Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Gallery of Famous English and American Poets

Decades ago, I was shopping in a second-hand store. It may have been Goodwill or Salvation Army. I always shopped for books—old books, and I’ve found some beauties, especially old art magazines from England. But this day, I saw the book featured here: 500 gold-leaf-edged pages of English and American Poets. The publication date is 1874. Most poets had their etched portraits to begin their sections, with more etchings interspersed throughout their poems. The book was $5. I snapped it up without hesitation. I have another of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 1975, but it’s not anywhere near as precious.

I chose a few first stanzas of some of the more popular poems, except for the full poem by Browning because I liked it so much. In addition to Gray, Tennyson, Keats, and Browning, there are poems by sixty-five more, including Wordsworth, Scott,  Whittier, Butler, Longfellow, and Poe. I found only three other women besides Elizabeth Barret Browning: Felicia Hemans, Jean Ingelow, and Caroline Ann Southey. I regret to say I’d only heard of Browning.

 Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
  The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
The Charge of the Light Brigade 
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

 Ode on a Grecian Urn 
Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Lady’s Yes
" Yes !" I answered you last night ;
 " No !" this morning, Sir, I say !
Colours, seen by candle-light,
Will not look the same by day.

When the tabors played their best,
Lamps above, and laughs below —
Love me sounded like a jest,
Fit for Yes or fit for No !

Call me false, or call me free —
Vow, whatever light may shine,
No man on your face shall see
Any grief for change on mine.

Yet the sin is on us both —
Time to dance is not to woo —
Wooer light makes fickle troth —
Scorn of me recoils on you !

Learn to win a lady's faith
Nobly, as the thing is high ;
Bravely, as for life and death —
With a loyal gravity.

Lead her from the festive boards,
Point her to the starry skies,
Guard her, by your truthful words,
Pure from courtship's flatteries.

By your truth she shall be true —
Ever true, as wives of yore —
And her Yes, once said to you, 
SHALL be Yes for evermore.

Polly Iyer is the author of ten novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and her newest, we are but WARRIORS. Also, four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment :

  1. A nice selection of poems. What a treasure to have that book! Thank you for sharing, Polly.


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