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G.K. Chesterton

Book V: Ethandune, the First Stroke

King Guthrum was a dread king,
Like death out of the north;
Shrines without name or number
He rent and rolled as lumber,
From Chester to the Humber
He drove his foemen forth.

The Roman villas heard him
In the valley of the Thames,
Come over the hills roaring
Above their roofs, and pouring
On spire and stair and flooring
Brimstone and pitch and flames.

Sheer o'er the great chalk uplands
And the hill of the Horse went he,
Till high on Hampshire beacons
He saw the southern sea.

High on the heights of Wessex
He saw the southern brine,
And turned him to a conquered land,
And where the northern thornwoods stand,
And the road parts on either hand,
There came to him a sign.

King Guthrum was a war-chief,
A wise man in the field,
And though he prospered well, and knew
How Alfred's folk were sad and few,
Not less with weighty care he drew
Long lines for pike and shield.

King Guthrum lay on the upper land,
On a single road at gaze,
And his foe must come with lean array,
Up the left arm of the cloven way,
To the meeting of the ways.

And long ere the noise of armour,
An hour ere the break of light,
The woods awoke with crash and cry,
And the birds sprang clamouring harsh and high,
And the rabbits ran like an elves' army
Ere Alfred came in sight.

The live wood came at Guthrum,
On foot and claw and wing,
The nests were noisy overhead,
For Alfred and the star of red,

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The Ballad of the White Horse

DEDICATION

Of great limbs gone to chaos,
A great face turned to night--
Why bend above a shapeless shroud
Seeking in such archaic cloud
Sight of strong lords and light?

Where seven sunken Englands
Lie buried one by one,
Why should one idle spade, I wonder,
Shake up the dust of thanes like thunder
To smoke and choke the sun?

In cloud of clay so cast to heaven
What shape shall man discern?
These lords may light the mystery
Of mastery or victory,
And these ride high in history,
But these shall not return.

Gored on the Norman gonfalon
The Golden Dragon died:
We shall not wake with ballad strings
The good time of the smaller things,
We shall not see the holy kings
Ride down by Severn side.

Stiff, strange, and quaintly coloured
As the broidery of Bayeux
The England of that dawn remains,
And this of Alfred and the Danes
Seems like the tales a whole tribe feigns
Too English to be true.

Of a good king on an island
That ruled once on a time;
And as he walked by an apple tree
There came green devils out of the sea
With sea-plants trailing heavily
And tracks of opal slime.

Yet Alfred is no fairy tale;
His days as our days ran,
He also looked forth for an hour
On peopled plains and skies that lower,
From those few windows in the tower
That is the head of a man.

But who shall look from Alfred's hood

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The Tower Beyond Tragedy

I
You'd never have thought the Queen was Helen's sister- Troy's
burning-flower from Sparta, the beautiful sea-flower
Cut in clear stone, crowned with the fragrant golden mane, she
the ageless, the uncontaminable-
This Clytemnestra was her sister, low-statured, fierce-lipped, not
dark nor blonde, greenish-gray-eyed,
Sinewed with strength, you saw, under the purple folds of the
queen-cloak, but craftier than queenly,
Standing between the gilded wooden porch-pillars, great steps of
stone above the steep street,
Awaiting the King.
Most of his men were quartered on the town;
he, clanking bronze, with fifty
And certain captives, came to the stair. The Queen's men were
a hundred in the street and a hundred
Lining the ramp, eighty on the great flags of the porch; she
raising her white arms the spear-butts
Thundered on the stone, and the shields clashed; eight shining
clarions
Let fly from the wide window over the entrance the wildbirds of
their metal throats, air-cleaving
Over the King come home. He raised his thick burnt-colored
beard and smiled; then Clytemnestra,
Gathering the robe, setting the golden-sandaled feet carefully,
stone by stone, descended
One half the stair. But one of the captives marred the comeliness
of that embrace with a cry
Gull-shrill, blade-sharp, cutting between the purple cloak and
the bronze plates, then Clytemnestra:
Who was it? The King answered: A piece of our goods out of
the snatch of Asia, a daughter of the king,
So treat her kindly and she may come into her wits again. Eh,
you keep state here my queen.
You've not been the poorer for me.- In heart, in the widowed
chamber, dear, she pale replied, though the slaves
Toiled, the spearmen were faithful. What's her name, the slavegirl's?
AGAMEMNON Come up the stair. They tell me my kinsman's
Lodged himself on you.
CLYTEMNESTRA Your cousin Aegisthus? He was out of refuge,
flits between here and Tiryns.
Dear: the girl's name?
AGAMEMNON Cassandra. We've a hundred or so other
captives; besides two hundred
Rotted in the hulls, they tell odd stories about you and your
guest: eh? no matter: the ships
Ooze pitch and the August road smokes dirt, I smell like an
old shepherd's goatskin, you'll have bath-water?
CLYTEMNESTRA
They're making it hot. Come, my lord. My hands will pour it.

