Poetry Thursday

You’ve possibly realized I’m doing my best to choose poems that aren’t actually familiar to me, that happen to catch my eye for one reason or another. I’ve been finding them, so far, by googling things like “classic but little-known poetry,” and it’s frustrating how the top zillion hits will return “The 31 best-known English poems” or whatever. Not sure why “little known” or “lesser known” is so hard to get.

I’m specifically looking for beauty of language and for themes that aren’t bitter or grim. Sad is fine. I’m not especially keen on modern poetry that shows neither beauty of language nor beauty of theme. Also, modern poems are of course not in the public domain, and I don’t want to step on copyright issues; therefore, classic or older poems.

If any of you happen to have a favorite less-famous shortish poem that you would like to share, by all means email me with the title and author or drop your suggestion in the comments.

Now, today, here’s a lovely short poem I’ve never encountered before:

This poem is called Looking at the Moon and Thinking of One Far Away,”  by a Chinese poet named Chang Chiu-Ling, who lived from roughly 678–740 A.D. and was a distinguished poet during the Tang Dynasty:

The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night….
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.


Here’s another poem by the same poet: “The Willow-Leaf”


I am in love with a child dreaming at the window.

Not for her elaborate house
On the banks of the Yellow River;

But for a willow-leaf she has let fall
Into the water.

I am in love with the east breeze.

Not that he brings the scent of the flowering of peaches
White on Eastern Hill;

But that he has drifted the willow-leaf
Against my boat.

I am in love with the willow-leaf.

Not that he speaks of green spring
Coming to us again;

But that the dreaming girl
Pricked there a name with her embroidery needle,
And the name is mine.

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9 thoughts on “Poetry Thursday”

  1. I remember that Epitaph poem by Housman, Rowan. I agree, I really like it.

    Dame Eleanor, I came THIS close to posting The River-Merchant’s Wife, which I remember from high school. I loved it then and I love it now. I’m editing your comment to add links to that one and to Joan Baez’s version of All in Green.

  2. Noyes, because he wrote a ton more than The Highwayman. Tales of the Mermaid Tavern is a long – six chapter – poem that could give you stuff for weeks of Thursdays. For that one he changed styles as he spoke in the persona of the particular poet. Or his Bacchus and the Pirates. Both available on gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30599/30599-h/30599-h.htm#Page_56 (that link goes to Bacchus & the Pirates.) Tales of the Mermaid Tavern in that gutenberg file (which looks identical to the volume we picked up half a year ago in a used bookstore) covers pages 274 through 434.

    For really unknown ones, try getting your hands on the Lockely Files: a Bit of Verse. Lockley was an Oregon journalist from 1915 – 32, who would throw them in at the end of his columns. They are very much of that time and place. He’s got everything from a farewell ode to the Colt .45, (The trails are safe; old foes forgot; We’ve shook the law of gun and dirk. The West has turned from blood to sweat, and put her fightin’ strength to work…) to Lines suggested by one of Chopin’s Nocturnes which begins:
    Love, when the waning autumn of thy life/Shall find thee old and withered as the leaf,/ When chill October with his windy knife /Harvests the faded splendor of the trees, /Think that thou too was lovely once as these; /Till churlish Time came creeping like a thief…
    It’s on the internet archive, but not otherwise digetized, as far as I can tell. But Amazon and ABEBooks also claim to have old copies.

    And Whittier, of whom we also picked up a couple volumes of of his poetry on that trip to the used bookstore. I don’t think I’d ever actually read any of his work before, and it is also very good.

  3. Definitely on the far end of sad, edging towards bleak, but utterly beautiful and not, I think, bitter or grim – “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”

    Also much-beloved, poem XVII, from Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems.

    And I didn’t mention it at the time, but I’ve adored the line “I have loved the stars too fondly / to be fearful of to night” since I encountered it as a kid (somewhere there is a quote book that baby-Allison put together in her early teens, and I hope it will turn up soon) but I don’t think I’d ever encountered the full poem!

  4. Allison, I put together a quote-and-poetry notebooks when I was a teenager, too! Eventually that turned into three pretty thick notebooks. I’ve got them somewhere. I should find them and take a look.

    I’d never seen the line “I have loved the stars too fondly,” as far as I can remember, but those are killer lines that I’m going to remember forever now.

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