The HyperTexts

In Peace's Arms, not War's: the Best Peace Poetry and Anti-War Poetry

Which poets wrote the best poems about Peace and/or the best Anti-War poems? War's arms are the armaments of death, while Peace's arms are those of warmth, reconciliation and consolation. The purpose of this page is to celebrate and explore the humanity of man, as envisioned in worldwide, world-encompassing poetry, literature and art. Since this page was originally created as the threat of war loomed ominously over Iran, and while the death tolls continue to mount in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, we have featured poems about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. For instance, we have published poems translated from Farsi into English by some of Iran's most accomplished translators, and we have featured the work of Nadia Anjuman, a young Afghani poet who was a member of the celebrated Sewing Circles of Herat. Anjuman survived the reign of the Taliban only to be cut down just as her poetry began to flower. We hope other poets, writers and artists will step forward to help us combat the forces of aggression, division and fundamentalism all over the globe, through the healing, peace-making power of words and art.Michael R. Burch, editor of The HyperTexts

We have also recently added a page of Poems for Ukraine and the Ukrainian People. Here's a poem from the new page:

Epitaph for a Ukrainian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Let's begin with a poem by one of the great anti-war poets ...

The Unreturning
by Wilfred Owen

Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled
Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled
When far-gone dead return upon the world.

There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled,
And never one fared back to me or spoke.

Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn
With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds,
The weak-limned hour when sick men's sighs are drained.
And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,
Gagged by the smothering Wing which none unbinds,
I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.

This is a powerful poem about the horrors of war for innocent children and their protectors:

È la solita storia: Remembering Bach Mai, Yemen, Ukraine and All the Faceless Dead
by Bob Zisk

It was the end of Advent in seventy-two,
The Magi came in a B-52.

The cribs were wheeled into the basement, where
The sick and dying shook and prayed in fear.

The bombs, like rotten manna out of hell,
Gave scarcely any warning as they fell

Earthward, and filled the air with burning dead.
Their human smoke circled overhead.

Today we point and raise a weak outcry
As other little children scream and die,
All nameless as the babies of Bach Mai.


È la solita storia: it's the same old story.

On Dec. 22, 1972, in the so called Christmas Bombing the U.S. bombed Hanoi. No fewer than one hundred bombs struck Bach Mai Hospital, killing at least twenty-eight staff and an unspecified number of patients who had sheltered in the basement. In 1998 Bach Mai Hospital opened a special rehabilitation unit sponsored by Veterans for America. In 2000 Japan sponsored a reconstruction project at the hospital.

Bob Zisk has added a personal note to his poem: "I was a young man at the time of the Christmas Bombing Operation. To this day I am amazed at those wise men at my university who could talk with such passion about categorical imperatives and Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia, but could not find the humanity to speak out or sign a public letter decrying the bombing of Bach Mai Hospital. But I suppose it is a mark of progress that there are now courses in military ethics for the men and women we send to do the terrible, the unspeakable in our name."


Let's begin by asking: "What can books and poems and songs and works of art do?" Are they relevant or irrelevant? Are they powerful or powerless? ...

Books may be burned and cities sacked,
but truth, like the yearning for freedom,
lives in the hearts of humble men.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

From this cup of my lips comes a song;
It captures my singing soul, my song.
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet

If more politicians knew poetry,
and more poets knew politics,
I am convinced the world
would soon be a better place to live.
—John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I have torn speech like a tattered robe
and let words go;
you who are still dressed in your clothes,
sleep on.
—Jalaluddin Rumi, Iranian poet, translated by Jack Marshall

We must never forget
that art is not a form of propaganda;
it is a form of truth.
John F. Kennedy

Poetry is with us from the start.
Like loving,
like hunger, like the plague, like war.
At times my verses were embarrassingly foolish.
But I make no excuse.
I believe that seeking beautiful words
is better
than killing and murdering.
—Iaroslav Seifert, Czech poet, winner of the Nobel prize in 1984

Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings?
—John Keats

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
—lines from the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," translated by Edward Fitzgerald

I lived, but then in living I was feeble in life and
always knew that they would bury me here in the end,
that year piles upon year, clod on clod, stone on stone,
that the body swells and in the cool, maggot-
infested darkness, the naked bone will shiver.
That above, scuttling time is rummaging through my poems
and that I will sink deeper into the ground.
All this I knew. But tell me, the workdid that live on?
—Miklós Radnóti, Jewish-Hungarian poet, translated by Gina Gönczi

Yes, Miklós Radnóti, although the Nazis killed you, your work lives on and has outlasted all the fascist ogres who conspired to rob you of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Compared to them, you are an angel of light. Compared to you, they are less than nothing, black negatives negated. And while "the pen is mightier than the sword" may be a cliché in terms of usage, the fact that totalitarian regimes still relentlessly ban and burn books by "renegade" writers in the 21st century tells us that poets' words are still respected and feared. Dictatorial powers are afraid of eye-opening, enlightening, liberating words. Perhaps what totalitarian regimes fear most is their future (or lack of one) when the human race is no longer polarized by racism, sexism and fanaticism. We don't need warmongers and powerbrokers to protect us from our friends. The path to peace is one of putting aside our fears and drawing ever nearer each other ...

