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Robert Louis Stevenson

There was an old man of the Cape
Who made himself garments of crepe.
When asked, "Do they tear?"
He replied, "Here and there,
But they're perfectly splendid for shape!"

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Before I Was An Old Man


Before I was an old man
Many centuries ago
I sang such a quiet deep song
A song so so beautiful
In its longing and its tenderness.

But now I am so so old
My song creaks
And my voice hears itself
As if a stranger’s noise
Pounding through my eardrums.

And I know am just just not the voice
I was,
Quiet and deep and strong-

Long long ago,
Before I lived in this century.

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The Old Man Of The Sea


Do you know the Old Man of the Sea, of the Sea?
Have you met with that dreadful old man?
If you have n't been caught, you will be, you will be;
For catch you he must and he can.

He does n't hold on by your throat, by your throat,
As of old in the terrible tale;
But he grapples you tight by the coat, by the coat,
Till its buttons and button-holes fail.

There's the charm of a snake in his eye, in his eye,
And a polypus-grip in his hands;
You cannot go back, nor get by, nor get by,
If you look at the spot where he stands.

Oh, you're grabbed! See his claw on your sleeve, on your sleeve!
It is Sinbad's Old Man of the Sea!
You're a Christian, no doubt you believe, you believe
You're a martyr, whatever you be!

Is the breakfast-hour past? They must wait, they must wait,
While the coffee boils sullenly down,
While the Johnny-cake burns on the grate, on the grate,
And the toast is done frightfully brown.

Yes, your dinner will keep; let it cool, let it cool,
And Madam may worry and fret,
And children half-starved go to school, go to school;
He can't think of sparing you yet.

Hark! the bell for the train! 'Come along! Come along!
For there is n't a second to lose.'
'ALL ABOARD!' (He holds on.) 'Fsht I ding-dong! Fsht! ding-dong!'--
You can follow on foot, if you choose.

There's a maid with a cheek like a peach, like a peach,
That is waiting for you in the church;--
But he clings to your side like a leech, like a leech,
And you leave your lost bride in the lurch.

There's a babe in a fit,--hurry quick! hurry quick!
To the doctor's as fast as you can!
The baby is off, while you stick, while you stick,
In the grip of the dreadful Old Man!

I have looked on the face of the Bore, of the Bore;
The voice of the Simple I know;
I have welcomed the Flat at my door, at my door;
I have sat by the side of the Slow;

I have walked like a lamb by the friend, by the friend,
That stuck to my skirts like a bur;
I have borne the stale talk without end, without end,
Of the sitter whom nothing could stir.

But my hamstrings grow loose, and I shake, and I shake,
At the sight of the dreadful Old Man;
Yea, I quiver and quake, and I take, and I take,
To my legs with what vigor I can!

Oh the dreadful Old Man of the Sea, of the Sea
He's come back like the Wandering Jew!
He has had his cold claw upon me, upon me,--
And be sure that he'll have it on you!

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Patrick White

Dancing With An Old Man Under The Moon

Dancing with an old man under the moon
with nothing but your tattoos on,
as it rose over the treeline like a mushroom
and as beauty is to wisdom,
the blossom of your fire
to the smoke of stacked firewood
waiting to be immolated in the Bonfire of the Vanities
like an library of fingerprints on paper
just to prove that we were here once
long before this autumn made a ghost of us
and we could feel more naked with our clothes on
than we ever have done with them off.

Junkies hitting up in a snakepit of desire,
the Burmese python a heroin addict in a swamp,
the high-wire act of the rose in the circus,
the aerial acrobatics of our noblest emotions
swinging through the unimpeachable air
on a one-handed trapeze that was the axis mundi
of the world in the aberrant orbit
of a lightning struck weathervane.

Your body, a guitar; your soul, an inflammable violin,
when I wasn't burning bridges with you
like connections we didn't want to make
we were going for long firewalks among the stars
hand in hand like a couple that grew up
in the same neighbourhood that paid no attention
to whether they went out into the world and made good.
I was improbably inclined
and you were desperately uncertain
and we kept the little that was chaste between us
bucolic with shepherd moons
and major and minor dogs trying to pasture a rabbit.

