Those Winter Sundays | Poem| by Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early

And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

The Lady of the Lake (excerpt) | Poem| by Sir Walter Scott

The Lady of the Lake (excerpt)
by Sir Walter Scott

CANTO SECOND – THE ISLAND (Part II)

Hail to the chief who in triumph advances!

Honoured and blessed be the ever-green pine!

Long may the tree in his banner that glances,

Flourish the shelter and grace of our line!

Heaven send it happy dew,

Earth lend it sap anew;

Gaily to burgeon, and broadly to grow,

While every Highland glen

Sends our shout back agen,

Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!

Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,

Blooming at Beltane, *** in winter to fade;

When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain,

The more shall Clan Alpine exult in her shade.

Moored on the rifted rock,

Proof to the tempest’s shock,

Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow;

Menteith and Breadalbane, then

Echo his praise agen,

Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!

Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,

And Banochar’s groans to our slogan replied:

Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,

And the best of Loch-Lomond lie dead on her side.

Widow and Saxon maid,

Long shall lament our raid,

Think of Glen-Alpine with fear and with woe;

Lennox and Leven-glen

Shake when they hear agen,

Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!

Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the Highlands!

Stretch to your oars, for the ever-green pine!

O! that the rosebud that graces yon islands,

Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine!

O that some seedling gem

Worthy such noble stem,

Honoured and blessed in their shadow might grow!

Loud should Clan Alpine then

Ring from her deepmost glen,

Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!

CANTO THIRD – THE GATHERING (Part II)

The heath this night must be my bed,

The bracken curtain for my head,

My lullaby the warder’s tread,

Far, far from love and thee, Mary

To-morrow eve, more stilly laid,

My couch may be my bloody plaid,

My vesper song, thy wail, sweet maid!

It will not waken me, Mary!

I may not, dare not, fancy now

The grief that clouds thy lovely brow;

I dare not think upon thy vow,

And all it promised me, Mary.

No fond regret must Norman know;

When bursts Clan Alpine on the foe,

His heart must be like bended bow,

His foot like arrow free, Mary.

A time will come with feeling fraught!

For, if I fall in battle fought,

Thy hapless lover’s dying thought

Shall be a thought on thee, Mary

And if returned from conquered foes,

How blithely will the evening close,

How sweet the linnet sing repose

To my young bride and me, Mary.

CANTO SIXTH – THE GUARD ROOM (Part II) – LAMENT

“And art thou cold and lowly laid,

Thy foeman’s dread, thy people’s aid,

Breadalbane’s boast, Clan Alpine’s shade!

For thee shall none a requiem say?

For thee, who loved the minstrel’s lay,

For thee, of Bothwell’s house the stay,

The shelter of her exiled line,

E’en in this prison-house of thine,

I’ll wail for Alpine’s honoured pine!

“What groans shall yonder valleys fill!

What shrieks of grief shall rend yon hill!

What tears of burning rage shall thrill,

When mourns thy tribe thy battles done,

Thy fall before the race was won,

Thy sword ungirt ere set of sun!

There breathes not clansman of thy line,

But would have given his life for thine!

But, woe for Alpine’s honoured pine!

“Sad was thy lot on mortal stage!

The captive thrush may brook the cage,

The prisoned eagle dies for rage.

Brave spirit, do not scorn my strain!

And, when its notes awake again,

Even she, so long beloved in vain,

Shall with my harp her voice combine,

And mix her woe and tears with mine,

To wail Clan Alpine’s honoured pine!”

We Are Made One with What We Touch and See | Poem| by Oscar Wilde

We Are Made One with What We Touch and See
by Oscar Wilde

We are resolved into the supreme air,

We are made one with what we touch and see,

With our heart’s blood each crimson sun is fair,

With our young lives each spring-impassioned tree

Flames into green, the wildest beasts that range

The moor our kinsmen are, all life is one, and all is change.

With beat of systole and of diastole

One grand great life throbs through earth’s giant heart,

And mighty waves of single Being roll

From nerve-less germ to man, for we are part

Of every rock and bird and beast and hill,

One with the things that prey on us, and one with what we kill. . . .

Not we alone hath passions hymeneal,

The yellow buttercups that shake for mirth

At daybreak know a pleasure not less real

Than we do, when in some fresh-blossoming wood

We draw the spring into our hearts, and feel that life is good. . . .

Is the light vanished from our golden sun,

Or is this daedal-fashioned earth less fair,

That we are nature’s heritors, and one

With every pulse of life that beats the air?

Rather new suns across the sky shall pass,

New splendour come unto the flower, new glory to the grass.

