Canto II from The Angel in the House by Coventry Patmore

When I behold the skies aloft
   Passing the pageantry of dreams,
The cloud whose bosom, cygnet-soft,
   A couch for nuptial Juno seems,
The ocean broad, the mountains bright,
   The shadowy vales with feeding herds,
I from my lyre the music smite,
   Nor want for justly matching words.
All forces of the sea and air,
   All interests of hill and plain,
I so can sing, in seasons fair,
   That who hath felt may feel again.
Elated oft by such free songs,
   I think with utterance free to raise
That hymn for which the whole world longs,
   A worthy hymn in woman’s praise;
A hymn bright-noted like a bird’s,
   Arousing these song-sleepy times
With rhapsodies of perfect words,
   Ruled by returning kiss of rhymes.
But when I look on her and hope
   To tell with joy what I admire,
My thoughts lie cramp’d in narrow scope,
   Or in the feeble birth expire;
No mystery of well-woven speech,
   No simplest phrase of tenderest fall,
No liken’d excellence can reach
   Her, thee most excellent of all,
The best half of creation’s best,
   Its heart to feel, its eye to see,
The crown and complex of the rest,
   Its aim and its epitome.
Nay, might I utter my conceit,
   ’Twere after all a vulgar song,
For she’s so simply, subtly sweet,
   My deepest rapture does her wrong.
Yet is it now my chosen task
   To sing her worth as Maid and Wife;
Nor happier post than this I ask,
   To live her laureate all my life.
On wings of love uplifted free,
   And by her gentleness made great,
I’ll teach how noble man should be
   To match with such a lovely mate;
CAnd then in her may move the more
   The woman’s wish to be desired,
(By praise increased), till both shall soar,
   With blissful emulations fired.
And, as geranium, pink, or rose
   Is thrice itself through power of art,
So may my happy skill disclose
   New fairness even in her fair heart;
Until that churl shall nowhere be
   Who bends not, awed, before the throne
Of her affecting majesty,
   So meek, so far unlike our own;
Until (for who may hope too much
   From her who wields the powers of love?)
Our lifted lives at last shall touch
   That happy goal to which they move;
Until we find, as darkness rolls
   Away, and evil mists dissolve,
That nuptial contrasts are the poles
   On which the heavenly spheres revolve.

maggie and milly and molly and may by E.E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

A Prayer in the Spring by Robert Frost

OH, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

The Flowers Lesson by Louisa May Alcott

THERE grew a fragrant rose-tree where the brook flows,
With two little tender buds, and one full rose;
When the sun went down to his bed in the west,
The little buds leaned on the rose-mother’s breast,
While the bright eyed stars their long watch kept,
And the flowers of the valley in their green cradles slept;
Then silently in odors they communed with each other,
The two little buds on the bosom of their mother.
“O sister,” said the little one, as she gazed at the sky,
“I wish that the Dew Elves, as they wander lightly by,
Would bring me a star; for they never grow dim,
And the Father does not need them to burn round him.
The shining drops of dew the Elves bring each day
And place in my bosom, so soon pass away;
But a star would glitter brightly through the long summer hours,
And I should be fairer than all my sister flowers.
That were better far than the dew-drops that fall
On the high and the low, and come alike to all.
I would be fair and stately, with a bright star to shine
And give a queenly air to this crimson robe of mine.”
And proudly she cried, “These fire-flies shall be
My jewels, since the stars can never come to me.”
Just then a tiny dew-drop that hung o’er the dell
On the breast of the bud like a soft star fell;
But impatiently she flung it away from her leaf,
And it fell on her mother like a tear of grief,
While she folded to her breast, with wilful pride,
A glittering fire-fly that hung by her side.
“Heed,” said the mother rose, “daughter mine,
Why shouldst thou seek for beauty not thine?
The Father hath made thee what thou now art;
And what he most loveth is a sweet, pure heart.
Then why dost thou take with such discontent
The loving gift which he to thee hath sent?
For the cool fresh dew will render thee far
More lovely and sweet than the brightest star;
They were made for Heaven, and can never come to shine
Like the fire-fly thou hast in that foolish breast of thine.
O my foolish little bud, do listen to thy mother;
Care only for true beauty, and seek for no other.
There will be grief and trouble in that wilful little heart;
Unfold thy leaves, my daughter, and let the fly depart.”
But the proud little bud would have her own will,
And folded the fire-fly more closely still;
Till the struggling insect tore open the vest
Of purple and green, that covered her breast.
When the sun came up, she saw with grief
The blooming of her sister bud leaf by leaf.
While she, once as fair and bright as the rest,
Hung her weary head down on her wounded breast.
Bright grew the sunshine, and the soft summer air
Was filled with the music of flowers singing there;
But faint grew the little bud with thirst and pain,
And longed for the cool dew; but now ‘t was in vain.
Then bitterly she wept for her folly and pride,
As drooping she stood by her fair sister’s side.
Then the rose mother leaned the weary little head
On her bosom to rest, and tenderly she said:
“Thou hast learned, my little bud, that, whatever may betide,
Thou canst win thyself no joy by passion or by pride.
The loving Father sends the sunshine and the shower,
That thou mayst become a perfect little flower;—
The sweet dews to feed thee, the soft wind to cheer,
And the earth as a pleasant home, while thou art dwelling here.
Then shouldst thou not be grateful for all this kindly care,
And strive to keep thyself most innocent and fair?
Then seek, my little blossom, to win humility;
Be fair without, be pure within, and thou wilt happy be.
So when the quiet Autumn of thy fragrant life shall come,
Thou mayst pass away, to bloom in the Flower Spirits’ home.”
Then from the mother’s breast, where it still lay hid,
Into the fading bud the dew-drop gently slid;
Stronger grew the little form, and happy tears fell,
As the dew did its silent work, and the bud grew well,
While the gentle rose leaned, with motherly pride,
O’er the fair little ones that bloomed at her side.