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Beldame of Death

A crunch: afoot a dead arachnid
Spanning once a serving plate –
Oh! that others be alive
With such as me for spider bait!

I slunk along the silent hall
Of ancient ore attired in grime –
Feculent beyond the nose;
No bearing here, nor feel for time.

I shuddered in appreciation –
The ambience would mortify
A feeble mind, aghast, opined
Of murky thought, and typify
The will of Belial err I brought
Upon myself to loathe and dread
Exquisite retribution: to linger
Oftentimes alive, then dead.

Compulsion saw me edging on
Toward a narrow door of oak.
Behind, I knew, a greater evil
Waiting in her fusty cloak.

A choice of nil upon the table;
Aught of leave, I had to face
Alone the shrew – her flaming aura
Angling me; my deep disgrace
From ugly deeds I dealt in life,
A heinous world I honed in glee…

'Now take a crooked path to death,
For I have come to torture thee! '

Out of eyes of orange flame,
A piercing glare, then here it came
The cackling cry of chanting song:

'You thought you'd die alone in pain
The once – nay nay! you'll die with me,
And so a catch: you'll die again
Ad infinitum - ever be!

Your soul to curse, my heart we'll gore,
Your liver to draw and quarter;
A sadomasochistic pair,
We'll slither together in slaughter! '

I answered only with a scream, from
Sensing near her craving lust.

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The Coming Of Arthur

Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child;
And she was the fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guinevere, and in her his one delight.

For many a petty king ere Arthur came
Ruled in this isle, and ever waging war
Each upon other, wasted all the land;
And still from time to time the heathen host
Swarmed overseas, and harried what was left.
And so there grew great tracts of wilderness,
Wherein the beast was ever more and more,
But man was less and less, till Arthur came.
For first Aurelius lived and fought and died,
And after him King Uther fought and died,
But either failed to make the kingdom one.
And after these King Arthur for a space,
And through the puissance of his Table Round,
Drew all their petty princedoms under him.
Their king and head, and made a realm, and reigned.

And thus the land of Cameliard was waste,
Thick with wet woods, and many a beast therein,
And none or few to scare or chase the beast;
So that wild dog, and wolf and boar and bear
Came night and day, and rooted in the fields,
And wallowed in the gardens of the King.
And ever and anon the wolf would steal
The children and devour, but now and then,
Her own brood lost or dead, lent her fierce teat
To human sucklings; and the children, housed
In her foul den, there at their meat would growl,
And mock their foster mother on four feet,
Till, straightened, they grew up to wolf-like men,
Worse than the wolves. And King Leodogran
Groaned for the Roman legions here again,
And Csar's eagle: then his brother king,
Urien, assailed him: last a heathen horde,
Reddening the sun with smoke and earth with blood,
And on the spike that split the mother's heart
Spitting the child, brake on him, till, amazed,
He knew not whither he should turn for aid.

But--for he heard of Arthur newly crowned,
Though not without an uproar made by those
Who cried, `He is not Uther's son'--the King
Sent to him, saying, `Arise, and help us thou!
For here between the man and beast we die.'

And Arthur yet had done no deed of arms,

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Gareth And Lynette

The last tall son of Lot and Bellicent,
And tallest, Gareth, in a showerful spring
Stared at the spate. A slender-shafted Pine
Lost footing, fell, and so was whirled away.
'How he went down,' said Gareth, 'as a false knight
Or evil king before my lance if lance
Were mine to use--O senseless cataract,
Bearing all down in thy precipitancy--
And yet thou art but swollen with cold snows
And mine is living blood: thou dost His will,
The Maker's, and not knowest, and I that know,
Have strength and wit, in my good mother's hall
Linger with vacillating obedience,
Prisoned, and kept and coaxed and whistled to--
Since the good mother holds me still a child!
Good mother is bad mother unto me!
A worse were better; yet no worse would I.
Heaven yield her for it, but in me put force
To weary her ears with one continuous prayer,
Until she let me fly discaged to sweep
In ever-highering eagle-circles up
To the great Sun of Glory, and thence swoop
Down upon all things base, and dash them dead,
A knight of Arthur, working out his will,
To cleanse the world. Why, Gawain, when he came
With Modred hither in the summertime,
Asked me to tilt with him, the proven knight.
Modred for want of worthier was the judge.
Then I so shook him in the saddle, he said,
"Thou hast half prevailed against me," said so--he--
Though Modred biting his thin lips was mute,
For he is alway sullen: what care I?'

