Robert Frost:


Robert Frost is one of the great poets of the twentieth century. His works have thrilled both audiences and critics alike for more than 80 years. Frost's greatness lies in the fact that his poems romanticize the rural simplicity that he loved while probing into the mysteries of the universe.


Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874 and spent his early childhood there. After the death of his father, when the poet was ten, his family moved to Salem, New Hampshire, farming country of which his poetry was to be so deeply expressive.


Although he was an excellent scholar, Frost quit college to do odd jobs and write poetry. He sailed to London in 1912, where he found a publisher for his poetry. His first book brought him to the attention of influential critics, including Ezra Pound who praised Frost as a true American poet.


After the publication of a second volume of poetry called North of Boston (1914), Frost returned to the United States to win fame and fortune. He taught college and gave poetry readings throughout much of the United States. His reputation and fame grew with each book published. When he died in 1963, Frost had become a national bard with four Pulitzer Prizes and numerous honorary degrees. Yet the critic Trilling later described him as a ‘poet of terror.’


The Road not Taken


 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

 And sorry I could not travel both

 And be one traveler, long I stood

 And looked down one as far as I could

 To where it bent in the undergrowth;


 Then took the other, as just as fair,

 And having perhaps the better claim,

 Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

 Though as for that the passing there

 Had worn them really about the same,


 And both that morning equally lay

 In leaves no step had trodden black.

 Oh, I kept the first for another day!

 Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

 I doubted if I should ever come back.


 I shall be telling this with a sigh

 Somewhere ages and ages hence:

 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

 I took the one less traveled by,

 And that has made all the difference.



Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening


Whose woods these are I think I know.

 His house is in the village though;

 He will not see me stopping here

 To watch his woods fill up with snow.


 My little horse must think it queer

 To stop without a farmhouse near

 Between the woods and frozen lake

 The darkest evening of the year.


 He gives his harness bells a shake

 To ask if there is some mistake.

 The only other sound's the sweep

 Of easy wind and downy flake.


 The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

 But I have promises to keep,

 And miles to go before I sleep,

 And miles to go before I sleep.



Robert Frost: Tree at my Window


Tree at my window, window tree,

 My sash is lowered when night comes on;

 But let there never be curtain drawn

 Between you and me.


Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,

 And thing next most diffuse to cloud,

 Not all your light tongues talking aloud

 Could be profound.


But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,

 And if you have seen me when I slept,

 You have seen me when I was taken and swept

 And all but lost.


That day she put our heads together,

 Fate had her imagination about her,

 Your head so much concerned with outer,

 Mine with inner, weather.



D. H. Lawrence:


David Herbert Lawrence was born on 11th September 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. His birthplace, 8a Victoria Street, is now maintained as a museum, in the style of a turn of the century house. He was an author of novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, and letters. His novels Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), and Women in Love (1920) made him one of the most important English writers of the 20th century.


  Lawrence was the fourth child of an illiterate Nottinghamshire coal miner, and an educated mother.Lawrence had a difficult relationship with his home town, which was until recently in a coal mining area and, as an academic and a person interested in books and poetry rather than earning a living through his own physical labours was regarded as 'different'. His contempories did not have fond memories of him and it has only been in recent times that Eastwood has begun to grant him the recognition he deserves.


 Lawrence himself was deeply affected by his early years in the town and much of his writings use the locality as a backdrop, especially the contrast between mining town and unspoiled countryside, the life and culture of the miners, and the problems between his parents. He always referred to the Eastwood district as 'the country of my heart' but this was an affection born more of absence than anything else.


   After attending Beauvale Boys School he won a scholarship to Nottingham High School (1898-1901) and it is interesting that in his final year he obtained only thirteenth place in English, out of a class of twenty seven. He left school at 16 to earn a living as clerk in a surgical appliance factory in Nottingham, but he had to give up work after a first attack of pneumonia. Convalescing, he began visiting the Haggs Farm nearby and began an intense friendship with Jessie Chambers. He became a pupil-teacher in Eastwood in 1902 and, encouraged by Jessie, began to write in 1905; his first story being published in a local newspaper in 1907. He subsequently studied at University College, Nottingham, from 1906 to 1908, earning a teachers' certificate, and went on writing poems and stories and drafting his first novel.


