Tender Mercies

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

Anna Laetitia Waring
1823 – 1910


Tender mercies, on my way
Falling softly like the dew,
Sent me freshly every day,
I will bless the Lord for you.

Though I have not all I would,
Though to greater bliss I go,
Every present gift of good
To Eternal Love I owe.

Source of all that comforts me,
Well of joy for which I long,
Let the song I sing to Thee
Be an everlasting song.

The Collar

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 390th birthday.

George Herbert
1593 – 1633



I struck the board, and cry’d, No more,
I will abroad.
What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
Shall I be still in fruit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare onely lost to me?
Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And by thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away; take heed:
I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grevv more fierce and wilde
At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe:
And I reply’d , My Lord.

Mount of Olives

Henry Vaughan
1621 – 1695


Sweet, sacred hill! on whose fair brow
My Saviour sate, shall I allow
Language to love,
And idolize some shade, or grove,
Neglecting thee? such ill-plac’d wit,
Conceit, or call it what you please,
Is the brain’s fit,
And mere disease.

Cotswold and Cooper’s both have met
With learnèd swains, and echo yet
Their pipes and wit;
But thou sleep’st in a deep neglect,
Untouch’d by any; and what need
The sheep bleat thee a silly lay,
That heard’st both reed
And sheepward play?

Yet if poets mind thee well,
They shall find thou art their hill,
And fountain too.
Their Lord with thee had most to do;
He wept once, walk’d whole nights on thee:
And from thence—His suff’rings ended—
Unto glory
Was attended.

Being there, this spacious ball
Is but His narrow footstool all;
And what we think
Unsearchable, now with one wink
He doth comprise; but in this air
When He did stay to bear our ill
And sin, this hill
Was then His Chair.

A Young Girl’s Complaint About Her Sweetheart

Elen Gwdman
c. 1616


Every young woman in the world,
In pure mind and heart;
Be wary, watch that you be wicked
To a lad, O be faithful.

I know from my own wound
And I confess to you:
The spear of sadness is in my breast
Because of loving faithfully.

A fine, noble graceful man,
In the lusty age of youth,
As he passed by the place where I lived,
I often enjoyed his company.

His virtues and his speech in my presence
His appearing sudden like the snow
And his sobriety were causes
To make me think he liked me.

Cupid knew in a short time
That I liked his ways,
And he struck a heavy blow,
Yes, an arrow of lead to my heart.

Then we both became sick
But neither confessed his thoughts;
Each knew only his own wound
Even though both were in pain.

Being of frail confidence, he did not
Presume to ask
Mercy at my hand,
But suffered there like a little lamb.

And I too was shy or dumb,
Not daring to tell him
Nor giving any sign anywhere
Of my wound, that he might suspect.

I imagined that he was just
Feigning a fancy
And he thought it was not fit
To try to salve my bruise.

Thus we were not counting the stars
And lacking a go-between;
When fortune brought, Christ knows,
To me sad news.

I heard that his friends had
Bound him tightly to another
He had to suffer swiftly
Either the yoke or the axe.

Meeting each other after this
And starting to enquire in amazement;
Blame fell on Destiny
That our friends knew not our troubles.

Since he is saying goodbye,
I will further confess:
From now on, for his sake,
I will live a madi all my life.

Friends and kinfolk, foolish and wise,
I say farewell to you;
I’ll go to Rome, with God’s strength,
To live all my life in a nunnery.

Singing and dancing, processions, gossip
I renounce your company;
Gravity, fasting, and prayer,
For these I have a welcome.

A girl sang this, who has set her heart
On giving up the world;
And in praise to pure Jesus
I will not seek to sing anything but this.

Lines Written Upon Seeing Strawberry Hill

03-18 Penny
Anne Penny
1729 – 1784

When Thames, in plaintive murmurs, lav’d the grott
Where once his darling Pope each care forgot;
Where, with the Muse, he pass’d the smiling day,
Whose strains celestial crown’d the moral lay;
Each drooping Swan with sorrow view’d the shore,
And mourn’d, in melting dirge, their Bard no more:
Ah! flown, O Thames! thy fairest Swan (they sung)
Whose warbling lyre immortal Genius strung,
Truth, Nature, Virtue, touch’d the trembling chord,
While mute Attention caught the Poet’s word.
And must thy beauteous stream incessant mourn?
Is Genius banish’d, never to return?
No—thy sweet banks, immortal Thames! shall prove
His fond affection, and the Muses’ love;
Succeeding years will sure a Walpole give,
In whose progressive mind shall genius live:
His wish to crown—each Muse—each Grace shall meet,
And fix on Strawberry Hill their lov’d retreat.

Song of the Worker’s Wife

02-06 Jones
Alice Gray Jones
1852 – 1943

My hands are none too white,
Nor lovely nor tender either,
They’re rough and ugly to your sight,
Because of the constant labour,
But my hands are not complaining,
There’s no whinging in my breast,
When I recall my tidy house, containing,
My happy little family, like a Nest.

The kids would go early to bed,
And I’d set to doing the wash,
The little snow white clothes all aired,
I’d get them up so nice and posh,
I’d sew a button on David’s shirt,
And put a nail in Sam’s shoe,
And I’d mend Enid’s red skirt-
Those chores that all mothers do.

And Oh! They were all around me,
Like glad little chicks in a throng,
And my single purpose was to see,
My children happy, fit and strong,
To keep an eye on their progress,
To care for them all day long,
To keep their language spotless:
I was happy, all smiles and song.

