Poems to Inspire the Soul

Edna Lister often quoted poetry that inspires the soul to aspire higher toward God. Poetry is the language of the soul.

In defense of his art, Dylan Thomas, a well-known poet wrote, "A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him."

The superb poet, Archibald MacLeish, wrote in his Ars Poetica, "A poem should not mean but be."




























































































Morning

Sleep is like death, and after sleep,
The world seems new begun,
Its earnestness all clear and deep,
Its true solution won:
White thoughts stand luminous and firm,
Like statues in the sun.
Refreshed from supersensuous founts,
The soul to purer vision mounts.
– William Allingham, 1824-1889

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Inscription on Melrose Abbey

The earth goes on the earth glittering in gold,
The earth goes to the earth sooner than it would;
The earth builds on the earth castles and towers,
The earth says to the earth – All this is ours.
– Anonymous, before 1880

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Love's Trinity

Soul, heart, and body, we thus singly name,
One is not honour, and the other shame,
Are not in love divisible and distinct,
But each with each inseparably link'd.
But burn as closely fused as fuel, heat, and flame.

They do not love who give the body and keep
The heart ungiven; nor they who yield the soul,
And guard the body. Love doth give the whole;
Its range being high as heaven, as ocean deep,
Wide as the realms of air or planet's curving sweep.
– Alfred Austin, 1835–1913

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What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
– Wendell Berry, 1934–

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Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate'er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fulness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception — which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
– Robert Browning, 1812–1889, Paracelsus, I, 1-12

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God in Us

I knew, I felt, (perception unexpressed,
Uncomprehended by our narrow thought,
But somehow felt and known in every shift
And change in the spirit, — nay, in every pore
Of the body, even,) — what God is, what we are
What life is — how God tastes an infinite joy
In infinite ways — one everlasting bliss,
From whom all being emanates, all power
Proceeds; in whom is life for evermore,
Yet whom existence in its lowest form
Includes; where dwells enjoyment there is He
– Robert Browning, 1812–1889, Paracelsus, II, 13-23

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God in All

Thus He dwells in all,
From life's minute beginnings, up at last
To man — the consummation of this scheme
Of being, the completion of this sphere
Of life: whose attributes had here and there
Been scattered o'er the visible world before,
Asking to be combined, dim fragments meant
To be united in some wondrous whole,
Imperfect qualities throughout creation,
Suggesting some one creature yet to make,
Some point where all those scattered rays should meet
Convergent in the faculties of man.
– Robert Browning, 1812–1889, Paracelsus, II, 56-67

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Think Gently of the Erring

Think gently of the erring:
Ye know not of the power
With which the dark temptation came
In some unguarded hour.
Ye may not know how earnestly
They struggled, or how well,
Until the hour of weakness came
And sadly thus they fell.

Think gently of the erring:
Oh! do not thou forget,
However darkly stained by sin
He is thy brother yet;
Heir of the selfsame heritage,
Child of the selfsame God,
He has but stumbled in the path
Thou hast in weakness trod.

Speak gently to the erring:
For is it not enough
That innocence and peace have gone,
Without thy censure rough?
It sure must be a weary lot,
That sin-stained heart to bear,
And those who share a happier fate
Their chidings well may spare.

Speak gently to the erring:
Thou yet may'st lead them back
With holy words and tones of love,
From misery's thorny track:
Forget not thou hast often sinned,
And sinful yet must be;
Deal gently with the erring, then,
As God has dealt with thee.
– Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney, 1823-1908

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Where True Love Burns

Where true Love burns,
Desire is Love's pure flame;
It is the reflex of our earthly frame,
That takes its meaning from the nobler part,
And but translates the language of the heart.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772–1834

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Joy and Peace in Believing

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.
– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Olney Hymns, XLIX

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The Light and Glory of the Word

The Spirit breathes upon the Word,
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.

A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age,
It gives, but borrows none.

The hand that gave it still supplies
The gracious light and heat;
His truths upon the nations rise,
They rise, but never set.

Let everlasting thanks be thine,
For such a bright display,
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.

