Pirate Story

We present this work in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

09-19 Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Scots
1850 – 1894

 

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

From Me to Death

In honor of Chilean Independence Day, we present this work of independence by one of Chile’s great poets.

Guillermo Blest Gana
Chilean
1829 – 1904

 

I observed when you snatched viciously me away
my loved ones, and then I judged you:
relentless like misfortune, inexorable
like pain and cruel like the doubt…

But today that you, cold, mute, approach me
without hate and without love, neither sullen nor affable,
my spirit greets your majesty
of the unfathomable and your eternity.

I, without the impatience of the suicide,
neither the dread of the happy, nor the inert fear
of the criminal, I await your coming;

that equal to everyone’s luck is my fortune:
if nothing is expected of life,
something must be expected from death.

Pax Animae

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, we present this work by one of Mexico’s most celebratory poets.

09-16 Najera
Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera
Mexican
1859 – 1895

 

Speak not a word of wild, blaspheming grief!
Be proud, be brave, though fallen in the strife,
And gaze, oh poet, with supreme disdain
On all the dark injustices of life!

Thou shalt not seek for constancy in love,
Nor aught eternal from frail mortals ask;
To rear sepuchral monuments on high
From all thy griefs, O artist, be thy task!
Chisel thy statues out of marble white,
Forms chaste of mien, though naked to the air;
And let speech slumber on their sculptured lips;
Let them stand deeply sad, yet silent there.

A name! A sounding echo on the air,
Fleeting and frail, its life a moment’s span!
A dreamer’s foolish idol! Name and fame!
This is the last sad vanity of man.
Why should we justice seek, or clemency.—
If our own comrades here deny our plea—
From the indifference, mute and icy-cold,
Of unknown men, to live in days to be?

Tardy compassion why should we implore
From strangers hid in shadows, one and all?
The echoes sleep within the darksome wood,
And no one, no one answers to our call.

The only consolation in this life
Is to remember happy hours and fair,
And lift our eyes on high to view the skies
When skies are blue or stars are shining there;

To flee the sea, and on the sleeping lake
Enjoy the water’s calm, the peaceful time;
To sleep—to dream—our wizard strong, the Dream,
Is a deceiver holy and sublime!

‘Tis true, alas, that in the honest breast
The fresh wound calls for vengeance and for strife;
But yet—forgive the evil they have done!
All suffer from the malady of life.

The very men who crown themselves with flowers
Are born to sorrow, and to perish, too.
If those you love the most betray your trust,
Forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Perhaps those instincts they inherited,
And they avenge unknowingly to-day
Races that gathered on their hapless heads
All griefs and hatreds ere they passed away.

Are thou perchance the judge—the sinless one?
Do justice and sweet mercy meet in thee?
Ah, who is not a fugitive, that bears
The weight of crimes unpunished, guiltily?

Who has not feigned to love, dared with false vows
Into a maiden’s holy soul to steal?
Who can be sure that he has never killed?
Who is the just man, that may justice deal?

Pity and pardon for all those that live!
So, full of love, in mild and gentle mood,
We shall be tender and compassionate,
And haply, haply, some time shall be good!

Friend, dost thou suffer? Seek thy sweetheart fair
In deathless beauty, free from pain and fear—
Live leaning on thy sadness, as of old
On young Cordelia leaned the wandering Lear.

See, far and farther ebbs the dying day!
How good it is to rest! In shade obscure
The woodland lulls us with a music soft;
Virgin the water is, the air is pure.

Weary, her eyes the light is closing now;
Sad murmors sound, and many a mournful sigh.
The night, descending, to the earth says, ‘Come!
‘Tis over. Go to sleep, and do not cry!’

To recollect—forgive—have loved, believed,
And had brief happiness our hearts to bless,
And soon, grown weary, to recline against
The snowy shoulder of forgetfulness!

To feel forevermore the tenderness
That warmed your youthful bosoms with its flame,
Receiving happiness, if it should come,
Like a glad visit from some beauteous dame;

To hold still hidden that which most we love—
Smiling forgiveness on our lips to keep—
Until at last, O earth! we come to thee
In the complete abandonment of sleep:

This ought to be the life of him who thinks
How transient all things are that meet his eyes,
And, wisely, stops before the wide expanse
Of falsehood’s ocean that around him lies.

