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 Definition of Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

Andrew Marvell
English
1621 – 1678

 

My love is of a birth as rare
As ’tis for object strange and high;
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing
Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown,
But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic pow’r depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have plac’d,
(Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embrac’d;

Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp’d into a planisphere.

As lines, so loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet;
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

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!”

To the Tune of the Coventry Carol

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Stevie Smith
English
1902 – 1971

 

The nearly right
And yet not quite
In love is wholly evil
And every heart
That loves in part
Is mortgaged to the devil

I loved or thought
I loved in sort
Was this to love akin?
To take the best
And leave the rest
And let the devil in?

O lovers true
And others too
Whose best is only better
Take my advice
Shun compromise
Forget him and forget her

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.

The Lass of Fair Wone

Charlotte Dacre
English
1771 – 1825

 

Beside the parson’s dusky bow’r
Why strays a troubl’d sprite,
That dimly shines in lonely hour
Thro’ curtains of the night?

Why steals along yon slimy bank
An hov’ring fire so blue,
That lights a spot both drear and dank,
Where falls nor rain nor dew?

The parson once a daughter had,
Fair village maids above;
Unstain’d as fair—and many a lad
Had sought the maiden’s love.

High o’er the hamlet proudly dight
Beyond the winding stream,
The windows of yon mansion bright
Shone in the evening beam.

A Bacchanalian lord dwelt there,
Unworthy of his name;
He plung’d a father in despair,
And robb’d a maiden’s fame.

With wine and tapers sparkling round,
The night flew swift away;
In huntsman’s dress, with horn and hound,
He met the dawning day.

He sent the maid his picture, deck’d
With diamonds, pearls, and gold;
Ah! silly maid, why not reject
What on the back was told?

‘Despise the love of shepherd boys;
Shalt thou be basely woo’d
That worthy art of highest joys,
And youths of noble blood?

‘The tale I would to thee unfold
In secret must be said;
And when the midnight hour is told,
Fair love, be not afraid.

‘And when the am’rous nightingale
Like thee shall sweetly sing,
A stone thy window shall assail,
My idol forth to bring.’

Attired in vest of gayest blue,
He came with lonely tread,
And silent as the beams that threw
Their pale light o’er her head.

And did no thought affect his breast,
Or bid his feet delay?
Ah! no! the crime but adds a zest
To spur his guilty way.

And when the sweet-pip’d nightingale
Sang from the dusky bow’r,
A stone her window did assail
Just at the midnight hour.

And ah! she came;—his treacherous arms
The trembling maid receive;
How soon do they in lover’s charms
A lover’s truth believe!

Lock’d in his arms, she scarcely strove,
Seduc’d by young desire,
The glowing twin brother of Love,
Possess’d with wilder fire.

Still struggling, faint, he led her on
Tow’rd the fatal bow’r,
So still—so dim—while all along
Sweet smelt each blushing flow’r.

Then beat her heart—and heav’d her breast—
And pleaded ev’ry sense;
Remorseless the seducer prest,
To blast her innocence.

But soon in tears repentant drown’d,
The drooping fair bemoan’d,
And oft, when night in terror frown’d,
Forlorn and sad she roam’d.

And when the fragrile flow’rs decay’d,
The bloom her cheeks forsook,
And from her eyes no longer play’d
The loves with wily look.

And when the leaves of autumn fell,
And grey the grass was grown,
Her bosom rose with lovely swell,
And tighter grew her zone.

And when the mow’rs went a field
The yellow corn to ted,
She felt her sorrowing bosom yield
To all a mother’s dread.

And when the winds of winter swept
The stubborn glebe among,
In wild despair and fear she wept
The lingering night along.

And when the fault of yielding love
No more could be conceal’d,
She knelt, her father’s soul to move,
And, weeping, all reveal’d.

But vain her tears; the ruthless sire
In piteous voice revil’d,
And while his eye-balls flash’d with fire,
He spurn’d his hapless child:

Spurn’d her with cruelty severe,
And smote her snowy breast;
The patient blood, that gush’d so clear,
Its purity confess’d.

Such are the dang’rous thorns of love,
That strew the virgin’s way,
While faithless as its roses prove,
‘Tis they that first decay.

Then drove her forth forlorn to wail
Amid the dreary wild,
Forgets that mortals all are frail,
But more—forgets his child!

Unhappy parent!—passion’s slave!
Had nature been thy guide,
Thy child, now sunk in hasten’d grave,
Might still have been thy pride.

Up the harsh rock so steep and slim’d,
The mourner had to roam,
And faint on tott’ring feet she clim’d
To seek her lover’s home.

‘Alas! my blood-stain’d bosom see,
The drooping sufferer cried;
‘A mother hast thou made of me,
Before thou mad’st a bride .

‘This is thy ruthless deed—behold!’
And sinking on the floor;
‘Oh! let thy love with honour hold,
My injur’d name restore.’

