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Edward Lear

There was an Old Man of the Isles,
Whose face was pervaded with smiles;
He sung high dum diddle,
And played on the fiddle,
That amiable Man of the Isles.

limerick by from A Book of Nonsense (1846)Report problemRelated quotes
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The Child, The Man And The Old Man....

i look at the child
at the farther nook of a old house.
there is no chair and beside the door
is a box, it is empty
and the child in fear
took its hiding there
a favorite place
safety box, safe house,
the four corners are
so silent
and the child is happy
asleep in a moment.....

time travels like horses with wings.

there is a man
with a long bird his toenails
are long, no time to cut them

it throat is swollen
bacterial infection again
or the weather changes
cold this time then hot in
a moment
dusts all over the place
and white painted houses

it is lonely, child and man
at the same time
and not one of him speaks
they become one box
and one flap opens to
a sky

always there are
no extra hands. it is reality.

there is an old man
with words of thread
sewing upon its lips.

there is a very dark night.
the child, the man and the old man
are asleep
inside a box, safe and

there is no morning.
it is final.

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Old Man Dying

there's an old man dying
in a small bedroom filled
with books and worn out clothes
and old socks with holes

there's an ashtray that always
needs to be emptied;
blinds that are as twisted
as his fingers and his toes

there's an old man dying
in the shadow of his
father's dreams, his father's world,
choking on the bad taste

of his own prayers forgotten
and mountaintops bartered;
in the mist of cannot touch,
can't lay with again

and love sweat grown cold,
gone stale as the lines,
the wrinkles on his face,
and hands that tremble

there's an old man dying
and somewhere, there's
a young man being born!

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There Was One

There was one a-riding grand
On a tall brown mare,
And a fine gold band
He brought me there.

A little, gold band
He held to me
That would shine on a hand
For the world to see.

There was one a-walking swift
To a little, new song,
And a rose was the gift
He carried along,

First of all the posies,
Dewy and red.
They that have roses
Never need bread.

There was one with a swagger
And a soft, slow tongue,
And a bright, cold dagger
Where his left hand swung-

Craven and gilt,
Old and bad-
And his stroking of the hilt
Set a girl mad.

There was one a-riding grand
As he rode from me.
And he raised his golden band
And he threw it in the sea.

There was one a-walking slow
To a sad, Iong sigh.
And his rose drooped low,
And he flung it down to die.

There was one with a swagger
And a little, sharp pride,
And a bright, cold dagger
Ever at his side.

At his side it stayed
When he ran to part.
What is this blade
Struck through my heart?

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The Old Man's Counsel

Among our hills and valleys, I have known
Wise and grave men, who, while their diligent hands
Tended or gathered in the fruits of earth,
Were reverent learners in the solemn school
Of nature. Not in vain to them were sent
Seed-time and harvest, or the vernal shower
That darkened the brown tilth, or snow that beat
On the white winter hills. Each brought, in turn,
Some truth, some lesson on the life of man,
Or recognition of the Eternal mind
Who veils his glory with the elements.

One such I knew long since, a white-haired man,
Pithy of speech, and merry when he would;
A genial optimist, who daily drew
From what he saw his quaint moralities.
Kindly he held communion, though so old,
With me a dreaming boy, and taught me much
That books tell not, and I shall ne'er forget.

The sun of May was bright in middle heaven,
And steeped the sprouting forests, the green hills
And emerald wheat-fields, in his yellow light.
Upon the apple-tree, where rosy buds
Stood clustered, ready to burst forth in bloom,
The robin warbled forth his full clear note
For hours, and wearied not. Within the woods,
Whose young and half transparent leaves scarce cast
A shade, gay circles of anemones
Danced on their stalks; the shadbush, white with flowers,
Brightened the glens; the new-leaved butternut
And quivering poplar to the roving breeze
Gave a balsamic fragrance. In the fields
I saw the pulses of the gentle wind
On the young grass. My heart was touched with joy
At so much beauty, flushing every hour
Into a fuller beauty; but my friend,
The thoughtful ancient, standing at my side,
Gazed on it mildly sad. I asked him why.

'Well mayst thou join in gladness,' he replied,
'With the glad earth, her springing plants and flowers,
And this soft wind, the herald of the green
Luxuriant summer. Thou art young like them,
And well mayst thou rejoice. But while the flight
Of seasons fills and knits thy spreading frame,
It withers mine, and thins my hair, and dims
These eyes, whose fading light shall soon be quenched
In utter darkness. Hearest thou that bird?'