   In the year of 1911 Lawrence had another attack of pneumonia and decided to give up teaching and live by writing. He also fell in love and eloped with Frieda Weekley (née von Richthofen), the German wife of a professor at Nottingham. The couple went first to Germany and then to Italy, They were married in England in 1914 after Frieda's divorce.


 During World War I Lawrence and his wife were trapped in England and living in poverty although he managed to avoid conscription. After World War I Lawrence left the country for Italy and never again returned to Eastwood or Great Britain. He died in Vence, France on March 2nd , 1930.


Trees in the Garden


Ah in the thunder air

how still the trees are!


And the lime-tree, lovely and tall, every leaf silent

hardly looses even a last breath of perfume.


And the ghostly, creamy coloured little tree of leaves

white, ivory white among the rambling greens

how evanescent, variegated elder, she hesitates on the green grass

as if, in another moment, she would disappear

with all her grace of foam!


And the larch that is only a column, it goes up too tall to see:

and the balsam-pines that are blue with the grey-blue blueness of things from the sea,

and the young copper beech, its leaves red-rosy at the ends

how still they are together, they stand so still

in the thunder air, all strangers to one another

as the green grass glows upwards, strangers in the silent garden.



William Carlos Williams:


William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound. Pound became a great influence in Williams' writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams's second collection, The Tempers.


Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions.


Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. His influence as a poet spread slowly during the twenties and thirties, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor.


His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970). Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey in 1963.


Spring and All


                        By the road to the contagious hospital

                        under the surge of the blue

                        mottled clouds driven from the

                        northeast-a cold wind.  Beyond, the

                        waste of broad, muddy fields

                        brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen


                        patches of standing water

                        the scattering of tall trees


                        All along the road the reddish

                        purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy

                        stuff of bushes and small trees

                        with dead, brown leaves under them

                        leafless vines-


                        Lifeless in appearance, sluggish

                        dazed spring approaches-


                        They enter the new world naked,

                        cold, uncertain of all

                        save that they enter.  All about them

                        the cold, familiar wind-


                        Now the grass, tomorrow

                        the stiff curl of wild carrot leaf

                        One by one objects are defined-

                        It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf


                        But now the stark dignity of

                        entrance-Still, the profound change

                        has come upon them:  rooted, they

                        grip down and begin to awaken



E. E. Cummings:


Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894. He received his B.A. in 1915 and his M.A. in 1916, both from Harvard. During the First World War, Cummings worked as an ambulance driver in France, but was interned in a prison camp by the French authorities (an experience recounted in his novel, The Enormous Room) for his outspoken anti-war convictions.


After the war, he settled into a life divided between houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village, with frequent visits to Paris. In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression.


Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex. At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost.




                        somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

                        any experience, your eyes have their silence:

                        in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

                        or which i cannot touch because they are too near


                        your slightest look will easily unclose me

                        though i have closed myself as fingers,

                        you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

                        (touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose


                        or if your wish be to close me, i and

                        my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,

                        as when the heart of this flower imagines

                        the snow carefully everywhere descending;

                        nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

                        the power of your intense fragility: whose texture

                        compels me with the color of its countries,

                        rendering death and forever with each breathing


                        (i do not know what it is about you that closes

                        and opens; only something in me understands

                        the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

                        nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands



D.H. Lawrence: The Elephant is Slow to Mate


                        The elephant, the huge old beast,

                             is slow to mate;

                        he finds a female, they show no haste

                             they wait


                        for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts

                             slowly, slowly to rouse

                        as they loiter along the river-beds

                             and drink and browse


                        and dash in panic through the brake

                             of forest with the herd,

                        and sleep in massive silence, and wake

                             together, without a word.


                        So slowly the great hot elephant hearts

                             grow full of desire,

                        and the great beasts mate in secret at last,

                             hiding their fire.


                        Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts

                             so they know at last

                        how to wait for the loneliest of feasts

                             for the full repast.


                        They do not snatch, they do not tear;

                             their massive blood

                        moves as the moon-tides, near, more near

                             till they touch in flood.



