Showing posts with label 20th century poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 20th century poetry. Show all posts

The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes, 1880-1958)



The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.


He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


Alfred Noyes, 1906

Alfred Noyes. Collected Poems, Vol 1. Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1913.

Portrait by a Neighbor (Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892-1950)

Before she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you'll find her
A-sunning in the sun!

It's long after midnight
Her key's in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o'clock!

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon.

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne's lace!

From A Few Figs From Thistles, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1922. p. 28-29.

Invective Against Swans (Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955)

The soul, O ganders, flies beyond the parks
And far beyond the discords of the wind.

A bronze rain from the sun descending marks
The death of summer, which that time endures

Like one who scrawls a listless testament
Of golden quirks and Paphian caricatures,

Bequeathing your white feathers to the moon
And giving your bland motions to the air.

Behold, already on the long parades
The crows anoint the statues with their dirt.

And the soul, O ganders, being lonely, flies
Beyond your chilly chariots, to the skies.
--From Harmonium (1923)

The Frog (Hilaire Belloc, 1870-1953)

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise "Ugly James,"

Or "Gap-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Bill Bandy-knees":
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

Stars (Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933)

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head,
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.
From: Flame and Shadow (1920)

Harold Pinter (1921 - 2008)

Harold Pinter

From The New York Times, December 25, 2008:
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.
Read the rest of the NYTHarold Pinter Obituary


Harold Pinter Interview, Part 1 (2006)


Harold Pinter Interview, Part 2 (2006)


Harold Pinter Interview, Part 3 (2006)


Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party - "The Interrogation"


twelveangrymen says,

Robert Shaw, Patrick Magee, Dandy Nichols, and Moultriie Kelsall: in William Friekin's 1968 film of Pinter's play.


"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (Clement C. Moore) -- Traditional Text and Humorous Performance By YouTubers

Illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith


Amid the many celebrations last Christmas Eve, in various places by
different persons, there was one, in New York City, not like any other
anywhere. A company of men, women, and children went together just after
the evening service in their church, and, standing around the tomb of
the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," recited together the words of
the poem which we all know so well and love so dearly.

Dr. Clement C. Moore, who wrote the poem, never expected that he would
be remembered by it. If he expected to be famous at all as a writer, he
thought it would be because of the Hebrew Dictionary that he wrote.

He was born in a house near Chelsea Square, New York City, in 1781; and
he lived there all his life. It was a great big house, with fireplaces
in it;--just the house to be living in on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Moore had children. He liked writing poetry for them even more than
he liked writing a Hebrew Dictionary. He wrote a whole book of poems for

One year he wrote this poem, which we usually call "'Twas the Night
before Christmas," to give to his children for a Christmas present. They
read it just after they had hung up their stockings before one of the
big fireplaces in their house. Afterward, they learned it, and sometimes
recited it, just as other children learn it and recite it now.

It was printed in a newspaper. Then a magazine printed it, and after a
time it was printed in the school readers. Later it was printed by
itself, with pictures. Then it was translated into German, French, and
many other languages. It was even made into "Braille"; which is the
raised printing that blind children read with their fingers. But never
has it been given to us in so attractive a form as in this book. It has
happened that almost all the children in the world know this poem. How
few of them know any Hebrew!

Every Christmas Eve the young men studying to be ministers at the
General Theological Seminary, New York City, put a holly wreath around
Dr. Moore's picture, which is on the wall of their dining-room. Why?
Because he gave the ground on which the General Theological Seminary
stands? Because he wrote a Hebrew Dictionary? No. They do it because he
was the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

Most of the children probably know the words of the poem. They are old.
But the pictures that Miss Jessie Willcox Smith has painted for this
edition of it are new. All the children, probably, have seen other
pictures painted by Miss Smith, showing children at other seasons of the
year. How much they will enjoy looking at these pictures, showing
children on that night that all children like best,--Christmas Eve!

E. McC.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."


Originally Published in 1912, Houghton Mifflin Company

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg


2008 Version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Funny)



The Last Word of a Bluebird (Robert Frost)

Robert Frost, circa 1910

As I went out a Crow
In a low voice said, "Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)
That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars brights
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.
He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax--
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing."