Some women are beautiful like moonlit gazelles
and Greek vases are, and you stand back silently
as you would before any masterpiece of classical form
cooly and contemplatively as if you were musing
in your amazement on a first magnitude star
it would be an aesthetic desecration to touch
with anything as unshapely as a human in love.
But you knew how to swing your hips like an hourglass
and I've always been happy to be suckered by time
into filling in on the night shift for a sacred clown
who had to meet a dead line, finishing a cartoon
of the constellations he drew for a newspaper
like an out of date starmap that had to cut back on its print run.

You came with doves, I saw them, with plaster casts
on their broken wings, deadly nightshade, black orchids
that had once been the shadows of beauty queens,
and the fragrance of big pheromones charging
the summer night in your eyes with an aura of urgency
you kept hid under the eyelids of your innocence
and I could never tell whether you were the salvage
of the witch that was drowned in a trial by ordeal
or the one that showed everyone how easy it was
to walk on water when you had to save yourself.
Intrigued by the dawn of your smile, by midnight,
I was ready to sacrifice myself to the cult of it
like a Druid with a lunar sickle to the apple-bloom
of a tree alphabet deranged by the dissociated sensibilities
of an occult muse just coming out of eclipse.

I was making catalogues of the stars
that lay like ashes in my eyes when you suddenly flared up
like the saline spirit of a green flame burning in all my firepits
that began to feel they had the vision of a young dragon again
to see such foxfire blooming in the eye-sockets of its urns,
after the dark rain and fire storms, the excruciating pain
of living a life of coal predicated upon the possibility of diamonds,
the transmutation of the low into a union with the high
like a snake with wings that could ride, by God, it could ride
its own mystic wavelengths like a plutonic alloy
of the early Bronze Age just as the heroes were getting ready
to cut the umbilical cords with their hysterical, Medusan mothers.

Gratitude? Yes. You braved the taboo of the wizard
like a night bird on my windowsill, like a star
through the bars of my isolation cell
in a covert observatory buried underground
like a radical theater in a dead planetarium
staging doomsday scenarios for an unenlightened think tank
that never turned the light around on themselves
to discover that their third eye isn't the lens of a telescope.

And maybe you were the last hurrah of my flesh and bones
but, baby, you didn't leave anything elegaic in my blood
to prove it and I think it came as no less of a surprise to you
as it did to me, beyond the shadow of the searchlight of our doubt,
love had removed the black spot from my heart
like a planet in transit across a Venutian sun
and put it on your cheek like a beauty mark
in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
to tempt Hafiz into offering Samarkand
to a young slave girl if she would only take his hand
among the rose bushes on the banks of the Ruknabad
even if it meant he had to account to the khan
for what he squandered like gardens on the moon.

Born with wings on the heels of my cowboy boots
instead of spurs, who so club-footed
or cloven-hoofed and sodden
as camels in a B.C. gold rush
as to dance with you in sensible shoes?

Your hair was autumn. Your eyes were spring.
I lived for awhile, o who could know how to thank you,
for six months like a supernova in love with a black hole
at the vernal equinox in the thirteenth house
of the zodiac I still consult like a starmap of your tattoos
when I'm out walking in the woods alone
with the full moon that hasn't paled them in its light
even after all these years, still dancing with you in the night,
an old man circumambulating the fires of a dark bliss
by himself, certain he knows who he's dancing with and for.

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Edward Lear

There was an Old Man of the Cape,
Who possessed a large Barbary ape,
Till the ape one dark night
Set the house all alight,
Which burned that Old Man of the Cape.

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Even An Old Man Needs The Spring


Even an old man needs the Spring
And wants to see the world born again in Beauty -
Even an old man loves
The fresh flowers and green
The morning light of hope -
Even an old man
Wants to feel the world young again
And he in himself
Carefree and happy too.