Gather the flowers, while there are flowers to pluck;
Forgive the roses for their thorny guise!
Our sorrows also pass away and fly,
Flitting like swarms of dark-winged butterflies.

Love and forgive! Resist with courage strong
The wicked, the unjust, the cowardly.
The silent night, when it settles down,
Pensive and sad, is beautiful to see!

When sorrow dims my spirit, on the heights
I seek for calmness and for shining light.
Upon the frozen summits of my soul
Infinite pity spreads its hue of white.

Serenata

09-05 Florez
Alejandro A. Flórez Roa
Colombian
1866 – 1901

 

Put your head out the window
so that my soul doesn’t pain,
so that my soul doesn’t pain.

Look out as it comes
the fresh light tomorrow,
the fresh light tomorrow.

Appear, and if I look at you,
I’ll confess to you my ardent love,
in the rumors of a kiss
and in the swing of a sigh,
and in the swing of a sigh.

You will know that I keep a treasure
for you inside my chest,
for you inside my chest,

get up from your bed
and you will know how much I adore you,
and you will know how much I adore you.

Streets are deserted
clouds wander lost,
and stars are awake
and stars are awake.

The New Year

We present this work in honor of Rosh Hashanah.

09-07 Lazarus
Emma Lazarus
American
1849 – 1887

 

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
Then the new year is born.
Look where the mother of the months uplifts
In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
Profusely to requite.
Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
what undreamed-of morn?
For never yet, since on the holy height,
The Temple’s marble walls of white and green
Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world’s light
Went out in darkness,—never was the year
Greater with portent and with promise seen,
Than this eve now and here.
Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent
Hath been enlarged unto earth’s farthest rim.
To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,
Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave,
For freedom to proclaim and worship Him,
Mighty to slay and save.
High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,
Out of the depths ye published still the Word.
No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:
Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,
Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,
Or died a thousand deaths.
In two divided streams the exiles part,
One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
And both embrace the world.
Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,
Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,
The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise
Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove
How strength of supreme suffering still is ours
For Truth and Law and Love.

The Pope

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

08-31 Lever
Charles James Lever
Irish
1806 – 1872

 

The Pope he leads a happy life,
He fears not married care nor strife.
He drinks the best of Rhenish wine,
I would the Pope’s gay lot were mine.

But yet all happy’s not his life,
He has no maid, nor blooming wife;
No child has he to raise his hope,
I would not wish to be the Pope.

The Sultan better pleases me,
His is a life of jollity;
He’s wives as many as he will,
I would the Sultan’s throne then fill.

But even he’s a wretched man,
He must obey the Alcoran;
He dare not drink one drop of wine
I would not change his lot for mine.

So here I’ll take my lowly stand,
I’ll drink my own, my native land;
I’ll kiss my maiden fair and fine,
And drink the best of Rhenish wine.

And when my maiden kisses me
I’ll think that I the Sultan be;
And when my cheery glass I tope,
I’ll fancy then I am the Pope.

Aspiring Miss Delaine

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 185th birthday.

08-25 Harte
Bret Harte
American
1836 – 1902

 

(a chemical narrative)

Certain facts which serve to explain
The physical charms of Miss Addie De Laine,
Who, as the common reports obtain,
Surpassed in complexion the lily and rose;
With a very sweet mouth and a retrousse nose;
A figure like Hebe’s, or that which revolves
In a milliner’s window, and partially solves
That question which mentor and moralist pains,
If grace may exist minus feeling or brains.

Of course the young lady had beaux by the score,
All that she wanted,—what girl could ask more?
Lovers that sighed and lovers that swore,
Lovers that danced and lovers that played,
Men of profession, of leisure, and trade;
But one, who was destined to take the high part
Of holding that mythical treasure, her heart,—
This lover, the wonder and envy of town,
Was a practicing chemist, a fellow called Brown.

I might here remark that ‘twas doubted by many,
In regard to the heart, if Miss Addie had any;
But no one could look in that eloquent face,
With its exquisite outline and features of grace,
And mark, through the transparent skin, how the tide
Ebbed and flowed at the impulse of passion or pride,—
None could look, who believed in the blood’s circulation
As argued by Harvey, but saw confirmation
That here, at least, Nature had triumphed o’er art,
And as far as complexion went she had a heart.

