SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO SUMMER POEMS

"England - English Summer Woods" courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t

“England – English Summer Woods” courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t



LILY-BELL AND THISTLEDOWN SONG
By Louisa May Alcott

Awake! Awake! for the earliest gleam 

Of golden sunlight shines 

On the rippling waves, that brightly flow 

Beneath the flowering vines. 

Awake! Awake! for the low, sweet chant 

Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air, 

Through the forest cool and dim; 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.

Awake! Awake! for the summer wind 

Hath bidden the blossoms unclose, 

Hath opened the violet’s soft blue eye, 

And awakened the sleeping rose. 

And lightly they wave on their slender stems 

Fragrant, and fresh, and fair, 

Waiting for us, as we singing come 

To gather our honey-dew there. 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.


SUMMER RAIN
By Fannie Isabel Sherrick

Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain,
That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain?
And what is so fair as the flowers that lie
All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?

The blue of the heavens is dimmed by the rain
That wears away sorrow and washes out pain;
But we know that the flowers we cherish would die
Were it not for the tears of the cloud-laden sky.

The rose is the sweeter when kissed by the rain,
And hearts are the dearer where sorrow has lain;
The sky is the fairer that rain-clouds have swept,
And no eyes are so bright as the eyes that have wept.

Oh, they are so happy, these flowers that die,
They laugh in the sunshine, oh, why cannot I?
They droop in the shadow, they smile in the sun,
Yet they die in the winter when summer is done.

The lily is lovely, and fragrant her breath,
But the beauty she wears is the emblem of death;
The rain is so fair as it falls on the flowers,
But the clouds are the shadows of sunnier hours.

Why laugh in the sunshine, why smile in the rain?
The world is a shadow and life is a pain;
Why live in the summer, why dream in the sun,
To die in the winter, when summer is done?

Oh, there is the truth that each life underlies,
That baffles the poets and sages so wise;
Ah! there is the bitter that lies in the sweet
As we gather the roses that bloom at our feet.

Oh, flowers forgive me, I’m willful to-day,
Oh, take back the lesson you gave me I pray;
For I slept in the sunshine, I woke in the rain
And it banished forever my sorrow and pain.


(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)


Louisa May Alcott: (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of her day. (Annotated biography of Louisa May Alcott courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Fannie Isabel Sherrick: (Lived circa mid-to-late 19th c.) was a native of St. Louis. Much of her early life was spent in California and Colorado, where many of her best productions in verse were written. Her collected poems were published in 1888, in a volume entitled Star Dust. Poor health caused her–at least temporarily–to give up literary endeavors. (Annotated biography of Fannie Isabel Sherrick courtesy of Evenings with Colorado Poets: an Anthology of Colorado Verse, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Technically summer is not for another month yet, but here in New York the sun is shining, and Memorial Day weekend is the official start of our summer season, so “O’er the pleasant earth 
/ We journey forth, 
/ For a day among the flowers.” And, while summer rain was not a common occurrence in California–from whence I came–here in New York the sky opens up to quench the grasses, the flowers, the rivers and streams, all summer long: “Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain, / That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain? / And what is so fair as the flowers that lie / All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?”

Want to read more summer poetry?
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: FALL POEMS

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


AFTER APPLE-PICKING
By Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


AUTUMN: A DIRGE
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The warm sun is falling, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth is her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black and gray;
Let your light sisters play–
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.


AUTUMN LEAVES
By Juliana Horatia Ewing

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
–And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old–
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.


Today’s poems are in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Editor’s Note: Today we celebrate another change in seasons. As the leaves turn red, yellow, orange and gold, as they fall from the trees and blanket the ground, as Mother Earth sheds her summer splendor and Persephone prepares to go underground, may we bid farewell through poetry. And may we meet again in spring when life blooms anew.


Want to read more fall poetry?
Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS


Gerard_Manley_Hopkins


MOONRISE
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.



(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889) was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and a Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse. (Annotated biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem appears here on the recommendation of my mother, a faithful reader of this series. As this coming Monday is her birthday, and the moon her ruling planet, I wanted to share this poem with you today in her honor. Happy Birthday, Mama! May you forever shine as brightly as the moon.

Want to read more by and about Gerard Manley Hopkins?
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Bartleby.com

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EARTH VOICES FOR SPRING

Public Domain image.

Public Domain image.



EARTH VOICES
By Bliss Carman

I

I heard the spring wind whisper
Above the brushwood fire,
“The world is made forever
Of transport and desire.

“I am the breath of being,
The primal urge of things;
I am the whirl of star dust,
I am the lift of wings.

“I am the splendid impulse
That comes before the thought,
The joy and exaltation
Wherein the life is caught.

“Across the sleeping furrows
I call the buried seed,
And blade and bud and blossom
Awaken at my need.

“Within the dying ashes
I blow the sacred spark,
And make the hearts of lovers
To leap against the dark.”

II

I heard the spring light whisper
Above the dancing stream,
“The world is made forever
In likeness of a dream.

