A SELECTION OF ENGLISH POETRY
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) Know Thyself Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state A being darkly wise and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest, In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast, In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such Whether he thinks too little or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confused; Still by himself abused, or disabused; Created half to rise and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless errors hurled; The glory, jest and riddle of the world!
WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827) The Sick Rose O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy, And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792-1822) Ozymandias of Egypt I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert...Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye MIghty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-1888) Dover Beach The sea is calm to-night. The tide if full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits;-on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land, Listen! you hear the grating roar Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Begin, and cease, and then again begin, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring The eternal note of sadness in. Sophocles long ago Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea. The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world. Ah, love, let us be true To one another! for the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE (1837-1909) A Forsaken Garden In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee, Walled round with rocks as an inland island, The ghost of a garden fronts the sea. A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses The steep square slope of the blossomless bed Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses Now lie dead. The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken, To the low last edge of the long lone land. If a step should sound or a word be spoken, Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand? So long have the grey bare walks lain guestless, Through branches and briars if a man make way, He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless Night and day. The dense hard passage is blind and stifled That crawls by a track none turn to climb To the strait wast place that the years have rifled Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time. The thorns he spares when the rose is taken; The rocks are left when he wastes the plain. The wind that wanders, the weeds wind-shaken, These remain. Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not; As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry; From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not, Could she call, there were never a rose to reply. Over the meadows that blossom and wither Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song; Only the sun and the rain come hither All year long. The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath. Only the wind here hovers and revels In a round where life seems barren as death. Here there was laughing of old, there was weeping, Haply, of lovers none ever will know, Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping Years ago. Heart handfast in heart as they stood, 'Look thither,' Did he whisper? 'look forth from the flowers to the sea; For the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither, And men that love lightly may die - but we?' And the same wind sang and the same waves whitened, And or ever the garden's last petals were shed, In the lips that had whispered, they eyes that had lightened, Love was dead. Or they loved their life through, and then went whither? And were one to the end - but what end who knows? Love deep as the sea as a rose must wither, As the rose-red seaweed that mocks the rose. Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them? What love was ever as deep as a grave? They are loveless now as the grass above them Or the wave. All are at one now, roses and lovers, Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea. Not a breath of the time that has been hovers In the air now soft with a summer to be. Not a breath shall there sweeten the seasons thereafter Of the flowers and lovers that laugh now or weep, When as they that are free now of weeping and laughter We shall sleep. Here death may deal not again for ever; Here change may come not till all change end. From the graves they have made they shall rise up never, Who have left nought living to ravage and rend. Earth, stones, and thorns of the wild ground growing, While the sun and the rain live, these shall be; Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing Roll the sea. Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble, Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink, Till the strength of the waves of the high tide humble The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink, Here now in his triumph where all things falter, Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread, As a god self-slain on his own strang altar, Death lies dead.
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