Ahmada.
With their tongues hanging down to their chests, they will be exposed
For they will not get salvation from Ahmada.

Marshlands

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

E. Pauline Johnson
Canadian
1861 – 1913

 

A thin wet sky, that yellows at the rim,
And meets with sun-lost lip the marsh’s brim.

The pools low lying, dank with moss and mould,
Glint through their mildews like large cups of gold.

Among the wild rice in the still lagoon,
In monotone the lizard shrills his tune.

The wild goose, homing, seeks a sheltering,
Where rushes grow, and oozing lichens cling.

Late cranes with heavy wing, and lazy flight,
Sail up the silence with the nearing night.

And like a spirit, swathed in some soft veil,
Steals twilight and its shadows o’er the swale.

Hushed lie the sedges, and the vapours creep,
Thick, grey and humid, while the marshes sleep.

The Awakening

We present this work in honor of the 145th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Louise Colet
French
1810 – 1876

 

Winter is over
The earth regains its youth
My love, do you not feel the warm breeze
that caresses us?

Do you not smile
as the sun warms our souls
and quickens our spirit?

Do you not welcome the mist that
disperses the tearful and bitter days
of yore?

No more sad dreams!
Oh let us live in empyrean serenity
whose happy hours will chase away
those long and somber days.

The air is perfumed,
The billowing clouds form intoxicating shapes
Do you not respond to their allure?

Do you not hear whispers that
penetrate your soul and your senses?
The treetops shiver in the woods
the waves and the breezes, all sigh softly.

All of these voices murmur in one voice
to our hearts, saying “love one another.”
My love, let us celebrate nature!
Her awakening will revive us!

Sonnet XIV

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 215th birthday.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
English
1806 – 1861

 

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,

May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!

But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.