And we two lovers shall not sit afar,

Critics of nature, but the joyous sea

Shall be our raiment, and the bearded star

Shoot arrows at our pleasure! We shall be

Part of the mighty universal whole,

And through all Aeons mix and mingle with the Kosmic Soul!

We shall be notes in that great Symphony

Whose cadence circles through the rhythmic spheres,

And all the live World’s throbbing heart shall be

One with our heart, the stealthy creeping years

Have lost their terrors now, we shall not die,

The Universe itself shall be our Immortality!

The Waste Land | Poem| by T. S. Eliot

The Waste Land
by T. S. Eliot

“Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis

vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent:

Sibylla ti theleis; respondebat illa: apothanein thelo.”

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,

My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Frisch weht der Wind

Der Heimat zu

Mein Irisch Kind,

Wo weilest du?

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

“They called me the hyacinth girl.”

––Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Oed’ und leer das Meer.

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,

Had a bad cold, nevertheless

Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,

With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,

Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,

(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)

Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,

The lady of situations.

Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,

And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,

Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,

Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find

The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.

I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.

Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,

Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:

One must be so careful these days.

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying “Stetson!

“You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,

“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

“Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,

“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!

“You! hypocrite lecteur! – mon semblable, – mon frere!”

II. A GAME OF CHESS

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,

Glowed on the marble, where the glass

Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines

From which a golden Cupidon peeped out

(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)

Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra

Reflecting light upon the table as

The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,

From satin cases poured in rich profusion;

In vials of ivory and coloured glass

Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,

Unguent, powdered, or liquid – troubled, confused

And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air

That freshened from the window, these ascended

In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,

Flung their smoke into the laquearia,

Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.

Huge sea-wood fed with copper

Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,

In which sad light a carved dolphin swam.

Above the antique mantel was displayed

As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene

The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king

So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale

Filled all the desert with inviolable voice

And still she cried, and still the world pursues,

“Jug Jug” to dirty ears.

And other withered stumps of time

Were told upon the walls; staring forms

Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.

Footsteps shuffled on the stair.

Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair

Spread out in fiery points

Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.

“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.

“What is that noise?”

The wind under the door.

“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”

Nothing again nothing.

“Do

“You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

“Nothing?”

I remember

Those are pearls that were his eyes.

“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”

But

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag –

It’s so elegant

So intelligent

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”

I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street

“With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?

“What shall we ever do?”

The hot water at ten.

And if it rains, a closed car at four.

And we shall play a game of chess,

Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said –

I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.

He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you

To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.

You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,

He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.

And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,

He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,

And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.

Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.

Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.

Others can pick and choose if you can’t.

But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.

You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.

(And her only thirty-one.)

I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,

It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.

(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)

The chemist said it would be alright, but I’ve never been the same.

You are a proper fool, I said.

Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,

What you get married for if you don’t want children?

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,

And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot –

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME

Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.

Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.

Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

III. THE FIRE SERMON

The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf

Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind

Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.

And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;

Departed, have left no addresses.

By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .

Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,

Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.

But at my back in a cold blast I hear

The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

A rat crept softly through the vegetation

Dragging its slimy belly on the bank

While I was fishing in the dull canal

On a winter evening round behind the gashouse

Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck

And on the king my father’s death before him.

White bodies naked on the low damp ground

And bones cast in a little low dry garret,

Rattled by the rat’s foot only, year to year.

But at my back from time to time I hear

The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring

Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.

O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter

And on her daughter

They wash their feet in soda water

Et O ces voix d’enfants, chantant dans la coupole!

Twit twit twit

Jug jug jug jug jug jug

So rudely forc’d.

Tereu

Unreal City

Under the brown fog of a winter noon

Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant

Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants

C.i.f. London: documents at sight,

Asked me in demotic French

To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel

Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back

Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits

Like a taxi throbbing waiting,

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see

At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives

Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,

The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights

Her stove, and lays out food in tins.

Out of the window perilously spread

Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,

On the divan are piled (at night her bed)

Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.

I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs

Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest –

I too awaited the expected guest.

He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,

A small house agent’s clerk, with one bold stare,

One of the low on whom assurance sits

As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.

The time is now propitious, as he guesses,

The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,

Endeavours to engage her in caresses

Which still are unreproved, if undesired.

Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;

Exploring hands encounter no defence;

His vanity requires no response,

And makes a welcome of indifference.

(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all

Enacted on this same divan or bed;

I who have sat by Thebes below the wall

And walked among the lowest of the dead.)

Bestows one final patronising kiss,

And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .

She turns and looks a moment in the glass,

Hardly aware of her departed lover;

Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:

“Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.”

When lovely woman stoops to folly and

Paces about her room again, alone,

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,

And puts a record on the gramophone.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”

And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.

O City city, I can sometimes hear

Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,

The pleasant whining of a mandoline

And a clatter and a chatter from within

Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls

Of Magnus Martyr hold

Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

The river sweats

Oil and tar

The barges drift

With the turning tide

Red sails

Wide

To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.

The barges wash

Drifting logs

Down Greenwich reach

Past the Isle of Dogs.

Weialala leia

Wallala leialala

Elizabeth and Leicester

Beating oars

The stern was formed

A gilded shell

Red and gold

The brisk swell

Rippled both shores

Southwest wind

Carried down stream

The peal of bells

White towers

Weialala leia

Wallala leialala

“Trams and dusty trees.

Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew

Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees

Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.”

“My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart

Under my feet. After the event

He wept. He promised ‘a new start’.

I made no comment. What should I resent?”

“On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.

The broken fingernails of dirty hands.

My people humble people who expect

Nothing.”

la la

To Carthage then I came

Burning burning burning burning

O Lord Thou pluckest me out

O Lord Thou pluckest

burning

IV. DEATH BY WATER

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell

And the profit and loss.

A current under sea

Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell

He passed the stages of his age and youth

Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,

Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

V. WHAT THE THUNDER SAID

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces

After the frosty silence in the gardens

After the agony in stony places

The shouting and the crying

Prison and palace and reverberation

Of thunder of spring over distant mountains

He who was living is now dead

We who were living are now dying

With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock

Rock and no water and the sandy road

The road winding above among the mountains

Which are mountains of rock without water

If there were water we should stop and drink

Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think

Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand

If there were only water amongst the rock

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit

Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit

There is not even silence in the mountains

But dry sterile thunder without rain

There is not even solitude in the mountains

But red sullen faces sneer and snarl

From doors of mudcracked houses

If there were water

And no rock

If there were rock

And also water

And water

A spring

A pool among the rock

If there were the sound of water only

Not the cicada

And dry grass singing

But sound of water over a rock

Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees

Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop

But there is no water

Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you

Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded

I do not know whether a man or a woman

– But who is that on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

Who are those hooded hordes swarming

Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth

Ringed by the flat horizon only

What is the city over the mountains

Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air

Falling towers

Jerusalem Athens Alexandria

Vienna London

Unreal

A woman drew her long black hair out tight

And fiddled whisper music on those strings

And bats with baby faces in the violet light

Whistled, and beat their wings

And crawled head downward down a blackened wall

And upside down in air were towers

Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours

And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains

In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing

Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel

There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.

It has no windows, and the door swings,

Dry bones can harm no one.

Only a cock stood on the rooftree

Co co rico co co rico

In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust

Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves

Waited for rain, while the black clouds

Gathered far distant, over Himavant.

The jungle crouched, humped in silence.

Then spoke the thunder

DA

Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

By this, and this only, we have existed

Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider

Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor

In our empty rooms

DA

Dayadhvam: I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison

Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours

Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

DA

Damyata: The boat responded

Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar

The sea was calm, your heart would have responded

Gaily, when invited, beating obedient

To controlling hands

I sat upon the shore

Fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Shall I at least set my lands in order?

London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down

Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina

Quando fiam ceu chelidon – O swallow swallow

Le Prince d’Aquitaine a la tour abolie

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih

The Poor Ghost | Poem| by Christina Rossetti

The Poor Ghost
by Christina Rossetti

“Oh whence do you come, my dear friend, to me,

With your golden hair all fallen below your knee,

And your face as white as snowdrops on the lea,

And your voice as hollow as the hollow sea?”

“From the other world I come back to you,

My locks are uncurled with dripping drenching dew.

You know the old, whilst I know the new:

But tomorrow you shall know this too.”

“Oh not tomorrow into the dark, I pray;

Oh not tomorrow, too soon to go away:

Here I feel warm and well-content and gay:

Give me another year, another day.”

“Am I so changed in a day and a night

That mine own only love shrinks from me with fright,

Is fain to turn away to left or right

And cover up his eyes from the sight?”

“Indeed I loved you, my chosen friend,

I loved you for life, but life has an end;

Thro’ sickness I was ready to tend:

But death mars all, which we cannot mend.

“Indeed I loved you; I love you yet

If you will stay where your bed is set,

Where I have planted a violet

Which the wind waves, which the dew makes wet.”