Sylvia Plath:


Born to middle class parents in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath published her first poem when she was eight. Sensitive, intelligent, compelled toward perfection in everything she attempted, she was, on the surface, a model daughter, popular in school, earning straight A's, winning the best prizes. By the time she entered Smith College on a scholarship in 1950 she already had an impressive list of publications, and while at Smith she wrote over four hundred poems.


 Sylvia's surface perfection was however underlain by grave personal discontinuities, some of which doubtless had their origin in the death of her father (he was a college professor and an expert on bees) when she was eight. During the summer following her junior year at Smith, having returned from a stay in New York City where she had been a student ``guest editor'' at Mademoiselle Magazine, Sylvia nearly succeeded in killing herself by swallowing sleeping pills. She later described this experience in an autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, published in 1963. After a period of recovery involving electroshock and psychotherapy Sylvia resumed her pursuit of academic and literary success, graduating from Smith summa cum laude in 1955 and winning a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge, England.


 In 1956 she married the English poet Ted Hughes , and in 1960, when she was 28, her first book, The Colossus, was published in England. The poems in this book---formally precise, well wrought---show clearly the dedication with which Sylvia had served her apprenticeship; yet they give only glimpses of what was to come in the poems she would begin writing early in 1961. She and Ted Hughes settled for a while in an English country village in Devon, but less than two years after the birth of their first child the marriage broke apart.


 The winter of 1962-63, one of the coldest in centuries, found Sylvia living in a small London flat, now with two children, ill with flu and low on money. The hardness of her life seemed to increase her need to write, and she often worked between four and eight in the morning, before the children woke, sometimes finishing a poem a day. In these last poems it is as if some deeper, powerful self has grabbed control; death is given a cruel physical allure and psychic pain becomes almost tactile.


 On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath killed herself with cooking gas at the age of 30. Two years later Ariel, a collection of some of her last poems, was published; this was followed by Crossing the Water and Winter Trees in 1971, and, in 1981, The Collected Poems appeared, edited by Ted Hughes.


Morning Song


                        Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

                        The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

                        Took its place among the elements.


                        Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.

                        In a drafty museum, your nakedness

                        Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.


                        I'm no more your mother

                        Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow

                        Effacement at the wind's hand.


                        All night your moth-breath

                        Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:

                        A far sea moves in my ear.


                        One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral

                        In my Victorian nightgown.

                        Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square


                        Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try

                        Your handful of notes;

                        The clear vowels rise like balloons.





W.H. Auden:


Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ's Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.


In 1928, Auden published his first book of verse, and his collection Poems, published in 1930, established him as the leading voice of a new generation. Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James.


His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse. He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians.


A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic. W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.


Song IX


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.

  Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

  Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.


Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

  Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.

Put crape bows round the white necks of the public doves,

  Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.


He was my North, my South, my East and West,

  My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

  I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.


The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

  Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;

  For nothing now can ever come to any good.



W. B. Yeats:


William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1865, the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. He spent his childhood in County Sligo, where his parents were raised, and in London. He returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen to continue his education and study painting, but quickly discovered he preferred poetry.


Born into the Anglo-Irish landowning class, Yeats became involved with the Celtic Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period, which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland's native heritage. Though Yeats never learned Gaelic himself, his writing at the turn of the century drew extensively from sources in Irish mythology and folklore. Also a potent influence on his poetry was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, whom he met in 1889, a woman equally famous for her passionate nationalist politics and her beauty. Though she married another man in 1903 and grew apart from Yeats (and Yeats himself was eventually married to another woman, Georgie Hyde Lees), she remained a powerful figure in his poetry.


Yeats was deeply involved in politics in Ireland, and in the twenties, despite Irish independence from England, his verse reflected a pessimism about the political situation in his country and the rest of Europe, paralleling the increasing conservativism of his American counterparts in London, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His work after 1910 was strongly influenced by Pound, becoming more modern in its concision and imagery, but Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms. He had a life-long interest in mysticism and the occult, which was off-putting to some readers, but he remained uninhibited in advancing his idiosyncratic philosophy, and his poetry continued to grow stronger as he grew older.


Elected a senator of the Irish Free Republic in 1922, he is remembered as an important cultural leader, as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin), and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century. W. B. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of 73.


