Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Little Grey Curl

By Louisa May Alcott

A little grey curl from my father's head
I find unburned on the hearth,
And give it a place in my diary here,
With a feeling half sadness, half mirth.
For the long white locks are our special pride,
Though he smiles at his daughter's praise;
But, oh, they have grown each year more thin,
Till they are now but a silvery haze.

That wise old head! (though it does grow bald
With the knocks hard fortune may give)
Has a store of faith and hope and trust,
Which have taught him how to live.
Though the hat be old, there's a face below
Which telleth to those who look
The history of a good man's life,
And it cheers like a blessed book.

A peddler of jewels, of clocks, and of books,
Many a year of his wandering youth;
A peddler still, with a far richer pack,
His wares are wisdom and love and truth.
But now, as then, few purchase or pause,
For he cannot learn the tricks of trade;
Little silver he wins, but that which time
Is sprinkling thick on his meek old head.

But there'll come a day when the busy world,
Grown sick with its folly and pride,
Will remember the mild-faced peddler then
Whom it rudely had set aside;
Will remember the wares he offered it once
And will seek to find him again,
Eager to purchase truth, wisdom, and love,
But, oh, it will seek him in vain.

It will find but his footsteps left behind
Along the byways of life,
Where he patiently walked, striving the while
To quiet its tumult and strife.
But the peddling pilgrim has laid down his pack
And gone with his earnings away;
How small will they seem, remembering the debt
Which the world too late would repay.

God bless the dear head! and crown it with years
Untroubled and calmly serene;
That the autumn of life more golden may be
For the heats and the storms that have been.
My heritage none can ever dispute,
My fortune will bring neither strife nor care;
'Tis an honest name, 'tis a beautiful life,
And the silver lock of my father's hair.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Song of the Surf

By Adam Lindsay Gordon

White steeds of ocean, that leap with a hollow and wearisome roar
On the bar of ironstone steep, not a fathom's length from the shore,
Is there never a seer nor sophist can interpret your wild refrain,
When speech the harshest and roughest is seldom studied in vain?
My ears are constantly smitten by that dreary monotone,
In a hieroglyphic 'tis written—'tis spoken in a tongue unknown;
Gathering, growing, and swelling, and surging, and shivering, say!
What is the tale you are telling? What is the drift of your lay?

You come, and your crests are hoary with the foam of your countless
You break, with a rainbow of glory,
through the spray of your glittering tears.
Is your song a song of gladness? a paean of joyous might?
Or a wail of discordant sadness for the wrongs you never can right?
For the empty seat by the ingle? for children 'reft of their sire?
For the bride sitting sad, and single, and pale, by the flickering fire?
For your ravenous pools of suction? for your shattering billow swell?
For your ceaseless work of destruction? for your hunger insatiable?

Not far from this very place, on the sand and the shingle dry,
He lay, with his batter'd face upturned to the frowning sky.
When your waters wash'd and swill'd high over his drowning head,
When his nostrils and lungs were filled,
when his feet and hands were as lead,
When against the rock he was hurl'd, and suck'd again to the sea,
On the shores of another world, on the brink of eternity,
On the verge of annihilation, did it come to that swimmer strong,
The sudden interpretation of your mystical, weird-like song?

"Mortal! that which thou askest, ask not thou of the waves;
Fool! thou foolishly taskest us—we are only slaves;
Might, more mighty, impels us—we must our lot fulfil,
He who gathers and swells us curbs us, too, at His will.
Think'st thou the wave that shatters questioneth His decree?
Little to us it matters, and naught it matters to thee.
Not thus, murmuring idly, we from our duty would swerve,
Over the world spread widely ever we labour and serve."

Friday, January 27, 2012

To Miss Hickman,Playing On The Spinnet

By Samuel Johnson

Bright Stella! form'd for universal reign,
Too well you know to keep the slaves you gain:
When in your eyes resistless lightnings play,
Awed into love our conquer'd hearts obey,
And yield reluctant to despotic sway:
But when your music soothes the raging pain,
We bid propitious Heaven prolong your reign,
We bless the tyrant, and we hug the chain.

When old Timotheus struck the vocal string,
Ambition's fury fired the Grecian king:
Unbounded projects labouring in his mind,
He pants for room, in one poor world confined.
Thus waked to rage, by Music's dreadful power,
He bids the sword destroy, the flame devour.
Had Stella's gentler touches moved the lyre,
Soon had the monarch felt a nobler fire:
No more delighted with destructive war,
Ambitious only now to please the fair;
Resign'd his thirst of empire to her charms,
And found a thousand worlds in Stella's arms.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Progress Of Beauty

By Jonathan Swift

When first Diana leaves her bed,
Vapours and steams her looks disgrace,
A frowzy dirty-colour'd red
Sits on her cloudy wrinkled face:

But by degrees, when mounted high,
Her artificial face appears
Down from her window in the sky,
Her spots are gone, her visage clears.

'Twixt earthly females and the moon,
All parallels exactly run;
If Celia should appear too soon,
Alas, the nymph would be undone!

To see her from her pillow rise,
All reeking in a cloudy steam,
Crack'd lips, foul teeth, and gummy eyes,
Poor Strephon! how would he blaspheme!

