More poetry

Kim mentioned a poem involving angels and laundry. I remember that too! I went looking for it, and I’m not sure, but I think it’s this one.

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window   
The morning air is all awash with angels.

That seems very familiar to me. If it’s not the one Kim was thinking of, I’m pretty sure it’s the one I was thinking of. That “awash with angels” is the line I seem to remember.

Kim also mentioned Break, Break, Break by Tennyson. Yes, I love that one!

Break, break, break,
         On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
         The thoughts that arise in me.

Here’s a snippet from Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

That’s one I don’t recall ever reading before. That’s certainly an evocative few lines there! At once I agree: I’m feeling old age rise toward me too, like a terrible fish! A shark, perhaps. Oddly, I do think the phrase “terrible fish” may be better there than “terrible shark.” I’m not sure why!

Speaking of e e cummings — and I ought to have remembered him — here’s “All in Green Went My Love Riding, sung by Joan Baez — it’s wonderful set to music.

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6 thoughts on “More poetry”

  1. Yes!! Thank you! I’ve been looking for that angel/laundry poem for ages! The imagery is so evocative!

    If you like modern choral music, look up Eric Whitacre’s settings of ee cumming’s poems.

    “Terrible shark” is big and scary and you can fight it off. “Terrible fish” is creepy and a little gross and you can’t fight it (how do you fight a fish??). Definitely the right metaphor for old age!

  2. If we are still on famous (but not necessarily the best) poems, in addition to the ones already mentioned: Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey (the wine-dark sea); John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale (magic casements opening out onto the foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn); Ode on a Grecian Urn (Beauty is truth, truth beauty); Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Adonais (he hath awakened from the dream of life, tis is death is dead, not he); William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud; William Butler Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium (This is no country for old men); Langston Hughes’ The Negro Speaks of Rivers (I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers); Robert Browning’s Ulysses (one equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate but strong in our desire to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield); W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues/Stop All the Clocks (He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest); Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Hiawatha (By the shores of Gitchee-Gumee, by the big sea water); Maya Angelou’s Shall I Rise. I could go on and on. It is IMPOSSIBLE to name only 20 most famous poems!

  3. Drat, I misremembered! Ulysses is by Tennyson not Browning. Well, it gives me a good excuse to reread all these poems anyway!

  4. Jeanine, thank you! I enjoyed that Longfellow poem. Again, I’m such a sucker for rhythm in poetry.

    Fiercely the red sun descending
    Burned his way along the heavens,
    Set the sky on fire behind him,
    As war-parties, when retreating,
    Burn the prairies on their war-trail;
    And the moon, the Night-sun, eastward,
    Suddenly starting from his ambush,
    Followed fast those bloody footprints,
    Followed in that fiery war-trail,
    With its glare upon his features.

  5. I think “terrible fish” fits with the idea that you’re staring into a pool, seeing the fish staring back. Sharks aren’t so much into staring, partly because they’re always in motion and partly because when you look at a shark’s face, you’re naturally focused away from the eyes and onto the teeth.

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