Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"There's been a Death, in the Opposite House", by Emily Dickinson

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House, by Emily Dickinson

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House,
As lately as Today --
I know it, by the numb look
Such Houses have -- alway --

The Neighbors rustle in and out --
The Doctor -- drives away --
A Window opens like a Pod --
Abrupt -- mechanically --

Somebody flings a Mattress out --
The Children hurry by --
They wonder if it died -- on that --
I used to -- when a Boy --

The Minister -- goes stiffly in --
As if the House were His --
And He owned all the Mourners -- now --
And little Boys -- besides --

And then the Milliner -- and the Man
Of the Appalling Trade --
To take the measure of the House --
There'll be that Dark Parade --

Of Tassels -- and of Coaches -- soon --
It's easy as a Sign --
The Intuition of the News --
In just a Country Town --

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward" by John Donne

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward by John Donne

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheares, by being growne
Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
Hence is't, that I am carryed towards the West
This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I'almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc'd with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag'd, and torne?
If on these things I durst not looke, durst I
Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was Gods partner here, and furnish'd thus
Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom'd us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They'are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look'st towards mee,
O Saviour, as thou hang'st upon the tree;
I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may'st know mee, and I'll turne my face.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Exposure" by Seamus Heaney

It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead I walk through damp leaves,
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,

Imagining a hero
On some muddy compound,
His gift like a slingstone
Whirled for the desperate.

How did I end up like this?
I often think of my friends'
Beautiful prismatic counselling
And the anvil brains of some who hate me

As I sit weighing and weighing
My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people?
For what is said behind-backs?

Rain comes down through the alders,
Its low conductive voices
Mutter about let-downs and erosions
And yet each drop recalls

The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer;
An inner émigré, grown long-haired
And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

Escaped from the massacre,
Taking protective colouring
From bole and bark, feeling
Every wind that blows;

Who, blowing up these sparks
For their meagre heat, have missed
The once-in-a-lifetime portent,
The comet's pulsing rose.


Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication
For Mary Heaney

I. Sunlight
There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

Heaney Lecture

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


by Gail Mazur

What you want for it you'd want
for a child: that she take hold;
that her roots find home in stony

winter soil; that she take seasons
in stride, seasons that shape and
reshape her; that like a dancer's,

her limbs grow pliant, graceful
and surprising; that she know,
in her branchings, to seek balance;

that she know when to flower, when
to wait for the returns; that she turn
to a giving sun; that she know

fruit as it ripens; that what's lost
to her will be replaced; that early
summer afternoons, a full blossoming

tree, she cast lacy shadows; that change
not frighten her, rather that change
meet her embrace; that remembering

her small history, she find her place
in an orchard; that she be her own
orchard; that she outlast you;

that she prepare for the hungry world
(the fallen world, the loony world)
something shapely, useful, new, delicious.

"Chinese Scroll Painting of Bamboo"

Chinese Scroll Painting of Bamboo

Those who understand the bamboo
respect its majesty, its virtue;
know that because it has a hollow heart
it is free from the tyranny of passion;
that it towers above the ordinary,
can withstand changing winds,
does not bend to oppression,
grows as thoughts grow in brains,
is in harmony with nature.

The artist who sketches the bamboo
with ink, on silk or on rice paper,
knows that his pen must flow like water
or he will show disrespect for the bamboo.
He cannot hesitate; his brush must move
like a cloud, because the bamboo
will not conform to the blotches and stains
of human error. Nor will it ever
belong to artist or emperor.

--Phillip Corwin

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Letters To A Young Poet 3

Viareggio, near Pisa (Italy)

April 23, 1903

You gave me much pleasure, dear Sir, with your Easter letter; for it brought much good news of you, and the way you spoke about Jacobsen's great and beloved art showed me that I was not wrong to guide your fife and its many questions to this abundance.

Now Niels Lyhne will open to you, a book of splendors and depths; the more often one reads it, the more everything seems to be contained within it, from life's most imperceptible fragrances to the full, enormous taste of its heaviest fruits. In it there is nothing that does not seem to have been understood, held, lived, and known in memory's wavering echo; no experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others. You will experience the great happiness of reading this book for the first time, and will move through its numberless surprises as if you were in a new dream. But I can tell you that even later on one moves through these books, again and again, with the same astonishment and that they lose none of their wonderful power and relinquish none of the overwhelming enchantment that they had the first time one read them.