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.
     Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
     I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
     But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
     and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.
Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth’s great Caravan.
We’ll include your Poets, Brother Iran.
     Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
     Come take my hand now, let’s rehearse
     the "Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyam.
     For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.
Bother Iran, civilization’s Flower!
How high grew your spires in man’s early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that’s my plan,
civilization’s first flower, Brother Iran.
—Michael R. Burch (click here for Farsi version)

Time has stopped.
A minute is still a minute.
An hour is still an hour.
And yet,
The past and the future
Hang in perfect balance.
All focused on the present.
A sweet flow of excitement
Warms me.
You are near.
—Leonard Nimoy, who played the highly logical Mr. Spock on Star Trek

I like not only to be loved but also to be told that I am loved.
The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.
This is the world of light and speech.
And I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.
—George Eliot

I expect to pass this way but once;
any good therefore that I can do,
or any kindness that I can show
to any fellow creature:
let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again.—Etienne Griellet

We live upon one another according
to the law, ancient and timeless.
Let us live thus in loving-kindness.
—Khalil Gibran, Lebanese poet

a sweetheart is a mirror
a friend a delicious cake
it isn't worth spending
an hour with anyone else
Jalaluddin Rumi, Iranian poet, translated by Nader Khalili

Life is like a journey,
taken on a train
With a pair of travellers
at each windowpane.
I may sit beside you
all the journey through,
Or I may sit elsewhere,
never knowing you.
But if fate should make me
sit by your side,
Let's be pleasant travellers;
it's so short a ride.

No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Responds unto his own.
—Henry W. Longfellow

come on my friend
step into the tavern of ruins
taste the sweetness of life
in the company of another friend
Jalaluddin Rumi, Iranian poet, translated by Nader Khalili

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verseand Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
—lines from the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," translated by Edward Fitzgerald

go my friend
bestow your love
even on your enemies
if you touch their hearts
what do you think will happen
Jalaluddin Rumi, Iranian poet, translated by Nader Khalili

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
—Stanley Kunitz

The sympathy that touches
the neighbour’s heart
is more supreme
than the hidden virtue
in the unseen corners
of the convent.
—Khalil Gibran, Lebanese poet

A hot house in Baquba
Only a week after Zarqawi is killed
The stars shining like lanterns
In the night sky
Jasmine scents the air
Figs and tomatoes ripen
In the warm dark
Here in this country I am even now trying
to reach this family
A woman and her four children
Buried under bricks and debris
From the ceiling of the bombed-out neighbor’s house
It is too late to rescue them
Too late when they closed their eyes to sleep
On pallets near the cucumber and chard
And died
—Christina Pacosz

A family buries
their nine-year old son
in the garden
among the eggplant
and sweet pepper
Shrapnel in his stomach
The U.S. Marine patrol
on the other side
of the clay wall
A bright red cascade
of bougainvillea
Here a raucous crow
in the silk tree
calls and from up the bluff
first one then another
A murder of crows
black beads
of an avian rosary
Until the last
audible crow
raises its voice
and all sound dies
—Christina Pacosz

No Solace
Dreaming last night
White rain
My skin melting
I can't see
Suddenly a jolt
Realizationit was only a nightmare
But I take no solace
Knowing my nightmare
Was someone else's reality
I take no solace
Knowing we have failed humanity
I take no solace
That humans go through this every day
Especially innocent children
I take no solace
That the voices of war
Are silencing the voices of peace
I take no solace
That I feel helplessness
And I take no solace
That we stand idly by
Rina Idrus

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.—Helen Keller

Isn't this the amazing, paradoxical nature of life that we need a blind woman to tell us how to see and feel the sunshine, by keeping it on our faces? In the same way, artists, songwriters, poets, scientists, philosophers and prophets have been telling us two very important things for some time now: man has the ability to save himself, by equating himself with his neighbor, and he has the capability to destroy himself and the world by acting out of fear, cowardice and prejudice. Politicians tell us nations must act out of self-interest, which to them means in self-defense. But what are nations but extended families? The real hope for humanity is that we can embrace each other: as friends, as neighbors, as fellow travelers, as members of the same family. If we continue to see each other as miscreants, as infidels, as ogres, then we will ultimately assume the very countenance we dread and fear. We will become our own worst enemy, in the distorting carnival mirror of fear ...