But, alas, they’ve all grown up,
And all have left the nest,
They’ll no more come home to sup,
And their old toys are all at rest!
The workbox for mending their things,
And for putting a nail in Sam’s shoe,
Is now quite useless- a bird without wings;
A mam’s initiative unwanted, no more for her to do!

The Dentist and the Crocodile

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

09-13 Dahl
Roald Dahl
1916 – 1990


The crocodile, with cunning smile, sat in the dentist’s chair.
He said, “Right here and everywhere my teeth require repair.”
The dentist’s face was turning white. He quivered, quaked and shook.
He muttered, “I suppose I’m going to have to take a look.”
“I want you”, Crocodile declared, “to do the back ones first.
The molars at the very back are easily the worst.”
He opened wide his massive jaws. It was a fearsome sight—
At least three hundred pointed teeth, all sharp and shining white.
The dentist kept himself well clear. He stood two yards away.
He chose the longest probe he had to search out the decay.
“I said to do the back ones first!” the Crocodile called out.
“You’re much too far away, dear sir, to see what you’re about.
To do the back ones properly you’ve got to put your head
Deep down inside my great big mouth,” the grinning Crocky said.
The poor old dentist wrung his hands and, weeping in despair,
He cried, “No no! I see them all extremely well from here!”
Just then, in burst a lady, in her hands a golden chain.
She cried, “Oh Croc, you naughty boy, you’re playing tricks again!”
“Watch out!” the dentist shrieked and started climbing up the wall.
“He’s after me! He’s after you! He’s going to eat us all!”
“Don’t be a twit,” the lady said, and flashed a gorgeous smile.
“He’s harmless. He’s my little pet, my lovely crocodile.”

The Head-Ach or An Ode to Health

07-10 Cave
Jane Cave
1754 – 1812


O Health! thou dear invaluable guest!
Thy rosy subjects, how supremely blest!
Hear the blith milk-maid and the plough-boy sing,
Nor envy they the station of a king;
While Kings thy sweets to gain would gladly bow,
Resign their crowns and guide the rustic’s plough:
Thou pearl surpassing riches, power or birth!
Of blessings thou the greatest known on earth!
Thy value’s found like that of bards of yore,
We know to prize thee when thou art no more!
Ah! Why from me; art thou for ever flown?
Why deaf to ev’ry agonizing groan?
Not one short month for ten revolving years,
But pain within my frame its sceptre rears!
In each successive month full twelve long days
And tedious nights my sun withdraws his rays!
Leaves me in silent anguish on my bed,
Afflicting all the members in the head;
Through ev’ry particle the torture flies,
But centers in the temples, brain and eyes;
The efforts of the hands and feet are vain,
While bows the head with agonizing pain;
While heaves the breast th’ unutterable sigh,
And the big tear drops from the languid eye.
For ah! my children want a mother’s care,
A husband too, should due assistance share;
Myself for action form’d would fain thro’ life
Be found th’ assiduous–valuable wife;
But now, behold, I live unfit for aught;
Inactive half my days except in thought,
And this so vague while torture clogs my hours,
I sigh, Oh, ‘twill derange my mental powers!
Or by its dire excess dissolve my sight,
And thus entomb me in perptual night!
Ye sage Physicians, where’s your wonted skill?
In vain the blisters, bolusses and pill;
Great Neptune’s swelling waves in vain I try’d,
My malady its utmost power defy’d;
In vain the British and Cephalic Snuff,
All Patent Medicines are empty stuff;
The launcet, leech, and cupping swell the train
Of useless efforts, which but gave me pain;
Each art and application rain has prov’d,
For ah! my sad complaint is not remo’v’d.
Live’s one on earth possess’d of sympathy,
Who knows what is presum’d a remedy?
O send it hither! I again would try,
Tho’ in the attempt of conqu’ring I die.
For thus to languish on is worse than death,
And I have hope if Heav’n recall my breath.

The Power of Prayer

In honor of Shavout, we present this work by a poet with a unique Jewish perspective.

Dannie Abse
1923 – 2014


A kind of tune, heart in pilgrimage, yes,
But reversed thunder as Herbert said?
Herbert was right or we were April fools
Last night when we beheld a sign. Behold!
our Indian neighbor surely praying
since every house across the road was dark
except his own—his bedroom lit by volts,
no doubt, of the thunderstruck eternal.
Why else would those high surprising windows
be raging steadily with sheet lightning?

Herbert, such prayer-power! You’d not credit
these other, raving, more ancient gods
summoned here by fervent invitation.
How they swarmed in rudely, none so rampant
as Agni—tawny hair, all gold teeth,
long golden beard—whooping it up crazy
in that attic crackling room, his crimson
snorting horses and his dwarf golden car.
These wild, drunken fire deities! Neighbour,
we thought, oh cease praying do, for God’s sake.

And just in case called the bell-mad earthly
fire brigade whose hoses curved and hushed
so that the gods quit, disguised cleverly,
of course, as tiny butterflies of fire
or billowing out in cloaks of smoke
and sacred steam. Now no more thunderstorms,
only black debris of last night’s party.
And so we godless ones give thanks to God
For godless neighbors this April morning
and for ladders more than rainbows, Herbert.

Since I Am Corruptly Fallen

Ann Griffiths
1776 – 1805

Since I am corruptly fallen,
Straying from you constantly,
To ascend your sacred mountain
Is the right of rights for me.
There on high your veils are riven,
Every cover nullified,
There above all worldly nothings
Is your glory magnified.

Oh to drink on high forever
Where redemption’s waters flow,
Drink until I thirst no longer
For the fading world below,
Live in wait for my Lord’s coming,
Wakeful for the coming night
When I swiftly open to him
In his image, in his sight.

Translation by A.Z. Foreman