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Quotes about penury

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fifth Book

AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature,–with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God,
In still new worlds?–with summer-days in this,
That scarce dare breathe, they are so beautiful?–
With spring's delicious trouble in the ground
Tormented by the quickened blood of roots.
And softly pricked by golden crocus-sheaves
In token of the harvest-time of flowers?–
With winters and with autumns,–and beyond,
With the human heart's large seasons,–when it hopes
And fears, joys, grieves, and loves?–with all that strain
Of sexual passion, which devours the flesh
In a sacrament of souls? with mother's breasts,
Which, round the new made creatures hanging there,
Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres?–
With multitudinous life, and finally
With the great out-goings of ecstatic souls,

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Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

I.

My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.

II.

What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

III.

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III. The Other Half-Rome

Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved

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V. Count Guido Franceschini

Thanks, Sir, but, should it please the reverend Court,
I feel I can stand somehow, half sit down
Without help, make shift to even speak, you see,
Fortified by the sip of … why, 't is wine,
Velletri,—and not vinegar and gall,
So changed and good the times grow! Thanks, kind Sir!
Oh, but one sip's enough! I want my head
To save my neck, there's work awaits me still.
How cautious and considerate … aie, aie, aie,
Nor your fault, sweet Sir! Come, you take to heart
An ordinary matter. Law is law.
Noblemen were exempt, the vulgar thought,
From racking; but, since law thinks otherwise,
I have been put to the rack: all's over now,
And neither wrist—what men style, out of joint:
If any harm be, 't is the shoulder-blade,
The left one, that seems wrong i' the socket,—Sirs,
Much could not happen, I was quick to faint,
Being past my prime of life, and out of health.
In short, I thank you,—yes, and mean the word.

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The Pleasures of Hope

Part I.

At summer eve, when Heaven's ethereal bow
Spans with bright arch the glittering bills below,
Why to yon mountain turns the musing eye,
Whose sunbright summit mingles with the sky ?
Why do those clifts of shadowy tint appear
More sweet than all the landscape smiling near ?—
'T is distance lends enchantment to the view,
And robes the mountain in its azure hue.
Thus, with delight, we linger to survey
The promised joys of life's unmeasured way;
Thus, from afar, each dim-discovered scene
More pleasing seems than all the past hath been,
And every form, that Fancy can repair
From dark oblivion, glows divinely there.
What potent spirit guides the raptured eye
To pierce the shades of dim futurity ?
Can Wisdom lend, with all her heavenly power,
The pledge of Joy's anticipated hour ?

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At The Gate Of The Convent

Beside the Convent Gate I stood,
Lingering to take farewell of those
To whom I owed the simple good
Of three days' peace, three nights' repose.

My sumpter-mule did blink and blink;
Was nothing more to munch or quaff;
Antonio, far too wise to think,
Leaned vacantly upon his staff.

It was the childhood of the year:
Bright was the morning, blithe the air;
And in the choir I plain could hear
The monks still chanting matin prayer.

The throstle and the blackbird shrilled,
Loudly as in an English copse,
Fountain-like note that, still refilled,
Rises and falls, but never stops.

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Grandmother’s Teaching

``Grandmother dear, you do not know; you have lived the old-world life,
Under the twittering eaves of home, sheltered from storm and strife;
Rocking cradles, and covering jams, knitting socks for baby feet,
Or piecing together lavender bags for keeping the linen sweet:
Daughter, wife, and mother in turn, and each with a blameless breast,
Then saying your prayers when the nightfall came, and quietly dropping to rest.

``You must not think, Granny, I speak in scorn, for yours have been well-spent days,
And none ever paced with more faithful feet the dutiful ancient ways.
Grandfather's gone, but while he lived you clung to him close and true,
And mother's heart, like her eyes, I know, came to her straight from you.
If the good old times, at the good old pace, in the good old grooves would run,
One could not do better, I'm sure of that, than do as you all have done.

``But the world has wondrously changed, Granny, since the days when you were young;
It thinks quite different thoughts from then, and speaks with a different tongue.
The fences are broken, the cords are snapped, that tethered man's heart to home;
He ranges free as the wind or the wave, and changes his shore like the foam.
He drives his furrows through fallow seas, he reaps what the breakers sow,
And the flash of his iron flail is seen mid the barns of the barren snow.

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The Golden Age

Long ere the Muse the strenuous chords had swept,
And the first lay as yet in silence slept,
A Time there was which since has stirred the lyre
To notes of wail and accents warm with fire;
Moved the soft Mantuan to his silvery strain,
And him who sobbed in pentametric pain;
To which the World, waxed desolate and old,
Fondly reverts, and calls the Age of Gold.

Then, without toil, by vale and mountain side,
Men found their few and simple wants supplied;
Plenty, like dew, dropped subtle from the air,
And Earth's fair gifts rose prodigal as prayer.
Love, with no charms except its own to lure,
Was swiftly answered by a love as pure.
No need for wealth; each glittering fruit and flower,
Each star, each streamlet, made the maiden's dower.
Far in the future lurked maternal throes,
And children blossomed painless as the rose.
No harrowing question `why,' no torturing `how,'

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Ambrose Bierce

Foundations Of The State

Observe, dear Lord, what lively pranks
Are played by sentimental cranks!
First this one mounts his hinder hoofs
And brays the chimneys off the roofs;
Then that one, with exalted voice,
Expounds the thesis of his choice,
Our understandings to bombard,
Till all the window panes are starred!
A third augments the vocal shock
Till steeples to their bases rock,
Confessing, as they humbly nod,
They hear and mark the will of God.
A fourth in oral thunder vents
His awful penury of sense
Till dogs with sympathetic howls,
And lowing cows, and cackling fowls,
Hens, geese, and all domestic birds,
Attest the wisdom of his words.
Cranks thus their intellects deflate
Of theories about the State.

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Ambrose Bierce

The Oakland Dog

I lay one happy night in bed
And dreamed that all the dogs were dead.
They'd all been taken out and shot
Their bodies strewed each vacant lot.

O'er all the earth, from Berkeley down
To San Leandro's ancient town,
And out in space as far as Niles
I saw their mortal parts in piles.

One stack upreared its ridge so high
Against the azure of the sky
That some good soul, with pious views,
Put up a steeple and sold pews.

No wagging tail the scene relieved:
I never in my life conceived
(I swear it on the Decalogue!)
Such penury of living dog.

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