Tuesday, October 31, 2006

247. Memory of a Porch - Donald Justice

.
What I remember
Is how the wind chime
Commenced to stir
As she spoke of her childhood,

As though the simple
Death of a pet cat,
Buried with flowers,

Had brought to the porch
A rumor of storms
Dying out over
Some dark Atlantic.

At least I heard
The thing begin––
A thin, skeletal music––

And in the deep silence
Below all memory
The sighing of ferns
Half asleep in their boxes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

246. Theme and Variation - Peter De Vries

.
Coleridge caused his wife unrest,
Liking other company best;
Dickens, never quite enthralled,
Sent his packing when she palled;
Gauguin broke the marriage vow
In quest of Paradise enow.
These things attest in monochrome:
Genius is the scourge of home.

Lady Nelson made the best of
What another took the rest of;
Wagner had, in middle life,
Three children by another's wife
Whitman liked to play the dastard,
Boasting here and there a bastard.
Lives of great men all remind us
Not to let their labors blind us.

Each helped to give an age its tone,
Though never acting quite his own.
Will of neither wax nor iron
Could have made a go with Byron;
Flaubert, to prove he was above
Bourgeois criteria of love,
Once took a courtesan to bed
Keeping his hat upon his head.

But mine is off to Johann Bach,
For whom my sentiment is "Ach!"
Not once, but twice, a model spouse,
With twenty children in the house.
Some fathers would have walked away
In what they call a fugue today;
But he left no one in the lurch,
And played the stuff he wrote in church.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

245. Happiness - Jane Kenyon

.
There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Friday, October 27, 2006

244. Anonymous Drawing - Donald Justice

.
A delicate young Negro stands
With the reins of a horse clutched loosely in his hands;
So delicate, indeed that we wonder if he can hold the spirited creature beside him
Until the master shall arrive to ride him.
Already the animal's nostrils widen with rage or fear.
But if we imagine him snorting, about to rear,
This boy, who should know about such things better than we.
Only stands smiling, passive and ornamental, in a fantastic livery
Of ruffles and puffed breeches,
Watching the artist apparently, as he sketches.
Meanwhile the petty lord who must have paid
For the artist's trip up from Perugia, for the horse, for the boy, for everything here, in fact, has been delayed,
Kept too long by his steward, perhaps, discussing
Some business concerning the estate, or fussing
Over the details of his impeccable toilet
With the manservant whose opinion is that any alteration at all would spoil it.
However fast he should come hurrying now
Over this vast greensward, mopping his brow
Clear of the sweat of the fine Renaissance morning, it would be too late:
The artist will have had his revenge for being made to wait,
A revenge not only necessary but right and clever––
simply to leave him out of the scene forever.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

243. Poem White Page White Page Poem - Muriel Rukeyser

.
Poem white page white page poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning from the fingertips
they are starting to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

242. The Inner Part - Louis Simpson

(2004)

When they had won the war
And for the first time in history
Americans were the most important people––

When the leading citizens no longer lived in their shirt sleeves
And their wives did not scratch in public;
Just when they'd stopped saying "Gosh!"––

When their daughters seemed as sensitive
As the tip of a fly rod,
And their sons were as smooth as a V-8 engine––

Priests, examining the entrails of birds,
Found the heart misplaced, and seeds
As black as death, emitting a strange odor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

241. I Am - John Clare

John Clare - I Am
(1793-1864)

I am––yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes––
They rise and vanish in oblivion's host,
Like shadows in love, frenzied stifled throes––
And yet I am, and live––like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest that I love the best
Are strange––nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod,
A place where woman never smiled or wept––
There to abide with my Creator God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below––above, the vaulted sky.

Monday, October 23, 2006

240. But That Is Another Story - Donald Justice

But That Is Another Story (1)

.
I do not think the ending can be right.
How can they marry and live happily
Forever, these who were so passionate
At chapter's end? Once they are settled in
The quiet country house, what will they do,
So many miles from anywhere?
Those blond ancestral ghosts crowding the stair,
Surely they disapprove? Ah me,
I fear love will catch cold and die
From pacing naked through those drafty halls
Night after night. Poor Frank! Poor Imogene!
Before them now their lives
Stretch empty as great Empire beds
After the lovers rise and the damp sheets
Are stripped by envious chambermaids.