I listened, and from midst the depth of woods
Heard the love-signal of the grouse, that wears
A sable ruff around his mottled neck;
Partridge they call him by our northern streams,
And pheasant by the Delaware. He beat
'Gainst his barred sides his speckled wings, and made
A sound like distant thunder; slow the strokes
At first, then fast and faster, till at length
They passed into a murmur and were still.

'There hast thou,' said my friend, 'a fitting type
Of human life. 'Tis an old truth, I know,
But images like these revive the power
Of long familiar truths. Slow pass our days
In childhood, and the hours of light are long
Betwixt the morn and eve; with swifter lapse
They glide in manhood, and in age they fly;
Till days and seasons flit before the mind
As flit the snow-flakes in a winter storm,
Seen rather than distinguished. Ah! I seem
As if I sat within a helpless bark
By swiftly running waters hurried on
To shoot some mighty cliff. Along the banks
Grove after grove, rock after frowning rock,
Bare sands and pleasant homes, and flowery nooks,
And isles and whirlpools in the stream, appear
Each after each, but the devoted skiff
Darts by so swiftly that their images
Dwell not upon the mind, or only dwell
In dim confusion; faster yet I sweep
By other banks, and the great gulf is near.

'Wisely, my son, while yet thy days are long,
And this fair change of seasons passes slow,
Gather and treasure up the good they yield--
All that they teach of virtue, of pure thoughts
And kind affections, reverence for thy God
And for thy brethren; so when thou shalt come
Into these barren years, thou mayst not bring
A mind unfurnished and a withered heart.'

Long since that white-haired ancient slept--but still,
When the red flower-buds crowd the orchard bough,
And the ruffed grouse is drumming far within
The woods, his venerable form again
Is at my side, his voice is in my ear.

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the old man in Greece...

somewhere in Greece
now i remember
because of your letter
there was an old man
who holds a piece of
a shattered mirror
that he carries everywhere
and those that he cannot
or say
see directly he does
with his mirror
and he had since then
seen them all

whatever light he captures
he reflects it to those
who are sad like him
and he tells himself now
i understand
now i am no longer afraid
now i can proceed to
the ways of
being alone
what road is left
he must traverse
what thought is there
he must think for
and before he died
(because he died in truth
alone in his bedroom)
he wrote his view of the
in that shattered piece
of mirror
still reflecting
whatever small light
he stored
from within....

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The Old Man Beside A Huge Tree

i have seen the picture of an old man
beside a huge oak tree

the picture is old
black and white and the kind of one that is strong
for it will last another lifetime

i have not seen the old man
neither the huge oak tree for real

i have the picture of the old man and the old oak tree
and the younger man sleeping
his smooth skin caressed by the fluffing grass

there is a story there and it is all about
gods and dogs
a film about a director who lost his fame
and fortune
about a young gardener who captures a heart
and made it bleed

at the end the old man met a happy death
the old oak tree was gone
but i have not really seen what is real
i have seen only the picture of what i thought could have been real
black and white

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The Old Man

The old man sat on a park bench
just watching the people pass by.
He did it day after day
alone in everyone's eyes.
He would smile occasionally
but no one ever knew why.

Everyone who saw him
wondered why he sat so still
and just looked out
at everyone who passed him there.
The old man sat in repose
from dawn until dusk fell.

He sat there in the summer sun
and as winter's bleakness fell.
He looked for some face
he might remember from his past
so they could reminisce for a while.
Sadly, the years slipped away.

Everyone spoke about him,
but no one ventured to talk.
Then one day the old man
wasn't on the park bench
and he was nowhere to be seen.
Now a different question was asked.

Day after day, the bench was empty.
Where had the old man gone?
Had he simply passed away?
The questions remained unanswered
because no one ever stopped
to enquire of his name.

I would like to think
that in the dying hours
on the park bench one day
that he had found
what he was waiting for
and then happily he faded away.

12 July 2012

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The Old Man Smiling

there was this old man
and i always remember him
tenant of the family for years
of the vast coconut land
we own

he was poor and lived in a very
small nipa hut
all house to him
no sala, no furnitures, just this
soil kitchen and dirty kettles and
unwashed tin cups and
and firewood and pail of water
from the nearby river

he got two sons and 3 daughters
all gone to the city
also becoming as domestic helpers
and he would bring a chicken from the farm
and a goat and some fruits
to grandpa and
grandpa would scold him for being too lazy
that the chicken was thin
and the goat was small
and the fruits were not ripe yet for harvest

and what i remember of the old man
was that no matter what verbal abuse or
(even physical abuse) that was accorded to him
he never answered or frowned or

he had that smile always that i saw
and i always remember
always with a sad heart since then
even if i had already become a lawyer
and tried to defend the poor
peasants of our
little town

where the vast coconut farm has thrived
and still conquered
what little injustices still
left unsolved

he died years ago
and i could have died with him
if not
for the reason.