My soul rejoices to pursue
The steps of Him I love,
Till glory break upon my view
In brighter worlds above.
– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Olney Hymns, XXX

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Light Shining out of Darkness

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform:
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take:
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace:
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste;
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his works in vain:
God is his own interpreter;
And he will make it plain.
– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Olney Hymns, XXXV

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Love Constrained to Obedience

No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright:
And what she has she misapplies,
For want of clearer light.

How long beneath the law I lay
In bondage and distress;
I toll'd the precept to obey,
But toil'd without success.

Then, to abstain from outward sin
Was more than I could do;
Now, if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.

Then all my servile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose His ways.

"What shall I do," was then the word,
"That I may worthier grow?"
"What shall I render to the Lord?"
Is my inquiry now.

To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Olney Hymns, LV

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The Narrow Way

What thousands never knew the road!
What thousands hate it when 'tis known!
None but the chosen tribes of God
Will seek or choose it for their own.

A thousand ways in ruin end,
One only leads to joys on high;
By that my willing steps ascend,
Pleased with a journey to the sky.

No more I ask or hope to find
Delight or happiness below;
Sorrow may well possess the mind
That feeds where thorns and thistles grow.

The joy that fades is not for me,
I seek immortal joys above;
There glory without end shall be
The bright reward of faith and love.

Cleave to the world, ye sordid worms,
Contented lick your native dust!
But God shall fight with all his storms,
Against the idol of your trust.
– William Cowper, 1731-1800, Olney Hymns, LXII

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But Men Loved Darkness Rather than Light

The world's light shines, shine as it will,
The world will love its darkness still.
I doubt though when the world's in hell,
It will not love its darkness half so well.
– Richard Crashaw, 1613-1649

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On the Miracle of the Multiplied Loaves

See here an easy feast that knows no wound,
That under hunger's teeth will needs be sound;
A subtle harvest of unbounded bread,
What would ye more? Here food itself is fed.
– Richard Crashaw, Divine Epigrams

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Two Went Up Into the Temple to Pray

Two went to pray? Oh! rather say,
One went to brag, the other to pray.

One stands up close, and treads on high,
Where the other dares not lend his eye.

One nearer to God's altar trod;
The other to the altar's God.
– Richard Crashaw, 1613-1649

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Emancipation

No rack can torture me,
My soul's at liberty
Behind this mortal bone
There knits a bolder one

You cannot prick with saw,
Nor rend with scymitar.
Two bodies therefore be;
Bind one, and one will flee.

The eagle of his nest
No easier divest
And gain the sky,
Than mayest thou,

Except thyself may be
Thine enemy;
Captivity is consciousness,
So's liberty.
– Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

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The Soul selects her own Society

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I've known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —
– Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

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Mysteries Remain

I keep the same
cycle of seed-time
and of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass,
I multiply,
renew and bless
Bacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true,
the first of these
to name the living, dead;
I am the wine and bread.
I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine,
the branches, you,
and you.
– Hilda Dolittle (H. D.), 1886-1961

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Batter My Heart, Three-personed God

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town to another due,
Labor to admit to you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lovéd fain
But am betrothed unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
– John Donne, 1572-1631, Holy Sonnets, 15

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Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
– John Donne, 1572-1631, Holy Sonnets, 10

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne, 1572-1631, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

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Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness

Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where with the choir of saints forevermore
I shall be made thy music, as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before. …

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross and Adam's tree, stood in one place:
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.

So, in his purple wrapped, receive me, Lord;
By these his thorns give me his other crown;
And as to others' souls I preached thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
Therefore, that he may raise, the Lord throws down.
– John Donne, 1572-1631

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St. Cecilia's Day

From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony,
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell!
– John Dryden, 1631-1700, Stanzas 1-2

