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Midnight Musings: Poetry

"Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion,
The following chants each for its kind I sing."
(Walt Whitman)

As the quotes page shows you, I love small snippets of poems and songs, exquisite turns of phrase captured in a line or two; yet there are certain entire and complete poems which are the sacred hymns of my heart's religion.

In many cases these have resonated for me since childhood, yet have lost none of their peculiar power through the passage of time or the development of my thea/ology. A collection of these works comprises my own personal Book of Shadows: they are wordspells, invocations, immortal songs in praise of Nature.

I hope they will resonate for you as well, and bring you joy.

"The World Is Too Much With Us"
(William Wordsworth)

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon:
The Winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. --Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

"The Song of Wandering Aengus"
(William Butler Yeats)

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


"To Juan At The Winter Solstice"
(Robert Graves)

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison of all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman,
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right she crooks a finger, smiling,
How may the king hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.


"The Green Man"
(William Anderson, from his book The Green Man)

Like antlers, like veins of the brain the branches
Mark patterns of mind on the red winter sky;
'I am thought of all plants,' says the Green Man,
'I am thought of all plants,' says he.

The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
'I rise with the sap,' says the Green Man,
'I rise with the sap,' says he.

The ashes are clashing their boughs like sword-dancers,
Their black buds are tracing wild faces in the clouds;
'I come with the wind,' says the Green Man,
'I come with the wind,' says he.

The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover.
'I burn with desire,' says the Green Man,
'I burn with desire,' says he.

In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins;
'I am honey of love,' says the Green Man,
'I am honey of love,' says he.

The hedges of quick are thick with may blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King;
'It's off with my head,' says the Green Man,
'It's off with my head,' says he.

Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms his mask and its leafage his features;
'I speak through the oak,' says the Green Man,
'I speak through the oak,' says he.

The holly is flowering as hayfields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea;
'I shine with the sun,' says the Green Man,
'I shine with the sun,' says he.

The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut;
'I swim with the salmon,' says the Green Man,
'I swim with the salmon,' says he.

The globes of the grapes are robing with bloom
Like the hazes of autumn, like the Milky Way's stardust;
'I am crushed for your drink,' says the Green Man,
'I am crushed for your drink,' says he.

The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth's salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy flowerheads;
'I have paid for your pleasure,' says the Green Man,
'I have paid for your pleasure,' says he.

The reedbeds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits;
'I have kept her secret,' says the Green Man,
'I have kept her secret,' says he.

The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow.
'I am born in the dark,' says the Green Man,
'I am born in the dark,' says he.


From "Priapus And The Pool"
(Conrad Aiken)

This is the shape of the leaf, and this of the flower,
And this the pale bole of the tree
Which watches its boughs in a pool of unwavering water
In a land we never shall see.

The thrush on the bough is silent, the dew falls softly,
In the evening is hardly a sound.
And the three beautiful pilgrims who come here together
Touch lightly the dust of the ground,

Touch it with feet that trouble the dust but as wings do,
Come shyly together, are still,
Like dancers who wait, in a pause of the music, for music
The exquisite silence to fill.

This is the thought of the first, and this of the second,
And this the grave thought of the third:
"Linger we thus for a moment, palely expectant,
And silence will end, and the bird

"Sing the pure phrase, sweet phrase, clear phrase in the twilight
To fill the blue bell of the world;
And we, who on music so leaflike have drifted together,
Leaflike apart shall be whirled
Into what but the beauty of silence, silence forever?" . . .

. . . This is the shape of the tree,
And the flower, and the leaf, and the three pale beautiful pilgrims
This is what you are to me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .


Continue to Page 2 of "Poetry"