Whoever fights monsters should see to it
that in the process he does not become a monster.
If you gaze for long into an abyss,
the abyss gazes also into you.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

I know the truth – give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look – it is evening, look , it is nearly night:
What do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?
The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
—Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian Poet, translated by Elaine Feinstein

Which plunderer’s hand ransacked the pure gold statute of your dreams
In this horrendous storm?
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet

One Moment in Annihilation's Waste,
One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste
The Stars are setting and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of NothingOh, make haste!
—lines from the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," translated by Edward Fitzgerald

I was angry with my friend,
I told my wrath, my wrath did end;
I was angry with my foe,
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
—William Blake

... For we are guilty too, as other peoples are,
knowing full-well when and how and why we've sinned so far,
but workers live here too, and poets, without sin
and tiny babies in whom intellect will flourish;
it shines in them and they guard it, hiding in dark cellars
until the finger of peace once again marks our nation,
and with fresh voices they will answer our muffled words.
Cover us with your big wings, vigil-keeping evening cloud!
—Miklós Radnóti, Jewish-Hungarian poet, translated by Gina Gönczi

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
—lines from the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," translated by Edward Fitzgerald

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
W. H. Auden

And so we must have foresight. We must see that what we fear in our neighbor is what we must exorcise from ourselves. We must learn to see the world as it would appear through eyes intent on, and rapt with, reconciliation ...

No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.—Isaac Asimov

The Tomb of the Unknown Boy Scout

            Gilwell Park, London

A colleague mentioned it at lunch, was sure
she had it right. “A cenotaph. Yes.
Or maybe just a grave.” She stirred her soup.
“A small brick plinth, about waist-high and topped
with…something. A buffalo! In bronze, I think.”
She waved her bread knife, its tip still smeared
with butter, and left me wondering why
they’d bury Boy Scouts in a London park.
Some sort of sacrifice to Boy Scout gods?

Perhaps, like Incas, they hollowed out a hill
then threw their victim in and walled him up.
And in this barrow filled with midnight,
the boy would grip his knees and tremble,
disturbing piles of pinewood derby cars,
some books on tying knots, and merit badges
strewn about like wafers from the Eucharist.

Or maybe it’s a shrine to all those boys
who bled for England. In fen-felled keeps,
in drafty great halls packed now with tourists,
tapestries shiver on the walls. And there, picked out
in ochre, gold, and green, long-legged Crusaders
march through wastes, their warhead helms pulled low,
their leather armor creaking in the mind.
But if you look more closely, you’ll see him,
a lone Boy Scout in neckerchief and olive shorts.
He stands among those grim-eyed men-at-arms
and smiles, his apple cheeks cross-stitched in red.

But maybe that’s too early. There are other wars,
of course. I hold a dog-eared black and white,
and in the frame a group of doughboys cringe
against their mud-gut trench. Their eyes are closed,
so they don’t see the flare, don’t see the boy
who stands amid the sludge in kneesocks and stares
at the eldritch light. His mouth a perfect O,
he might be singing campfire songs. He might.
—Rob Griffith

Although men of faith often sing and extol the virtues of love, mercy and compassion, given a modicum of power they all-too-often abuse the women they profess to love. When a man tells a woman to don a veil or burka, rather than allowing her to wear or not wear it of her own volition, what is he saying? When he tells her not to read a particular book, what is he saying? Is he saying "I love and respect you!" or is he saying "I don't trust you and I don't trust myself"? If I could say just one thing to my fellowmen, it would be this: "Your women are lovely; they are strong; they are brilliant; they are motivated; they are full of compassion; they can give birth to children, suckle them, nurture them, console them, and raise them; but they can also dream, flirt, write novels and walk in space! They are goddesses why would you want to limit them?" ...