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An Honest Man's Fortune

You that can look through Heaven, and tell the stars,
Observe their kind conjunctions, and their wars;
Find out new lights, and give them where you please,
To these men honors, pleasures, to those ease;
You that are God's surveyors, and can show
How far, and when, and why the wind doth blow;
Know all the charges of the dreadful thunder,
And when it will shoot over, or fall under:
Tell me, by all your art I conjure ye,
Yes, and by truth, what shall become of me?
Find out my star, if each one, as you say,
Have his peculiar Angel, and his way;
Observe my fate, next fall into your dreams,
Sweep clean your houses, and new line your seams,
Then say your worst: or have I none at all?
Or is it burnt out lately? or did fall?
Or am I poor, not able, no full flame?
My star, like me, unworthy of a name?
Is it, your art can only work on those
That deal with dangers, dignities, and cloathes?
With love, or new opinions? you all lye,
A fishwife hath a fate, and so have I,
But far above your finding; He that gives,
Out of his providence, to all that lives;
He that made all the stars, you daily read,
And from thence filch a knowledge how to feed;
Hath hid this from you, your conjectures all
Are drunken things, not how, but when they fall;
Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest, and a perfect man
Commands all light, all influence, all fate,
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our Angels are, or good, or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still,
And when the stars are laboring we believe
It is not that they govern, but they grieve
Our stubborn ignorance; all things that are
Made for our general uses are at war,
Even we among ourselves, and from the strife
Your first unlike opinions got a life.
O man, thou image of thy Maker's good,
What canst thou fear, when breathed into thy blood
His spirit is, that built thee? what dull sense
Makes thee suspect, in need, that providence?
Who made the morning, and who placed the light
Guide to thy labors? who called up the night,
And bid her fall upon thee, like sweet showers
In hollow murmurs, to lock up thy powers?
Who gave thee knowledge? who so trusted thee,
To let thee grow so near himself, the Tree?
Must he then be distrusted? shall his frame
Discourse with him, why thus, and thus I am?
He made the Angels thine, thy fellows all,
Nay, even thy servants, when devotions call.
Oh canst thou be so stupid then, so dim,
To seek a saving influence, and lose him?
Can Stars protect thee? or can poverty,
Which is the light to Heaven, put out his eye?
He is my star; in him all truth I find,
All influence, all fate, and when my mind
Is furnished with his fullnesse, my poor story
Shall outlive all their Age, and all their glory.
The hand of danger cannot fall amiss,
When I know what, and in whose power it is.
Nor want, the cause of man, shall make me groan;
A holy hermit is a mind alone.
Doth not experience teach us all we can
To work ourselves into a glorious man?
Love's but an exhalation to best eyes
The matter's spent, and then the fool's fire dyes?
Were I in love, and could that bright star bring
Increase to wealth, honor, and every thing:
Were she as perfect good as we can aim,-
The first was so, and yet she lost the Game.
My mistress then be knowledge and faire truth;
So I enjoy all beauty and all youth,
And though to Time her lights and laws she lends,
She knows no Age that to corruption bends.
Friends' promises may lead me to believe,
But he that is his own friend knows to live.
Affliction, when I know it, is but this,
A deep alloy whereby man tougher is
To bear the hammer; and the deeper still,-
We still arise more image of his will.
Sickness an humorous cloud 'twixt us and light,
And Death, at longest but another night.
Man is his own Star, and that soul that can
Be honest is the only perfect man.
– John Fletcher, 1579–1625

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Choose Something Like a Star

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud-
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to the wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, 'I burn.'
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use Language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
– Robert Frost, 1874-1963

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Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
– Robert Frost, 1874-1963

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
– Robert Frost, 1874-1963

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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.
– Robert Frost, 1874-1963

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Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
– Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889

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Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
– William Ernest Henley, 1849–1903

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The Altar

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart and cemented with tears;
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same.
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.
– George Herbert, 1593–1633

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Love

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack'd any thing.
'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'
'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.
– George Herbert, 1593–1633

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The Pulley

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
"Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can;
Let the world's riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span."

So strength first made away;
Then beauty flowed; then wisdom, honor, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay;
Perceiving that alone of all the treasure
Rest in the bottom lay.

"For if I should," said he,
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me;
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
So both should losers be.