And if the first night passes brightly enough,
What with the bonfires lit with old love letters,
That is no inexhaustible fuel, perhaps?
God knows how it must end, not I.
Will Frank walk out one day
Alone through the ruined orchard with his stick,
Strewing the path with lissome heads
Of buttercups? Will Imogene
Conceal in the crotches of old trees
Love notes for beardless gardeners and such?
Meanwhile they quarrel and make it up
Only to quarrel again. A sudden storm
Pulls the last fences down. Now moonstruck sheep
Stray through the garden all night peering in
At the exhausted lovers where they sleep.

But That Is Another Story (2)

I do not think the ending can be right.
How can they marry and live happily
Forever, these who were so passionate
At chapter's end? Once they are settled in
The quiet country house, what will they do,
So many miles from anywhere?
Those blond Victorian ghosts crowding the stair,
Surely they disapprove? Ah me,
I fear love will catch cold and die
From pacing naked through those drafty halls
Night after night. Poor Frank! Poor Imogene!
Before them now their lives
Stretch empty as great Empire beds
After the lovers rise and the damp sheets
Are stripped by envious chambermaids.

And if the first night passes brightly enough,
What with the bonfires built of old love letters,
That is no inexhaustible fuel, I think
A later dusk may find them, hand in hand,
Stopping among the folds to watch
The mating of the more ebullient sheep.
(And yet how soon the wool itself must lie
Scattered like snow, or miniature fallen clouds.)
God knows how it must end, not I.
Will Frank walk out one day
Alone through the ruined orchard with his stick,
Strewing the path with lissome heads
Of buttercups? Will Imogene
Conceal in the hollows of appointed oaks
Love notes for beardless gardeners and like?

Meanwhile they quarrel, and make it up
Only to quarrel again. A sudden storm
Pulls the last fences down. The stupid sheep
Stand out all night now coughing in the garden
And peering through the windows where they sleep.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

239. Old Paintings On Italian Walls - Kathleen Raine

.
Who could have thought that men and women could feel,
With consciousness so delicate, such tender secret joy?
With finger-tips of touch as fine as music,
They greet one another on viols of painted gold
Attuned to harmonies of world with world.
They sense, with inward look and breath withheld,
The stir of intangible presences
Upon the threshold of the human heart alighting––
Angels winged with air, with transparent light,
Archangels with wings of fire and faces veiled.
Their eyes gleam with wisdom radiant from an invisible sun.

Others contemplate the mysteries of sorrow:
Some have carried the stigmata, themselves icons
Depicting a passion no man as man can know,
We being ignorant of what we do;
And painted wounded hands are by the same knowledge formed
Beyond the ragged ache that flesh can bear
And we with blunted mind and senses dulled endure.
Giotto's compassionate eyes, rapt in sympathy of grief,
See the soul's wounds that hate has given to love,
And those that love must bear
With the spirit that suffers always and everywhere.

Those painted shapes stilled in perpetual adoration
Behold in visible form invisible essences
That hold their gaze entranced through centuries; and we
In true miraculous icons may see still what they see,
Though the sacred lineaments grow faint, the outlines crumble,
And the golden heavens grow dim
Where the Pantocrator shows in vain wounds once held precious.
Paint and stone will not hold them to our world
When those who once cast their bright shadows on those walls
Have faded from our ken, we from their knowledge fallen.

Friday, October 20, 2006

238. Notes For The Chart In 306 - Ogden Nash

Question: where does death being call Dodger Thomas come from?

The bubbles soar and die in the sterile bottle
Hanging upside down on the bedside lamppost.
Food and drink
Seep quietly through the needle strapped to the hand.
The arm welcomes the sting of mosquito hypodermic––
Conveyor of morphia, the comforter.
Here's drowsiness, here's lassitude, here's nothingness,
Sedation in excelsis.
The clouded mind would stray into oblivion
But for the grackle-squawk of the box in the hall,
The insistant call for a faceless goblin horde
Of sorcerers, vivisectionists, body-snatchers.
Dr. Polyp is summoned,
Dr. Gobbo and Dr. Prodigy,
Dr. Tortoise, Dr. Sawdust, and Dr. Mary Poppins,
La belle dame sans merci.
Now it's Dr. Bandalog and Dr. Bacteria,
And last of all, the terrifying one,
Dodger Thomas.
And there is no lock on the door.
On the third day, the goblins are driven off
To the operating room beneath the hill
Dr. Vendeleur routs gibbering Bandarlog.
Bacteria flees before swarthy Dr. Bagderian.
Sawdust and Polyp yield to Saunders and Pollitt,
And it's Porter instead of Tortoise who knocks at the door.
He will test the blood, not drain it.
The eerie impostors are gone, all gone but one––
Dodger Thomas.
I know he is lurking somewhere in a shadow.
Dodger Thomas.
I've never met him, but old friends have.
I know his habit:
He enters without knocking.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