The Lake Isle of Innisfree


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.



R. S. Thomas:


RONALD STUART THOMAS (1913–2000) was born in Cardiff but his father served in the Merchant Navy and the family moved from place to place before settling at Holyhead, Ang. in 1918. Educated at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, where he read Classics, he received his theological training at St. Michael’s College, Llandaf, Cardiff. After ordination in 1936 he held two curacies in the Marches, at Chirk, Denbs. (1936–40), where he met and married the painter Mildred E. Eldridge, and at Hanmer, Flints. (1940–42). He became rector of Manafon, Mont., in 1942, and it was at this time that he began seriously to learn the Welsh language. At Manafon he wrote nearly all the poems which were published in his first three volumes, The Stones of the Field  (1946), An Acre of Land (1952) and The Minister (1955), and later collected in Song at the Year’s Turning (1955). Some of these early poems, such as ‘Out of the Hills’, ‘A Labourer’, ‘A Peasant’, ‘The Welsh Hill Country’ and ‘Cynddylan on a Tractor’, show a  developed philosophy of nature and a concern with the geography and history, as with the farmers and farm-labourers, of the  hill-country. As an epitome of these people he created the character of the peasant Iago Prytherch, who appears in about twenty poems written during the period from 1946 to 1970, developing into a complex persona for the poet, as spokesman, opponent, friend and even alter ego.


A Peasant


    Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed

    Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,

    Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.

    Docking mangels, chipping the green skin

    From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin

    Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth

    To a stiff sea of clouds that glint in the wind -

    So are his days spent, his spittled mirth

    Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks

    Of the gaunt sky perphaps once a week.

    And then at night seehim fixed in his chair

    Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.

    there is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.

    His clothes, sour with years of sweat

    And animal contact, shock the refined,

    But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.

    Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season

    Against seige of rain and thw wind's attrition,

    Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress

    Not to be stormed even in death's confusion.

    remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,

    Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.



Gary Snyder:

Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco, and brought up in Oregon and Washington State. He received his BA in anthropology at Reed College, Portland, in 1951. His subsequent career has been a remarkable combination of the academic and the contemplative, spiritual study and physical labour. Between working as a logger, a trail-crew member, and a seaman on a Pacific tanker, he studied Oriental languages at Berkeley (1953-6), was associated with Beat writers such as Ginsberg and Kerouac, lived in Japan (1956-64), later studied Buddhism there, and won numerous literary prizes, including a Guggenheim fellowship (1968) and the Pulitzer Prize (1975). He now teaches literature and 'wilderness thought' at the University of California at Davis.


The shapes and strengths of Gary Snyder's craft were established at the outset of his career. His first book, Riprap (Kyoto, 1959), demonstrates the clarity of his seeing, his desire to crystalize moments, his striking ability to convey the physical nature of an instant. Simplicity, distance, accuracy of atmosphere: these are hallmarks of the work throughout. The laid-back, jotted-down tone masks an acute sensitivity to rhythm and, in particular, assonance. Though his formal spectrum is narrow, from terse, rhythmic observation with a resonant conclusion to lengthy, free-associative odysseys through the American 'back country’, his territory is vast, and his resources of phrase and juxtaposition seemingly endless. Such a ranging strategy does not always pan gold from the water, but when it does Snyder comes face to face with a wide, gladdening openness, or touches wellsprings of healing profundity.


Hay For The Horses


                           He had driven half the night

                           From far down San Joaquin

                           Through Mariposa, up the

                           Dangerous mountain roads,

                           And pulled in at eight a.m.

                           With his big truckload of hay

                           behind the barn.

                           With winch and ropes and hooks

                           We stacked the bales up clean

                           To splintery redwood rafters

                           High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa

                           Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,

                           Itch of haydust in the

                           sweaty shirt and shoes.

                           At lunchtime under Black oak

                           Out in the hot corral,

                           --The old mare nosing lunchpails,

                           Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds --

                           "I'm sixty-eight" he said,

                           "I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.

                           I thought, that day I started,

                           I sure would hate to do this all my life.

                           And dammit, that's just what

                           I've gone and done."