Classic Poetry: "Eel-Grass" (Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892-1950)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1933.

No matter what I say,

All that I really love

Is the rain that flattens on the bay,

And the eel-grass in the cove;




Millay, 1914, a publicity photograph (per Daniel Mark Epstein, What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, p. 135), taken 1914.




The jingle-shells that lie and bleach

At the tide-line, and the trace

Of higher tides along the beach:

Nothing in this place.


All About Eel-grass Restoration

SaveBayNarragansett says,

Save The Bay - Narragansett Bay's Wenley Ferguson explains how we restore eelgrass and why it is so important. Recorded at King's Beach, Newport Rhode Island, May 29, 2008.



The Four Parts: Song + Story. Reality + Inference (Monday Love)

T.S. Eliot--Photo from Wikipedia


On the forum, Jepson said:

I read in one of the blogs an argument about performance poetry. One person argued that there is no such thing. They argued that performance poetry is a cheap tactic needed because the poetry is so bad. I don't think it has to be that way. I think if you start with well written poetry on paper then it will make everything else easier. I think we need to breathe some life back into poetry, and that needs to start before we ever go knocking on the publisher's door.

Poetry has become stuffy. It's mutated into this thing we tote around in university textbooks so that academics can browbeat it all day long. We might as well be selling long division. We need to motivate, uplift, piss off, and inspire our audience. It needs to move beyond the 'poets who love poets' club and start a grassroots movement of new readers.

You find an audience who wants to read/hear your work and there won't be any need to enter publishing 'contests.' The publishers will come to you.

Monday Love's response to Jepson:

I think you are speaking to the heart of the matter. The young Philip Sidney was a rock star before there was such a thing.

I hate to blame TS Eliot, because there's many people to blame, and TS Eliot couldn't help it that he wrote a great poem (Prufrock) and then grew old, but...Eliot with his 'difficulty' agenda and his reading/speaking fame which coincided with his old age did a lot of damage to poetry as an exciting art for the young.

Fame has to be carefully crafted before it 'explodes.' The conditions have to be right. The manufacture of Poetry Fame has been handled very badly in the last couple hundred years. It hasn't really been handled at all. Poetry needs cunning Managers.

I've been listening to the 'Poetry Speaks' series of CDs of famous poets reading their work, introduced by Charles Osgood. Anyway, what one notices is the voices are those of old men who sound like frogs or business executives. This is mostly due to the fact that poets don't acquire the fame to get themselves recorded until they are old, and recording technology was just beginning as poets born in the 19th century were getting old.

Of course old men and women should write and read their poetry. Don't get me wrong. But let's be frank about what it takes to get crowds lining up around the block to 'see' poetry. Old TS Eliot could get such crowds, though I think this was mostly at universities. TS Eliot's best stuff also was not 'difficult.' "Prufrock" and "Hollow Men" and a few others are anything but 'difficult.' Eliot had it, whatever it was, although he was a depressed person, beset with personal issues, and so he couldn't bring it very often, I suspect.

If we divide the world into four parts, we have song and story in the 'fiction' realm and info and inference in the 'reality' realm. The two sides of existence, fiction and reality, each have two distinct parts which are exact opposites of each other.

Song is brief and bounded, but its pleasure is indefinite. Story is long, and its pleasure is more definite. Story's popularity (think of novels and film) is based on the fact that the audience becomes immersed in the story of other human beings--the pleasure is based on an acute identification with another human reality. You watch a good play or movie and you are totally absorbed by character and what will happen to them and what they might do to each other. It is the replication of life which we enjoy, and we escape into its existence.

Song, on the other hand, or the poem, allows our minds to wander. Who has not experienced this at a poetry reading? You find yourself thinking of other things. Or sitting at a concert, listening to a piece of music? We free-associate as we listen to the music, whereas if you are watching a good play or film, you are fixated on the protagonist and watching his every move. Even a simple pop song begins a little concert within our own bodies, a sensual pleasure that is not grounded on exact information, but on indefinite feelings. A good play or movie has you interested in what is happening on the stage/screen. A song affects us differently.