‘Poor maid! I grieve to see thy woe;
My folly now lament:
Go not while harsh the tempests blow,
Thy father shall repent.’

‘I cannot stay,’ she shudd’ring cried,
‘While dubious hangs my fame.
Alas! forswear thy cruel pride,
And leave me not to shame.

‘Make me thy wife, I’ll love thee true;
High Heaven approves the deed:
For mercy’s sake some pity shew,
E’en while for thee I bleed!’

‘Sure ‘tis thy mirth, or dost thou rave?
‘Can I,’ he scoffing cried,
‘Thy forfeit name from scorn to save,
E’er wed a peasant maid?

‘What honour bids I’ll do for thee—
My huntsman shall be thine;
While still our loves, voluptuous free,
No shackles shall confine.’

‘Damn’d be thy soul, and sad thy life,
May pangs in hell await!
Wretch! if too humble for thy wife,
Oh, why not for thy mate?

‘May God attend, my bitter prayer!
Some high-born spouse be thine,
Whose wanton arts shall mock thy care,
And spurious be thy line.

‘Then traitor fell, how wretched those
In hopeless shame immers’d,
Strike thy hard breast with vengeful blows,
While curses from it burst!

‘Roll thy dry eyes, for mercy call,
Unsooth’d thy grinning woe;
Through thy pale temples fire the ball,
And sink to fiends below!’

Then starting up, she wildly flew,
Nor heard the hissing sleet,
Nor knew how keen the tempest blew,
Nor felt her bleeding feet.

‘Oh where, my God! where shall I roam?
For shelter where shall fly?’
She cried, as wild she sought the home
Where still she wish’d to die.

Tow’rd the bow’r, in frenzied woe,
The fainting wand’rer drew,
Where wither’d leaves and driving snow
Made haste her bed to strew:

E’en to that bower, where first undone,
Now yields its bed forlorn,
And now beholds a cherub son
In grief and terror born.

‘Ah, lovely babe!’ she cried, ‘we part
Ne’er, ne’er to meet again!’
Then frantic pierc’d its tender heart—
The new-born life is slain.

Swift horror seiz’d her shudd’ring soul—
‘My God, behold my crime!
Let thy avenging thunders roll,
And crush me in my prime!’

With blood-stain’d hands the bank beside
Its shallow grave she tore.
‘There rest in God,’ she wildly cried,
‘Where guilt can stab no more.’

Then the red knife, with blood imbru’d,
Of innocence, she press’d;
Its fatal point convulsive view’d,
And sheath’d it in her breast.

Beside her infant’s lonely tomb
Her mould’ring form is laid,
Where never flow’r is seen to bloom
Beneath the deadly shade.

Where falls nor rain nor heavenly dew,
Where sun-beam never shines,
Where steals along the fire so blue,
And hov’ring spectre pines.

There, too, its blood-stain’d hand to wave,
Her mournful ghost is seen,
Or dimly o’er her infant’s grave,
Three spans in length, to lean.

Bright Star

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

John Keats
English
1795 –1821

 

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Against Constancy

Earl of Rochester
English
1647 – 1680

 

Tell me no more of constancy,
The frivolous pretense
Of cold age, narrow jealousy,
Disease, and want of sense.

Let duller fools, on whom kind chance
Some easy heart has thrown,
Despairing higher to advance,
Be kind to one alone.

Old men and weak, whose idle flame
Their own defects discovers,
Since changing can but spread their shame,
Ought to be constant lovers.

But we, whose hearts do justly swell
With no vainglorious pride,
Who know how we in love excel,
Long to be often tried.

Then bring my bath, and strew my bed,
As each kind night returns;
I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead—
And fate change me to worms.

The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rudyard Kipling
English
1865 – 1936

 

That night, when through the mooring-chains
The wide-eyed corpse rolled free,
To blunder down by Garden Reach
And rot at Kedgeree,
The tale the Hughli told the shoal
The lean shoal told to me.

‘Twas Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house,
Where sailor-men reside,
And there were men of all the ports
From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
And fearsomely they lied.

They lied about the purple Sea
That gave them scanty bread,
They lied about the Earth beneath,
The Heavens overhead,
For they had looked too often on
Black rum when that was red.

They told their tales of wreck and wrong,
Of shame and lust and fraud,
They backed their toughest statements with
The Brimstone of the Lord,
And crackling oaths went to and fro
Across the fist-banged board.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

And there was Jake Without-the-Ears,
And Pamba the Malay,
And Carboy Gin the Guinea cook,
And Luz from Vigo Bay,
And Honest Jack who sold them slops
And harvested their pay.

And there was Salem Hardieker,
A lean Bostonian he—
Russ, German, English, Halfbreed, Finn,
Yank, Dane, and Portuguee,
At Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
The rested from the sea.

Now Anne of Austria shared their drinks,
Collinga knew her fame,
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Jaun Bazaar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wage of shame.