"Yet let him keep the rest;
But keep them, with repining restlessness.
Let him be rich and weary; that, at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast."
– George Herbert, 1593–1633

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Not Every Day Fit for Verse

'Tis not every day that I
Fitted am to prophesy;
No, but when the spirit fills
The fantastic pannicles,
Full of fire, then I write
As the Godhead doth indite.
Thus inraged, my lines are hurled,
Like the Sibyl's through the world:
Look how next the holy fire
Either slakes, or doth retire;
So the fancy cools, till when
That brave spirit comes again.
– Robert Herrick, 1591–1674

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Truth and Error

Twixt truth and error, there's this difference known
Error is fruitful, truth is only one.
– Robert Herrick, 1591–1674

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All Is Well

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
… I am waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be
as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting
when we meet again!
– Henry Scott Holland, 1847–1918

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God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889

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Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things,
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow,
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange,
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889

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Thee, God, I Come From

Thee, God, I come from, to thee go,
All day long I like fountain flow
From thy hand out, swayed about
Mote-like in thy mighty glow.

What I know of thee I bless,
As acknowledging thy stress
On my being and as seeing
Something of thy holiness.

Once I turned from thee and hid,
Bound on what thou hadst forbid;
Sow the wind I would; I sinned:
I repent of what I did.

Bad I am, but yet thy child.
Father, be thou reconciled.
Spare thou me, since I see
With thy might that thou art mild.

I have life before me still
And thy purpose to fulfil;
Yea a debt to pay thee yet:
Help me, sir, and so I will.

But thou bidst, and just thou art,
Me shew mercy from my heart
Towards my brother, every other
Man my mate and counterpart.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889

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Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
– Langston Hughes, 1902–1967

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Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem, (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within the moonlight in the room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold;
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The vision raised its head,
And with a look made all of sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Adhem. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Adhem spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow-men."
The angel wrote and vanished; the next night
He came again with a great wakening light,
And showed their names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
– Leigh Hunt, 1784–1859

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Darkness

My close-walled soul has never known
That innermost darkness, dazzling sight,
Like the blind point, whence the visions spring
In the core of the gazer's chrysolite.
The mystic darkness that laps God's throne
In a splendour beyond imagining,
So passing bright.

But the many twisted darknesses
That range the city to and fro,
In aimless subtlety pass and part
And ebb and glutinously flow;
Darkness of lust and avarice,
Of the crippled body and the crooked heart.
These darknesses I know.
– Aldous Huxley, 1894–1963

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Narayena: Spirit of God

My soul absorbed, one only Being knows;
Of all perceptions one abundant source;
Whence every object every moment flows:
Suns hence derive their force;
Hence planets learn their course;
But suns and fading worlds I view no more:
God only I perceive; God only I adore.
– Sir William Jones, 1746-1794, lines 11-17

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A Thing of Beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
– John Keats, 1795–1821, Endymion, Book I, 1-24

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Hyperion

As Heaven and Earth are fairer, fairer far
Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs;
And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth
In form and shape compact and beautiful,
In will, in action free, companionship,
And thousand other signs of purer life;
So on our heels a fresh perfection treads,
A power more strong in beauty, born of us,
And fated to excel us, as we pass
In glory that old Darkness.
– John Keats, 1795–1821, Hyperion, Book II, 206-215

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As Brightest Sun

As brightest sun, His face is bright;
His raiment, as the light, is white,
Yea, whiter than the whitest snow.
Moses, Elias, spake with Him.
Of deepest things, of terrors grim,
Of boundless bliss, and boundless woe,
Of pangs that none but Christ may know.

A voice sublime I panting hear,
A voice that conquers grief and fear,
Revealing all eternity;
Revealing God's beloved Son,
Born to redeem a world undone;
Filled with God's fulness from on high,
To gain God's noblest victory.
— Thomas Hansen Kingo, trans. 1634-1703

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If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And – which is more — you'll be a Man, my son!
– Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936, If

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Search for Truth

Search for nothing any more,
nothing except truth.
Be very still, and try and get at the truth.
And the first question to ask yourself is:
How great a liar am I?
– David Herbert Lawrence, 1883-1930

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Self-Pity

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
– David Herbert Lawrence, 1883-1930

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Retribution

Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
With exactness grinds He all.
– Friedrich von Logau, 1604–1655,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, trans., Poems of Sentiment: II
[Source: Plutarch's Moralia]

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A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807–1882

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To Lucasta, 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
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
– Richard Lovelace

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To Althea, from Prison(excerpt)

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my Love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such Liberty.
– Richard Lovelace

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Outwitted

He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
– Edwin Markham, The Shoes of Happiness,
and Other Poems

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Lucifer in Starlight

On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he leaned,
Now his huge bulk o'er Afric's sands careened,
Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.
– George Meredith, 1828–1909

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Light

Hail holy light, ofspring of Heav'n first-born,
Or of th' Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam'd since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear'st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
. . .
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.
– John Milton, 1608-1674, Paradise Lost

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Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The majesty on high.

Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice,
And cry: "Behold, he prays!"

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air,
Our watchword at the gate of death;
We enter heaven with prayer.

O thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray!
– James Montgomery, 1771-1854

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Hercules' Apotheosis from Mortal to Immortal

Now on all sides the potent flames aspire,
And crackle round those limbs that mock the fire
A sudden terror seiz'd th' immortal host,
Who thought the world's profess'd defender lost.
This when the Thund'rer saw, with smiles he cries,
'Tis from your fears, ye Gods, my pleasures rise;
Joy swells my breast, that my all-ruling hand
O'er such a grateful people boasts command,
That you my suff'ring progeny would aid;
Tho' to his deeds this just respect be paid,
Me you've oblig'd. Be all your fears forborn,
Th' Oetean fires do thou, great hero, scorn.
Who vanquish'd all things, shall subdue the flame.
That part alone of gross maternal frame
Fire shall devour; while what from me he drew
Shall live immortal, and its force subdue;
That, when he's dead, I'll raise to realms above;
May all the Pow'rs the righteous act approve.
If any God dissent, and judge too great
The sacred honours of the heav'nly seat,
Ev'n he shall own his deeds deserve the sky,
Ev'n he reluctant, shall at length comply.
Th' assembled Pow'rs assent. No frown 'till now
Had mark'd with passion vengeful Juno's brow,
Mean-while whate'er was in the pow'r of flame
Was all consum'd; his body's nervous frame
No more was known, of human form bereft,
Th' eternal part of Jove alone was left.
As an old serpent casts his scaly vest,
Wreathes in the sun, in youthful glory drest;
So when Alcides mortal mold resign'd,
His better part enlarg'd, and grew refin'd;
August his visage shone; almighty Jove
In his swift carr his honour'd offspring drove;
High o'er the hollow clouds the coursers fly,
And lodge the hero in the starry sky.
– Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book IX

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A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All
that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
– Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–1849

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An Essay on Man (excerpt)

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th' empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
– Alexander Pope, 1688–1744, Epistle II, I

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The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."
– Theodore Roethke, 1908–1963

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In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.
– Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

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The Twilight of Earth (excerpt)

We shiver in the falling dew,
And seek a shelter from the storm:
When man these elder brothers knew
He found the mother nature warm,
A hearth fire blazing through it all,
A home without a circling wall.

We dwindle down beneath the skies,
And from ourselves we pass away:
The paradise of memories
Grows ever fainter day by day.
The shepherd stars have shrunk within,
The world's great night will soon begin.

Will no one, ere it is too late,
Ere fades the last memorial gleam,
Recall for us our earlier state?
For nothing but so vast a dream
That it would scale the steeps of air
Could rouse us from so vast despair.

The power is ours to make or mar
Our fate as on the earliest morn,
The Darkness and the Radiance are
Creatures within the spirit born.
Yet, bathed in gloom too long, we might
Forget how we imagined light.

Not yet are fixed the prison bars;
The hidden light the spirit owns
If blown to flame would dim the stars
And they who rule them from their thrones:
And the proud sceptred spirits thence
Would bow to pay us reverence.

Oh, while the glory sinks within
Let us not wait on earth behind,
But follow where it flies, and win
The glow again, and we may find
Beyond the Gateways of the Day
Dominion and ancestral sway.
– George William Russell, 1867–1935

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Desire

With Thee a moment! Then what dreams have play!
Traditions of eternal toil arise,
Search for the high, austere and lonely way
The Spirit moves in through eternities.
Ah, in the soul what memories arise!