And Gareth went, and hovering round her chair
Asked, 'Mother, though ye count me still the child,
Sweet mother, do ye love the child?' She laughed,
'Thou art but a wild-goose to question it.'
'Then, mother, an ye love the child,' he said,
'Being a goose and rather tame than wild,
Hear the child's story.' 'Yea, my well-beloved,
An 'twere but of the goose and golden eggs.'

And Gareth answered her with kindling eyes,
'Nay, nay, good mother, but this egg of mine
Was finer gold than any goose can lay;
For this an Eagle, a royal Eagle, laid
Almost beyond eye-reach, on such a palm
As glitters gilded in thy Book of Hours.
And there was ever haunting round the palm
A lusty youth, but poor, who often saw

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The King's Tragedy James I. Of Scots.—20th February 1437

I Catherine am a Douglas born,
A name to all Scots dear;
And Kate Barlass they've called me now
Through many a waning year.
This old arm's withered now. 'Twas once
Most deft 'mong maidens all
To rein the steed, to wing the shaft,
To smite the palm-play ball.
In hall adown the close-linked dance
It has shone most white and fair;
It has been the rest for a true lord's head,
And many a sweet babe's nursing-bed,
And the bar to a King's chambère.
Aye, lasses, draw round Kate Barlass,
And hark with bated breath
How good King James, King Robert's son,
Was foully done to death.
Through all the days of his gallant youth
The princely James was pent,
By his friends at first and then by his foes,
In long imprisonment.
For the elder Prince, the kingdom's heir,
By treason's murderous brood
Was slain; and the father quaked for the child
With the royal mortal blood.
I' the Bass Rock fort, by his father's care,
Was his childhood's life assured;
And Henry the subtle Bolingbroke,
Proud England's King, 'neath the southron yoke
His youth for long years immured.
Yet in all things meet for a kingly man
Himself did he approve;
And the nightingale through his prison-wall
Taught him both lore and love.
For once, when the bird's song drew him close
To the opened window-pane,
In her bower beneath a lady stood,
A light of life to his sorrowful mood,
Like a lily amid the rain.
And for her sake, to the sweet bird's note,
He framed a sweeter Song,
More sweet than ever a poet's heart
Gave yet to the English tongue.
She was a lady of royal blood;
And when, past sorrow and teen,
He stood where still through his crownless years
His Scotish realm had been,
At Scone were the happy lovers crowned,
A heart-wed King and Queen.
But the bird may fall from the bough of youth,

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Pharsalia - Book VIII: Death Of Pompeius

Now through Alcides' pass and Tempe's groves
Pompeius, aiming for Haemonian glens
And forests lone, urged on his wearied steed
Scarce heeding now the spur; by devious tracks
Seeking to veil the footsteps of his flight:
The rustle of the foliage, and the noise
Of following comrades filled his anxious soul
With terrors, as he fancied at his side
Some ambushed enemy. Fallen from the height
Of former fortunes, still the chieftain knew
His life not worthless; mindful of the fates:
And 'gainst the price he set on Caesar's head,
He measures Caesar's value of his own.

Yet, as he rode, the features of the chief
Made known his ruin. Many as they sought
The camp Pharsalian, ere yet was spread
News of the battle, met the chief, amazed,
And wondered at the whirl of human things:
Nor held disaster sure, though Magnus' self
Told of his ruin. Every witness seen
Brought peril on his flight: 'twere better far
Safe in a name obscure, through all the world
To wander; but his ancient fame forbad.

Too long had great Pompeius from the height
Of human greatness, envied of mankind,
Looked on all others; nor for him henceforth
Could life be lowly. The honours of his youth
Too early thrust upon him, and the deeds
Which brought him triumph in the Sullan days,
His conquering navy and the Pontic war,
Made heavier now the burden of defeat,
And crushed his pondering soul. So length of days
Drags down the haughty spirit, and life prolonged
When power has perished. Fortune's latest hour,
Be the last hour of life! Nor let the wretch
Live on disgraced by memories of fame!
But for the boon of death, who'd dare the sea
Of prosperous chance?