237. For Instance - Denise Levertov

.
Often, it's nowhere special: maybe
a train rattling not fast or slow
from Melbourne to Sydney, and the light's fading,
we've passed that wide river remembered
from a tale about boyhood and fatal love, written
in vodka prose, clear and burning––
the light's fading and then
beside the tracks this particular
straggle of eucalypts, an inconsequential
bit of a wood, a coppice, looks you way,
not at you, through you, through the train,
over it––gazes with branches and rags of bark
to something beyond your passing. It's not,
this shred of seeing, more beautiful
than a million others, less so than many;
you have no past here, no memories,
and you'll never set foot among these shadowy
tentative presences. Perhaps when you've left this continent
you'll never return; but it stays with you:
years later, whenever
its blurry image flicks on in your head,
it wrenches from you the old cry:
O Earth, belov├ęd Earth!
––like many another faint
constellation of landscape does, or fragment
of lichened stone, or some old shed
where you took refuge once from pelting rain
in Essex, leaning on wheel or shafts
of a dusty cart, and come out when you heard
a blackbird return to song though the rain
was not quite over; and, as you thought there'd be,
there was, in the dark quarter where frowning clouds
were still clustered, a hesitant trace
of rainbow; and across from the expected
gleam of East Anglian afternoon light, and leaves
dripping and shining. Puddles, and the roadside weeds
washed of their dust. Earth,
that inward cry again––
Erde, du liebe . . .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

236. Who - Jane Kenyon

.
These lines are written
by an animal, an angel,
a stranger sitting in my chair;
by someone who already knows
how to live without trouble
among books, and pots and pans . . .

Who is it who asks me to find
language for the sound
a sheep's hoof makes when it strikes
a stone? and who speaks
the words which are my food?

Monday, October 16, 2006

235. Bearded Oaks - Robert Penn Warren

.
The oaks, how subtle and marine,
Bearded, and all the layered light
Above them swims; and thus the scene,
Recessed, awaits the positive night.

So, waiting, we in the grass now lie
Beneath the languorous tread of light:
The grassed, kelp-like, satisfy
The nameless motions of the air.

Upon the floor of light, and time,
Unmurmuring, of polyp made,
We rest; we are, as light withdraws,
Twin atolls on a shelf of shade.

Ages to our construction went,
Dim architecture, hour by hour:
And violence, forgot now, lent
The present stillness all its power.

The storm of noon above us rolled,
Of light the fury, furious gold,
The long drag troubling us, the depth:
Dark is unrocking, unrippling, still.

Passion and slaughter, ruth, decay
descend, minutely whispering down,
Silted down swaying streams, to lay
Foundation for our voicelessness.

All our debate is voiceless here,
As all our rage, the rage of stone;
If hope is hopeless, then fearless is fear,
And history is thus undone.

Our feet once wrought the hollow street
With echo when the lamps were dead
All windows, once our headlight glare
Disturbed the doe that, leaping fled.

I do not love you less that now
The caged heart makes iron stroke,
Or less that all that light once gave
The graduate dark should now revoke.

We live in time so little time
And we learn all so painfully,
That we may spare this hour's term
To practice for eternity.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

234. A Woman Alone - Denise Levertov

.
When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
climbing . . .
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that it's late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change . . .
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon . . .
Then
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
she has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body––how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than she looks. At her happiest
––or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue––
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer,
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself . . .
She knows it can't be:
that's Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

233. The Door - Jane Hirshfield

.
A note waterfalls steadily
through us,
just below hearing.

Or this early light
streaming through dusty glass:
what enters, enters like that,
unstoppable gift.

And yet there is also the other,
the breath-space held between any call
and its answer––

In the querying
first scuff of footstep,
the wood owls' repeating,
the two-counting heart:

A little sabbath,
minnow whose brightness silvers past time.

