1780-1790 Philip Freneau (The Indian Burying Ground)
In spite of all the learn’d have said;
I still my old opinion keep,
The posture, that we give the dead,
Points out the soul’s eternal sleep.
Not so the ancients of these lands —
The Indian, when from life releas’d
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares gain the joyous feast.
His imag’d birds, and painted bowl,
And ven’son, for a journey dress’d,
Bespeak the nature of the soul,
Activity, that knows no rest.
His bow, for action ready bent,
And arrows, with a head of stone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the finer essence gone.
Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way.
No fraud upon the dead commit —
Observe the swelling turf, and say
They do not lie, but here they sit.
Here still lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace,
(Now wasted, half, by wearing rains)
The fancies of a older race.
Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far — projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires
The children of the forest play’d!
There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair)
And many a barbarous form is seen
To chide the man that lingers there.
By midnight moons, o’er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase array’d,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer, a shade!
And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief, and pointed spear,
And reason’s self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.
1790-1800 Joel Barlow (The Hasty-Pudding, excerpt)
Ye Alps audacious, through the heavens that rise
To cramp the day and hide me from the skies;
Ye Gallic flags, that o’er their heights unfurl’d,
Bear death to kings, and freedom to the world,—
I sing not you. A softer theme I choose,
A virgin theme, unconscious of the Muse,
But fruitful, rich, well suited to inspire
The purest frenzy of poetic fire.
Despise it not, ye bards to terror steel’d,
Who hurl’d your thunders round the epic field;
Nor ye who strain your midnight throats to sing,
Joys that the vineyard and the still-house bring;
Or on some fair your distant notes employ,
And speak of raptures that you ne’r enjoy.
I sing the sweets I know,—the charms I feel,—
My morning incense, and my evening meal—
1800-1810 John Quincy Adams (The Wants of Man, excerpt)
“Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.”
‘Tis not with me exactly so;
But ’tis so in the song.
My wants are many and, if told,
Would muster many a score;
And were each wish a mint of gold,
I still should long for more.
1810-1820 Francis Scott Key (Defence of Fort McHenry, excerpt)
O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
1820-1830 William Cullen Bryant (Thanatopsis, excerpt)
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
1830-1840 Lydia Huntley Sigourney (Indian Names, excerpt)
Ye see their unresisting tribes,
With toilsome step and slow,
On through the the trackless desert pass,
A caravan of woe;
Think ye the Eternal’s ear is deaf?
His sleepless vision dim?
Think ye the soul’s blood may not cry
From that far land to him?
1840-1850 Edgar Poe (The Raven, excerpt)
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’
1850-1860 Stephen Foster (Old Kentucky Home, excerpt)
Weep no more, my lady,
Oh! weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky Home far away.
1860-1870 Walt Whitman (O Captain! My Captain! excerpt)
O captain! my captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the stead keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red!
Where on the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
1870-1880 Sidney Lanier (Hymns of the Marshes, excerpt)
Over the monstrous shambling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bright Ariel-cloud, thou lingerest:
Oh wait, oh wait, in the warm red West,—
Thy Prospero I’ll be.
1880-1890 Ellen Wheeler Wilcox (Delilah, excerpt)
She touches my cheek, and I quiver
I tremble with exquisite pains;
She sighs – like an overcharged river
My blood rushes on through my veins;
She smiles – and in mad-tiger fashion,
As a she-tiger fondles her own,
I clasp her with fierceness and passion,
And kiss her with shudder and groan.
1890-1900 Ernest Fenollosa (Fuji at Sunrise)
Startling the cool gray depths of morning air
She throws aside her counterpane of clouds,
And stands half folded in her silken shrouds
With calm white breast and snowy shoulder bare.
High o’er her head a flush all pink and rare
Thrills her with foregleam of an unknown bliss,
A virgin pure who waits the bridal kiss,
Faint with expectant joy she fears to share.
Lo, now he comes, the dazzling prince of day!
Flings his full glory o’er her radiant breast;
Enfolds her to the rapture of his rest,
Transfigured in the throbbing of his ray.
O fly, my soul, where love’s warm transports are;
And seek eternal bliss in yon pink kindling star!
1900-1910 John Whitcomb Riley (Little Orphant Annie)
You better mind yer parents, and yer teachers fond and dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, ‘an dry the orphant’s tear,
‘An he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef You Don’t Watch Out!
1910-1920 Robert Frost (The Road Not Taken)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
1920-1930 Dorothy Parker (A Very Short Song)
Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad-
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.
Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.
1930-1940 Edna Millay (Sonnet XXX)
Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.
1940-1950 E.E. Cummings (Anyone Lived In A Pretty How Town, excerpt)
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
1950-1960 Allen Ginsberg (Howl, excerpt)
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix;
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.
1960-1970 Sylvia Plath (Daddy, excerpt)
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
1970-1980 John Ashbery (Daffy Duck in Hollywood, excerpt)
But everything is getting choked to the point of
Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds’ garage, reducing it–drastically–
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.
1980-1990 Dana Gioia (My Confessional Sestina, excerpt)
Let me confess. I’m sick of these sestinas
written by youngsters in poetry workshops
for the delectation of their fellow students,
and then published in little magazines
that no one reads, not even the contributors
who at least in this omission show some taste.
1990-2000 Billy Collins (Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey, excerpt)
Something will be missing
from this long, coffin-shaped room,
the walls and windows now
only two different shades of gray,
the glossy gardenia drooping
in its chipped terra-cotta pot.
And on the floor, shoes, socks,
the browning core of an apple.
Nothing will be as it was
a few hours ago, back in the glorious past
before our naps, back in that Golden Age
that drew to a close sometime shortly after lunch.
2000-2010 Franz Wright (A Happy Thought)
A Happy Thought
Assuming this is the last day of my life
(which might mean it is almost the first),
I’m struck blind but my blindness is bright.
Prepare for what’s known here as death;
have no fear of that strange word forever.
Even I can see there’s nothing there
to be afraid of: having already been
to forever I’m unable to recall
anything that scared me, there, or hurt.
What frightened me, apparently, and hurt
was being born. But I got over that
with no hard feelings. Dying, I imagine
it will be the same deal, lonesomer maybe,
but surely no more shocking or prolonged—
It’s dark as I recall, then bright, so bright.