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a poem before 1900
Posted by: Talia (
Date: June 10, 2004 11:52AM

I usually stick with my modern favs when having to choose a poem for any class assignment, but you know how those univerisites have silly ways of educating I compormise my standards for the extra credit. I have stooped for the A...anyhow I have found a few pre-1900 poems that slightly interest me, and shame on me I know, I should be eager to expand my horizons, right? So which of these do you like and can you give me some more insight into them? Or do you have a better one? I tend to get lost in all the flowery stuff...but if it's morbid, I'm ok with that. Does that make sense? Anyhow, here are the poems:

626. Ode to PsycheJohn Keats. 1795–1821

O GODDESS! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conchèd ear:
Surely I dream'd to-day, or did I see 5
The wingèd Psyche with awaken'd eyes?
I wander'd in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couchèd side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp'ring roof 10
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:
'Mid hush'd, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass; 15
Their arms embracèd, and their pinions too;
Their lips touch'd not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoinèd by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love: 20
The wingèd boy I knew;
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!

O latest-born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy! 25
Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-region'd star,
Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heap'd with flowers;
Nor Virgin-choir to make delicious moan 30
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming. 35

O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retired 40
From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours; 45
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swingèd censer teeming:
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane 50
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branchèd thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark-cluster'd trees
Fledge the wild-ridgèd mountains steep by steep; 55
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull'd to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain, 60
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same;
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win, 65
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Emily Brontë. 1818–1848

735. My Lady's Grave

THE linnet in the rocky dells,
The moor-lark in the air,
The bee among the heather bells
That hide my lady fair:

The wild deer browse above her breast; 5
The wild birds raise their brood;
And they, her smiles of love caress'd,
Have left her solitude!

I ween that when the grave's dark wall
Did first her form retain, 10
They thought their hearts could ne'er recall
The light of joy again.

They thought the tide of grief would flow
Uncheck'd through future years;
But where is all their anguish now, 15
And where are all their tears?

Well, let them fight for honour's breath,
Or pleasure's shade pursue—
The dweller in the land of death
Is changed and careless too. 20

And if their eyes should watch and weep
Till sorrow's source were dry,
She would not, in her tranquil sleep,
Return a single sigh!

Blow, west wind, by the lonely mound: 25
And murmur, summer streams!
There is no need of other sound
To soothe my lady's dreams.

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 1830–1894

784. Passing Away

PASSING away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapp'd day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to gray
That hath won neither laurel nor bay? 5
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answer'd: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away: 10
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play,
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day, 15
Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answer'd: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay: 20
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven's May.
Though I tarry, wait for me, trust me, watch and pray.
Arise, come away; night is past, and lo, it is day;
My love, my sister, my spouse, thou shalt hear me say— 25
Then I answer'd: Yea.

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: lg (
Date: June 10, 2004 12:06PM

Talia, a couple of comments about this assignment and poetry in general. First I would steer clear of the Rossetti above, because the rhyme scheme might irritate the reader/listener.

Secondly, poetry (even old poetry) does not need to be obscure with numerous hidden metaphors and multiple meanings. For your reading choose something which you understand fully and enjoy. Read Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Longfellow to see what I'm talking about when I say that not all poetry need be difficult to be good.

Here's a poem you might use for this assignment:

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From the outskirts of the town,
Where of old the mile-stone stood,
Now a stranger, looking down
I behold the shadowy crown
Of the dark and haunted wood.

Is it changed, or am I changed?
Ah! the oaks are fresh and green,
But the friends with whom I ranged
Through their thickets are estranged
By the years that intervene.

Bright as ever flows the sea,
Bright as ever shines the sun,
But alas! they seem to me
Not the sun that used to be,
Not the tides that used to run.


Post Edited (06-10-04 11:07)

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: lg (
Date: June 10, 2004 12:18PM

Here's one by Dunbar that I enjoy:

A Madrigal
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dream days of fond delight and hours,
As rosy-hued as dawn, are mine.
Love's drowsy wine,
Brewed from the heart of Passion flowers,
Flows warmly o'er my lips
And save thee, all the world is in eclipse.

There were no light if thou wert not;
The sun would be too sad to shine,
And all the line
Of hours from dawn would be a blot;
And Night would haunt the skies,
An unlaid ghost with staring dark-ringed eyes.

Oh, love if thou wert not my love,
And I perchance not thine--what then?
Could gift of men
Or favor of the God above,
Plant ought in this bare heart
Or teach this tongue the singer's soulful art?

Ah, no! 'Tis love, and love alone
That spurs my soul so surely on;
Turns night to dawn,
And thorns to roses fairest blown;
And winter drear to spring--
Oh were it not for love I could not sing!


Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Talia (
Date: June 10, 2004 02:06PM

Thanks Les. I appreciate all of your help. I want to say that it is not "difficult" that I'm going for, it's just that oftentimes so many of these "classic" poems are drowned by the excess of words and a redundant theme. That's just my own ignorant taste of my generation, but I have tried to really see past that. Then I remember Sylvia Plath liked John I checked him out:

A John Donne
O ! DO not die, for I shall hate All women so, when thou art gone,That thee I shall not celebrate, When I remember thou wast one. But yet thou canst not die, I know ; To leave this world behind, is death ;But when thou from this world wilt go, The whole world vapours with thy breath.Or if, when thou, the world's soul, go'st, It stay, 'tis but thy carcase then ;The fairest woman, but thy ghost, But corrupt worms, the worthiest men.O wrangling schools, that search what fire Shall burn this world, had none the witUnto this knowledge to aspire, That this her feaver might be it?And yet she cannot waste by this, Nor long bear this torturing wrong,For more corruption needful is, To fuel such a fever long.These burning fits but meteors be, Whose matter in thee is soon spent ;Thy beauty, and all parts, which are thee, Are unchangeable firmament.Yet 'twas of my mind, seizing thee, Though it in thee cannot perséver ;For I had rather owner be Of thee one hour, than all else ever.

Sourcegrinning smileyonne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I. E. K. Chambers, ed.London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 20-21.

by John Donne

WHEN by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead,
And that thou thinkst thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign'd vestal, in worse arms shall see :
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tired before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call'st for more,
And, in false sleep, will from thee shrink :
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bathed in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie,
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee ; and since my love is spent,
I'd rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threatenings rest still innocent.

Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 49.

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: June 10, 2004 02:39PM

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: lg (
Date: June 10, 2004 03:30PM

Here's one by John Donne that might have caught Dorothy's eye:

John Donne (1572-1631)
The Triple Fool

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry;
But where's that wiseman, that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increased by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.


Post Edited (06-10-04 14:31)

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Talia (
Date: June 10, 2004 03:37PM

Yes, I like it! Thank you again, Les....and Hugh, too!

Now I have some more detailed questions:

1. How did that green toothy smiling face get in my John Donne post?

2. How would one pronounce the "th' " in this line: Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes ?

What I do without all of you? When I woke up this morning it suddenly occurred to me that the poem I had previously picked out simply would not do at all. But I had no fear...I knew you guy would be here!

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Linda (
Date: June 10, 2004 04:30PM

Elide the th' into earth so that it almost sounds as one word, don't go as far as thearth but nearly.

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: June 10, 2004 04:57PM

Worst use of elision goes to Shakespeare:

Who doth ambition shun
And loves to live i' the sun,

I think Rudy mentioned how to make smilies a while back. Colon + ) is one, and I guess you must have had colon + D. I will try some experiments,

smiling smiley colon + close paren
sad smiley colon + open paren
grinning smiley colon + capital D
:> colon + right arrow
:< colon + left arrow
:/ colon + forward slash
:{ colon + left bracket
:} colon + right bracket

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: IanB (
Date: June 11, 2004 07:00PM

Talia, have you looked at Robert Browning's work? Very little of it is 'flowery stuff'. Mostly vigorous, serious, thoughtful, interesting. Sometimes a little weighed down by wrestling with the language, but particularly memorable when he manages to combine thoughtfulness and elegance, as in:

'A Toccata of Galuppi's'

'My Last Duchess'

See in the Classical Poets link.


Post Edited (06-12-04 21:45)

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Talia (
Date: June 12, 2004 01:55PM

You know, I think it's the rhyming that makes it sound so flowery and cliche. I ended up using the Triple Fool poem. Thank you for your help.

Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: lg (
Date: June 12, 2004 04:50PM

Talia, I'm glad you liked the Donne. I'm disappointed though, that you haven't found anything in the archives that moves your spirit. As with any discussion of poetry, we should not be quick to classify or categorize "all" poetry before 1900 as trite, or flowery. Just as with modern poetry, there are many variations in style and rhyme, or lack of rhyme in the poetry of the victorians and others.


Re: a poem before 1900
Posted by: Talia (
Date: June 12, 2004 06:59PM

I know. I feel ashamed of myself. I'm too used to the rules being broken, that it is hard for me to appreciate anything that actually follows the rules. I'm going to try to write a sonnet, at least then I can admire a poem for the difficultness of writing it. I still have to do a sonnet (on Tues.) and I am pretty set on Millay. I can't help myself.

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