Upon the ocean marge
By red Peneus blushing from the fray,
Borne in a sloop, to lightest wind and wave
Scarce equal, he, whose countless oars yet smote
Upon Coreyra's isle and Leucas point,
Lord of Cilicia and Liburnian lands,
Crept trembling to the sea. He bids them steer
For the sequestered shores of Lesbos isle;
For there wert thou, sharer of all his griefs,

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Byron

Canto the Fourth

I.

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
Oer the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

II.

She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.

III.

In Venice, Tasso’s echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone - but beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade - but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!

IV.

But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city’s vanished sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away -
The keystones of the arch! though all were oer,
For us repeopled were the solitary shore.

V.

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G.K. Chesterton

Book VII: Ethandune, the Last Charge

Away in the waste of White Horse Down
An idle child alone
Played some small game through hours that pass,
And patiently would pluck the grass,
Patiently push the stone.

On the lean, green edge for ever,
Where the blank chalk touched the turf,
The child played on, alone, divine,
As a child plays on the last line
That sunders sand and surf.

For he dwelleth in high divisions
Too simple to understand,
Seeing on what morn of mystery
The Uncreated rent the sea
With roarings, from the land.

Through the long infant hours like days
He built one tower in vain--
Piled up small stones to make a town,
And evermore the stones fell down,
And he piled them up again.

And crimson kings on battle-towers,
And saints on Gothic spires,
And hermits on their peaks of snow,
And heroes on their pyres,

And patriots riding royally,
That rush the rocking town,
Stretch hands, and hunger and aspire,
Seeking to mount where high and higher,
The child whom Time can never tire,
Sings over White Horse Down.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

For Eldred fought like a frank hunter
That killeth and goeth home;
And Mark had fought because all arms
Rang like the name of Rome.

And Colan fought with a double mind,
Moody and madly gay;
But Alfred fought as gravely

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G.K. Chesterton

Book III: The Harp of Alfred

In a tree that yawned and twisted
The King's few goods were flung,
A mass-book mildewed, line by line,
And weapons and a skin of wine,
And an old harp unstrung.

By the yawning tree in the twilight
The King unbound his sword,
Severed the harp of all his goods,
And there in the cool and soundless woods
Sounded a single chord.

Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
The sullen flies in swarm,
And went unarmed over the hills,
With the harp upon his arm,
Until he came to the White Horse Vale
And saw across the plains,
In the twilight high and far and fell,
Like the fiery terraces of hell,
The camp fires of the Danes--

The fires of the Great Army
That was made of iron men,
Whose lights of sacrilege and scorn
Ran around England red as morn,
Fires over Glastonbury Thorn--
Fires out on Ely Fen.

And as he went by White Horse Vale
He saw lie wan and wide
The old horse graven, God knows when,
By gods or beasts or what things then
Walked a new world instead of men
And scrawled on the hill-side.

And when he came to White Horse Down
The great White Horse was grey,
For it was ill scoured of the weed,
And lichen and thorn could crawl and feed,
Since the foes of settled house and creed
Had swept old works away.

King Alfred gazed all sorrowful
At thistle and mosses grey,
Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
Till a rally of Danes with shield and bill
Rolled drunk over the dome of the hill,
And, hearing of his harp and skill,
They dragged him to their play.

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Vision of Columbus – Book 3

Now, twice twelve years, the children of the skies
Beheld in peace their growing empire rise;
O'er happy realms, display'd their generous care,
Diffused their arts and soothd the rage of war;
Bade yon tall temple grace the favourite isle.
The gardens bloom, the cultured valleys smile,
The aspiring hills their spacious mines unfold.
Fair structures blaze, and altars burn, in gold,
Those broad foundations bend their arches high,
And heave imperial Cusco to the sky;
From that fair stream that mark'd their northern sway,
Where Apurimac leads his lucid way,
To yon far glimmering lake, the southern bound,
The growing tribes their peaceful dwellings found;
While wealth and grandeur bless'd the extended reign,
From the bold Andes to the western main.
When, fierce from eastern wilds, the savage bands
Lead war and slaughter o'er the happy lands;
Thro' fertile fields the paths of culture trace,
And vow destruction to the Incan race.
While various fortune strow'd the embattled plain,
And baffled thousands still the strife maintain,
The unconquer'd Inca wakes the lingering war,
Drives back their host and speeds their flight afar;
Till, fired with rage, they range the wonted wood,
And feast their souls on future scenes of blood.
Where yon blue summits hang their cliffs on high;
Frown o'er the plains and lengthen round the sky;
Where vales exalted thro' the breaches run;
And drink the nearer splendors of the sun,
From south to north, the tribes innumerous wind,
By hills of ice and mountain streams confined;
Rouse neighbouring hosts, and meditate the blow,
To blend their force and whelm the world below.
Capac, with caution, views the dark design,
From countless wilds what hostile myriads join;
And greatly strives to bid the discord cease,
By profferd compacts of perpetual peace.
His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call,
Leaves the deep confines of the temple wall;
In whose fair form, in lucid garments drest,
Began the sacred function of the priest.
In early youth, ere yet the genial sun
Had twice six changes o'er his childhood run,
The blooming prince, beneath his parents' hand,
Learn'd all the laws that sway'd the sacred land;
With rites mysterious served the Power divine,
Prepared the altar and adorn'd the shrine,
Responsive hail'd, with still returning praise,
Each circling season that the God displays,