“Life is gone, then love too is gone,

It was a reed that I leant upon:

Never doubt 1 will leave you alone

And not wake you rattling bone with bone.

“I go home alone to my bed,

Dug deep at the foot and deep at the head,

Roofed in with a load of lead,

Warm enough for the forgotten dead.

“But why did your tears soak thro’ the clay,

And why did your sobs wake me where I lay?

I was away, far enough away:

Let me sleep now till the Judgment Day.”

One Hundred and Three | Poem| by Henry Lawson

One Hundred and Three
by Henry Lawson

With the frame of a man, and the face of a boy, and a manner strangely wild,

And the great, wide, wondering, innocent eyes of a silent-suffering child;

With his hideous dress and his heavy boots, he drags to Eternity—

And the Warder says, in a softened tone: ‘Keep step, One Hundred and Three.’

’Tis a ghastly travesty of drill—or a ghastly farce of work—

But One Hundred and Three, he catches step with a start, a shuffle and jerk.

’Tis slow starvation in separate cells, and a widow’s son is he,

And the widow, she drank before he was born—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

They shut a man in the four-by-eight, with a six-inch slit for air,

Twenty-three hours of the twenty-four, to brood on his virtues there.

And the dead stone walls and the iron door close in as an iron band

On eyes that followed the distant haze far out on the level land.

Bread and water and hominy, and a scrag of meat and a spud,

A Bible and thin flat book of rules, to cool a strong man’s blood;

They take the spoon from the cell at night—and a stranger might think it odd;

But a man might sharpen it on the floor, and go to his own Great God.

One Hundred and Three, it is hard to believe that you saddled your horse at dawn;

There were girls that rode through the bush at eve, and girls who lolled on the lawn.

There were picnic parties in sunny bays, and ships on the shining sea;

There were foreign ports in the glorious days—(Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)

A man came out at exercise time from one of the cells to-day:

’Twas the ghastly spectre of one I knew, and I thought he was far away;

We dared not speak, but he signed ‘Farewell—fare—well,’ and I knew by this

And the number stamped on his clothes (not sewn) that a heavy sentence was his.

Where five men do the work of a boy, with warders not to see,

It is sad and bad and uselessly mad, it is ugly as it can be,

From the flower-beds laid to fit the gaol, in circle and line absurd,

To the gilded weathercock on the church, agape like a strangled bird.

Agape like a strangled bird in the sun, and I wonder what he could see?

The Fleet come in, and the Fleet go out? (Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)

The glorious sea, and the bays and Bush, and the distant mountains blue

(Keep step, keep step, One Hundred and Three, for my lines are halting too)

The great, round church with its volume of sound, where we dare not turn our eyes—

They take us there from our separate hells to sing of Paradise.

In all the creeds there is hope and doubt, but of this there is no doubt:

That starving prisoners faint in church, and the warders carry them out.

They double-lock at four o’clock and the warders leave their keys,

And the Governor strolls with a friend at eve through his stone conservatories;

Their window slits are like idiot mouths with square stone chins adrop,

And the weather-stains for the dribble, and the dead flat foreheads atop.

No light save the lights in the yard beneath the clustering lights of the Lord—

And the lights turned in to the window slits of the Observation Ward.

(They eat their meat with their fingers there in a madness starved and dull—

Oh! the padded cells and the O—b—s are nearly always full.)

Rules, regulations—red-tape and rules; all and alike they bind:

Under ‘separate treatment ’ place the deaf; in the dark cell shut the blind!

And somewhere down in his sandstone tomb, with never a word to save,

One Hundred and Three is keeping step, as he’ll keep it to his grave.

The press is printing its smug, smug lies, and paying its shameful debt—

It speaks of the comforts that prisoners have, and ‘holidays’ prisoners get.

The visitors come with their smug, smug smiles through the gaol on a working day,

And the public hears with its large, large ears what authorities have to say.

They lay their fingers on well-hosed walls, and they tread on the polished floor;

They peep in the generous shining cans with their ration Number Four.

And the visitors go with their smug, smug smiles; the reporters’ work is done;

Stand up! my men, who have done your time on ration Number One!

Speak up, my men! I was never the man to keep my own bed warm,

I have jogged with you round in the Fools’ Parade, and I’ve worn your uniform;

I’ve seen you live, and I’ve seen you die, and I’ve seen your reason fail—

I’ve smuggled tobacco and loosened my tongue—and I’ve been punished in gaol.

Ay! clang the spoon on the iron floor, and shove in the bread with your toe,

And shut with a bang the iron door, and clank the bolt—just so,

With an ignorant oath for a last good-night—or the voice of a filthy thought.