And with what yearning inexpressible,
Rising from long forgetfulness I turn
To Thee, invisible, unrumoured, still:
White for Thy whiteness all desires burn.
Ah, with what longing once again I turn!
– George William Russell, 1867–1935

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My Inner Life

'Tis true my garments threadbare are,
And sorry poor I seem;
But inly I am richer far
Than any poet's dream.
For I've a hidden life no one
Can ever hope to see;
A sacred sanctuary none
May share with me.

Aloof I stand from out the strife,
Within my heart a song;
By virtue of my inner life
I to myself belong.
Against man‑ruling I rebel,
Yet do not fear defeat,
For to my secret citadel
I may retreat.

Oh you who have an inner life
Beyond this dismal day
With wars and evil rumours rife,
Go blessedly your way.
Your refuge hold inviolate;
Unto yourself be true,
And shield serene from sordid fate
The Real You.
– Robert Service, 1874–1958

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The Seven Ages

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms:
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school: and then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow: then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth: and then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances.
And so he plays his part: the sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.
– William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

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Sonnet 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity once in the main of light
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow
Feeds on the rarities of Nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet, to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
– William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

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Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
– William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

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Mutability

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest. A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise. One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same! For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutablilty.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792–1822

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Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792–1822

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Lift Not the Painted Veil

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792–1822

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Music

When whispering strains with creeping wind
Distil soft passions through the heart;
And when at every touch we find
Our pulses beat and bear a part;
When threads can make
A heartstring ache,
Philosophy
Can scarce deny,
Our souls are made of harmony.

When unto heavenly joys we faine
Whate'er the soul affecteth most,
Which only thus we can explain
By music of the heavenly host;
Whose lays we think
Make stars to wink,
Philosophy
Can scarce deny
Our souls consist of harmony.

O lull me, lull me, charming air!
My senses rock with wonder sweet;
Like snow on wool thy fallings are;
Soft like a spirit's are thy feet!
Grief who needs fear
That hath an ear?
Down let him lie,
And slumbering die,
And change his soul for harmony.
– William Strode, 1602–1645

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Desire

Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Tao Te Ching, J. Legge, translator, Chapter 1, 3

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Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson<, 1809–1892

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The Higher Pantheism

The sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the hills and the plains,
Are not these, O Soul, the Vision of Him who reigns?
Is not the Vision He, tho' He be not that which He seems?
Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
Earth, these solid stars, this weight of body and limb,
Are they not sign and symbol of thy division from Him?
Dark is the world to thee; thyself art the reason why,
For is He not all but thou, that hast power to feel "I am I"?
Glory about thee, without thee; and thou fulfillest thy doom,
Making Him broken gleams and a stifled splendour and gloom.
Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet —
Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.

God is law, say the wise; O soul, and let us rejoice,
For if He thunder by law the thunder is yet His voice.
Law is God, say some; no God at all, says the fool,
For all we have power to see is a straight staff bent in a pool;
And the ear of man cannot hear, and the eye of man cannot see;
But if we could see and hear, this Vision — were it not He?
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809–1892

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The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat-and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet —
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'
– Francis Thompson, 1859-1907

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Finite Yet Infinite

His Power bounded, greater is in might,
Than if let loose, 'twere wholly infinite.
He could have made an endless sea by this,
But then it had not been a sea of bliss.
Did waters from the centre to the skies
Ascend, 'twould drown whatever else we prize.
The ocean bounded in a finite shore,
Is better far because it is no more.
No use nor glory would in that be seen,
His power made it endless in esteem.
Had not the Sun been bounded in its sphere,
Did all the world in one fair flame appear,
And were that flame a real Infinite
'Twould yield no profit, splendor, nor delight.
Its corps confined, and beams extended be
Effects of Wisdom in the Deity.
One star made infinite would all exclude,
An earth made infinite could ne'er be viewed:
But one being fashioned for the other's sake,
He, bounding all, did all most useful make
And which is best, in profit and delight
Tho' not in bulk, they all are infinite.
– Thomas Traherne, 1637-1674

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Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Joyful, joyful we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love,
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
hail Thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day.