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The old man and his wife

The old man and his wife,
Lived at the end of the old street,
At the intersection of colour and life,
The intersection where smile and laughter would meet.

Theirs was the most lovely couplet,
And oldest indeed the street had ever know,
But their love was as new as the water droplet,
Seen at the dawn….on grass fully grown.

Often…..he would fight with her,
So that she`d get angry with him,
So that he`d get to pamper her,
And then she`d blush and smile back at him….

Everything went on fine until,
That day………when everything changed,
The day his wife went motionless and still….
The day when…….it just rained…..

From then the old man was on his own,
Trying to get in terms with the loss…
Of the most beloved…..for long he`d know,
His life had now gone for a toss….

With red and water….filled eyes…..
He keeps looking here and there,
He keeps searching for his wife…..
In vain….he finds her no where...

What……..will now suffice? ?
For the loss of his true love knot?
He keeps…..missing his wife…
His wife…..whom he loved a lot….

The slot of silence……now he has brought….
Endlessly he stands…..and weeps at her grave…
And also the next plot he has bought….
For besides her…he wishes to be laid…

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The old man and his stone

an old man
seated alone
on his stone bench
invited me
almost invisible
gesticulating with his hand
sit down beside me

we did not say a word
together we just heard
nothing but our silence

he invited me
to take a look in his garden
he took me by my hand
guiding me
through the open gate

he gave me a grand tour
in his Japanese paradise

and wanted to know
if I would be able
to show him
that spot
he was searching for
all his life
so he could also see
all the larger stones
at once

I'll wait
and watch you

I stood
I sat down
I climbed a tree
while being up there
I could see
a smile on his face
expressing understanding grace

I walked around
by the sound
of crackling shelves

I can count endlessly
maybe even further

In that serene garden
I could not find the spot
that place where I could see
all his stones
although I learned
during that search
there were fifteen different larger stones

that unknown space
where I see and count
the old man's 15th stone

there I was on my own
still searching

it was late
at last I returned
sat down beside the old man
on the other stone bench

he offered me his silence
and told me with his eyes
that a man or a woman
is wise
when admitting
a simple fact

you can see
you can count
all the stones
not at once
not on your own

©Ellie Daphne van Stralen 2012

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The Old Man's Saddest Story

We sat about the fireplace listening to the old man's tales
Of the youthful years of life he spent in lovely Alder Vale
He told some happy stories but he told some sad one's too
And the saddest story that he told I will relate to you.

'Twas the story of young Joaney Ryan who died whilst in her prime
When the fruits were ripe for picking in September's harvest time
She died at twenty three years old the valley beauty queen
And a fairer maid since her time the old man has not seen.

She was the most beautiful maid the old man ever knew
With sheeny hair of raven black and sparkling eyes of blue
Yet for all of her splendid beauty she did not show conceit
A better mannered girl than her no man could wish to meet.

Beauty it can take a woman quite a long, long way
But beauty quickly withers like the flowers that bloom in May,
You cannot judge a woman by her beauty or her dress
You can only judge a woman by the manner she possess.

He must have loved this lovely maid he must have loved her so
Who died in September forty six years ago
For as he told her story a tear showed in each eye
And it seemed quite clear to all of us that he was near to cry.

She died in a hospital this lady like woman
From Leuchaemia a disease that greatly curtail life's span
On the tenth day of September her remains were put to earth
Twenty three years and thirty six days from the day of her birth.

In each human's life story there is some share of woe
And the old man's saddest thoughts are of a maid he used to know
Who died of Leuchaemia whilst only in her prime
When the fruits were ripe for picking in September's harvest time.

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The Old Man Sat Shaking

The old man sat shaking faintly in his chair,
Thinking of his past and a lady fair.
Of past victories and frequent defeats,
Of the winners, the losers and some cheats.

Through tinted windows watches the gums grey,
As they pitch with the breeze and sway.
Leafy greens on boughs that move and conduct,
He thought this is something only God could construct.

The music of the day was delightfully operatical,
Moreover, that his life, he thought was poetical.
He delighted in the music that was his life,
Some of this wondrous, other sounds of strife.