A mother is a mother still,
The holiest thing alive.
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Even a mangy cur of the house barks now and then,
but over the mouths of women cheaply had,
there's a lock, a golden lock.
—Taslima Nasreen/Nasrin

No desire to open my mouth
What should I sing of...?
I, who am hated by life.
No difference to sing or not to sing.
Why should I talk of sweetness,
When I feel bitterness?
Oh, the oppressor's feast
Knocked my mouth.
I have no companion in life
Who can I be sweet for?
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet, translated by Mahnaz Badihian

Women are oppressed in the east, in the west, in the south, in the north.
Women are oppressed inside, outside home.
Whether a woman is a believer or a non-believer, she is oppressed.
Beautiful or ugly, oppressed.
Crippled or not, rich or poor, literate or illiterate, oppressed.
Covered or naked, she is oppressed.
Dumb or not, cowardly or courageous, she is always oppressed.
—Taslima Nasreen/Nasrin

Oh my heart, you know it is spring
And time to celebrate.
What should I do with a trapped wing,
Which does not let me fly?
I have been silent too long,
But I never forget the melody,
Since every moment I whisper
The songs from my heart,
Reminding myself of
The day I will break this cage,
Fly from this solitude
And sing like a melancholic.
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet, translated by Mahnaz Badihian

I am not a weak poplar tree
To be shaken by any wind.
I am an Afghan woman,
It only makes sense to moan
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet, translated by Mahnaz Badihian

Bring the memories of transparent water.
In a river like forgetfulness, my mind is full of dust.
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet, translated by Khizra Aslam

Even though I am the daughter of poem and songs
My poem was novice and broken
My autonomous twig did not recognize the hand of the gardener
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet

Do not question love as it is the inspiration of your pen
My loving words had in mind death
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet

I am woman
coming from the desert
coming from the long line of tribes
coming from the long line of faiths
They called me mad
They chained me to the wall naked
yet I broke free the bonds
and ran through the pain of my existence
in search of the innocence that was denied me
and they called me mad
and they called me the evil spawn of Satan
yet I broke free the bonds
and ran towards our freedom
where I knelt
before the Mother and the Son
and I called them Salvation
and they named me Nation
and I tore loose the chains of captivity
only to fall once more into bondage
when I was raped by a Mongol
married a Jew
gave birth to a Muslim
watched the child convert to Buddhism
watched the child marry a Bahai
live as a Christian
die as a Hindu

I am a woman
I am the river
I am the sky
I am the clouded covered trees upon the mountain
I am the fertile earth whose song the plants drink deep
I am the long line of tribes
I am the long line of faiths

Don't try to convert me
into something I am not
for I am already all
that humanity will ever be
—Sheema Kalbasi with Roger Humes

In the end, a man or a woman is either free, or a slave. He can speak freely, or he is a pawn and a dupe. She can do what she likes, or she is someone else's chattel. If you don't want your daughter to be someone else's slave, what then must your wife be to you? Will you trust her and set her free, or distrust the entire world and keep her in shackles and manacles?

When you sleep with your mistress,
whose child is she then?
Does God see a difference
between women and men?
She is always God’s daughter,
whose body you borrow!
So treat her with kindness,
lest her tears bring you sorrow.
—Michael R. Burch

Give me liberty, or give me death! — Patrick Henry

I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.—Voltaire

Great men and women men and women of vision and character change the world. As fathers and mothers, they change it one life at a time. What will your legacy to the world be: more fear, more cowardice, more distrust, more prejudice? What if your wife leaves you for another man? Then you can look the world in the eye and say: "I gave her her freedom." But what if she freely chooses to stay with you? Then you will know she truly loves and respects you. Only freedom can confirm love. What sort of men are we? Are we lions, or are we mice? Let's be lions, and exult that our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters are lionesses!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
—Henry W. Longfellow

We are not helpless. We are not hopeless. But we are still children, trying to solve the endlessly exasperating riddle of ourselves ...

We are ancients of the earth,
And in the morning of the times.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

But what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I lived to see that and this,
the air feels heavy to me.
A war sound-filled silence hugs me
as before my nativity.
—Miklós Radnóti, Jewish-Hungarian poet, translated by Gina Gönczi

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.
—Jalaluddin Rumi, Iranian poet, translated by Jack Marshall

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
—lines from the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam," translated by Edward Fitzgerald

In the end, there must be a balance between words and action. We must not let words become a stupor-inducing sedative. But action begins with a thought, an idea. God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. Why cannot men dream and think and say, "Let there be peace" and then go about creating peace? ...

The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.—Robert G. Ingersoll

A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.—Henrik Ibsen

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.—Rudyard Kipling

The world of knowledge takes a crazy turn
When teachers themselves are taught to learn.
—Bertolt Brecht

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.
—Henry W. Longfellow

Is there hope? Of course there is hope. The hope is that we will realize that there is land enough, and food enough, and water enough, for all men to leave in peace and a degree of comfort. The hope is that we all have dreams, and that many of man's dreams are achievable ...

