Favorite Poems

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! ~
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us further than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great [ones] all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take hear again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

(by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882)
haptip to Jennifer

With the drawing of the Love and the voice of this Calling

With the drawing of the Love
and the voice of this Calling,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
. . . .
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

[T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding]

Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope to catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.
Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive...
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.
On the threshold the entire past and the endless
future rush to meet one another.
They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all
It is a convergence,a fellowship
with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.
Help me cross into the present moment --
into wonder, into Your grace:
that “now-place,” where we all areunfolding
as Your life moment by moment.
Let me live on the threshold as threshold.
by Gunilla Norris

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It’s taken
time, many years and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
worn other people’s faces,
run madly, as if Time were there,
terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before – “
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
is my hand, the shadow of a word
as thought shapes the shaper
falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
from wish to action, word to silence,
my work, my love, my time, my face
gathered into one intense
gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
fertile, detached, and always spent,
falls but does not exhaust the root,
so all the poem is, can give,
grows in me to become the song,
made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
all of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly run,
stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

by May Sarton

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and take all
the bright coins from his purse to buy me,
and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage,
and something precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightening, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

by Mary Oliver

The Holy Longing
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm waters of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now, you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

—by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I Want to Live in the World
I want to live in the world, not inside my head.
I want to live in the world.
I want to stand and be counted with the hopeful and the willing, with the open and the strong,
with the voices in the darkness fashioning daylight out of song,
and the millions of lovers alive in the world.
I want to live in the world not behind some wall.
I want to live in the world where I will hear if another voice should call to the prisoner inside me,
to the captive of my doubt, who among his fantasies harbors the dream of breaking out,
and taking his chances alive in the world
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and finally arrive in the world with its beauty and its cruelty, with its heartbreak and its joy,
with its constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy,
and the infinite power of change alive in the world.
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and finally arrive in the world
by Jackson Brown
You Are the Work of God
It is not you who shape God;
it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the work of God,
await the hand of the Artist
who does all things in due season.
Offer the Potter your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form in which
the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard and lose
the imprint of the Potter's fingers.

Irenaeus, 2nd century


Jennifer said…
"I was a bride married to amazement" is such a great line.

So many awesome lines, all in one place.
I'd never read the last one before...and am grateful for more Gunilla Norris!!!
I think some of these lines relate to your previous post about voicing your opinion, too!
Jan said…
I have to spend some time with all these poems. You are a treasure for typing all these poems here for us to read. Thank you.
Sylphstorm said…
Good Lord, those are all too beautiful for words.

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