I'm looking for poems where one gives up love for duty, honour, money, power or whatnot and turns out better for it. Please help me, if you'll be so kind.
After the Quarrel
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
So we, who've supped the self-same cup,
To-night must lay our friendship by;
Your wrath has burned your judgment up,
Hot breath has blown the ashes high.
You say that you are wronged -- ah, well,
I count that friendship poor, at best
A bauble, a mere bagatelle,
That cannot stand so slight a test.
I fain would still have been your friend,
And talked and laughed and loved with you
But since it must, why, let it end;
The false but dies, 't is not the true.
So we are favored, you and I,
Who only want the living truth.
It was not good to nurse the lie;
'Tis well it died in harmless youth.
I go from you to-night to sleep.
Why, what's the odds? why should I grieve?
I have no fund of tears to weep
For happenings that undeceive.
The days shall come, the days shall go
Just as they came and went before.
The sun shall shine, the streams shall flow
Though you and I are friends no more.
And in the volume of my years,
Where all my thoughts and acts shall be,
The page whereon your name appears
Shall be forever sealed to me.
Not that I hate you over-much,
'Tis less of hate than love defied;
Howe'er, our hands no more shall touch,
We'll go our ways -- the world is wide.
Lovelace: To Lucasta on going to the Wars.
Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field,
And with a stronger faith embrace
Ahorse, asword, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shal adore:
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.
I remeber seeing a similar one by a Spanish Civil War volunteer (Cornford, Caudwell?), but I can'rt recall where. I'll look
"To Margot Heinemann"? by Cornford. #174 in the Oxford Book of War Poetry.
Post Edited (08-10-03 16:58)
Must be oodles of them but can only recall a line or two of any of them.
She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see.
She gave her soul (or something)
For an old man's gold,
A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl's best friend.
I cannot live with you,
- Emily Dickinson to an unknown suitor
I could not love thee half so much,
Had I not loved duty more.
- some Victorian or other but can't remember who.
Oh, wow, i really screwed up on that last one. I should have checked out RJ Allen's post before I tried to quote that "I could not love thee half so much" line. It's "honour" not "duty" and Lovelace was no Victorian.
Sorry. I was only trying to be helpful.
Defining the topic as broadly as possible:
A Farewell to Tobacco
by Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
May the Babylonish curse,
Strait confound my stammering verse,
If I can a passage see
In this word-perplexity,
Or a fit expression find,
Or a language to my mind,
(Still the phrase is wide or scant)
To take leave of thee, GREAT PLANT!
Or in any terms relate
Half my love, or half my hate:
For I hate, yet love, thee so,
That, whichever thing I shew,
The plain truth will seem to be
A constrained hyperbole,
And the passion to proceed
More from a mistress than a weed. ...
It goes on for 145 lines. Read the whole thing at:
Here's another- I was reminded by Marian-NYC's choice.
“You must choose between me and your cigar.”
— Breach of Promise Case, circa 1885.
OPEN the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,
For things are running crossways, and Maggie and I are out.
We quarrelled about Havanas—we fought o’er a good cheroot,
And I knew she is exacting, and she says I am a brute.
Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a space;
In the soft blue veil of the vapour musing on Maggie’s face.
Maggie is pretty to look at—Maggie’s a loving lass,
But the prettiest cheeks must wrinkle, the truest of loves must pass.
There’s peace in a Larranaga, there’s calm in a Henry Clay;
But the best cigar in an hour is finished and thrown away—
Thrown away for another as perfect and ripe and brown—
But I could not throw away Maggie for fear o’ the talk o’ the town!
Maggie, my wife at fifty—grey and dour and old—
With never another Maggie to purchase for love or gold!
And the light of Days that have Been the dark of the Days that Are,
And Love’s torch stinking and stale, like the butt of a dead cigar—
The butt of a dead cigar you are bound to keep in your pocket—
With never a new one to light tho’ it’s charred and black to the socket!
Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a while.
Here is a mild Manila—there is a wifely smile.
Which is the better portion—bondage bought with a ring,
Or a harem of dusky beauties, fifty tied in a string?
Counsellors cunning and silent—comforters true and tried,
And never a one of the fifty to sneer at a rival bride?
Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes,
Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere my eyelids close,
This will the fifty give me, asking nought in return,
With only a Suttee’s passion—to do their duty and burn.
This will the fifty give me. When they are spent and dead,
Five times other fifties shall be my servants instead.
The furrows of far-off Java, the isles of the Spanish Main,
When they hear my harem is empty will send me my brides again.
I will take no heed to their raiment, nor food for their mouths withal,
So long as the gulls are nesting, so long as the showers fall.
I will scent ’em with best vanilla, with tea will I temper their hides,
And the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read of the tale of my brides.
For Maggie has written a letter to give me my choice between
The wee little whimpering Love and the great god Nick o’ Teen.
And I have been servant of Love for barely a twelvemonth clear,
But I have been Priest of Cabanas a matter of seven year;
And the gloom of my bachelor days is flecked with the cheery light
Of stumps that I burned to Friendship and Pleasure and Work and Fight.
And I turn my eyes to the future that Maggie and I must prove,
But the only light on the marshes is the Will-o’-the-Wisp of Love.
Will it see me safe through my journey or leave me bogged in the mire?
Since a puff of tobacco can cloud it, shall I follow the fitful fire?
Open the old cigar-box—let me consider anew—
Old friends, and who is Maggie that I should abandon you?
A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke.
Light me another Cuba—I hold to my first-sworn vows.
If Maggie will have no rival, I’ll have no Maggie for Spouse!