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A Grab Bag of Verses

Please send me any snatches of verse you remember which are close to your heart.
By verse I don't exactly mean poetry. With this grab bag of verse I especially care about the shape gotten by patterned rhyme and scansion. But if you send me a piece of non-verse poetry I might post it anyway. I already did that with something further down the page. <>

We for a certainty are not the first
have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
whatever brute and blackguard made the world. (Housman)

Shakespeare he's in the alley, with his pointed shoes and bells
talking to some French girl, who says she knows me well
and I would send a message, to find out if she's talked
but the post office has been stolen, and the mailbox is locked. (Dylan)

The atoms of Democritus,
Newton's particles of light,
are sands along the Red Sea shore
where Israel's tents do shine so bright. (Blake)

Remember me. I am the final test
of everything you know and care for. Jest
and the large gesture count for nothing here.
You are alone, and you have only fear
and hardihood to tell you how to choose.
And you will draw on me, and you will lose. (Gullans)

With boys and girls about him,
With any sort of clothes,
With a hat out of fashion,
With old patched shoes,
With a ragged bandit cloak,
With an eye like a hawk,
With a stiff straight back,
With a strutting turkey walk,
With a bag full of pennies,
With a monkey on a chain,
With a great cock's feather,
With an old foul tune. (Yeats)

They talk o' England's glory and a-'oldin' of our trade,
Of Empire and 'igh destiny until we're fair flimflammed;
But if it's for the likes o' that that bloody war is made,
Then wot I say is: Empire and 'igh destiny be damned! (Service)

May you lastly reach the shore,
Joining tide without intent,
Only worried any more
By the current's argument. (Gunn)

I loved you in the morning, your kisses deep and warm
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm. (Cohen)

'Lord, give me back my body
And give me back my voice.'
'Son, I would give your body back
But alas I have no choice.

'For you have pawned your arms and legs,
Your fingers and your toes
And you sold your voice to the bottle-boy
For twenty-one pesos.'

This happened when only the dead wore smiles--
they rejoiced at being safe from harm.
And Leningrad dangled from its jails
like an unnecessary arm. (Akhmatova--Coffin translation)

Beyond that ridge lived Mrs. French, and once
when every silver candlestick or sconce
lit up the dark mahogany and the wine,
a serving man that could divine
that most respected lady's every wish,
ran and with the garden shears
clipped an insolent farmer's ears
and brought them in a little covered dish. (Yeats)

And you, you took me in,
you loved me then,
you didn't waste time.
And I, I never took much,
I never asked for your crutch,
now don't ask for mine. (Dylan)

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (Owen)

Who would waste tears upon her? Is she not
the least of our losses, this unhappy wife?
Yet in my heart she will not be forgot
who, for a single glance, gave up her life. (Akhmatova--Wilbur translation)

The horse that comes from the road,
the rider, the birds that range
from cloud to tumbling cloud,
minute by minute they change;
a shadow of cloud on the stream
changes minute by minute;
a horse-hoof slides on the brim,
and a horse plashes within it; (Yeats)

This old airport's got me down, it's no earthly good to me
'cause I'm stuck here on the ground, cold and drunk as I might be.
Oh the liquor tasted good, and the women all were fast--
there she goes, my friend, she's a moving out at last. (approx. Lightfoot)

And she gets you on her wavelength, and she makes the river answer
that you've always been her lover. (Cohen)

I ask for something to eat, I'm as hungry as a hog.
I get brown rice, sea weed, and a dirty hot dog.
There's a hole where my stomach disappeared.
and you ask why I don't live here, honey, I got to think you're really weird. (Dylan)

The love of old men is not worth a lot,
Deparate and dry even when it is hot.
You cannot tell what is enthusiasm
And what involuntary clawing spasm. (Gunn)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate.

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye. (Auden)

The judge, he holds a grudge,
he's gonna call on you.
But he's badly built and he walks on stilts,
watch out he don't fall on you. (Dylan)

You must not speak.
You must not think.
You must not dip
Your brush in ink.
You must not say
What happened then,
What happened there
In Tiananmen.

The politician came down here, showing every one his gun
giving out free tickets to the wedding of his son. (Dylan)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night...

And you my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Thomas)


This field-grass brushed our legs
Last night, when out we stumbled looking up,
Wading as through the cloudy dregs
Of a wide, sparkling cup,

Our thrown-back heads aswim
In the grand, kept appointments of the air,
Save where a pine at the sky's rim
Took something from the Bear....

....Taking to heart what came
Of the heart's wish for life, which, staking here
In the least field an endless claim,
Beats on from sphere to sphere

And pounds beyond the sun,
Where nothing less peremptory can go,
And is ourselves, and is the one
Unbounded thing we know. (Wilbur)


Only where love and need are one,
And work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes. (Frost)


She might, so noble from head
To great shapely knees
The long flowing line,
Have walked to the altar
Through the holy images
At Pallas Athene's side,
Or been fit spoil for a centaur
Drunk with the unmixed wine. (Yeats)


Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
took with your mothers' milk the mother tongue,
in which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
you strove to leave some line of verse behind
like a fresh track across a field of snow,
not reckoning that all could melt and go. (Wilbur, To the Etruscan Poets)

Well you look so pretty in it, honey, can I jump on it some time?
Yes, I just wanna see if it's really that expensive kind.
You know it balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine,
your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.

Well if you wanna see the sun rise, honey, I know where.
We'll go out and see it sometime, we'll both just sit there and stare,
me with my belt wrapped around my head and you just sittin' there
in your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat. (Dylan)

I lift my voice aloud,
Make mantra of American language now:
I here declare the END OF THE WAR!!
Let the states tremble!
Let the nation weep!
Let Congress legislate its own delight!
Let the President execute his own desire!
This act,
Done by my own voice,
Published to my own senses,
Blissfully received by my own form,
Approved--with pleasure--by my sensations,
Manifestation of my very thought,
Accomplished in my own imagination,
All realms within my consciousness fulfilled,
Sixty miles from Wichita,
Near El Dorado, the Golden One. (Ginsberg)