In his day he entered the ring fight for a pound or two,
Kid Galahad fought to go for more than a round or two.
Depression called for men to find work in differing ways,
So over night he learnt to cook bread and drive a dray.

He carried his swag between towns and farms,
Chopped wood, cooked bread, raised fist and arms.
He drunk too hard most Saturday nights,
He gambled just as hard and found too many bar fights.

The worst of these took place one small town Saturday night,
A man's head and he slammed it into a footpath during a fight.
A family that waited in a degree of fear lived near by,
Arriving home would he bring cheer or cause them to cry.

A young man once asked, why carry coins in your pockets,
His reply was, at a dance I shake them to attract the bonnets.
During depression times money scarce,
For every penny, you always fought fierce.

Now the old man sat as gnarled, as the trees he watched,
His sun darkened skin now wrinkled and blotched.
Soon these memories will pass, and will fade
As the meadow grass without water and shade.

And when this day comes and the old man has passed,
There is one thought that will last.
His son remembers how family shared the SON,
The Kid measured himself able to defeat the wicked one.

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The Old Man In The Canyon

I sought for Him on the whole roundity of the world,
On the stretched sand of the deserts, dusting the eyes,
Along the banks of the flowing hissing curvy rivers,
In the populated metropolitan cities, towns and villages,
On the green pastures, lush valleys and deep forests,
In the heaven kissing mountains of Himalayan ranges,
In the moonlit golden nights, in the silvery bright days,
Under the folds of darkness, in the feathers of light,
And enquired after Him from the tired weary mariners,
Who made lengthy voyages ransacking the seven seas;
But no footprint of Him was traced and depressed I sat.

Ah! One day wanderlust took me amid the Northern hills,
At the webbed opening of a subterranean dark cave,
And curiosity led me in and what I did see there, hark!
There in the murky, gloomy, dismal canyon I found,
A faintly breathing exhausted strengthless old man,
With overgrown, dishevelled and withering grey hair,
He had deep eyes covered with thick rough brows,
Profound wrinkles like furrows creased on his visage,
He wore tattered trousers, rend sleeveless dingy shirt,
On filthy dark skin of the body, his liquorice like bones,
Seemed to be wrapped with thickblack sheet of polythene,
His feet had slits, slots like dry parched surface of the land.

I jerked him and He sat with the tiresome movement,
As someone rises breaching ajar the stones of grave,
Looked staring at me as He recalled the memory back,
He brought a false, fake smile on the parched lips,
And to my question He responded, made me reply,
The world is too cold to go out, I feel warm here,
I eat leaves, grass and lick dust when belly torments me,
Often take rain water or drink from the stagnant pools,
For half a century I have neither taken a bath,
Nor washed the face, my plight is worse than a beggar,
I am disappointed, depressed, pray to God for my death.”

He recounted his tale while the shining tears rolled down,
From both the corners of his eyes, and he began to sob.
I remained stunned, remembered that once He had been,
“Mr. Justice”; but now his breathing strengthless carcass.

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The Old Man

An aged man came into the bar from out of the cold,
he was wearing a monk’s habit as in the days of old.
‘Like death warmed up’ my mother used to say,
as he sat by the open fire on this winters day.

He never spoke, ordered a drink, or even showed his face,
he hardly moved at all and everyone gave him space.
The barman said, “You can’t sit there without buying a drink, ”
a stare of stone was the response, “okay, I’ll give you time to think.”

The place went deathly quiet as whispers could only be heard,
“Where did this monk person come from, doesn’t he look absurd? ”
The whispering stopped as the man turned and looked directly at me,
he pointed with his long skeletal finger and croaked, “You will be he.”

I gulped, and nervously asked, “What are you talking about? ”
“You’ll be leaving here with me, so let’s make our way out.”
“I’m not going anywhere, ” I said, “until I’ve finished my beer.”
That’s fine by me, ” he said, “I’ll be waiting here.”

To humour the old man I asked where he thought we were going.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet, and by the way I’ll be doing the rowing? ”
“I’m sorry old man I’m not going anywhere, it’s much too cold outside.”
“You haven’t got it yet have you; we’re taking your last boat-ride? ”

There are no boat-rides until spring the river’s been frozen for a week, ”
said the barman with a grin on his face that went from cheek to cheek.
“It’s not a literal boat-ride you fool it’s a journey everyone must take
and my job is to escort the travellers across the lake.”