The rest-note,
unwritten,
hinged between worlds,
that precedes change and allows it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

232. The Revised Versions - Lawrence Raab

.
Even Samuel Johnson found that ending
unbearable, and for over a hundred years
Lear was allowed to live, along with Cordelia,
who marries Edgar, who tried so hard
to do the right thing. It's not easy
being a king, having to worry every day

about the ambitions of your friends.
Who needs a bigger castle?
Let's sleep on it, Macbeth might tell his wife,
wait and see what comes along.
So Antony keeps his temper, takes Cleopatra
aside to say: We need to talk this through.

And Hamlet? Send him back to school to learn
no one ever really pleases his father.
And while he"s reading he'll remember
how pretty Ophelia was, how much
she admired his poems.
Why not make what you can of love?

It's what we want for ourselves,
wary of starting a fight, anxious
to avoid another scene, having suffered
through too many funerals and heard
how eloquently the dead are praised
who threw their lives away.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

231. Ellipsis, Third or Fourth Dot, Depending -Stuart Dischell

.
All my life I wanted to join the carnival.
I would be happy there upon the midway,
Tearing the heads off chickens. I know
This sounds grotesque, someone's mad ravings
Or sick bravado. How to say, I mean it only
Metaphorically.When I compare myself
I don't appear so badly. The mess I have
Made around me, which is not chicken heads
But letters, library books, shut-off notices,
Rebukes me less. I see myself as a defined
Person, one with sharp edges, a good suit
That fits and a silk shirt buttoned to the neck.
The world loves a gent. It looks at my shoes.
I wear a white scarf and I am off to the opera.
All my life I wanted to Join the opera.
I would be perfect there among the painted sets,
Singing basso profundo under my cap. I could
Even play a woman there and show the crowd
Things I am capable of doing.The flowers thrown
To the footlights would enclose me like a garden.
All my life I wanted to exist in a garden.
Standing like a timepiece in the center of the lawn,
The barely perceptible movement of my shadow
Would be nonetheless significant as the hours
That revolve on my face. At night I'd be meaning-
Less to anyone but myself, or on a cloudy day.
All my life I wanted to join the clouds,
To be among them, the easily ethereal,
The ever-changing, and handsomely made. I
Would drift, congregate, vanish, roll in,
And sometimes touch the others into a day
So black the ground seems farther than the sky.
All my life I wanted to be the sky,
To carry the whole of the world inside me,
To pat my forests and deserts with satisfaction.
My God, I could be the child Sky Day,
Born on a commune to idealists, given to
Wearing black and nose rings and being twenty
For the first time and only time in his/her life;
To be that shaven-headed and vital, to have
Written in paint on the wall of the city
When all my life I wanted to be that wall-
Part of the neighborhood, the block, the building:
To be seen in a rush through the express bus window
Or studied a long time in traffic. HOW MANY
DEAD, MR. PRESIDENT NO BLOOD FOR OIL.
DANIELLE I STILL LOVEYOU. ICE RULES.
And I have wanted to be my neighborhood,
My block, my building. I have wanted
To be this city where I live, to walk down
The avenues of myself, whistling a tune
Through all the people that look like me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

230. The Moment - Theodore Roethke

.
We passed the ice of pain,
And came to a dark ravine,
And there we sang with the sea;
The wide, the bleak abyss
Shifted with our slow kiss.

Space struggled with time;
The gong of midnight struck
The naked absolute.
Sound, silence sang as one.

All flowed: without, within;
Body met body, we
Created what's to be.

What else to say?––
We end in joy

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

229. Waking At 3 a. m. - William Stafford

.
Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn't matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

Monday, October 09, 2006

228. The Californians - Theodore Spencer

.
Beautiful and blond they come, the Californians,
Holding their blond beautiful children by the hand;
They come with healthy sunlight in tall hair;
Smiling and empty they stride back over the land.

Tanned and tempting, they reverse the pioneer
And glide back to Atlantic shores from their state,
And shows on Broadway have tall, oh, very tall girls,
To replace the shorter kind we generate.

California men put airplanes on like shoes
To swoop through the air they beautifully advertise,
And the women of California are splendid women,
With nothing, nothing, nothing behind their eyes.