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Pharsalia - Book III: Massilia

With canvas yielding to the western wind
The navy sailed the deep, and every eye
Gazed on Ionian billows. But the chief
Turned not his vision from his native shore
Now left for ever, while the morning mists
Drew down upon the mountains, and the cliffs
Faded in distance till his aching sight
No longer knew them. Then his wearied frame
Sank in the arms of sleep. But Julia's shape,
In mournful guise, dread horror on her brow,
Rose through the gaping earth, and from her tomb
Erect, in form as of a Fury spake:
'Driven from Elysian fields and from the plains
The blest inhabit, when the war began,
I dwell in Stygian darkness where abide
The souls of all the guilty. There I saw
Th' Eumenides with torches in their hands
Prepared against thy battles; and the fleets
Which by the ferryman of the flaming stream
Were made to bear thy dead: while Hell itself
Relaxed its punishments; the sisters three
With busy fingers all their needful task
Could scarce accomplish, and the threads of fate
Dropped from their weary hands. With me thy wife,
Thou, Magnus, leddest happy triumphs home:
New wedlock brings new luck. Thy concubine,
Whose star brings all her mighty husbands ill,
Cornelia, weds in thee a breathing tomb.
Through wars and oceans let her cling to thee
So long as I may break thy nightly rest:
No moment left thee for her love, but all
By night to me, by day to Caesar given.
Me not the oblivious banks of Lethe's stream
Have made forgetful; and the kings of death
Have suffered me to join thee; in mid fight
I will be with thee, and my haunting ghost
Remind thee Caesar's daughter was thy spouse.
Thy sword kills not our pledges; civil war
Shall make thee wholly mine.' She spake and fled.
But he, though heaven and hell thus bode defeat,
More bent on war, with mind assured of ill,
'Why dread vain phantoms of a dreaming brain?
Or nought of sense and feeling to the soul
Is left by death; or death itself is nought.'

Now fiery Titan in declining path
Dipped to the waves, his bright circumference
So much diminished as a growing moon
Not yet full circled, or when past the full;
When to the fleet a hospitable coast

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Lancelot And Elaine

Elaine the fair, Elaine the loveable,
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat,
High in her chamber up a tower to the east
Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot;
Which first she placed where the morning's earliest ray
Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam;
Then fearing rust or soilure fashioned for it
A case of silk, and braided thereupon
All the devices blazoned on the shield
In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,
A border fantasy of branch and flower,
And yellow-throated nestling in the nest.
Nor rested thus content, but day by day,
Leaving her household and good father, climbed
That eastern tower, and entering barred her door,
Stript off the case, and read the naked shield,
Now guessed a hidden meaning in his arms,
Now made a pretty history to herself
Of every dint a sword had beaten in it,
And every scratch a lance had made upon it,
Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh;
That ten years back; this dealt him at Caerlyle;
That at Caerleon; this at Camelot:
And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was there!
And here a thrust that might have killed, but God
Broke the strong lance, and rolled his enemy down,
And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.

How came the lily maid by that good shield
Of Lancelot, she that knew not even his name?
He left it with her, when he rode to tilt
For the great diamond in the diamond jousts,
Which Arthur had ordained, and by that name
Had named them, since a diamond was the prize.

For Arthur, long before they crowned him King,
Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse,
Had found a glen, gray boulder and black tarn.
A horror lived about the tarn, and clave
Like its own mists to all the mountain side:
For here two brothers, one a king, had met
And fought together; but their names were lost;
And each had slain his brother at a blow;
And down they fell and made the glen abhorred:
And there they lay till all their bones were bleached,
And lichened into colour with the crags:
And he, that once was king, had on a crown
Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside.
And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass,
All in a misty moonshine, unawares

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The Holy Grail

From noiseful arms, and acts of prowess done
In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale,
Whom Arthur and his knighthood called The Pure,
Had passed into the silent life of prayer,
Praise, fast, and alms; and leaving for the cowl
The helmet in an abbey far away
From Camelot, there, and not long after, died.