“What is this old man on about, there are no lake’s around here,
come on everybody sup up, it’s time for another beer.”
“You are getting on my nerves barman give your mouth a rest,
or I’ll take someone with a mouth the size of his chest.”

The barman looked quite unsettled and threatened to throw him out
unless he ordered a drink, but he refused and called him a lout.
That’s it, ” the barman said, “I’ve heard enough let’s have you outside.”
That’s good enough for me, ” said the old man, “you’ll be taking the ride.”

At that precise moment the barman collapsed clutching his heart,
an ambulance was called and within minutes they had made a start.
The paramedics tried in vain to revive him: alas they could do no more,
but see the barman’s spirit and the old man walk through the door.

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The Old Man with the Broken Arm

At Hsin-fëng—an old man—four-score and eight;
The hair on his head and the hair of his eyebrows—white as the new snow.
Leaning on the shoulders of his great-grandchildren, he walks in front of the Inn;
With his left arm he leans on their shoulders; his right arm is broken.
I asked the old man how many years had passed since he broke his arm;
I also asked the cause of the injury, how and why it happened.
The old man said he was born and reared in the District of Hsin-fëng;
At the time of his birth—a wise reign; no wars or discords.
“Often I listened in the Pear-Tree Garden to the sound of flute and song;
Naught I knew of banner and lance; nothing of arrow or bow.
Then came the wars of T’ien-pao and the great levy of men;
Of three men in each house—one man was taken.
And those to whom the lot fell, where were they taken to?
Five months’ journey, a thousand miles—away to Yiin-nan.
We heard it said that in Yiin-nan there flows the Lu River;
As the flowers fall from the pepper-trees, poisonous vapors rise.
When the great army waded across, the water seethed like a cauldron;
When barely ten had entered the water, two or three were dead.
To the north of my village, to the south of my village the sound of weeping and wailing,
Children parting from fathers and mothers; husbands parting from wives.
Everyone says that in expeditions against the Min tribes
Of a million men who are sent out, not one returns.

I, that am old, was then twenty-four;
My name and fore-name were written down in the rolls of the Board of War.
In the depth of the night not daring to let any one know
I secretly took a huge stone and dashed it against my arm.
For drawing the bow and waving the banner now wholly unfit;
I knew henceforward I should not be sent to fight in Yün-nan.
Bones broken and sinews wounded could not fail to hurt;
I was ready enough to bear pain, if only I got back home.
My arm—broken ever since; it was sixty years ago.
One limb, although destroyed—whole body safe!
But even now on winter nights when the wind and rain blow
From evening on till day’s dawn I cannot sleep for pain.
Not sleeping for pain
Is a small thing to bear,
Compared with the joy of being alive when all the rest are dead.
For otherwise, years ago, at the ford of Lu River
My body would have died and my soul hovered by the bones that no one gathered.
A ghost, I’d have wandered in Yiin-nan, always looking for home.
Over the graves of ten thousand soldiers, mournfully hovering.’’
So the old man spoke,
And I bid you listen to his words.
Have you not heard
That the Prime Minister of K’ai-yüan, Sung K’ai-fu,
Did not reward frontier exploits, lest a spirit of aggression should prevail?
And have you not heard
That the Prime Minster of T’ien-Pao, Yang Kuo-chung
Desiring to win imperial favour, started a frontier war?
But long before he could win the war, people had lost their temper;
Ask the man with thy broken arm in the village of Hsin-fëng!

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There was a man who lived a life of fire

There was a man who lived a life of fire.
Even upon the fabric of time,
Where purple becomes orange
And orange purple,
This life glowed,
A dire red stain, indelible;
Yet when he was dead,
He saw that he had not lived.

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There was a man with tongue of wood

There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.

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Once there was a man

Once there was a man -
Oh, so wise!
In all drink
He detected the bitter,
And in all touch
He found the sting.
At last he cried thus:
'There is nothing -
No life,
No joy,
No pain -
There is nothing save opinion,
And opinion be damned.'

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There Was A Man

There was a man
My father said
Who walked on water
Saying he was the Son of God.

There was a man
My father said
Who taught of love and peace
Healed the sick and raised the dead.

There was a man
My father said
Who gave his life for us
And died nailed to a cross.

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There Is No Poem/ An Old Man Can't Write


There is no poem
An old man can’t write
If he sits in quiet long enough
And listens to the laughter within.
There is no poem
An old man can’t write
If he laughs and laughs and laughs
At himself
And all he has not been-
And all he knows God Always Will Be.

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