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Old Man On The Farm

Hes waitin for come rain to fall
Hes waitin for some mail to come
Hes waitin for the dawn again
Old man on the farm
Milk the cow - slop the pigs
Sweeping out the chicken-house
Drinking whiskey in the barn
Goodnight ladies
Sorry if I stayed too long
So long its been good to know you
I love the way I sing that song

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Little Blue Bird And The Old Man Under The Tree

and the old man with a sigh murmurs upon himself

'little bird, little bird,
how sweet is your song
how i wish i can listen
some more time'

and the little blue bird high on the tree stops to sing
and looks at the old man with pity

'my dear old man
would you like to be a little blue bird some other time? '

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Poem (Old man in the crystal morning after snow)

Old man in the crystal morning after snow,
Your throat swathed in a muffler, your bent
Figure building the snow man which is meant
For the grandchild's target,
do you know
This fat cartoon, his eyes pocked in with coal
Nears you each time your breath smokes the air,
Lewdly grinning out of a private nightmare?
He is the white cold shadow of your soul.

You build his comic head, you place his comic hat;
Old age is not so serious, and I
By the window sad and watchful as a cat,
Build to this poem of old age and of snow,
And weep: you are my snow man and I know
I near you, you near him, all of us must die.

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Lodging with the Old Man of the Stream

Men's hearts love gold and jade;
Men's mouths covet wine and flesh.
Not so the old man of the stream;
He drinks from his gourd and asks nothing more.
South of the stream he cuts firewood and grass;
North of the stream he has built wall and roof.
Yearly he sows a single acre of land;
In spring he drives two yellow calves.
In these things he finds great repose;
Beyond these he has no wish or care.
By chance I meet him walking by the water-side;
He took me home and lodged me in his thatched hut.
When I parted from him, to seek market and Court,
This old man asked my rank and pay.
Doubting my tale, he laughed loud and long:
'Privy Councillors do not sleep in barns.'

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There once was an old man of Lyme
Who married three wives at a time,
When asked, 'Why a third?'
He replied, 'One's absurd!
And bigamy, sir, is a crime.

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There once was an old man of Lyme
Who married three wives at a time,
When asked, "Why a third?"
He replied, "One's absurd!
And bigamy, sir, is a crime.

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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 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 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 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 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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Old Man (Fun Poem 20)

There was an old man,
who put a bet on a horse.
The bookie told him it was a winner,
and he thought he’d win a lot,
but when the race was over,
he found he’d bet on the wrong horse,
and he had lost a lot.

The moral of this story,
every story has one to be sure.
Next time you place a bet.
This I have to say to you.
Check that bet twice,
just to make sure,
you haven’t put your money on a sure loser.

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In Memory of an Old Man

he was an old man then...
6 foot 4, still strong
as an ox...
a carpenter...
and i was his helper;
building interstate bridges
in the south,
walking i-beams,
60 foot off the ground...
2.50 an hour!

we used to go
to his house
after work...
he'd scramble a dozen
eggs, or so...
and break out the sugarhead.
we'd spend hours
listening to him talk
about women, fighting,
loving, and just life!

carrying a sheet of plywood
on a windy day...
i wavered, one foot off the beam.
i felt his gnarled hand
grab my shoulder:
'you dont wanna go down there, boy! '

time has passed, and now i'm old...
and i see my daughters
wavering on the beam...
and i catch myself saying:
'you dont wanna go down there, girl! '

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Old Man, Old Woman

Old man, old man
Cussing on the street
To an old woman
About the money for the meat

Old man, old man
Knocked the woman down
She hit him back so hard
That he start to spin around

Old man, old man
Just wont let it end
He hit the woman back
And she spent him aroung again

Old man, old man
Never gone to stop-
She pulled a knife
Sliced him once
There the old man droped

Old man, old man
Nothing do he say
Three-hundred fifty bucks
For the plot where he lay

Old woman, old woman
Sent off to jail
She was to slow inside
That she caught a lot of hell

Old woman, old woman
Finally made parole
She bought a spoon, rented a room
Just above the store

Old woman, old woman
Had a midnight fright
A youngest from the neighborhood
Broke her with his knife.

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