And one, a fellow-monk among the rest,
Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the rest,
And honoured him, and wrought into his heart
A way by love that wakened love within,
To answer that which came: and as they sat
Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening half
The cloisters, on a gustful April morn
That puffed the swaying branches into smoke
Above them, ere the summer when he died
The monk Ambrosius questioned Percivale:

`O brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke,
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years:
For never have I known the world without,
Nor ever strayed beyond the pale: but thee,
When first thou camest--such a courtesy
Spake through the limbs and in the voice--I knew
For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall;
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins,
Some true, some light, but every one of you
Stamped with the image of the King; and now
Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round,
My brother? was it earthly passion crost?'

`Nay,' said the knight; `for no such passion mine.
But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail
Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries,
And earthly heats that spring and sparkle out
Among us in the jousts, while women watch
Who wins, who falls; and waste the spiritual strength
Within us, better offered up to Heaven.'

To whom the monk: `The Holy Grail!--I trust
We are green in Heaven's eyes; but here too much
We moulder--as to things without I mean--
Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours,
Told us of this in our refectory,
But spake with such a sadness and so low
We heard not half of what he said. What is it?
The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?'

`Nay, monk! what phantom?' answered Percivale.

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Pharsalia - Book VII: The Battle

Ne'er to the summons of the Eternal laws
More slowly Titan rose, nor drave his steeds,
Forced by the sky revolving, up the heaven,
With gloomier presage; wishing to endure
The pangs of ravished light, and dark eclipse;
And drew the mists up, not to feed his flames,
But lest his light upon Thessalian earth
Might fall undimmed.

Pompeius on that morn,
To him the latest day of happy life,
In troubled sleep an empty dream conceived.
For in the watches of the night he heard
Innumerable Romans shout his name
Within his theatre; the benches vied
To raise his fame and place him with the gods;
As once in youth, when victory was won
O'er conquered tribes where swift Iberus flows,
And where Sertorius' armies fought and fled,
The west subdued, with no less majesty
Than if the purple toga graced the car,
He sat triumphant in his pure white gown
A Roman knight, and heard the Senate's cheer.
Perhaps, as ills drew near, his anxious soul,
Shunning the future wooed the happy past;
Or, as is wont, prophetic slumber showed
That which was not to be, by doubtful forms
Misleading; or as envious Fate forbade
Return to Italy, this glimpse of Rome
Kind Fortune gave. Break not his latest sleep,
Ye sentinels; let not the trumpet call
Strike on his ear: for on the morrow's night
Shapes of the battle lost, of death and war
Shall crowd his rest with terrors. Whence shalt thou
The poor man's happiness of sleep regain?
Happy if even in dreams thy Rome could see
Once more her captain! Would the gods had given
To thee and to thy country one day yet
To reap the latest fruit of such a love:
Though sure of fate to come! Thou marchest on
As though by heaven ordained in Rome to die;
She, conscious ever of her prayers for thee
Heard by the gods, deemed not the fates decreed
Such evil destiny, that she should lose
The last sad solace of her Magnus' tomb.
Then young and old had blent their tears for thee,
And child unbidden; women torn their hair
And struck their bosoms as for Brutus dead.
But now no public woe shall greet thy death
As erst thy praise was heard: but men shall grieve

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The House Of Dust: Complete

I.

The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light.
The trees grow dark: the shadows lean to the east:
And lights wink out through the windows, one by one.
A clamor of frosty sirens mourns at the night.
Pale slate-grey clouds whirl up from the sunken sun.

And the wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams,
The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street,
And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.
The purple lights leap down the hill before him.
The gorgeous night has begun again.

'I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,
I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.
I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .'
The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness,
Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest,
Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.

We hear him and take him among us, like a wind of music,
Like the ghost of a music we have somewhere heard;
We crowd through the streets in a dazzle of pallid lamplight,
We pour in a sinister wave, ascend a stair,
With laughter and cry, and word upon murmured word;
We flow, we descend, we turn . . . and the eternal dreamer
Moves among us like light, like evening air . . .

Good-night! Good-night! Good-night! We go our ways,
The rain runs over the pavement before our feet,
The cold rain falls, the rain sings.
We walk, we run, we ride. We turn our faces
To what the eternal evening brings.