The soot or powder which was wont
To make her hair look black as jet,
Falls from her tresses on her front,
A mingled mass of dirt and sweat.

Three colours, black, and red, and white
So graceful in their proper place,
Remove them to a different light,
They form a frightful hideous face:

For instance, when the lily slips
Into the precincts of the rose,
And takes possession of the lips,
Leaving the purple to the nose:

So Celia went entire to bed,
All her complexion safe and sound;
But, when she rose, the black and red,
Though still in sight, had changed their ground.

The black, which would not be confined,
A more inferior station seeks,
Leaving the fiery red behind,
And mingles in her muddy cheeks.

The paint by perspiration cracks,
And falls in rivulets of sweat,
On either side you see the tracks
While at her chin the conflu'nts meet.

A skilful housewife thus her thumb,
With spittle while she spins anoints;
And thus the brown meanders come
In trickling streams betwixt her joints.

But Celia can with ease reduce,
By help of pencil, paint, and brush,
Each colour to its place and use,
And teach her cheeks again to blush.

She knows her early self no more,
But fill'd with admiration stands;
As other painters oft adore
The workmanship of their own hands.

Thus, after four important hours,
Celia's the wonder of her sex;
Say, which among the heavenly powers
Could cause such wonderful effects?

Venus, indulgent to her kind,
Gave women all their hearts could wish,
When first she taught them where to find
White lead, and Lusitanian dish.

Love with white lead cements his wings;
White lead was sent us to repair
Two brightest, brittlest, earthly things,
A lady's face, and China-ware.

She ventures now to lift the sash;
The window is her proper sphere;
Ah, lovely nymph! be not too rash,
Nor let the beaux approach too near.

Take pattern by your sister star;
Delude at once and bless our sight;
When you are seen, be seen from far,
And chiefly choose to shine by night.

In the Pall Mall when passing by,
Keep up the glasses of your chair,
Then each transported fop will cry,
"G——d d——n me, Jack, she's wondrous fair!"

But art no longer can prevail,
When the materials all are gone;
The best mechanic hand must fail,
Where nothing's left to work upon.

Matter, as wise logicians say,
Cannot without a form subsist;
And form, say I, as well as they,
Must fail if matter brings no grist.

And this is fair Diana's case;
For, all astrologers maintain,
Each night a bit drops off her face,
When mortals say she's in her wane:

While Partridge wisely shows the cause
Efficient of the moon's decay,
That Cancer with his pois'nous claws
Attacks her in the milky way:

But Gadbury, in art profound,
From her pale cheeks pretends to show
That swain Endymion is not sound,
Or else that Mercury's her foe.

But let the cause be what it will,
In half a month she looks so thin,
That Flamsteed can, with all his skill,
See but her forehead and her chin.

Yet, as she wastes, she grows discreet,
Till midnight never shows her head;
So rotting Celia strolls the street,
When sober folks are all a-bed:

For sure, if this be Luna's fate,
Poor Celia, but of mortal race,
In vain expects a longer date
To the materials of her face.

When Mercury her tresses mows,
To think of oil and soot is vain:
No painting can restore a nose,
Nor will her teeth return again.

Two balls of glass may serve for eyes,
White lead can plaister up a cleft;
But these, alas, are poor supplies
If neither cheeks nor lips be left.

Ye powers who over love preside!
Since mortal beauties drop so soon,
If ye would have us well supplied,
Send us new nymphs with each new moon!

Monday, January 2, 2012

To The Author Of Memoirs Of The House Of Brandenburg

By Mark Akenside

1 The men renown'd as chiefs of human race,
And born to lead in counsels or in arms,
Have seldom turn'd their feet from glory's chase
To dwell with books, or court the Muse's charms.
Yet, to our eyes if haply time hath brought
Some genuine transcript of their calmer thought,
There still we own the wise, the great, or good;
And C├Žsar there and Xenophon are seen,
As clear in spirit and sublime of mien,
As on Pharsalian plains, or by the Assyrian flood.

2 Say thou too, Frederic, was not this thy aim?
Thy vigils could the student's lamp engage,
Except for this, except that future Fame
Might read thy genius in the faithful page?
That if hereafter Envy shall presume
With words irreverent to inscribe thy tomb,
And baser weeds upon thy palms to fling,
That hence posterity may try thy reign,
Assert thy treaties, and thy wars explain,
And view in native lights the hero and the king.

3 O evil foresight and pernicious care!
Wilt thou indeed abide by this appeal?
Shall we the lessons of thy pen compare
With private honour or with public zeal?
Whence, then, at things divine those darts of scorn?
Why are the woes, which virtuous men have borne
For sacred truth, a prey to laughter given?
What fiend, what foe of Nature urged thy arm
The Almighty of his sceptre to disarm,
To push this earth adrift and leave it loose from Heaven?

4 Ye godlike shades of legislators old,
Ye who made Rome victorious, Athens wise,
Ye first of mortals with the bless'd enroll'd,
Say, did not horror in your bosoms rise,
When thus, by impious vanity impell'd,
A magistrate, a monarch, ye beheld
Affronting civil order's holiest bands,
Those bands which ye so labour'd to improve,
Those hopes and fears of justice from above,
Which tamed the savage world to your divine commands?