Thomas Hardy :


Thomas Hardy, the son of a stonemason, was born in Dorsetshire, England, in 1840. He trained as an architect and worked in London and Dorset for ten years. Hardy began his writing career as a novelist, publishing Desperate Remedies in 1871, and was soon successful enough to leave the field of architecture for writing. His novels Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), which are considered literary classics today, received negative reviews upon publication and Hardy was criticized for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. He left fiction writing for poetry, and published eight collections, including Wessex Poems (1898) and Satires of Circumstance (1912). Hardy's poetry explores a fatalist outlook against the dark, rugged landscape of his native Dorset. He rejected the Victorian belief in a benevolent God, and much of his poetry reads as a sardonic lament on the bleakness of the human condition. A traditionalist in technique, he nevertheless forged a highly original style, combining rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial diction with an extraordinary variety of meters and stanzaic forms. A significant influence on later poets (including Frost, Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin), his influence has increased during the course of the century, offering an alternative—more down-to-earth, less rhetorical—to the more mystical and aristocratic precedent of Yeats. Thomas Hardy died in 1928.


The Darkling Thrush


                            I leant upon a coppice gate

                                    When Frost was spectre-gray,

                            And Winter's dregs made desolate

                                    The weakening eye of day.

                            The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

                                    Like strings of broken lyres,

                            And all mankind that haunted nigh

                                    Had sought their household fires.


                            The land's sharp features seemed to be

                                    The Century's corpse outleant,

                            His crypt the cloudy canopy,

                                    The wind his death-lament.

                            The ancient pulse of germ and birth

                                    Was shrunken hard and dry,

                            And every spirit upon earth

                                    Seemed fervourless as I.


                            At once a voice arose among

                                    The bleak twigs overhead

                            In a full-hearted evensong

                                    Of joy illimited;

                            An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

                                    In blast-beruffed plume,

                            Had chosen thus to fling his soul

                                    Upon the growing gloom.


                            So little cause for carolings

                                    Of such ecstatic sound

                            Was written on terrestrial things

                                    Afar or nigh around,

                            That I could think there trembled through

                                    His happy good-night air

                            Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

                                    And I was unaware.



Seamus Heaney: 


Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland. He earned a teacher's certificate in English at St. Joseph's College in Belfast and in 1963 took a position as a lecturer in English at that school. While at St. Joseph's he began to write, joining a poetry workshop with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, and others under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, and the following year he published Death of a Naturalist. Since then he has published hundreds more, in such collections as Opened Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; The Spirit Level (1996); Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990); and Sweeney Astray (1984). He has also written several volumes of criticism, including The Redress of Poetry (1995). Heaney's most recent translation is Beowulf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000), which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. He is also co-translator, with Stanislaw Baranczak, of Laments: Poems of Jan Kochanowski (1995), and co-author, with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott, of a collection of essays entitled Homage to Robert Frost (1996). Seamus Heaney is a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994. In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney has been a resident of Dublin since 1976, but since 1981 he has spent part of each year teaching at Harvard University, where in 1984 he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory.






     Once, as a child, out in a field of sheep,

     Thomas Hardy pretended to be dead

     And lay down flat among their dainty shins.


     In that sniffed-at, bleated-into, grassy space

     He experimented with infinity.

     His small cool brow was like an anvil waiting


     For sky to make it sing the prefect pitch

     Of his dumb being, and that stir he caused

     In the fleece-hustle was the original


     Of a ripple that would travel eighty years

     Outward from there, to be the same ripple

     Inside him at its last circumference.



     (I misremembered. He went down on all fours,

     Florence Emily says, crossing a ewe-leaze.

     Hardy sought the creatures face to face,


     Their witless eyes and liability

     To panic made him feel less alone,

     Made proleptic sorrow stand a moment


     Over him, perfectly known and sure.

     And then the flock's dismay went swimming on

     Into the blinks and murmurs and deflections


     He'd know at parties in renowned old age

     When sometimes he imagined himself a ghost

     And circulated with that new perspective.)



Craig Raine: A Martian Sends A Postcard Home


Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings

and some are treasured for their markings -


they cause the eyes to melt

or the body to shriek without pain.


I have never seen one fly, but

sometimes they perch on the hand.