“I am the law of planets,
I am the guide of man;
The evening and the morning
Are fashioned to my plan.

“I tint the dawn with crimson,
I tinge the sea with blue;
My track is in the desert,
My trail is in the dew.

“I paint the hills with color,
And in my magic dome
I light the star of evening
To steer the traveller home.

“Within the house of being,
I feed the lamp of truth
With tales of ancient wisdom
And prophecies of youth.”

III

I heard the spring rain murmur
Above the roadside flower,
“The world is made forever
In melody and power.

“I keep the rhythmic measure
That marks the steps of time,
And all my toil is fashioned
To symmetry and rhyme.

“I plow the untilled upland,
I ripe the seeding grass,
And fill the leafy forest
With music as I pass.

“I hew the raw, rough granite
To loveliness of line,
And when my work is finished,
Behold, it is divine!

“I am the master-builder
In whom the ages trust.
I lift the lost perfection
To blossom from the dust.”

IV

Then Earth to them made answer,
As with a slow refrain
Born of the blended voices
Of wind and sun and rain,

“This is the law of being
That links the threefold chain:
The life we give to beauty
Returns to us again.”


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Bliss Carman FRSC (1861–1929) was a Canadian poet who lived most of his life in the United States, where he achieved international fame, and was acclaimed as Canada’s poet laureate during his later years. (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Each year around this time I become so excited by the fact that winter is finally over that I must celebrate the birth of spring through poetry. The sun is shining, the crocuses and tulips are rising, the spring blossoms are in bloom. The cold and darkness that are just behind us are quickly forgotten by the promise of all that is warm and beautiful and worthy of rejoicing. So it has been since the days of Demeter and Persephone, and so it shall be until humankind destroys the natural balance of the world with climate change.

Today’s poem calls upon the “Earth Voices”—the spring wind, the spring light, the spring rain, and the Earth herself—to tell a story of the rebuilding of the world at springtime. The voices of spring speak of the newness they create: “Across the sleeping furrows / I call the buried seed, / And blade and bud and blossom / Awaken at my need.” “I am the master-builder / In whom the ages trust. / I lift the lost perfection / To blossom from the dust.” And the voice of Earth answers, calling upon the ancient power of three, reminding us, as spring does, that what is buried beneath winter “Returns to us again.”

Want to read more Spring Poetry?
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2014)
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LIZZIE LAWSON ON SPRING
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2013)
The Poetry Foundation – Spring Poems

David Caplan: A Micro-Interview and Three Poems

caplan

David Caplan is the Charles M. Weis Chair in English at Ohio Wesleyan University and the author of four books of poetry criticism and poetry, most recently, Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture (Oxford University  Press, 2014) and In the World He Created According to His Will (University of Georgia Press, 2010). His sequence, “Observances” won the Virginia Quarterly Review’s Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry.  A French-language edition of his monograph, Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form (Oxford University Press, 2005), is forthcoming from the University of Liège Press (Presses Universitaires de Liège).

***

Okla Elliott: You work as both a scholar and a poet. How do these two endeavors interact or inform each other?

caplan-041411David Caplan: In my criticism, I try to figure out what other poets are doing. In my poetry I try to figure out what is happening to me. That is not to say that my poetry is necessarily autobiographical. The poems you reprint depict a fictional student studying in a Chassidic yeshiva I have visited. He is not me, but imagining another life allows me to think about mine.

My research often starts with questions that bother me and that I cannot answer. My first book, Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form, began as my dissertation. When I was a graduate student, I wondered why contemporary poets favored certain forms—for example, sestinas and ghazals–and not others—for example, the heroic couplet. As I read, wrote, and revised, I tried to develop persuasive explanations.

My recent book, Rhyme’s Challenge: Contemporary Poetry, Hip Hop, and Rhyming Culture considers why hip-hop artists dominate the contemporary art of rhyme. My poetry is not influenced by hip hop; I admire its artistry and wanted to clarify its achievement (both to myself and to others).

Okla Elliott: Would you talk a bit about form and formalism in poetry? You write bothcaplan_1720509 formalist poems and free verse, but as is often said, free verse isn’t entirely free. What is your interest in formalism, and how do you conceptualize form within free verse?

David Caplan: I am in interested in poetic form because I am interested in reading and writing well-made poems. “Well-made” of course can describe otherwise very different kinds of poems. For instance, Harryette Mullen and Derek Walcott are two of my favorite contemporary poets. Their poems hardly resemble each other’s. Both, though, write what I would call “well-made poems.” Whether in meter or free verse, a poem is well made when its formal elements instruct and delight.

Okla Elliott: The poems reprinted below owe much of their content to Jewish cultural and historical traditions. Would you discuss how you have incorporated these materials? I am particularly interested in how utterly contemporary the poems feel while still linking into millennia-old traditions.

David Caplan: All of our lives mix the old and the new. In this respect, the lives of Orthodox Jews are no different. When learning Talmud, they might look up an unfamiliar Aramaic word on their smartphones (as I mention in one poem). I try not to present such moments as quaint. Instead, they are meant to suggest how we live.