But this par parenthesis. Brown was the man
Preferred of all others to carry her fan,
Hook her glove, drape her shawl, and do all that a belle
May demand of the lover she wants to treat well.
Folks wondered and stared that a fellow called Brown—
Abstracted and solemn, in manner a clown,
Ill dressed, with a lingering smell of the shop—
Should appear as her escort at party or hop.
Some swore he had cooked up some villainous charm,
Or love philter, not in the regular Pharm-
Acopoeia, and thus, from pure malice prepense,
Had bewitched and bamboozled the young lady’s sense;
Others thought, with more reason, the secret to lie
In a magical wash or indelible dye;
While Society, with its censorious eye
And judgment impartial, stood ready to damn
What wasn’t improper as being a sham.

For a fortnight the townfolk had all been agog
With a party, the finest the season had seen,
To be given in honor of Miss Pollywog,
Who was just coming out as a belle of sixteen.
The guests were invited; but one night before
A carriage drew up at the modest back door
Of Brown’s lab’ratory, and, full in the glare
Of a big purple bottle, some closely veiled fair
Alighted and entered: to make matters plain,
Spite of veils and disguises, ‘twas Addie De Laine.

As a bower for true love, ‘twas hardly the one
That a lady would choose to be wooed in or won:
No odor of rose or sweet jessamine’s sigh
Breathed a fragrance to hallow their pledge of troth by,
Nor the balm that exhales from the odorous thyme;
But the gaseous effusions of chloride of lime,
And salts, which your chemist delights to explain
As the base of the smell of the rose and the drain.
Think of this, O ye lovers of sweetness! and know
What you smell when you snuff up Lubin or Pinaud.

I pass by the greetings, the transports and bliss,
Which of course duly followed a meeting like this,
And come down to business,—for such the intent
Of the lady who now o’er the crucible leant,
In the glow of a furnace of carbon and lime,
Like a fairy called up in the new pantomime,—
And give but her words, as she coyly looked down
In reply to the questioning glances of Brown:
‘I am taking the drops, and am using the paste,
And the little white powders that had a sweet taste,
Which you told me would brighten the glance of my eye,
And the depilatory, and also the dye,
And I’m charmed with the trial; and now, my dear Brown,
I have one other favor,—now, ducky, don’t frown,—
Only one, for a chemist and genius like you
But a trifle, and one you can easily do.
Now listen: to-morrow, you know, is the night
Of the birthday soiree of that Pollywog fright;
And I’m to be there, and the dress I shall wear
Is too lovely; but’— ‘But what then, ma chere?’
Said Brown, as the lady came to a full stop,
And glanced round the shelves of the little back shop.
‘Well, I want—I want something to fill out the skirt
To the proper dimensions, without being girt
In a stiff crinoline, or caged in a hoop
That shows through one’s skirt like the bars of a coop;
Something light, that a lady may waltz in, or polk,
With a freedom that none but you masculine folk
Ever know. For, however poor woman aspires,
She’s always bound down to the earth by these wires.
Are you listening? Nonsense! don’t stare like a spoon,
Idiotic; some light thing, and spacious, and soon—
Something like—well, in fact—something like a balloon!’

Here she paused; and here Brown, overcome by surprise,
Gave a doubting assent with still wondering eyes,
And the lady departed. But just at the door
Something happened,—’tis true, it had happened before
In this sanctum of science,—a sibilant sound,
Like some element just from its trammels unbound,
Or two substances that their affinities found.

The night of the anxiously looked for soiree
Had come, with its fair ones in gorgeous array;
With the rattle of wheels and the tinkle of bells,
And the ‘How do ye do’s’ and the ‘Hope you are well’s;’
And the crush in the passage, and last lingering look
You give as you hang your best hat on the hook;
The rush of hot air as the door opens wide;
And your entry,—that blending of self-possessed pride
And humility shown in your perfect-bred stare
At the folk, as if wondering how they got there;
With other tricks worthy of Vanity Fair.
Meanwhile, the safe topic, the beat of the room,
Already was losing its freshness and bloom;
Young people were yawning, and wondering when
The dance would come off; and why didn’t it then:
When a vague expectation was thrilling the crowd,
Lo! the door swung its hinges with utterance proud!
And Pompey announced, with a trumpet-like strain,
The entrance of Brown and Miss Addie De Laine.