Mist is when the sky is tired of flight

and rests its soft machine on ground:


then the world is dim and bookish

like engravings under tissue paper.


Rain is when the earth is television.

It has the property of making colours darker.


Model T is a room with the lock inside -

a key is turned to free the world


for movement, so quick there is a film

to watch for anything missed.


But time is tied to the wrist

or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.


In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,

that snores when you pick it up.


If the ghost cries, they carry it

to their lips and soothe it to sleep


with sounds. And yet they wake it up

deliberately, by tickling with a finger.


Only the young are allowed to suffer

openly. Adults go to a punishment room


with water but nothing to eat.

They lock the door and suffer the noises


alone. No one is exempt

and everyone's pain has a different smell.


At night when all the colours die,

they hide in pairs


and read about themselves -

in colour, with their eyelids shut.



 Ted Hughes: Hawk Roosting


                         I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.

                         Inaction, no falsifying dream

                         Between my hooked head and hooked feet:

                         Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.


                         The convenience of the high trees!

                         The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray

                         Are of advantage to me;

                         And the earth's face upward for my inspection.


                         My feet are locked upon the rough bark.

                         It took the whole of Creation

                         To produce my foot, my each feather:

                         Now I hold Creation in my foot


                         Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -

                         I kill where I please because it is all mine.

                         There is no sophistry in my body:

                         My manners are tearing off heads -


                         The allotment of death.

                         For the one path of my flight is direct

                         Through the bones of the living.

                         No arguments assert my right:


                         The sun is behind me.

                         Nothing has changed since I began.

                         My eye has permitted no change.

                         I am going to keep things like this.



Thomas Hardy: The Oxen


Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

"Now they are all on their knees,"

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.


So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

"Come; see the oxen kneel


"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,"

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.




Thomas Hardy : The Voice


Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,

Saying that now you are not as you were

When you had changed from the one who was all to  me,

But as at first, when our day was fair.


Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,

Standing as when I drew near to the town

Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,

Even to the original air-blue gown!


Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness

Travelling across the wet mead1 to me here,

You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,

Heard no more again far or near?


     Thus I; faltering forward,

     Leaves around me falling,

Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,

     And the woman calling.



William Butler Yeats: When You Are Old


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.



W. H. Auden: Lullaby


                        Lay your sleeping head, my love,

                        Human on my faithless arm:

                        Time and fevers burn away

                        Individual beauty from

                        Thoughtful children, and the grave

                        Proves the child ephemeral:

                        But in my arms till break of day

                        Let the living creature lie,

                        Mortal, guilty, but to me

                        The entirely beautiful.


                        Soul and body have no bounds:

                        To lovers as they lie upon

                        Her tolerant enchanted slope

                        In their ordinary swoon,

                        Grave the vision Venus sends

                        Of supernatural sympathy,

                        Universal love and hope;

                        While an abstract insight wakes

                        Among the glaciers and the rocks

                        The hermit's carnal ecstacy,


                        Certainty, fidelity

                        On the stroke of midnight pass

                        Like vibrations of a bell

                        And fashionable madmen raise

                        Their pedantic boring cry:

                        Every farthing of the cost.

                        All the dreaded cards foretell.

                        Shall be paid, but from this night

                        Not a whisper, not a thought.

                        Not a kiss nor look be lost.


                        Beauty, midnight, vision dies:

                        Let the winds of dawn that blow

                        Softly round your dreaming head

                        Such a day of welcome show

                        Eye and knocking heart may bless,

                        Find our mortal world enough;

                        Noons of dryness find you fed

                        By the involuntary powers,

                        Nights of insult let you pass

                        Watched by every human love.







 Denise Levertov: The Secret


                        Two girls discover

                        the secret of life

                        in a sudden line of



                        I who don't know the

                        secret wrote

                        the line. They

                        told me


                        (through a third person)

                        they had found it

                        but not what it was

                        not even


                        what line it was. No doubt

                        by now, more than a week

                        later, they have forgotten

                        the secret,


                        the line, the name of

                        the poem. I love them

                        for finding what

                        I can't find,


                        and for loving me

                        for the line I wrote,

                        and for forgetting it

                        so that


                        a thousand times, till death

                        finds them, they may

                        discover it again, in other



                        in other

                        happenings. And for

                        wanting to know it,



                        assuming there is

                        such a secret, yes,

                        for that

                        most of all.




