20th Century Poets-14

POETS ON THIS PAGE:

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS * CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI * SYLVIA PLATH * W. S. MERWIN  * DUDLEY RANDALL * A. E. HOUSMAN * DEREK WALCOTT * ROBERT PENN WARREN * REETIKA VAZIRANI * ROBERT FROST

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The Dolls

A doll in the doll-maker's house
Looks at the cradle and bawls:
'That is an insult to us.'
But the oldest of all the dolls,
Who had seen, being kept for show,
Generations of his sort,
Out-screams the whole shelf: 'Although
There's not a man can report
Evil of this place,
The man and the woman bring
Hither, to our disgrace,
A noisy and filthy thing.'
Hearing him groan and stretch
The doll-maker's wife is aware
Her husband has heard the wretch,
And crouched by the arm of his chair,
She murmurs into his ear,
Head upon shoulder leant:
'My dear, my dear, O dear,
It was an accident.'

by William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939

Text to the above video:

Sailing To Byzantium

I

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

III

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

IV

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

by William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939

The Lady’s First Song

I turn round
Like a dumb beast in a show.
Neither know what I am
Nor where I go,
My language beaten
Into one name;
I am in love
And that is my shame.
What hurts the soul
My soul adores,
No better than a beast
Upon all fours.

by William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939

The Cap And Bells

The jester walked in the garden:
The garden had fallen still;
He bade his soul rise upward
And stand on her window-sill.

It rose in a straight blue garment,
When owls began to call:
It had grown wise-tongued by thinking
Of a quiet and light footfall;

But the young queen would not listen;
She rose in her pale night-gown;
She drew in the heavy casement
And pushed the latches down.

He bade his heart go to her,
When the owls called out no more;
In a red and quivering garment
It sang to her through the door.

It had grown sweet-tongued by dreaming
Of a flutter of flower-like hair;
But she took up her fan from the table
And waved it off on the air.

'I have cap and bells,' he pondered,
'I will send them to her and die';
And when the morning whitened
He left them where she went by.

She laid them upon her bosom,
Under a cloud of her hair,
And her red lips sang them a love-song
Till stars grew out of the air.

She opened her door and her window,
And the heart and the soul came through,
To her right hand came the red one,
To her left hand came the blue.

They set up a noise like crickets,
A chattering wise and sweet,
And her hair was a folded flower
And the quiet of love in her feet.

by William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939

The following song is based on W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”:

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

by William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939



Teresa Heustis reads the Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni poem below:

INDIAN MOVIE, NEW JERSEY

Not like the white filmstars, all rib 
and gaunt cheekbone, the Indian sex-goddess 
smiles plumply from behind a flowery 
branch. Below her brief red skirt, her thighs 
are satisfying-solid, redeeming 
as tree trunks. She swings her hips 
and the men-viewers whistle. The lover-hero 
dances in to a song, his lip-sync 
a little off, but no matter, we 
know the words already and sing along. 
It is safe here, the day 
golden and cool so no one sweats, 
roses on every bush and the Dal Lake 
clean again. 
              The sex-goddess switches 
to thickened English to emphasize 
a joke. We laugh and clap. Here 
we need not be embarrassed by words 
dropping like lead pellets into foreign ears. 
The flickering movie-light 
wipes from our faces years of America, sons 
who want mohawks and refuse to run 
the family store, daughters who date 
on the sly. 
              When at the end the hero 
dies for his friend who also 
loves the sex-goddess and now can marry her, 
we weep, understanding. Even the men 
clear their throats to say, "What qurbani!* 
What dosti!"# After, we mill around 
unwilling to leave, exchange greetings 
and good news: a new gold chain, a trip 
to India. We do not speak 
of motel raids, canceled permits, stones 
thrown through glass windows, daughters and sons 
raped by Dotbusters.< 
                In this dim foyer 
we can pull around us the faint, comforting smell 
of incense and pakoras,^ can arrange 
our children's marriages with hometown boys and girls, 
open a franchise, win a million 
in the mail. We can retire 
in India, a yellow two-storied house 
with wrought-iron gates, our own 
Ambassador car. Or at least 
move to a rich white suburb, Summerfield 
or Fort Lee, with neighbors that will 
talk to us. Here while the film-songs still echo 
in the corridors and restrooms, we can trust 
in movie truths: sacrifice, success, love and luck, 
the America that was supposed to be.

