If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream- -and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think- -and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on! '

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings- -nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And- -which is more- -you'll be a Man, my son! 

Thoughts about this poem

A fathers attempt to provide advice for his son. The main ideas are manhood, leadership and achieving a balanced life. Kipling was 31 years old when he wrote this poem in 1896.

An interesting fact to ponder is that “if” is the word that is contained in the middle of “life”

See Essay on the Questions in the Poem

click here

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Invictus: The Unconquerable, by William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
      I am the captain of my soul.

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Invictus, means “unconquerable” or “undefeated” in Latin, and is a poem by William Ernest Henley. The poem was written while Henley was in the hospital being treated for tuberculosis of the bone, also known as Pott's disease

Crossing the Bar, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Crossing the Bar

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Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Tennyson wrote this poem in 1889, just three years before the end of a long life. A UK Poet Laureate for 42 years. The poem has often been interpreted as a reflection by Tennyson on his own life in anticipation of death approaching.


 


How Do I Love Thee?, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sonnet 43


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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

Alone, by Edgar Allan Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been 
As others were—I have not seen 
As others saw—I could not bring 
My passions from a common spring— 
From the same source I have not taken 
My sorrow—I could not awaken 
My heart to joy at the same tone— 
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone— 
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn 
Of a most stormy life—was drawn 
From ev’ry depth of good and ill 
The mystery which binds me still— 
From the torrent, or the fountain— 
From the red cliff of the mountain— 
From the sun that ’round me roll’d 
In its autumn tint of gold— 
From the lightning in the sky 
As it pass’d me flying by— 
From the thunder, and the storm— 
And the cloud that took the form 
(When the rest of Heaven was blue) 
Of a demon in my view—

Thoughts about Poem

Poe, wrote this poem as an adult, looking back at his life. He had felt alone since his youth and still did. As he looked back from “ev’ry depth of good and ill” it was still a mystery. For example look at these to lines from the Raven (reviewed in this section).

“Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

Most of Poe’s memories are not happy and suggest loneliness.


On The Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou

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Although it was written specially for one occasion - Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration in 1993 - it carries a universal message. Maya said of the poem: "In my work, in everything I do, I mean to say that we human beings are more alike than we are unalike, and to use that statement to break down the walls we set between ourselves because we are different."

On The Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sang and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot ...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning

To a Mouse by Robert Burns

Little, sly, cowering, timid beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your heart!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

"To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785" Robert Burns, is said t have been ploughing in his fields when he accidentally destroyed a mouse's nest, which it needed to survive the winter. His brother wrote of this saying that composed the poem while still holding his plough. The poem inspired John Steinbeck in his Novel, Of Mice and Men.

Still I Rise, by Maya Angelo

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

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Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

The poem resonates with how we see Maya Angelou as we learn about her from her writings. See the Reviews referenced in the Literary Favorites Section and the books reviewed

Even the Stars Look Lonesome, by Maya Angelou

I Shall Not Be Moved, by Maya Angelou

In Flanders Fields , by Lieut-Col. John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row. That mark our place; and in the sky. The larks, still bravely singing, fly. Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago. We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe; To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, through poppies grow In Flanders Fields.

See the review of One-Hundred and One Famous Poems in Reviews. click here

Thoughts about this Poem

One of the most quoted poems from World War 1. It refers to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers which resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. 

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Crossing the Bar, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

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The poem followed some seasickness by Tennyson. He lived on the Isle of Wright and the words came to him after crossing the bar with particularly choppy water s thought to have been inspired by a bout of seasickness. Tennyson lived on the Isle of Wight, and after a particularly choppy crossing of the water the words for came to him most likely in one setting.



The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

See the book review of the book, The Raven and other Poems

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

“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 visitor," 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 visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor 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 stillness 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 again I heard 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 a minute 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 marveled 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 blest with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore.” 

Miniver Cheevy by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Miniver Cheevy is a poem that Helene Hanff sent in a letter to the her friends in the London Bookstore. See Review 84 Charring Cross Road


Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,

Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;

He wept that he was ever born,

And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old

When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;

The vision of a warrior bold

Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,

And dreamed, and rested from his labors;

He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,

And Priam’s neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown

That made so many a name so fragrant;

He mourned Romance, now on the town,

And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,

Albeit he had never seen one;

He would have sinned incessantly

Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace

And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;

He missed the mediæval grace

Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,

But sore annoyed was he without it;

Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,

And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,

Scratched his head and kept on thinking;

Miniver coughed, and called it fate,

And kept on drinking.

Does Bad Poetry Spring from Genuine Feeling or is it just Sincere?

Oscar Wilde said that “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic. Harold Bloom used this phrase saying instead that "All Bad Poetry is Sincere." Bloom was justifying why Maya Angelou was not included in his big list at the back of his book or among the 26 authors that made up what he felt was the main influence for "Western Canon" in his book of the same name.

  He added that Angelou thoughts were "sincere" but in his own view lacked aesthetic accomplishment. Bloom's conclusion seems to leave us with the question "What does if mean to be a writer?"

Must we really write about things of value? Who defines value? Bloom's real reasons for leaving Angelou off his list may be the political influence she has within what she says and he does admit that is part of the reason?  See more on Bloom and the "Western Canon" under the review section.

I'm a Stranger Here, A Poem by Louis L'Amour

If I, between two suns, should go away,

No voice would lift to ask another why,

No word would question my retreat, nor sigh,

Nor wonder why I'd chosen not to stay;

For I am a stranger here, of other clay:

A guest within this house, a passerby-

A roving life whose theme has been "Goodbye"

A shadow on the road, a thing astray. 

 

What dim ancestral heritage is mine.

That now awakens in my blood regret?

What destiny is this, what strange design,

That I must seek a haunting silhouette

In unremembered lands my dreams divine,

But cannot quite recall or quite forget? 

 

What about this Poem?

This was considered by L'Amour to be one of his best poems and among those he in the book, Smoke From This Altar. It was his first published book; before then he hadn't had much luck with his other writings.

You can see L'Amour's delight and love for words in his poems.  The introduction to this book was written by Kathy L'Amour where she said of Louis that "he has the three things which it takes to make a writer: a love for words, industry, and something to say.'

Review of Poem from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:The Argument

....from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: The Argument by William Blake

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;

Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path,

The just man kept his course along

The vale of death.

Roses are planted where thorns grow,

And on the barren heath

Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted:

And a river and a spring

On every cliff and tomb;

And on the bleached bones

Red clay brought forth.

Till the villain left the paths of ease,

To walk in perilous paths, and drive

The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks

In mild humility,

And the just man rages in the wilds

Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air;

Hungry clouds swag on the deep. 

'Review of Poem by Brent M. Jones

Rintrah is considered to be part of William Blake's myth logy who appears in this poem as a just man righteously expressing wrath. Blake felt that good and evil were just different influences we experienced and part of different energies that we had to experience as part of our life.

See Review of the Book: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake / click here

 

Painted Faces Poem

Painted Faces by Ervin Walters

A staged trick
A filtered picture
Mask of irony
A added glare
That magnifies the eyes stare
Of all still so rare
Outlined symmetry
Vague descriptions
Even with a paragraph of words
The sketch has many interpretations
Beauty beholds the eyes attention
The more unattractive the less mentioned
The altered ego
With a adjusted hue of colors

Ervin Walters is young poet. I found the picture below and his poem was posted by it. @WatersRunDeep I don't know if he really had anything to do with this picture but the poem espeically seems to resonate with it.