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flow'ry meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting birds and flowing fountain
call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest.
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the Joy Divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began,
Father love is reigning o'er us,
brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.
– Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1933

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Master of Music

Glory of architect, glory of painter, and sculptor, and bard,
Living forever in temple and picture and statue and song,
Look how the world with the lights that they lit is illumined and starred,
Brief was the flame of their life, but the lamps of their art burn long!
Where is the Master of Music, and how has he vanished away?
Where is the work that he wrought with his wonderful art in the air?
Gone, it is gone like the glow on the cloud at the close of the day!
The Master has finished his work, and the glory of music is — where?
Once, at the wave of his wand, all the billows of musical sound
Followed his will, as the sea was ruled by the prophet of old:
Now that his hand is relaxed, and his rod has dropped to the ground,
Silent and dark are the shores where the marvellous harmonies rolled!
Nay, but not silent the hearts that were filled by that life-giving sea;
Deeper and purer forever the tides of their being will roll,
Grateful and joyful, O Master, because they have listened to thee,
The glory of music endures in the depths of the human soul.
– Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1933

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Stars and the Soul

"Two things," the wise man said, "fill me with awe:
The starry heavens and the moral law."
Nay, add another wonder to thy roll,
The living marvel of the human soul!

Born in the dust and cradled in the dark,
It feels the fire of an immortal spark,
And learns to read, with patient, searching eyes,
The splendid secret of the unconscious skies.

For God thought Light before He spoke the word;
The darkness understood not, though it heard:
But man looks up to where the planets swim,
And thinks God's thoughts of glory after Him.

What knows the star that guides the sailor's way,
Or lights the lover's bower with liquid ray,
Of toil and passion, danger and distress,
Brave hope, true love, and utter faithfulness?

But human hearts that suffer good and ill,
And hold to virtue with a loyal will,
Adorn the law that rules our mortal strife
With star-surpassing victories of life.

So take our thanks, dear reader of the skies,
Devout astronomer, most humbly wise,
For lessons brighter than the stars can give,
And inward light that helps us all to live.

The world has brought the laurel-leaves to crown
The star-discoverer's name with high renown;
Accept the flower of love we lay with these
For influence sweeter than the Pleiades!
– Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1933

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The Night

He came to Jesus by night, and said unto him,
Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God:
for no man can do these miracles that thou doest,
except God be with him. – John 3:2.

Through that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o'er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glowworms shine,
And face the moon,
Wise Nicodemus saw such light
As made him know his God by night.
Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
When Thou didst rise!
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!
O who will tell me where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour?
What hallowed solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower,
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity?
No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carved stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
And lodge alone;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.
Dear night! this world's defeat;
The stop to busy fools; care's check and curb;
The day of spirits; my soul's calm retreat
Which none disturb!
Christ's progress, and His prayer time;
The hours to which high heaven doth chime;
God's silent, searching flight;
When my Lord's head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
His still, soft call;
His knocking time; the soul's dumb watch,
When spirits their fair kindred catch.
Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel's wing or voice
Is seldom rent,
Then I in heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.
But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
To every mire,
And by this world's ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night.
There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that night! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim!
– Henry Vaughan, 1621–1695

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A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
– Walt Whitman, 1819–1892

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Love's Supremacy

As yon great Sun in his supreme condition
Absorbs small worlds and makes them all his own,
So does my love absorb each vain ambition
Each outside purpose which my life has known.
Stars cannot shine so near that vast orb's splendor,
They are content to feed his flames of fire;
And so my heart is satisfied to render
Its strength, its all, to meet thy strong desire.
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850–1919

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Solitude

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850–1919

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Honor

Say, what is Honor? 'Tis the finest sense
Of justice which the human mind can frame,
Intent each lurking frailty to disclaim,
And guard the way of life from all offence
Suffered or done.

We know the arduous strife, the eternal laws
To which the triumph of all good is given,
High sacrifice, and labor without pause,
Even to the death: else wherefore should the eye
Of man converse with immortality?
– William Wordsworth, 1770–1850

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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: somewhere in sands of the desert
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
Reel 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?
– William Butler Yeats, 1865–1939

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Reference

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV), Public Domain.


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