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 1956-

NOTES:
*qurbani: sacrifice 
# dosti: friendship 
<Dotbusters: New Jersey gangs that attack Indians
^pakoras: fried appetizers 

TIGER MASK RITUAL

 
When you put on the mask the thunder starts.
Through the nostril’s orange you can smell
the far hope of rain. Up in the Nilgiris,
glisten of eucalyptus, drip of pine, spiders tumbling
from their silver webs.

The mask is raw and red as bark against your facebones. 
You finger the stripes ridged like weals
out of your childhood. A wind is rising
in the north, a scarlet light
like a fire in the sky.

When you look through the eyeholes it is like falling.
Night gauzes you in black. You are blind
as in the beginning of the world. Sniff. Seek the moon.
After a while you will know
that creased musky smell is rising
from your skin.

Once you locate the ears the drums begin.
Your fur stiffens. A roar from the distant left,
like monsoon water. You swivel your sightless head.
Under your sheathed paw
the ground shifts wet.

What is that small wild sound
sheltering in your skull
against the circle that always closes in
just before dawn?

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 1956-

Note: The above poem refers to a ritual performed by some Rajasthani hill tribes in India to ensure rain and a good harvest.

From Leaving Yuba City. Copyright © 1997 by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.


BBC documentary on Sylvia Plath:

Plath reads her poem:

The Moon and the Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness–-blackness and silence.

by Sylvia Plath

DADDY

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

by Sylvia Plath


For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

by W. S. Merwin

from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin.

THE LAST ONE

Well they’d made up their minds to be everywhere because why not.
Everywhere was theirs because they thought so.
They with two leaves they whom the birds despise.
In the middle of stones they made up their minds.
They started to cut.

Well they cut everything because why not.
Everything was theirs because they thought so.
It fell into its shadows and they took both away.
Some to have some for burning.

Well cutting everything they came to water.
They came to the end of the day there was one left standing.
They would cut it tomorrow they went away.
The night gathered in the last branches.
The shadow of the night gathered in the shadow on the water.
The night and the shadow put on the same head.
And it said Now.

Well in the morning they cut the last one.
Like the others the last one fell into its shadow.
It fell into its shadow on the water.
They took it away its shadow stayed on the water.

Well they shrugged they started trying to get the shadow away.
They cut right to the ground the shadow stayed whole.
They laid boards on it the shadow came out on top.
They shone lights on it the shadow got blacker and clearer.
They exploded the water the shadow rocked.
They built a huge fire on the roots.
They sent up black smoke between the shadow and the sun.
The new shadow flowed without changing the old one.
They shrugged they went away to get stones.

They came back the shadow was growing.
They started setting up stones it was growing.
They looked the other way it went on growing.
They decided they would make a stone out of it.
They took stones to the water they poured them into the shadow.
They poured them in they poured them in the stones vanished.
The shadow was not filled it went on growing.
That was one day.

The next day was just the same it went on growing.
They did all the same things it was just the same.
They decided to take its water from under it.
They took away water they took it away the water went down.
The shadow stayed where it was before.
It went on growing it grew onto the land.
They started to scrape the shadow with machines.
When it touched the machines it stayed on them.
That was another day.

