Worldly Wisdom

If it were in my dead Past’s power
To let my Present bask
In some lost pleasure for an hour,
This is the boon I’d ask:

Re-pedestal from out the dust
Where long ago ‘twas hurled,
My beautiful incautious trust
In this unworthy world.

The symbol of my souls own truth –
I saw it go with tears –
The sweet unwisdom of my youth –
That vanished with the years.

Since knowledge brings us only grief,
I would return again
To happy ignorance and belief
In motives and in men.


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X. On Dover Cliffs

ON these white cliffs, that calm above the flood
Rear their o'er-shadowing heads, and at their feet
Scarce hear the surge that has for ages beat,
Sure many a lonely wanderer has stood;
And, whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o'er the distant billows the still Eve
Sail'd slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
To-morrow -- of the friends he lov'd most dear, --
Of social scenes, from which he wept to part: --
But if, like me, he knew how fruitless all
The thoughts, that would full fain the past recall,


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Written In A Young Lady's Album

Sweet friend, the world, like some fair infant blessed,
Radiant with sportive grace, around thee plays;
Yet 'tis not as depicted in thy breast--
Not as within thy soul's fair glass, its rays
Are mirrored. The respectful fealty
That my heart's nobleness hath won for thee,
The miracles thou workest everywhere,
The charms thy being to this life first lent,--
To it, mere charms to reckon thou'rt content,
To us, they seem humanity so fair.
The witchery sweet of ne'er-polluted youth,
The talisman of innocence and truth--


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Worry About Money

Wearing worry about money like a hair shirt
I lie down in my bed and wrestle with my angel.

My bank-manager could not sanction my continuance for another day
But life itself wakes me each morning, and love

Urges me to give although I have no money
In the bank at this moment, and ought properly

To cease to exist in a world where poverty
Is a shameful and ridiculous offence.

Having no one to advise me, I open the Bible
And shut my eyes and put my finger on a text


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World Was In The Face Of The Beloved

World was in the face of the beloved--,
but suddenly it poured out and was gone:
world is outside, world can not be grasped.

Why didn't I, from the full, beloved face
as I raised it to my lips, why didn't I drink
world, so near that I couldn't almost taste it?

Ah, I drank. Insatiably I drank.
But I was filled up also, with too much
world, and, drinking, I myself ran over.


Translated by Stephen Mitchell


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Working Late

A light is on in my father's study.
"Still up?" he says, and we are silent,
looking at the harbor lights,
listening to the surf
and the creak of coconut boughs.

He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence,
actually pacing out and measuring,
while the fans revolving on the ceiling
winnow the true from the false.

Once he passed a brass curtain rod
through a head made out of plaster
and showed the jury the angle of fire--
where the murderer must have stood.


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With Esther

HE who has once been happy is for aye
   Out of destruction's reach. His fortune then
Holds nothing secret; and Eternity,
   Which is a mystery to other men,
Has like a woman given him its joy.
   Time is his conquest. Life, if it should fret.
Has paid him tribute. He can bear to die,
   He who has once been happy! When I set
The world before me and survey its range,
   Its mean ambitions, its scant fantasies,
The shreds of pleasure which for lack of change
   Men wrap around them and call happiness,


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Women's harvest song

I am waving a ripe sunflower,
I am scattering sunflower pollen to the four world-quarters.
I am joyful because of my melons,
I am joyful because of my beans,
I am joyful because of my squashes.

The sunflower waves.
So did the corn wave
When the wind blew against it,
So did my white corn bend
When the red lightning descended upon it,
It trembled as the sunflower
When the rain beat down its leaves.

Great is a ripe sunflower,
And great was the sun above my corn-fields.


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Woman And War

We women teach our little sons how wrong
And how ignoble blows are; school and church
Support our precepts and inoculate
The growing minds with thoughts of love and peace.
‘Let dogs delight to bark and bite, ’ we say;
But human beings with immortal souls
Must rise above the methods of the brute
And walk with reason and with self-control.

And then – dear God! you men, you wise, strong men,
Our self-announced superiors in brain,
Our peers in judgement, you go forth to war!
You leap at one another, mutilate


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Wishing

Do you wish the world were better?
Let me tell you what to do:
Set a watch for your actions,
Keep them always straight and true;
Rid tour mind of selfish motives;
Let your thoughts be clean and high.
You can make a little Eden
Of the sphere you occupy.

Do you wish the world were wiser?
Well, suppose you made a start,
By accumulating wisdom
In the scrapbook of your heart:
Do not waste one page on folly;
Live to learn, and learn to live.
If you want to give men knowledge


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