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Poems
I begin with my all time favorite. Even though it is long, please take the time to read it all the way through.
          RENASCENCE
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.
But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I'll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And--sure enough!--I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I 'most could touch it with my hand
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.
I screamed, and--lo!--Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.
I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not,--nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out.--Ah, fearful pawn!
In infinite remorse of soul.
All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.
And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire,--
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each,--then mourned for all
A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.
No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.
Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.
Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more,--there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.
Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who's six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.
The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see
Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each clouds gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!
I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and--crash!
Before the wild wind's whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.
I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain's cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see,--
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,--
I know not how such things can be!--
I breathed my soul back into me.
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;
Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e'er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!
Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,--
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat--the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

__________________________________


    AS kingfishers catch fire
      by  GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Christ -- for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

_____________________________________

The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran
THEN said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon
the people, and there fell a stillness upon
them. And with a great voice he said:

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions
may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you. Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
Himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a
fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love's
threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes
naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be
possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say,
"God is in my heart," but rather, "I am
in the heart of God."

And think not you can direct the course
of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill
itself.

But if you love and must needs have
desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding
of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate
love's ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the
beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

________________________________

Smoke
By George MacDonald

Lord, I have laid my heart upon thy altar
But cannot get the wood to burn;
It hardly flares ere it begins to falter
And to the dark return.

Old sap, or night-fallen dew, make damp the fuel;
In vain my breath would flame provoke;
Yet see - at every poor attempt's renewal
To thee ascends the smoke!

`Tis all I have -  smoke, failure, foiled endeavor,
Coldness and doubt and palsied lack:
Such as I have I send thee! - perfect Giver,
Send thou thy lightning back.

__________________________________

THE GATES OF PARADISE.
by Dorothy Sayers

FROM the grave-bed and the winding sheet
Is a long way for dead feet,
A dark road for dead eyes,
That leads to the gates of Paradise.

When Judas' soul went through the night,
To knock on Hades gate,
His way was over the whin-pricked moor,
And the noise of the wind was great.

He had no lantern to his feet,
Nor candle in his hand,
Such as God gives to every man
That dies at the time planned.

The angels sit in highest Heaven
And trim the lamps of God,
And all day long make lights for those
That travel death's dim road.

And when the cross is on thy breast,
The chrism on thine eyes,
Thy angel will bear down thy light
Out of the starry skies
And thou therewith shalt walk by night
Safely to Paradise.

But whoso doth so deadly sin
To cast his life away,
Finding his lamp not lit betimes
Walks through the midnight grey.

For a long night and half a day
Did Judas walk alone
Through the utter dark, for in that place
Is neither sun nor moon.

For a long night and half a day
Did Judas vainly seek
To reach the gates of Paradise,
The salt tears on his cheek.

With that he saw a candle gleam
Borne by a hasty man,
And Judas caught him by the cloak
So swiftly as he ran.

"O let me walk with thee, kind friend--
I grope, I fail, I fall,
I have no lamp nor candle-light
And the night is over all."

"Full gladly, so thou make good speed,
I run to keep the tryst,
That was given to me at the gates of Hell,
By sweet King Jesus Christ.

"I am the thief whom God forgave,
On Calvary's bitter tree,
For 'To-night,' He said, 'thou shalt rest thine head
In Paradise, with Me.'"

"And I am the man that sinned such a sin
As the world remembers not,
That sold for a price the Lord of Life--
Judas Iscariot."

"Now God forbid, thou damnèd wretch,
That ever this should be,
That I should tryst with Jesus Christ,
In the company of thee."

The first robber went his way,
And Judas walked alone,
Mirk, mirk was the black midnight,
The heavy wind made moan.

Right so there came a second man
Was walking by the road:
"O brother, let me share thy light
As far as Hell's abode."

"Now well I fear, my brother dear,
Thou never wilt walk with me--
I am that thief which railed on Christ
All on His bitter tree.

"I cast shame on King Jesus then,
Wearing His painful crown,
And scorn upon His Royal Head,
Whence the pale sweat dripped down.
"O rudd-red were the five blest wounds
Where nails and spear went in,
A thousand, thousand years of Purgatory fire
Never can cleanse my sin."

"Why never, I ween," said Judas then
"Did two such sinners meet;
I sold King Christ to the bloody Jews
That pierced His Hands and Feet."

"Art thou that man," quoth the robber,
"Most cursed under skies?
God do so to me if I go with thee
To the gates of Paradise!"

The second robber went his way,
And Judas walked alone,
Till he was aware of a grey man,
That sat upon a stone,

And the lamp he had in his right hand
Shone brighter than the moon.
"Come hither, come hither, thou darkling man,
And bear me company,

This lamp I hold will give us light,
Enough for thee and me."
Judas walks with the grey-clad man,
And fear is in his heart:

"Speak yet again, thou man in grey
And tell me what thou art."
"I bought a burden of deadly sin,
And needs must pay the price,

I bear it hither in my hand
To the gates of Paradise."
"Sin cannot lie upon thy heart
So heavy as on mine."

"Nay, sinner, whosoe'er thou art,
'Tis a heavier load than thine."
He hath not askèd Judas' name,
And Judas makes no sign.

"If sin is heavy on thy heart,
And I must bear its weight,
It is fit that we should go together
To tryst at Hades gate."

Judas walked with the grey-clad man
And feared to tell his name,
He clasped his hand in the barren land,
Bright burned the lanthorn's flame,
Brotherliwise and hand in hand,
To Paradise they came.

Satan looked out from Hades gate,
His hand upon the key,
"Good souls, before I let you in,
First tell me who ye be."

"We be two men that died of late
And come to keep Hell's tryst,
This is Judas Iscariot,
And I am Jesus Christ."