Oranges, movies, smiles, and rainless weather,
Delightful California, you spread to our view,
And the whitest teeth, the brownest, most strokable shoulders,
And a hateful wish to be empty and tall like you.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

227. Between The Lines (excerpt) - John Koethe

.
Sometimes I think that I can feel the outside world
Relax, and feel its weight become a part of me again.
The thoughts that linger in the mind, the sounds that
Filter through the trees—these things aren't merely
Signs of some imaginary life to be denied me while the
Heart of everything I used to have remains alive. It
Troubles me that time should make things sweeter, that
Instead of learning how to perceive things as they are I've
Learned to lose them, or to see them as they disappear
Into the insubstantial future. Everything here is mine,
Or lies within my power to accept. I want to find a way
To live inside each moment as it comes, then let it go
Before it breaks up in regret or disillusionment. I've
Constantly defined myself by difference, yet after all
These years I feel as far away as ever from the kind of
Strength I'd hoped the differences would bring. Where
Is that boundless life I know exists beyond the words?
When will the fear that makes me cling to them be gone
And leave me undivided? I can hear the transitory song
The birds sing, but what dominates my mind remains the
Faint, insistent one that draws me back into this dim
Interior where something waits for me, and waits alone.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

226. First Love - Wislawa Szmborska

(translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

They say
the first love's most important.
That's very romantic,
but not my experience.

Something was and wasn't there between us,
something went on and went away.

My hands never tremble
when I stumble on silly keepsakes
and a sheaf of letters tied with string
— not even ribbon.

Our only meeting after years:
two chairs chatting
at a chilly table.

Other loves
still breathe deep inside me.
This one's too short of breath even to sigh.

Yet just exactly as it is,
it does what the others still can't manage:
unremembered,
not even seen in dreams,
it introduces me to death.

Friday, October 06, 2006

225. The Uninvited - Lawrence Raab

.
There are two ghosts in the house
Ray Milland and his sister move into
at the beginning of the movie.
They don't know that, of course,
and they're both skeptical when things
start happening — the weeping
before dawn, the room their dog won't go near,
that elusive scent of mimosa.
It's all pretty tame by today's standards,
where you can count on somebody
getting a spike through her head as soon
as she's had sex with her boyfriend. But in 1944
there was time to be unsettled.
There were good mothers and bad ones,
and it took a while, as it does
in this movie, to figure that out.
At the end you looked back at your life and saw
how the pieces fit together — why there was weeping,
and what made it stop. So the past isn't over
until you understand it, which is one of the reasons
ghosts keep appearing. They need you to see
who they were, and sometimes
they won't rest until you forgive them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

224. The Missing Person - Donald Justice

.
Donald Justice - The Missing Person

He has come to report himself
A missing person.

The authorities
Hand him the forms.

He knows how they have waited
With the learned patience of barbers

In small shops, idle,
Stropping their razors.

But now that these spaces in his life
Stare up at him blankly,

Waiting to be filled in,
He does not know where to begin.

Afraid that he may not answer even
To a description of himself,

He asks for a mirror.
They reassure him

That he can be nowhere
But wherever he finds himself

From moment to moment,
Which, for the moment, is here.

And he might like to believe them,
But in the mirror

He sees what is missing.
It is himself

He sees there emerging
Slowly, as from the dark

Of a furnished room,
Only by darkness,

One who receives no mail
And is known to the landlady only

For keeping himself to himself,
And for whom it will be years yet

Before he can trust to the light
This last disguise, himself.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

223. Night Journey - Theodore Roethke

.
Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass,
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

Monday, October 02, 2006

223. A Satirical Elegy - Jonathan Swift

A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
(Duke of Marlborough, died 1722)

His Grace! impossible; what, dead!
Of old age too, and in his bed!
And could that mighty warrior fall,
And so inglorious, after all?
Well, since he's gone, no matter how
The last loud trump must wake him now;
And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,
He'd wish to sleep a little longer.
And could he be indeed so old
As by the newspapers we're told?
Threescore, I think, is pretty high;
'Twas time in conscience he should die!
This world he cumbered long enough;
He burnt his candle to the snuff'
And that's the reason, some folks think,
He left behind so great a stink.
Behold his funeral appears,
Nor widow's sigh, nor orphan's tears,
Wont at such time each heart to pierce,
Attend the progress of his hearse.
But what of that? his friends may say
He had those honors in his day.
True to his profit and his pride,
He made them weep before he died.
Come hither, all ye empty things!
Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings!
Who float upon the tide of state;
Come hither, and behold your fate!
Let pride be taught by this rebuke,
How very mean a thing's a duke;
From all his ill-got honors flung,
Turned to that dust from whence he sprung.