Our hands are hot and raw with the stones we have laid,
We have built a tower of stone high into the sky,
We have built a city of towers.

Our hands are light, they are singing with emptiness.
Our souls are light; they have shaken a burden of hours . . .
What did we build it for? Was it all a dream? . . .
Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . .
And after a while they will fall to dust and rain;
Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands;
And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again.


II.

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The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 2

ALL were attentive to the godlike man,
When from his lofty couch he thus began:
Great queen, what you command me to relate
Renews the sad remembrance of our fate:
An empire from its old foundations rent, 5
And ev’ry woe the Trojans underwent;
A peopled city made a desart place;
All that I saw, and part of which I was:
Not ev’n the hardest of our foes could hear,
Nor stern Ulysses tell without a tear. 10
And now the latter watch of wasting night,
And setting stars, to kindly rest invite;
But, since you take such int’rest in our woe,
And Troy’s disastrous end desire to know,
I will restrain my tears, and briefly tell 15
What in our last and fatal night befell.
By destiny compell’d, and in despair,
The Greeks grew weary of the tedious war,
And by Minerva’s aid a fabric rear’d,
Which like a steed of monstrous height appear’d: 20
The sides were plank’d with pine; they feign’d it made
For their return, and this the vow they paid.
Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side
Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:
With inward arms the dire machine they load, 25
And iron bowels stuff the dark abode.
In sight of Troy lies Tenedos, an isle
(While Fortune did on Priam’s empire smile)
Renown’d for wealth; but, since, a faithless bay,
Where ships expos’d to wind and weather lay. 30
There was their fleet conceal’d. We thought, for Greece
Their sails were hoisted, and our fears release.
The Trojans, coop’d within their walls so long,
Unbar their gates, and issue in a throng,
Like swarming bees, and with delight survey 35
The camp deserted, where the Grecians lay:
The quarters of the sev’ral chiefs they show’d;
Here Phœnix, here Achilles, made abode;
Here join’d the battles; there the navy rode.
Part on the pile their wond’ring eyes employ: 40
The pile by Pallas rais’d to ruin Troy.
Thymoetes first (’t is doubtful whether hir’d,
Or so the Trojan destiny requir’d)
Mov’d that the ramparts might be broken down,
To lodge the monster fabric in the town. 45
But Capys, and the rest of sounder mind,
The fatal present to the flames designed,
Or to the wat’ry deep; at least to bore
The hollow sides, and hidden frauds explore.
The giddy vulgar, as their fancies guide, 50

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The Columbiad: Book III

The Argument


Actions of the Inca Capac. A general invasion of his dominions threatened by the mountain savages. Rocha, the Inca's son, sent with a few companions to offer terms of peace. His embassy. His adventure with the worshippers of the volcano. With those of the storm, on the Andes. Falls in with the savage armies. Character and speech of Zamor, their chief. Capture of Rocha and his companions. Sacrifice of the latter. Death song of Azonto. War dance. March of the savage armies down the mountains to Peru. Incan army meets them. Battle joins. Peruvians terrified by an eclipse of the sun, and routed. They fly to Cusco. Grief of Oella, supposing the darkness to be occasioned by the death of Rocha. Sun appears. Peruvians from the city wall discover Roch an altar in the savage camp. They march in haste out of the city and engage the savages. Exploits of Capac. Death of Zamor. Recovery of Rocha, and submission of the enemy.


Now twenty years these children of the skies
Beheld their gradual growing empire rise.
They ruled with rigid but with generous care,
Diffused their arts and sooth'd the rage of war,
Bade yon tall temple grace their favorite isle,
The mines unfold, the cultured valleys smile,
Those broad foundations bend their arches high,
And rear imperial Cusco to the sky;
Wealth, wisdom, force consolidate the reign
From the rude Andes to the western main.

But frequent inroads from the savage bands
Lead fire and slaughter o'er the labor'd lands;
They sack the temples, the gay fields deface,
And vow destruction to the Incan race.
The king, undaunted in defensive war,
Repels their hordes, and speeds their flight afar;
Stung with defeat, they range a wider wood,
And rouse fresh tribes for future fields of blood.

Where yon blue ridges hang their cliffs on high,
And suns infulminate the stormful sky,
The nations, temper'd to the turbid air,
Breathe deadly strife, and sigh for battle's blare;
Tis here they meditate, with one vast blow,
To crush the race that rules the plains below.
Capac with caution views the dark design,
Learns from all points what hostile myriads join.
And seeks in time by proffer'd leagues to gain
A bloodless victory, and enlarge his reign.