One just comes to enjoy them more and more, becomes more and more grateful, and somehow better and simpler in one's vision, deeper in one's faith in life, happier and greater in the way one lives.

And later on, you will have to read the wonderful book of the fate and yearning of Marie Grubbe, and Jacobsen's letters and journals and fragments, and finally his verses which (even if they are just moderately well translated) live in infinite sound. (For this reason I would advise you to buy, when you can, the lovely Complete Edition of Jacobsen's works, which contains all of these. It is in three volumes, well translated, published by Eugen Diederichs in Leipzig, and costs, I think, only five or six marks per volume.)

In your opinion of "Roses should have been here . . ." (that work of such incomparable delicacy and form) you are of course quite, quite incontestably right, as against the man who wrote the introduction. But let me make this request right away: Read as little as possible of literary criticism. Such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are clever word-games, in which one view wins , and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentation, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

Letters To A Young Poet 1

February 17, 1903
Dear Sir,

Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. That is all I can do. I cannot discuss your verses; for any attempt at criticism would be foreign to me. Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsay able than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

With this note as a preface, may I just tell you that your verses have no style of their own, although they do have silent and hidden beginnings of something personal. I feel this most clearly in the last poem, "My Soul." There, some thing of your own is trying to become word and melody. And in the lovely poem "To Leopardi" a kind of kinship with that great, solitary figure does perhaps appear. Nevertheless, the poems are not yet anything in themselves, not yet any thing independent, even the last one and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them managed to make clear to me various faults that I felt in reading your verses, though I am not able to name them specifically.

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sound - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn't write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say.

What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.

It was a pleasure for me to find in your letter the name of Professor Horacek; I have great reverence for that kind, learned man, and a gratitude that has lasted through the years. Will you please tell him how I feel; it is very good of him to still think of me, and I appreciate it.

The poem that you entrusted me with, I am sending back to you. And I thank you once more for your questions and sincere trust, of which, by answering as honestly as I can, I have tried to make myself a little worthier than I, as a stranger, really am.

Yours very truly,

Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, March 15, 2010

Robert Mitchell Tribute

Robert Mitchell, RIP (May 27, 2009)

You may never have heard of Robert Mitchell. But it doesn’t matter. This account of him, written by one of his students, places him in that instantly recognisable band of wonderful, slightly wacky Latin teachers, who inspired so many of us with our enduring love of Latin.

by Esther Mobley
Newton North ‘07

The loss of Robert Mitchell on Wednesday is more than the loss of a beloved teacher and friend: it is the loss of a member of an endangered species.

Mr. Mitchell was a Latin teacher at Newton North for the last twenty years. His history prior to that is a mystery. Whenever we asked, hungry for a personal anecdote, about his childhood, he would tell us, “I was never a child.” And indeed this was not hard to believe. Mr. Mitchell, it always seemed, was somehow super-human. He claimed to read a book, an average of three hundred pages, every day. The human brain, he always said, can’t really retain more than twenty-two languages – and that’s how many he knew. On one particularly energetic day, upon learning that none of us had ever read Chaucer, without which English literature is meaningless, he said, he gave us a beginning lesson in Anglo-Saxon. Mr. Mitchell woke up every morning and swam three miles, then ran six more. We learned of his exercise regimen on our very first day of class, when he hurried into the classroom five minutes late, drenched in sweat from his head to his feet (on which he refused to ever wear socks), panting and out of breath. We waited for an explanation for his appearance, an apology for his tardiness, but instead he began: “My favorite authors are Herodotus and Dickens.”

Once a student casually asked him if there was a translation of the Gettysburg Address in Latin. There was not, and so Mr. Mitchell came into school at six o’clock the next morning and translated it himself, from memory, unaided by any dictionary, within a matter of hours. He filled Room 318’s two wall-length chalkboards in his narrow, near-unintelligible calligraphy.

He realized, more completely than any I have ever witnessed, the Juvenalian formulation of mens sana in corpore sano.

In reality, Mr. Mitchell was not super-human, but rather one of the few surviving members of an ancient species, the Romans. What other type of human being achieves his level of discipline, bodily and mental, for free? The rest of us always seem to be working for pay, or at least nominal recognition. But Mr. Mitchell was born with an inborn sense of pietas, in the Virgilian sense of the word. Pietas can’t be translated as piety; it’s more than that. It’s an absolute devotion to deity, to duty, to discipline for the sake of discipline. He was a mystery to us not only because of his refusal to divulge any details about his personal life, but also because the pietas that governed his words and deeds is absolutely foreign to our modern American consciousness. This exotic quality made us infinitely curious about him: his insistence that he was never a child sent us on a desperate search for evidence of his childhood.