Night came again, and the fire-flies flew;
But the bud let them pass, and drank of the dew;
While the soft stars shone, from the still summer heaven,
On the happy little flower that had learned the lesson given.

Early Spring by Fay Inchfawn

Quick through the gates of Fairyland
The South Wind forced his way.
‘Twas his to make the Earth forget
Her grief of yesterday.
“‘Tis mine,” cried he, “to bring her joy!”
And on his lightsome feet
In haste he slung the snowdrop bells,
Pushed past the Fairy sentinels,
And out with laughter sweet.

Clear flames of Crocus glimmered on
The shining way he went.
He whispered to the trees strange tales
Of wondrous sweet intent,
When, suddenly, his witching voice
With timbre rich and rare,
Rang through the woodlands till it cleft
Earth’s silent solitudes, and left
A Dream of Roses there!

Spring by Christina Rossetti

Frost-locked all the winter,
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
What shall make their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?
Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath,
Life nursed in its grave by Death.

Blows the thaw-wind pleasantly,
Drips the soaking rain,
By fits looks down the waking sun:
Young grass springs on the plain;
Young leaves clothe early hedgerow trees;
Seeds, and roots, and stones of fruits,
Swollen with sap put forth their shoots;
Curled-headed ferns sprout in the lane;
Birds sing and pair again.

There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track—
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack,—
Before the daisy grows a common flower,
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

There is no time like Spring,
Like Spring that passes by;
There is no life like Spring-life born to die,—
Piercing the sod,
Clothing the uncouth clod,
Hatched in the nest,
Fledged on the windy bough,
Strong on the wing:
There is no time like Spring that passes by,
Now newly born, and now
Hastening to die.

Sedge-Warblers by Edward Thomas

This beauty made me dream there was a time
Long past and irrecoverable, a clime
Where any brook so radiant racing clear
Through buttercup and kingcup bright as brass
But gentle, nourishing the meadow grass
That leans and scurries in the wind, would bear
Another beauty, divine and feminine,
Child to the sun, a nymph whose soul unstained
Could love all day, and never hate or tire,
A lover of mortal or immortal kin.

And yet, rid of this dream, ere I had drained
Its poison, quieted was my desire
So that I only looked into the water,
Clearer than any goddess or man’s daughter,
And hearkened while it combed the dark green hair
And shook the millions of the blossoms white
Of water-crowfoot, and curdled to one sheet
The flowers fallen from the chestnuts in the park
Far off. And sedge-warblers, clinging so light
To willow twigs, sang longer than the lark,
Quick, shrill, or grating, a song to match the heat
Of the strong sun, nor less the water’s cool,
Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool.
Their song that lacks all words, all melody,
All sweetness almost, was dearer then to me
Than sweetest voice that sings in tune sweet words.
This was the best of May the small brown birds
Wisely reiterating endlessly
What no man learnt yet, in or out of school.

Sympathy by Ellis Bell

There should be no despair for you
While nightly stars are burning;
While evening pours its silent dew,
And sunshine gilds the morning.
There should be no despair—though tears
May flow down like a river:
Are not the best beloved of years
Around your heart for ever?

They weep, you weep, it must be so;
Winds sigh as you are sighing,
And winter sheds its grief in snow
Where Autumn’s leaves are lying:
Yet, these revive, and from their fate
Your fate cannot be parted:
Then, journey on, if not elate,
Still, NEVER broken-hearted!

Ellis Bell, aka Emily Bronte 🙂

Love Song by Carol Muske-Dukes

Love comes hungry to anyone’s hand.
I found the newborn sparrow next to
the tumbled nest on the grass. Bravely

opening its beak. Cats circled, squirrels.
I tried to set the nest right but the wild
birds had fled. The knot of pin feathers

sat in my hand and spoke. Just because
I’ve raised it by touch, doesn’t mean it
follows. All day it pecks at the tin image of

a faceless bird. It refuses to fly,
though I’ve opened the door. What
sends us to each other? He and I

had a blue landscape, a village street,
some poems, bread on a plate. Love
was a camera in a doorway, love was

a script, a tin bird. Love was faceless,
even when we’d memorized each other’s
lines. Love was hungry, love was faceless,

the sparrow sings, famished, in my hand.

The Wind’s Word by Archibald Lampman

The wind charged every way, and fled
Across the meadows and the wheat;
It whirled the swallows overhead,
And swung the daisies at my feet.
As if in mockery of me,
And all the deadness of my thought,
It mounted to the largest glee,
And, like a lord that laughed and fought,
Took all the maples by surprise,
And made the poplars clash and shiver,
And flung my hair about my eyes,
And sprang and blackened on the river.
And through the elm-tree tops, and round
The city steeples wild and high,
It floundered with a mighty sound,
A buoyant voice that seemed to cry,—
“Behold how grand I am, how free!
And all the forest bends my way!
I roam the earth, I stalk the sea,
And make my labor but a play.”