There is a tendency in much Jewish-American poetry to approach traditional Jewish texts primarily as folklore. When contemporary authors draw from these texts, they often try to capture a certain otherworldly quality.

I read the same texts differently. My poems respond to certain Chassidic texts—namely The Tanya and other teachings by the leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement—because they offer powerfully challenging insights into human existence.

***

Into My Garden

As if New Jersey were Babylon, an Argentine
and an Israeli argue in Aramaic, Styrofoam cups
of instant coffee warm in their hands,

Other boys return to last night’s commentary:
I have come into My garden,
back and forth they sing like an invitation.

What did I learn in school? Whenever
the philosopher lectured on the death of metaphysics,
pollen found an open window, pistil

and stamen crazed with each other.
Yellow, the serpentine walls and columns.
Yellow, the library where a church belonged.

Some nights his best student recited
the lecture like a pledge, but nothing changed
not the pitcher between us, the glass

slick with our fingerprints, the envy I felt.
Boys dressed like men race the stairwell as if to the singing,
as if to hear what My garden means:

seven generations caused God to withdraw,
seven generations drew him back.
All those years of talking–what did I learn?

All arguments end with a shrug.

***

Only the Hebrew

The sudden quiet of a room emptied of noise.
Only the Hebrew, a stone on his tongue.

The boy who carried his suitcase up the stairs
swayed as if into a thought.

What is holy? No walls of Jerusalem stone,
no microphone discreetly clipped across a lapel

to announce when to stand. The more
you need them, the more words demand.

Windowsills honored with books,
pictures of the righteous, watching:

this is how we learn to walk,
a father stepping back, just out of reach.

***

Chassidus by Telephone

On the train home, a Bluetooth in his ear,
he listens to a lecture on fear and love,
the four kinds, lower and higher.

To get religious—what does that mean?
Sometimes it all feels like an improvisation:
the snow lifting from the tracks,

a hardboiled egg wrapped in foil, an extra
sandwich in case he meets someone who needs it.
He has no wonder story to tell, no moment

where a miracle resolved all doubt,
only a classroom after the term’s last class,
mango liquorish saved for the occasion,

blessings in the forms of toasts.
Love and fear: a wordless tune
sung faster and louder,

as if that were the reason
the soul descended into this world,
to link arms with friends and sing.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MOTHER NIGHT

Edward-Robert-Hughes-Painting-003

MOTHER NIGHT
By James Weldon Johnson

Eternities before the first-born day,
Or ere the first sun fledged his wings of flame,
Calm Night, the everlasting and the same,
A brooding mother over chaos lay.
And whirling suns shall blaze and then decay,
Shall run their fiery courses and then claim
The haven of the darkness whence they came;
Back to Nirvanic peace shall grope their way.

So when my feeble sun of life burns out,
And sounded is the hour for my long sleep,
I shall, full weary of the feverish light,
Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt,
And heavy-lidded, I shall softly creep
Into the quiet bosom of the Night.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. In addition to being known for his leadership of the NAACP, Johnson was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. (Annotated biography of James Weldon Johnson courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: This Yuletide season I have been thinking—and writing—about ancient holiday traditions that we still practice, and how we received them. So when I came across today’s poem I was struck by the homage it seems to pay to the ancient festival of Mothers’ Night. This winter celebration was held on the eve of Yule, and celebrated The Mothers (goddesses) giving birth to the sun and the new year.

Beyond its title, today’s poem is rich with images of this ancient holiday: the night of labor, the birth of the sun, and the cycle of a year, when “whirling suns shall blaze and then decay.” Yet just as winter is a kind of death, in the second stanza the poet turns “Mother Night” into a metaphor for his own eventual death, imagining that when his time comes he will “Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt” and “softly creep / Into the quiet bosom of the Night.”

Want to see more by and about James Weldon Johnson?
The Poetry Foundation
Poets.org

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EDGAR ALLAN POE FOR HALLOWEEN AND DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Edgar Allan Poe (public domain)

 

By Edgar Allan Poe:

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

THE RAVEN

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
“Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never—nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplght gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. (Annotated biography of Edgar Allan Poe courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Your faithful editor of this Saturday Poetry Series is a HUGE fan of Halloween. This year I’ve decided to celebrate with poetry! “The Raven” is a classic poem of the macabre, and as such is a perfect nod to All Hallow’s Eve. I am particularly partial to this rendition by the Simpsons, because Halloween should have both tricks and treats involved. In addition to “The Raven,” well-known and beloved, I was pleasantly surprised to find “Spirits of the Dead,” a poem that calls out to Dia de los Muertos, when the veils thin between the worlds of the living and the dead and we welcome the spirits of those who came before us. “[F]or then / The spirits of the dead, who stood / In life before thee, are again / In death around thee, and their will / Shall overshadow thee; be still.” Happy Halloween!

Want to read more by and about Edgar Allan Poe?
PoeStories
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Poe Museum