I asked him once why he never married. The answer, essentially, was that pietas was more important than marriage. He told me that he had had several proposals, but that he could never be eternally bound to another person. He reminded me that Aeneas, the archetype of pietas, sacrifices his own happiness for duty when he abandons Dido in Book IV of the Aeneid. Aeneas can’t get married and hang around in Carthage; he has to go found Rome. In a sense, it was Mr. Mitchell’s lifelong endeavor to be a custodian of the civilization that Pius Aeneas founded: with every word he spoke, he was trying to keep alive a tradition whose death in our modern world is imminent. The eulogy for the Latin language – not as the Roman Catholic Church speaks it but as the ancient Romans wrote it – has already been written. Were it not for people like Mr. Mitchell, Latin could die within a generation.

He left school a few months ago to begin treatment for melanoma. None of his students knew that he was leaving until he had already left. On his last day of class, there was no mention of himself or of his condition; the subject was Latin, and he assigned his students thirty lines of translation for the next day. Now it is up to those who knew Mr. Mitchell, and those to whom he gave the invaluable gift of his knowledge and presence, to commemorate him as he would not commemorate himself.

Accipe fraterno multa manantia fletu, / Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

Esther Mobley graduated from Newton North in 2007, and in the fall will be a junior at Smith College. This summer she is an editorial intern with the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"At Luca Signorelli's Resurrection of the Body" Jorie Graham (1983)

At Luca Signorelli's Resurrection of the Body

See how they hurry
to enter
their bodies,
these spirits.
Is it better, flesh,
that they

should hurry so?
From above
the green-winged angels
blare down
trumpets and light. But
they don't care,

they hurry to congregate,
they hurry
into speech, until
it's a marketplace,
it is humanity. But still
we wonder

in the chancel
of the dark cathedral,
is it better, back?
The artist
has tried to make it so: each tendon
they press

to re-enter
is perfect. But is it
they're after,
pulling themselves up
through the soil

into the weightedness, the color,
into the eye
of the painter? Outside
it is 1500,
all round the cathedral
streets hurry to open

through the wild
silver grasses...
The men and women
on the cathedral wall
do not know how,
having come this far,

to stop their
hurrying. They amble off
in groups, in
couples. Soon
some are clothed, there is
distance, there is

perspective. Standing below them
in the church
in Orvieto, how can we
tell them
to be stern and brazen
and slow,

that there is no
only entering. They keep on
wanting names,

happiness. In his studio
Luca Signorelli
in the name of God
and Science
and the believable
broke into the body

studying arrival.
But the wall
of the flesh
opens endlessly,
its vanishing point so deep
and receding

we have yet to find it,
to have it
stop us. So he cut
graduating slowly
from the symbolic

to the beautiful. How far
is true?
When one son
died violently,
he had the body brought to him
and laid it

on the drawing-table,
and stood
at a certain distance
awaiting the best
possible light, the best depth
of day,

then with beauty and care
and technique
and judgment, cut into
shadow, cut
into bone and sinew and every

in which the cold light
It took him days,
that deep
caress, cutting,

until his mind
could climb into
the open flesh and
mend itself.

National Review Article

April 23, 2004
William’s Will
The Bard’s last words.

By Michael J. Ortiz

On March 25, 1616, William Shakespeare summoned his lawyer and amended his will. After making several changes, he then signed with a palsied hand, concluding: "And do revoke all former wills, and publish this to be my last will and testament." Less than a month later, he was dead.

Spring was underway in the Warwickshire countryside, yet the crowd of friends gathered round the dying Shakespeare must have worn somber faces, the kind that sees an old friend leaving for good and knows it.

His life slipped away 388 April's ago this weekend, on his 52nd birthday. Four centuries later, his cast of characters — unparalleled in the Western Canon — live on. As Harold Bloom put it, the personalities that strut across Shakespeare's stage "are free artists of themselves." Their inwardness, their mutability, their frightening potency with word and gesture, still bestride the world of drama. Even post-modern performances cannot completely dim their artistry.