She entered; but oh! how imperfect the verb
To express to the senses her movement superb!
To say that she ‘sailed in’ more clearly might tell
Her grace in its buoyant and billowy swell.
Her robe was a vague circumambient space,
With shadowy boundaries made of point-lace;
The rest was but guesswork, and well might defy
The power of critical feminine eye
To define or describe: ‘twere as futile to try
The gossamer web of the cirrus to trace,
Floating far in the blue of a warm summer sky.

‘Midst the humming of praises and glances of beaux
That greet our fair maiden wherever she goes,
Brown slipped like a shadow, grim, silent, and black,
With a look of anxiety, close in her track.
Once he whispered aside in her delicate ear
A sentence of warning,—it might be of fear:
‘Don’t stand in a draught, if you value your life.’
(Nothing more,—such advice might be given your wife
Or your sweetheart, in times of bronchitis and cough,
Without mystery, romance, or frivolous scoff.)
But hark to the music; the dance has begun.
The closely draped windows wide open are flung;
The notes of the piccolo, joyous and light,
Like bubbles burst forth on the warm summer night.
Round about go the dancers; in circles they fly;
Trip, trip, go their feet as their skirts eddy by;
And swifter and lighter, but somewhat too plain,
Whisks the fair circumvolving Miss Addie De Laine.
Taglioni and Cerito well might have pined
For the vigor and ease that her movements combined;
E’en Rigelboche never flung higher her robe
In the naughtiest city that’s known on the globe.
‘Twas amazing, ‘twas scandalous; lost in surprise,
Some opened their mouths, and a few shut their eyes.

But hark! At the moment Miss Addie De Laine,
Circling round at the outer edge of an ellipse
Which brought her fair form to the window again,
From the arms of her partner incautiously slips!
And a shriek fills the air, and the music is still,
And the crowd gather round where her partner forlorn
Still frenziedly points from the wide window-sill
Into space and the night; for Miss Addie was gone!
Gone like the bubble that bursts in the sun;
Gone like the grain when the reaper is done;
Gone like the dew on the fresh morning grass;
Gone without parting farewell; and alas!
Gone with a flavor of hydrogen gas!

When the weather is pleasant, you frequently meet
A white-headed man slowly pacing the street;
His trembling hand shading his lack-lustre eye,
Half blind with continually scanning the sky.
Rumor points him as some astronomical sage,
Re-perusing by day the celestial page;
But the reader, sagacious, will recognize Brown,
Trying vainly to conjure his lost sweetheart down,
And learn the stern moral this story must teach,
That Genius may lift its love out of its reach.

Fraternity

08-23 Aldrich
Anne Reeve Aldrich
American
1866 – 1892

 

I ask not how thy suffering came,
Or if by sin, or if by shame,
Or if by Fate’s capricious rulings:
To my large pity all’s the same.

Come close and lean against a heart
Eaten by pain and stung by smart;
It is enough if thou hast suffered,—
Brother or sister then thou art.

We will not speak of what we know,
Rehearse the pang, nor count the throe,
Nor ask what agony admitted
Thee to the Brotherhood of Woe.

But in our anguish-darkened land
Let us draw close, and clasp the hand;
Our whispered password holds assuagement,—
The solemn “Yea, I understand!”

Growing Old

We present this work in honor of National Senior Citizens Day.

08-21 Arnold
Matthew Arnold
English
1822 – 1888

 

What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.

Is it to feel our strength –
Not our bloom only, but our strength – decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this, and more! but not,
Ah, ‘tis not what in youth we dreamed ‘twould be!
‘Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,
A golden day’s decline!

‘Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fulness of the past,
The years that are no more!

It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion -none.

It is – last stage of all –
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man.

The Maiden’s Vow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 255th birthday.

Carolina Oliphant
Scots
1766 – 1845

I’ve made a vow, I’ll keep it true,
I’ll never married be;
For the only ane that I think on
Will never think o’ me.

Now gane to a far distant shore,
Their face nae mair I’ll see;
But often will I think o’ them,
That winna think o’ me.

Gae owre, gae owre noo, gude Sir John,
Oh, dinna follow me;
For the only ane I ere thocht on,
Lies buried in the sea.