So 'song' produces an indefinite pleasure, while 'story' produces a definite one. And songs are not 'difficult.' I was just listening to the current best-selling rock act, "The Black Keys:" their new album, "Attack and Release." It's new, the band is young, it's selling well, but it's just the blues! Their songs are not 'difficult.' Your mind is allowed to wander as you listen to it. Their songs do not demand you pay attention to every note. The chord changes are terribly obvious (it's the blues!) and the drums are obvious and the lyrics are dreamy and simple.

Let's now examine the other realm. In 'reality,' the info is like the 'song,' since it is brief and has definite attributes and a certain internal logic, but here a 'definite' thing is expressed--the information. "Here's how you fix a roof or bake bread." "Would you hand me that hammer, please?" This is how we convey information to each other: through clear, step-by-step, "information-songs." 'Story' is definite in the fiction realm, but indefinite in the reality realm, for here 'story' stands for all the random bits and sensations and speculations and gossip of which life is comprised. 'Story' is the free, random, immersion aspect of 'reality.' It is indefinite.

So Fiction = Song (brief, indefinite) + Story (long, definite). Reality = Info (brief, definite) + Inference (long, indefinite)

The poets erred with the 'difficult' poem. For as the mind strives to understand the 'difficult' poem, it cannot possibly enjoy the song-pleasure. The song-pleasure never forces the mind to think; on the contrary, it frees the mind and allows the senses to enjoy the song (poem). When I listen to Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens read their poetry aloud in these recordings, I don't find I enjoy it at all. Both men strive to be philosophical and thoughtful in their poems and to listen to them read is just a huge bore. And I like these two guys on the page.

But listening to them made me realize something.



Source: Publishers' Reading Fees: Pro or Con? (Make your comments there)

Thread: Uncle Lyle Responds

(The comment feature for this topic has been turned off and moved here. All comments have also been moved. To comment on the new forum, you will have to join the forum, which is fast, easy, and free.)

(Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 12:43 PM)


After Uncle revealed his favorite poems, I asked him to explain what it is about "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and the other poems that attracts him. He said,

Jennifer, You are giving me too much credit and I love it but I am not deserving all the commentary. As you know I was blessed with 3 boys and felt compelled to be a boy scout leader and felt the army training would make me able to offer some ideas to young boys to compete in the future. The poems you refer to are set in the wild wilderness and immediately survival comes to mind and living with nature. You could find a big gold deposit or silver but the real need is food so these poems tell me how to find, identify and eat roots etc. but most of all they paint a beautiful picture in my mind of harmony with nature catching fish and living off the land. Somehow today's concerts and protests ruin the beautiful mental picture. They also offer 2 options as to which path to take but you are aware that animals made the trails so you know there has to be food on both but evil in man has to try to imagine which path has a sucker to fleece [Bold admin emphasis].

You are in the right mode of thought as I do not know a single today poet.
What are your thoughts on Uncle Lyle's comment about imagining the path that "has a sucker to fleece"?

Monday, June 16, 2008, 2:33 PM

I asked Uncle Lyle two questions:

  1. Who are your favorite all-time poets?

  2. Who are your favorite poets writing and publishing today?

His response:

My favorite poets and I do not know many so you will get a narrow view. Frost and Poe.

"The Road not Taken" = Frost

"Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" = Frost

"A Dream Within a Dream" = Poe
Uncle Lyle didn't answer question #2, which I think is telling and offers a possible commentary on the state of modern poetry: that today's poets tend to write and publish for other poets and academia--and NOT for the literature students that sit in their classes or the general public.

Lyle also noted Poe's short story "The Pit and Pendulum" as a favorite.

So why do these two writers endure while many of their contemporaries have fallen along the wayside? Perhaps we can find clues within their own poems:


A Dream Within A Dream

Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?



Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.



The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



All three poems seem appeal to both academic and a general audience.

I wonder why that is?

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