Well the next day started about the same it went on growing.
They pushed lights into the shadow.
Where the shadow got onto them they went out.
They began to stomp on the edge it got their feet.
And when it got their feet they fell down.
It got into eyes the eyes went blind.
The ones that fell down it grew over and they vanished.
The ones that went blind and walked into it vanished.
The ones that could see and stood still
It swallowed their shadows.
Then it swallowed them too and they vanished.
Well the others ran.
The ones that were left went away to live if it would let them.
They went as far as they could.
The lucky ones with their shadows.

by W. S. Merwin

from The Lice (Macmillan, 1967) and The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

For a Coming Extinction

 
Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him 
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
Dead
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices

Join your word to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important

by W. S. Merwin

from The Lice. Copyright © 1967 by W. S. Merwin.  Reprinted by permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc..Source: The Lice (Atheneum Publishers, 1967)

The Judgment of Paris

                                                    for Anthony Hecht
Long afterwards
the intelligent could deduce what had been offered
and not recognized
and they suggest that bitterness should be confined
to the fact that the gods chose for their arbiter
a mind and character so ordinary
albeit a prince

and brought up as a shepherd
a calling he must have liked
for he had returned to it

when they stood before him
the three
naked feminine deathless
and he realized that he was clothed
in nothing but mortality
the strap of his quiver of arrows crossing
between his nipples
making it seem stranger

and he knew he must choose
and on that day

the one with the gray eyes spoke first
and whatever she said he kept
thinking he remembered
but remembered it woven with confusion and fear
the two faces that he called father
the first sight of the palace
where the brothers were strangers
and the dogs watched him and refused to know him
she made everything clear she was dazzling she
offered it to him
to have for his own but what he saw
was the scorn above her eyes
and her words of which he understood few
all said to him  Take wisdom
take power
you will forget anyway

the one with the dark eyes spoke
and everything she said
he imagined he had once wished for
but in confusion and cowardice
the crown
of his father the crowns the crowns bowing to him
his name everywhere like grass
only he and the sea
triumphant
she made everything sound possible she was
dazzling she offered it to him
to hold high but what he saw
was the cruelty around her mouth
and her words of which he understood more
all said to him  Take pride
take glory
you will suffer anyway

the third one the color of whose eyes
later he could not remember
spoke last and slowly and
of desire and it was his
though up until then he had been
happy with his river nymph
here was his mind
filled utterly with one girl gathering
yellow flowers
and no one like her
the words
made everything seem present
almost present
present
they said to him  Take
her
you will lose her anyway

it was only when he reached out to the voice
as though he could take the speaker
herself
that his hand filled with
something to give
but to give to only one of the three
an apple as it is told
discord itself in a single fruit its skin
already carved
To the fairest

then a mason working above the gates of Troy
in the sunlight thought he felt the stone
shiver

in the quiver on Paris’s back the head
of the arrow for Achilles’ heel
smiled in its sleep

and Helen stepped from the palace to gather
as she would do every day in that season
from the grove the yellow ray flowers tall
as herself

whose roots are said to dispel pain

by W. S. Merwin

******************************************************

BALLAD OF BIRMINGHAM

           (On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

by Dudley Randall, from Cities Burning. Copyright © 1968 by Dudley Randall. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Dudley Randall.

To see Dudley Randall’s poem “Booker T. [Washington] and W. E. B [Dubois]” [CLICK HERE]

************************************************************

INTO MY HEART AN AIR THAT KILLS

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

by A. E. Houseman

TO AN ATHLETE DYING YOUNG

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

by A. E. Housman

MORE POEMS, XIV  [The Farms of home lie lost in even]

The farms of home lie lost in even,*
I see far off the steeple stand;
West and away from here to heaven
Still is the land. 

There if I go no girl will greet me,
No comrade hollo^ from the hill,
No dog run down the yard to meet me:
The land is still.

The land is still by farm and steeple,
And still for me the land may stay:
There I was friends with perished people,
And there lie they.

by A. E. Housman

* even = evening

^ hollo = 1: to call or cry hollo to. 2 : to utter loudly : holler

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Born on the island of Saint Lucia, a former British colony in the West Indies, poet and playwright DEREK WALCOTT was trained as a painter but turned to writing as a young man… In 1992, Walcott won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

A City’s Death By Fire

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire;
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like 
      wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.