His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call,
Resigns his charge within the temple wall;
In whom began, with reverend forms of awe,
The functions grave of priesthood and of law,

In early youth, ere yet the ripening sun
Had three short lustres o'er his childhood run,
The prince had learnt, beneath his father's hand,
The well-framed code that sway'd the sacred land;
With rites mysterious served the Power divine,
Prepared the altar and adorn'd the shrine,
Responsive hail'd, with still returning praise,
Each circling season that the God displays,

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Pharsalia - Book VI: The Fight Near Dyrhachium. Scaeva's Exploits. The Witch Of Thessalia.

Now that the chiefs with minds intent on fight
Had drawn their armies near upon the hills
And all the gods beheld their chosen pair,
Caesar, the Grecian towns despising, scorned
To reap the glory of successful war
Save at his kinsman's cost. In all his prayers
He seeks that moment, fatal to the world,
When shall be cast the die, to win or lose,
And all his fortune hang upon the throw.
Thrice he drew out his troops, his eagles thrice,
Demanding battle; thus to increase the woe
Of Latium, prompt as ever: but his foes,
Proof against every art, refused to leave
The rampart of their camp. Then marching swift
By hidden path between the wooded fields
He seeks, and hopes to seize, Dyrrhachium's fort;
But Magnus, speeding by the ocean marge,
First camped on Petra's slopes, a rocky hill
Thus by the natives named. From thence he keeps
Watch o'er the fortress of Corinthian birth
Which by its towers alone without a guard
Was safe against a siege. No hand of man
In ancient days built up her lofty wall,
No hammer rang upon her massive stones:
Not all the works of war, nor Time himself
Shall undermine her. Nature's hand has raised
Her adamantine rocks and hedged her in
With bulwarks girded by the foamy main:
And but for one short bridge of narrow earth
Dyrrhachium were an island. Steep and fierce,
Dreaded of sailors, are the cliffs that bear
Her walls; and tempests, howling from the west,
Toss up the raging main upon the roofs;
And homes and temples tremble at the shock.

Thirsting for battle and with hopes inflamed
Here Caesar hastes, with distant rampart lines
Seeking unseen to coop his foe within,
Though spread in spacious camp upon the hills.
With eagle eye he measures out the land
Meet to be compassed, nor content with turf
Fit for a hasty mound, he bids his troops
Tear from the quarries many a giant rock:
And spoils the dwellings of the Greeks, and drags
Their walls asunder for his own. Thus rose
A mighty barrier which no ram could burst
Nor any ponderous machine of war.
Mountains are cleft, and level through the hills
The work of Caesar strides: wide yawns the moat,
Forts show their towers rising on the heights,

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Rose Mary

Of her two fights with the Beryl-stone
Lost the first, but the second won.

PART I

“MARY mine that art Mary's Rose
Come in to me from the garden-close.
The sun sinks fast with the rising dew,
And we marked not how the faint moon grew;
But the hidden stars are calling you.
Tall Rose Mary, come to my side,
And read the stars if you'd be a bride.
In hours whose need was not your own,
While you were a young maid yet ungrown
You've read the stars in the Beryl-stone.
“Daughter, once more I bid you read;
But now let it be for your own need:
Because to-morrow, at break of day,
To Holy Cross he rides on his way,
Your knight Sir James of Heronhaye.
Ere he wed you, flower of mine,
For a heavy shrift he seeks the shrine.
Now hark to my words and do not fear;
Ill news next I have for your ear;
But be you strong, and our help is here.
On his road, as the rumour's rife,
An ambush waits to take his life.
He needs will go, and will go alone;
Where the peril lurks may not be known;
But in this glass all things are shown.”
Pale Rose Mary sank to the floor:—
The night will come if the day is o'er!”
“Nay, heaven takes counsel, star with star,
And help shall reach your heart from afar:
A bride you'll be, as a maid you are.”
The lady unbound her jewelled zone
And drew from her robe the Beryl-stone.
Shaped it was to a shadowy sphere,—
World of our world, the sun's compeer,
That bears and buries the toiling year.
With shuddering light 'twas stirred and strewn
Like the cloud-nest of the wading moon:
Freaked it was as the bubble's ball,
Rainbow-hued through a misty pall
Like the middle light of the waterfall.
Shadows dwelt in its teeming girth
Of the known and unknown things of earth;
The cloud above and the wave around,—
The central fire at the sphere's heart bound,
Like doomsday prisoned underground.

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