She held a dozen men to heel—
Rich spoil of war was hers,
In hose and gown and ring and chain,
From twenty mariners,
And, by Port Law, that week, men called
Her Salem Hardieker’s.

But seamen learnt—what landsmen know—
That neither gifts nor gain
Can hold a winking Light o’ Love
Or Fancy’s flight restrain,
When Anne of Austria rolled her eyes
On Hans the blue-eyed Dane.

Since Life is strife, and strife means knife,
From Howrah to the Bay,
And he may die before the dawn
Who liquored out the day,
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
We woo while yet we may.

But cold was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
And laughter shook the chest beneath
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

“You speak to Salem Hardieker;
“You was his girl, I know.
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, see,
“Und round the Skaw we go,
“South, down the Cattegat, by Hjelm,
“To Besser in Saro.”

When love rejected turns to hate,
All ill betide the man.
“You speak to Salem Hardieker”—
She spoke as woman can.
A scream—a sob—“He called me—names!”
And then the fray began.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
A knife-thrust unawares—
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
Across the broken chairs.

…In Anne of Austria’s trembling hands
The weary head fell low:—
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, straight
“For Besser in Saro;
“Und there Ultruda comes to me
“At Easter, und I go

“South, down the Cattegat—What’s here?
“There—are—no—lights—to guide!”
The mutter ceased, the spirit passed,
And Anne of Austria cried
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
When Hans the mighty died.

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
But Anne of Austria looted first
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

The Three Kings

We present this work in honor of Three Kings Day.

Edith Nesbit
English
1858 – 1924

 

When the star in the East was lit to shine
The three kings journeyed to Palestine;

They came from the uttermost parts of earth
With long trains laden with gifts of worth.

The first king rode on a camel’s back,
He came from the land where the kings are black,

Bringing treasures desired of kings,
Rubies and ivory and precious things.

An elephant carried the second king,
He came from the land of the sun-rising,

And gems and gold and spices he bare
With broidered raiment for kings to wear.

The third king came without steed or train
From the misty land where the white kings reign.

He bore no gifts save the myrrh in his hand,
For he came on foot from a far-off land.

Now when they had travelled a-many days
Through tangled forests and desert ways,

By angry seas and by paths thorn-set
On Christmas Vigil the three kings met.

And over their meeting a shrouded sky
Made dark the star they had travelled by.

Then the first king spake and he frowned and said:
‘By some ill spell have our feet been led,

‘Now I see in the darkness the fools we are
To follow the light of a lying star.

‘Let us fool no more, but like kings and men
Each get him home to his land again!’

Then the second king with the weary face,
Gold-tinct as the sun of his reigning place,

Lifted sad eyes to the clouds and said,
‘It was but a dream and the dream is sped.

‘We dreamed of a star that rose new and fair,
But it sets in the night of the old despair.

‘Yet night is faithful though stars betray,
It will lead to our kingdoms far away.’

Then spake the king who had fared alone
From the far-off kingdom, the white-hung throne:

‘O brothers, brothers, so very far
Ye have followed the light of the radiant star,

‘And because for a while ye see it not
Shall its faithful shining be all forgot?

‘On the spirit’s pathway the light still lies
Though the star be hid from our longing eyes.

‘To-morrow our star will be bright once more
The little pin-hole in heaven’s floor–

‘The Angels pricked it to let it bring
Our feet to the throne of the new-born King!’

And the first king heard and the second heard
And their hearts grew humble before the third.

And they laid them down beside bale and beast
and their sleeping eyes saw light in the East.

For the Angels fanned them with starry wings
And the waft of visions of unseen things.

And the next gold day waned trembling and white
And the star was born of the waxing night.

And the three kings came where the Great King lay,
A little baby among the hay,

The ox and the ass were standing near
And Mary Mother beside her Dear.

Then low in the litter the kings bowed down,
They gave Him gold for a kingly crown,

And frankincense for a great God’s breath
and Myrrh to sweeten the day of death.

The Maiden Mother she stood and smiled
And she took from the manger her little child.

On the dark king’s head she laid His hand
And anger died at that dear command.

She laid His hand on the gold king’s head
And despair itself was comforted.

But when the pale king knelt in the stall
She heard on the straw his tears down fall.

And she stooped where he knelt beside her feet
And laid on his bosom her baby sweet.

And the king in the holy stable-place
Felt the little lips through the tears on his face.

Christ! lay Thy hand on the angry king
Who reigns in my breast to my undoing,

And lay thy hands on the king who lays
The spell of sadness on all my days,

And give the white king my soul, Thy soul,
Of these other kings the high control.

That soul and spirit and sense may meet
In adoration before Thy feet!

Now Glory to God the Father Most High,
And the Star, the Spirit, He leads us by.

And to God’s dear Son, the Babe who was born
And laid in the manger on Christmas morn!