Yet Shakespeare's personal life, ironically, has proved maddenly elusive. Bloom suggests that the energy most people spend creating a persona for themselves, Shakespeare poured into his plays. The satisfactions after imagining a Macbeth or a Hamlet surely must have been extraordinary. Maybe sitting down to pint of ale, or tending one's investments might have been a comfortable change of pace; working on an image of oneself as a touchy genius would simply be besides the point.

But the plays and their poetry? How could their author be so, well, ordinary? We should remember that our age of celebrity is often in full flight away from the ordinary, the everyday, and, certainly, the traditional. The adoring details we seek about the famous reveal our faith that success, wealth, and unique genius are what make life worth living. A vicarious experience of them is better than nothing, our culture seems to suggest.

It wasn't always like this. In his recent biography of Shakespeare, Park Honan shows how the literary culture of Shakespeare's time valued not the new, but the old, and above all, the traditional. In its veneration of the classics, in the close-knit group of reparatory acting companies that survived only by cooperative effort, and in Stratford where local traditions were at the center of civic life, the ordinary was esteemed far beyond anything we see today.

The circular arguments of the alternative authorship theories revert inevitably to the man from Stratford as a blind, a front for the real genius. Shakespeare's stunning lack of personality must be a mask. Revealing this disguise is the heroic task of the anti-Stratfordians. Their grail is finding Shakespeare in the life of someone else, anyone else, so long as he fits the mold they have fashioned for celebrity and genius. The flight from everydayness is complete when the world renounces Stratford and embraces Oxford or Bacon or Derby. Or does it begin all over again?

These wits seek to sever the Stratford writer from the cold facts of his will that grants John Hemminges, Richard Burbage, and Henry Condell money to buy rings by which to remember their friend and fellow actor. Hemminges and Condell returned the favor by editing the first collected works of Shakespeare seven years after his death. With no evidence of fraud forthcoming, the will and the First Folio (as the first edition is now called) stand as an unassailable link between the Warwickshire country boy and the best dramas ever written in English.

To argue that Strakespeare was simply an actor posing as the author of the plays completely misunderstands the social nature of drama. Watching one rehearsal of a professional acting company should forever dispel this claim. What would poor Shakespeare do when the play needed directing from the real author, call Oxford or Bacon on his cell phone?

There are puzzles in the will, speaking to family loss and sorrow. Shakespeare's daughter Judith did marry Thomas Quiney, a man who previously impregnated another woman who later died in childbirth. This apparently caused the poet to revise his will less than a month before his death in order to make sure his future son-in-law could not lay hands on a penny of his estate.

There is, as well, the famous matter of the second-best bed left to his wife, Anne. Sir Ian McCellen and others have suggested the poet had little regard for marriage in general and his wife in particular from this evidence, alongside the testimony of such happy couples as the Macbeths and the cross-gendering romantics that leap out of his comedies. Little mind that the best bed may have been reserved for the frequent guests that we know stayed at Shakespeare's home. The absence of books mentioned in the will has also given rise to those who imagine that this — plus a shaky signature — point to illiteracy on Shakespeare's part, and conspiracy on practically everyone else's.

Author Joe Sobran has expressed shock that the bard did not sprinkle his will with metaphors out of Hamlet. Sobran seems to argue that if Shakespeare did not write his will, he was probably illiterate. If he did write it, he probably was not the playwright. Again, a flight from the ordinary, with a rhetorical fallacy thrown in. Though it must be admitted that the will does indeed reveal a practical grain dealer, whose preoccupation with land and furniture rubs the creative temperament raw.

And so, many Aprils ago, Shakespeare left one stage only to inhabit another. The relatively meager evidentiary trail left by his life torments those who believe genius a product only of universities and good breeding, the cultivated egos of the elite. Charleton Ogburn and his ilk go to their graves haunted not by Othello and Ophelia but by paltry documents charging "the Stratford man" with such middle-class pursuits as tax evasion. But in the theater, Shakespeare stands alone, a symphony of voices uttering the most moving and lyrical words in our language. More than a ghost haunting the relics of a cultural apex, he is a reflection of all that we want and fear ourselves to be.

— Michael J. Ortiz is the author of the forthcoming children's novel, Swan Town: The Secret Journal of Susanna Shakespeare (HarperCollins).

Shakespeare's Sonnet 20 (1609)

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all 'hues' in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (1609)


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 129 (1609)


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

"Autumn Day" Rilke (1902)

Autumn Day

Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann,
"The Essential Rilke" (Ecco)