The Bells

Hear the sledges with the bells—
                          Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
             How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
                  In the icy air of night!
             While the stars that oversprinkle
             All the heavens, seem to twinkle
                  With a crystalline delight;
             Keeping time, time, time,
             In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
             From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
                          Bells, bells, bells,—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

             Hear the mellow wedding bells,
                          Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
             Through the balmy air of night
             How they ring out their delight!
                  From the molten-golden notes,
                          And all in tune,
             What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle dove that listens, while she gloats
                          On the moon!
             Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
                          How it swells!
                          How it dwells
                  On the Future! how it tells
                  Of the rapture that impels
             To the swinging and the ringing
                  Of the bells, bells, bells,
                  Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
                          Bells, bells, bells,—
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

             Hear the loud alarum bells—
                          Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror now their turbulency tells!
             In the startled ear of night
             How they scream out their affright!
             Too much horrified to speak,
             They can only shriek, shriek,
                          Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
             Leaping higher, higher, higher,
             With a desperate desire,
                  And a resolute endeavor,
                  Now—now to sit or never,
        By the side of the pale-faced moon.
             Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
             What a tale their terror tells
                          Of despair!
             How they clang, and clash, and roar!
             What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
             Yet the ear it fully knows,
                  By the twanging,
                  And the clanging,
             How the danger ebbs and flows:
             Yet the ear distinctly tells,
                  In the jangling,
                  And the wrangling,
             How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
                          Of the bells—
                  Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
                          Bells, bells, bells,—
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

                Hear the tolling of the bells—
                           Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
                In the silence of the night,
                How we shiver with affright
            At the melancholy menace of their tone!
                For every sound that floats
                From the rust within their throats
                        Is a groan.
                And the people—ah, the people—
                They that dwell up in the steeple,
                        All alone
            And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
                In that muffled monotone,
            Feel a glory in so rolling
                On the human heart a stone—
            They are neither man nor woman—
            They are neither brute nor human—
                They are Ghouls:
            And their king it is who tolls;
            And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
                A paean from the bells!
            And his merry bosom swells
                With the paean of the bells!
            And he dances, and he yells;
            Keeping time, time, time,
            In a sort of Runic rhyme,
                To the paean of the bells—
                        Of the bells:
                Keeping time, time, time,
            In a sort of Runic rhyme,
                To the throbbing of the bells—
                        Of the bells, bells, bells—
                To the sobbing of the bells;
            Keeping time, time, time,
                        As he knells, knells, knells,
            In a happy Runic rhyme,
                        To the rolling of the bells—           
                 Of the bells, bells, bells—
                        To the tolling of the bells,
                Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
                        Bells, bells, bells—
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

— Edgar Allen Poe



Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Wateroo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
                                        I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                                        What place is this?
                                        Where are we now?

                                        I am the grass.
                                        Let me work.

— Carl Sandburg


Boulevard du Montparnasse

Once, in a doorway in Paris, I saw
the most beautiful couple in the world.
They were each the single most beautiful thing in the world.
She would have been sixteen, perhaps; he twenty.
Their skin was the same shade of black: like a shiny Steinway.
And they stood there like the four-legged instrument
of a passion so grand one could barely imagine them
ever working, or eating, or reading a magazine.
Even they could hardly believe it.
Her hands gripped his belt loops, as they found each others’ eyes,
because beauty like this must be held onto,
could easily run away on the power
of his long, lean thighs; or the tiny feet of her laughter.
I thought: now I will write a poem,
set in the doorway on the Boulevard du Montparnasse,
in which the brutishness of time
rates only a mention; I will say simply
that if either one should ever love another,
a greater beauty shall not be the cause.

— Mary Jo Salter


They Flee from Me

They flee from me that sometime did me seek 
    With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle tame and meek
    That now are wild and do not remember
    That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
    Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
    When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
    And she me caught in her arms long and small;
And therewithal sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, Dear heart, how like you this?

It was no dream, I lay broad waking.
    But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
    And I have leave to go of her goodness
    And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I kindely so am served,
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

— Thomas Wyatt




Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

— Edward Thomas


Half a Double Sonnet

for Ben

Their ordeal over, now the only trouble
was conveying somehow to a boy of three
that for a week or two he’d be seeing double.
Surely he wouldn’t recall the surgery
years later, but what about the psychic scars?
And so, when the patch came off, they bought the toy
he’d wanted most. He held it high. “Two cars!”
he cried; and drove himself from joy to joy.
Two baby sisters … One was enough of Clare,
but who could complain? —considering that another
woman had stepped forward to take care
of the girls, which left him all alone with Mother.
Victory! Even when he went to pee,
he was seconded in his virility.

— Mary Jo Salter


The First Madrigal

That night of love was pure
as an antique musical instrument
and the air around it.

as a ceremony of coronation.
It was fleshy as a belly of a woman in labor
and spiritual
as a number.

It was only a moment of life
and it wanted to be a conclusion drawn from life.
By dying
it wanted to comprehend the principle of the world.

That night of love
had ambitions.

— Anna Swir 



Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
— Robert Frost