By the Gipsy Blood you have caught a man you’ll be sorry that ever you caught.

He shall be buried alive without meat, for a day and a night unheard

If he speak to a fellow prisoner, though he die for want of a word.

He shall be punished, and he shall be starved, and he shall in darkness rot,

He shall be murdered body and soul—and God said, ‘Thou shalt not!’

I’ve seen the remand-yard men go out, by the subway out of the yard—

And I’ve seen them come in with a foolish grin and a sentence of Three Years Hard.

They send a half-starved man to the court, where the hearts of men they carve—

Then feed him up in the hospital to give him the strength to starve.

You get the gaol-dust in your throat, in your skin the dead gaol-white;

You get the gaol-whine in your voice and in every letter you write.

And in your eyes comes the bright gaol-light—not the glare of the world’s distraught,

Not the hunted look, nor the guilty look, but the awful look of the Caught.

There was one I met—’twas a mate of mine—in a gaol that is known to us;

He died—and they said it was ‘heart disease’; but he died for want of a truss.

I’ve knelt at the head of the pallid dead, where the living dead were we,

And I’ve closed the yielding lids with my thumbs—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

A criminal face is rare in gaol, where all things else are ripe—

It is higher up in the social scale that you’ll find the criminal type.

But the kindness of man to man is great when penned in a sandstone pen—

The public call us the ‘criminal class,’ but the warders call us ‘the men.’

The brute is a brute, and a kind man kind, and the strong heart does not fail—

A crawler’s a crawler everywhere, but a man is a man in gaol!

For forced ‘desertion’ or drunkenness, or a law’s illegal debt,

While never a man who was a man was ‘reformed’ by punishment yet.

The champagne lady comes home from the course in charge of the criminal swell—

They carry her in from the motor car to the lift in the Grand Hotel.

But armed with the savage Habituals Act they are waiting for you and me,

And the drums, they are beating loud and near. (Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

The clever scoundrels are all outside, and the moneyless mugs in gaol—

Men do twelve months for a mad wife’s lies or Life for a strumpet’s tale.

If the people knew what the warders know, and felt as the prisoners feel—

If the people knew, they would storm their gaols as they stormed the old Bastile.

And the cackling, screaming half-human hens who were never mothers nor wives

Would send their sisters to such a hell for the term of their natural lives,

Where laws are made in a Female Fit in the Land of the Crazy Fad,

And drunkards in judgment on drunkards sit and the mad condemn the mad.

The High Church service swells and swells where the tinted Christs look down—

It is easy to see who is weary and faint and weareth the thorny crown.

There are swift-made signs that are not to God, and they march us Hellward then.

It is hard to believe that we knelt as boys to ‘for ever and ever, Amen. ’

Warders and prisoners all alike in a dead rot dry and slow—

The author must not write for his own, and the tailor must not sew.

The billet-bound officers dare not speak and discharged men dare not tell

Though many and many an innocent man must brood in this barren hell.

We are most of us criminal, most of us mad, and we do what we can do.

(Remember the Observation Ward and Number Forty-Two.)

There are eyes that see through stone and iron, though the rest of the world be blind—

We are prisoners all in God’s Great Gaol, but the Governor, He is kind.

They crave for sunlight, they crave for meat, they crave for the might-have-been,

But the cruellest thing in the walls of a gaol is the craving for nicotine.

Yet the spirit of Christ is everywhere where the heart of a man can dwell,

It comes like tobacco in prison—or like news to the separate cell.

. They have smuggled him out to the Hospital with no one to tell the tale,

But it’s little the doctors and nurses can do for the patient from Starvinghurst Gaol.

He cannot swallow the food they bring, for a gaol-starved man is he,

And the blanket and screen are ready to draw—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

‘What were you doing, One Hundred and Three?’ and the answer is ‘Three years hard,

And a month to go’—and the whisper is low: ‘There’s the moonlight—out in the yard.’

The drums, they are beating far and low, and the footstep’s light and free,

And the angels are whispering over his bed: ‘Keep step, One Hundred and Three!’

To You | Poem| by Kenneth Koch

To You
by Kenneth Koch

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut

That will solve a murder case unsolved for years

Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window

Through which he saw her head, connecting with

Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red

Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;

For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not

Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a

Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails

In the wind, when you’re near, a wind that blows from

The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;

I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields

Always, to be near you, even in my heart

When I’m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you

Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to

The place where I again think of you, a new

Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow

Of a ship which sails

From Hartford to Miami, and I love you

Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun

Receives me in the questions which you always pose.