Margaret Atwood: Variation on the Word Sleep


                        I would like to watch you sleeping,

                        which may not happen.

                        I would like to watch you,

                        sleeping. I would like to sleep

                        with you, to enter

                        your sleep as its smooth dark wave

                        slides over my head


                        and walk with you through that lucent

                        wavering forest of bluegreen leaves

                        with its watery sun & three moons

                        towards the cave where you must descend,

                        towards your worst fear


                        I would like to give you the silver

                        branch, the small white flower, the one

                        word that will protect you

                        from the grief at the center

                        of your dream, from the grief

                        at the center. I would like to follow

                        you up the long stairway

                        again & become

                        the boat that would row you back

                        carefully, a flame

                        in two cupped hands

                        to where your body lies

                        beside me, and you enter

                        it as easily as breathing in


                        I would like to be the air

                        that inhabits you for a moment

                        only. I would like to be that unnoticed

                        & that necessary.



Philip Larkin:


Philip Larkin was born in 1922 in Coventry, England. He attended St. John's College, Oxford. His first book of poetry, The North Ship, was published in 1945 and, though not particularly strong on its own, is notable insofar as certain passages foreshadow the unique sensibility and maturity that characterizes his later work. In 1946, Larkin discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy and became a great admirer of his poetry, learning from Hardy how to make the commonplace and often dreary details of his life the basis for extremely tough, unsparing, and memorable poems. With his second volume of poetry, The Less Deceived (1955), Larkin became the preeminent poet of his generation, and a leading voice of what came to be called "The Movement," a group of young English writers who rejected the prevailing fashion for neo-Romantic writing in the style of Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Like Hardy, Larkin focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity. In 1964, he confirmed his reputation as a major poet with the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, and again in 1974 with High Windows: collections whose searing, often mocking, wit does not conceal the poet's dark vision and underlying obsession with universal themes of mortality, love, and human solitude. Deeply anti-social and a great lover (and published critic) of American jazz, Larkin never married and conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died in 1985.


The Trees


The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said;

The recent buds relax and spread,

Their greenness is a kind of grief.


Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain.


Yet still the unresting castles thresh

In fullgrown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.



Philip Larkin: Talking in Bed


Talking in bed ought to be easiest,

Lying together there goes back so far,

An emblem of two people being honest.

Yet more and more time passes silently.

Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest

Builds and disperses clouds about the sky,

And dark towns heap up on the horizon.

None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why

At this unique distance from isolation

It becomes still more difficult to find

Words at once true and kind,

Or not untrue and not unkind.



Philip Larkin: Ambulances


Closed like confessionals, they thread

Loud noons of cities, giving back

None of the glances they absorb.

Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque,

They come to rest at any kerb:

All streets in time are visited.

Then children strewn on steps or road,

Or women coming from the shops

Past smells of different dinners, see

A wild white face that overtops

Red stretcher-blankets momently

As it is carried in and stowed,

And sense the solving emptiness

That lies just under all we do,

And for a second get it whole,

So permanent and blank and true.

The fastened doors recede. Poor soul,

They whisper at their own distress;

For borne away in deadened air

May go the sudden shut of loss

Round something nearly at an end,

And what cohered in it across

The years, the unique random blend

Of families and fashions, there

At last begin to loosen. Far

From the exchange of love to lie

Unreachable inside a room

The traffic parts to let go by

Brings closer what is left to come,

And dulls to distance all we are.



Thom Gunn: The Man with Night Sweats


I wake up cold, I who

Prospered through dreams of heat

Wake to their residue,

Sweat, and a clinging sheet.


My flesh was its own shield:

Where it was gashed, it healed.


I grew as I explored

The body I could trust

Even while I adored

The risk that made robust,


A world of wonders in

Each challenge to the skin.


I cannot but be sorry

The given shield was cracked,

My mind reduced to hurry,

My flesh reduced and wrecked.


I have to change the bed,

But catch myself instead


Stopped upright where I am

Hugging my body to me

As if to shield it from

The pains that will go through me,


As if hands were enough

To hold an avalanche off.