by Derek Walcott

After The Storm

There are so many islands! 
As many islands as the stars at night 
on that branched tree from which meteors are shaken 
like falling fruit around the schooner Flight. 
But things must fall, and so it always was, 
on one hand Venus, on the other Mars; 
fall, and are one, just as this earth is one 
island in archipelagoes of stars. 
My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last. 
I stop talking now. I work, then I read, 
cotching* under a lantern hooked to the mast. 
I try to forget what happiness was, 
and when that don't work, I study the stars. 
Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam 
as the deck turn white and the moon open 
a cloud like a door, and the light over me 
is a road in white moonlight taking me home. 
Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.

by Derek Walcott

*cotching = relaxing

**********ROBERT PENN WARREN**********

Read by Tom O’Bedlam:

Read by Patrick Doyle:

Evening Hawk

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through 
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds, 
Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding 
The last tumultuous avalanche of 
Light above pines and the guttural gorge, 
The hawk comes. 

His wing 
Scythes down another day, his motion 
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear 
The crashless fall of stalks of Time. 

The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error. 

Look! Look! he is climbing the last light 
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under 
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings 
Into shadow. 

Long now, 
The last thrush is still, the last bat 
Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics. His wisdom 
Is ancient, too, and immense. The star 
Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain. 

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear 
The earth grind on its axis, or history 
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.

by Robert Penn Warren

Copyright © 1985.  From New and Selected Poems 1923-1985 (1985)

**************************************************************************

Independence

Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh, India, l947

When I am nine, the British quit
India.  Headmaster says, "The Great
Mutiny started it."  We repeat,
The Great Mutiny of 1857
in our booming voices.  Even
Akbar was Great, even Catherine,
Great!  We titter over History.  His back
turns: we see his pink spotty neck.


Sorry, the British leaving? we beg.
"This is hardly a joke or a quiz --
sit up and stay alert," he spits.
"It is about the trains and ships
you love and city names.  As for me,
I'm old, I'll end in a library,
I began in trade."  But you must stay,
we tell him.  He lived here as we have lived


but longer.  He says he was alive
in Calcutta in 1890.  He didn't have
a rich father.  A third son, he came with
the Tea Company:  we saw a statement
in his office. The company built
the railroads to take the tea "home
to England" so that Darjeeling and Assam
could be sipped by everyone, us and them.


They sold our southern neighbor Ceylon,
silk, pepper, diamonds, cotton.
We make a trade of course.  In England
there is only wool and salt and
snobs and foggy weather, Shakespeare.

IT’S ME, I’M NOT HOME

It’s late in the city and I’m asleep.
You will call again? Did I hear
(please leave a message after the beep)

Chekhov? A loves B. I clap
for joy. B loves C. C won’t answer.
In the city it’s late, I’m asleep,

and if your face nears me like a familiar map
of homelessness: old world, new hemisphere
(it’s me leave a message after the beep),

then romance flies in the final lap
of the relay, I pass the baton you disappear
into the city, it’s late and I’m asleep

with marriages again, they tend to drop
by, faithful to us for about a year,
leave a message after the beep,

I’ll leave a key for you, play the tape
when you come in, or pick up the receiver.
It’s late in the city and I’m asleep.

Please leave a message after the beep.

by Reetika Vazirani,  1962-2003

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Best-known poem by 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.

by Robert Frost, 1874–1963

THE SILKEN TENT

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when a sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut,
In the capriciousness of summer air,
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

by Robert Frost, 1874–1963

Acquainted With The Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

by Robert Frost

DESIGN

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963

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.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963

NEVER AGAIN WOULD BIRD’ SONG BE THE SAME

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963

THE DRAFT HORSE

With a lantern that wouldn’t burn
In too frail a buggy we drove
Behind too heavy a horse
Through a pitch-dark limitless grove.

And a man came out of the trees
And took our horse by the head
And reaching back to his ribs
Deliberately stabbed him dead.

The ponderous beast went down
With a crack of a broken shaft.
And the night drew through the trees
In one long invidious draft.

The most unquestioning pair
That ever accepted fate
And the least disposed to ascribe
Any more than we had to to hate,

We assumed that the man himself
Or someone he had to obey
Wanted us to get down
And walk the rest of the way.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963

BIRCHES

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost (1969)

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.

by Robert Frost, 1874-1963