Monday, June 29, 2015

Elinor Wylie

Winter Sleep

When against earth a wooden heel 
Clicks as loud as stone on steel, 
When stone turns flour instead of flakes, 
And frost bakes clay as fire bakes, 
When the hard-bitten fields at last 
Crack like iron flawed in the cast, 
When the world is wicked and cross and old, 
I long to be quit of the cruel cold.

Little birds like bubbles of glass 
Fly to other Americas, 
Birds as bright as sparkles of wine 
Fly in the nite to the Argentine, 
Birds of azure and flame-birds go 
To the tropical Gulf of Mexico: 
They chase the sun, they follow the heat, 
It is sweet in their bones, O sweet, sweet, sweet! 
It's not with them that I'd love to be, 
But under the roots of the balsam tree.

Just as the spiniest chestnut-burr 
Is lined within with the finest fur, 
So the stoney-walled, snow-roofed house 
Of every squirrel and mole and mouse 
Is lined with thistledown, sea-gull's feather, 
Velvet mullein-leaf, heaped together 
With balsam and juniper, dry and curled, 
Sweeter than anything else in the world.

O what a warm and darksome nest 
Where the wildest things are hidden to rest! 
It's there that I'd love to lie and sleep, 
Soft, soft, soft, and deep, deep, deep!

Elinor Wylie

Velvet Shoes

Let us walk in the white snow 
          In a soundless space; 
With footsteps quiet and slow, 
          At a tranquil pace, 
          Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk, 
          And you in wool, 
White as white cow's milk, 
          More beautiful 
          Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town 
          In a windless peace; 
We shall step upon white down, 
          Upon silver fleece, 
          Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes: 
          Wherever we go 
Silence will fall like dews 
          On white silence below. 
          We shall walk in the snow.

John Crowe Ransom's poem "April"

SAVOR of love is thick on the April air,
The blunted boughs dispose their lacy bloom,
And many sorry steeds dismissed to pasture
Toss their old forelocks, flourish heavy heels.
Where is there any unpersuaded poet
So angry still against the wrongs of winter
Which caused the dainty earth to droop and die,
So vengeant for his vine and summer song,
As to decline the good releasing thaw?
Poets have temperature and follow seasons,
And covenants go out at equinox.

The champions! For Heaven, riding high
Above the icy death, considered truly;
'My agate icy work, I thought it fair;
Yet I have lacked that pretty lift of praise
That mounted once from these emaciate minstrels.
They will not sing, and duty drops away
And I must turn and make a soft amend!'
At once he showered April down, until
The bleak twigs bloom again; and soon, I swear,
He shall receive his praise. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015


This is a great poem by American and famous beauty Elinor Wylie [1885-1928]--the early lines remind you of Keats, but then end is very American, Wordsworth/Frost style. It's spine chilling.

Wild Peaches


When the world turns completely upside down 
You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore 
Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore; 
We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town, 
You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown 
Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold colour. 
Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor, 
We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

The winter will be short, the summer long, 
The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot, 
Tasting of cider and of scuppernong; 
All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all. 
The squirrels in their silver fur will fall 
Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.


The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass 
Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold. 
The misted early mornings will be cold; 
The little puddles will be roofed with glass. 
The sun, which burns from copper into brass, 
Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold 
Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold 
Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.

Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover; 
A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year; 
The spring begins before the winter's over. 
By February you may find the skins 
Of garter snakes and water moccasins 
Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear.


When April pours the colours of a shell 
Upon the hills, when every little creek 
Is shot with silver from the Chesapeake 
In shoals new-minted by the ocean swell, 
When strawberries go begging, and the sleek 
Blue plums lie open to the blackbird's beak, 
We shall live well -- we shall live very well.

The months between the cherries and the peaches 
Are brimming cornucopias which spill 
Fruits red and purple, sombre-bloomed and black; 
Then, down rich fields and frosty river beaches 
We'll trample bright persimmons, while you kill 
Bronze partridge, speckled quail, and canvasback.


Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones 
There's something in this richness that I hate. 
I love the look, austere, immaculate, 
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones. 
There's something in my very blood that owns 
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate, 
A thread of water, churned to milky spate 
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray, 
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves; 
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath, 
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay, 
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves, 
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


In the summer, reading winter poetry is a special thing to enjoy. You can really yearn for the ice cold breezes and crackling snow, whereas during the season itself, it's hard to appreciate. American poet and later activist for the Native Americans, Helen Hunt Jackson [1830-1885] has a great poem on the month of 'January' in this vein [read more here]:

O WINTER! frozen pulse and heart of fire,
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire
The streams than under ice. June could not hire
Her roses to forego the strength they learn
In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn
The bridges thou dost lay where men desire
In vain to build.
                          O Heart, when Love's sun goes
To northward, and the sounds of singing cease,
Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows,
The winter is the winter's own release.


English poet and many-time Nobel Prize in literature nominee, youthful wildman A.C. Swinburne's [1837-1909] poem 'A Dark Month' has a great opening in stanza one [and read more here]:

A MONTH without sight of the sun
    Rising or reigning or setting
Through days without use of the day,
Who calls it the month of May?
The sense of the name is undone
    And the sound of it fit for forgetting.We shall not feel if the sun rise,
    We shall not care when it sets:
If a nightingale make night’s air
As noontide, why should we care?
Till a light of delight that is done rise,
    Extinguishing grey regrets;
Till a child’s face lighten again
    On the twilight of older faces;
Till a child’s voice fall as the dew
On furrows with heat parched through
And all but hopeless of grain,
    Refreshing the desolate places—
Fall clear on the ears of us hearkening
    And hungering for food of the sound
And thirsting for joy of his voice:
Till the hearts in us hear and rejoice,
And the thoughts of them doubting and darkening
    Rejoice with a glad thing found.
When the heart of our gladness is gone,
    What comfort is left with us after?
When the light of our eyes is away,
What glory remains upon May,
What blessing of song is thereon
    If we drink not the light of his laughter?
No small sweet face with the daytime
    To welcome, warmer than noon!
No sweet small voice as a bird’s
To bring us the day’s first words!
Mid May for us here is not Maytime!
    No summer begins with June.
A whole dead month in the dark,
    A dawn in the mists that o’ercome her
Stifled and smothered and sad—
Swift speed to it, barren and bad!
And return to us, voice of the lark,
    And remain with us, sunlight of summer.


William Cullen Bryant [1794-1878] has some great poetry, he's a more relaxed version of Shelley--a more American one. He was an early U.S. poet and walked seven miles daily to his workplace as a lawyer. Read his work here--and here's an example of his beautiful work [the last stanza elevates the whole thing]:


When beechen buds begin to swell,
    And woods the blue-bird's warble know,
The yellow violet's modest bell
    Peeps from the last year's leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,
    Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,
To meet thee, when thy faint perfume
    Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring
    First plant thee in the watery mould,
And I have seen thee blossoming
    Beside the snow-bank's edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view
    Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,
Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,
    And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,
    And earthward bent thy gentle eye,
Unapt the passing view to meet,
    When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,
    Thy early smile has stayed my walk;
But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,
    I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget
    The friends in darker fortunes tried.
I copied them—but I regret
    That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour
    Awakes the painted tribes of light,
I'll not o'erlook the modest flower
    That made the woods of April bright.