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
—Langston Hughes

The cry of my heart sparkles like a star
And the bird of my flight touches the sky
—Nadia Anjuman, Afghani poet

I am convinced
That if all mankind
Could only gather together
In one circle
Arms around each other's shoulders
And dance, laugh and cry
      Then much
           of the tension and burden
                       of life
           Would fall away
In the knowledge that
We are all children
Needing and wanting
Each other's
Comfort and
We are all children
Searching for love
—Leonard Nimoy

Oh God of dust and rainbows, help us see that without dust the rainbow would not be.—Langston Hughes

One of the dangers facing the world is unthinking fundamentalism. I have heard it said that a man must live by faith alone, because men cannot understand the mind of God. But modern science tells us that the human brain has more connections than the rest of the entire known universe. Man has the curiosity of a cat and a mind capable of comprehending Einstein's theory of relativity. Surely it is not an accident that an all-wise, all-powerful God endowed man with the two keys to acquiring knowledge and wisdom: curiosity and raw brainpower.

Believe nothing because it is written in books.
Believe nothing because wise men say it is so.
Believe nothing because it is religious doctrine.
Believe it only because you yourself know it to be true.

He who has burnt all scriptures with his inner fire,
Has broken temples, mosques and churches with carefree abandon,
And has cut the nooses of pandits, mullahs and priests
Only he is welcome in my tavern ...
... If anyone asks my name, say it was, "The Drunkard".
My work? I drank and passed the goblet to everyone.
O Beloved, if they ask my caste, say only that I was mad.
Say my religion worshipped goblets and then chant with your rosary,
"The tavern, the tavern!"
—Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Indian poet, translated by Sameer Siruguri

There is none so blind as they that won't see.—Jonathan Swift

There is none so blind as he who will not see.—Ray Stevens

We must dare to live life to the fullest, by treating life as an adventure, however perilous, in search of self-awareness and self-knowledge ...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.—Mark Twain

May you live all the days of your life.—Jonathan Swift

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
—William Blake

They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts.—Sir Philip Sidney

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
—John Keats

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley

I am an incurable romantic
I believe in hope, dreams and decency
     I believe in love,
     Tenderness and kindness.
I believe in mankind.
     I believe in goodness,
     Mercy and charity
     I believe in a universal spirit
     I believe in casting bread
     Upon the waters.
          I am awed by the snow-capped mountains
          By the vastness of oceans.
               I am moved by a couple
               Of any age – holding hands
               As they walk through city streets.
     A living creature in pain
     Makes me shudder with sorrow
     A seagull’s cry fills me
     With a sense of mystery.
          A river or stream
          Can move me to tears
          A lake nestling in a valley
          Can bring me peace.
    I wish for all mankind
    The sweet simple joy
    That we have found together.
I know that it will be.
And we shall celebrate
We shall taste the wine
And the fruit.
          Celebrate the sunset and the sunrise
          the cold and the warmth
          the sounds and the silences
          the voices of the children.
    Celebrate the dreams and hopes
    Which have filled the souls of
    All decent men and women.
We shall lift our glasses and toast
With tears of joy.
—Leonard Nimoy

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
—Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers"

But what happens if we don't learn from the voices of the past?
Of what use to the world is a poet or a prophet whose words go unheeded? ...
—Miklós Radnóti, Jewish-Hungarian poet, translated by Gina Gönczi

Psalm 5

Give ear to my words, O Lord
Hearken unto my moaning
Pay heed to my protest
For you are not a God friendly to dictators
neither are you a partisan of their politics
Nor are you influenced by their propaganda
Neither are you in league with the gangster

There is no sincerity in their speeches
nor in their press releases

They speak of peace in their speeches
while they increase their war production
They speak of peace at Peace Conferences
and secretly prepare for war
                        Their lying radios roar into the night
Their desks are strewn with criminal intentions and
       sinister reports
But you will deliver me from their plans
They speak through the mouth of the submachine gun
Their flashing tongues are bayonets …

Punish them, O Lord,
                             thwart them in their policies
confuse their memorandums
                                       obstruct their programs
at the hour of Alarm
you shall be with me
you shall be my refuge on the day of Bomb
To him who believes not in the lies of their commercial messages
nor in their publicity campaigns nor in their political campaigns
                    You will give your blessing
With love do you encompass him
As with armor-plated tanks.
—Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan poet, translated by Robert Marquez

And we must teach our children well, and be careful of the things they might learn that lead to ever and ever more violence ...
We must extirpate false patriotic ideas from the minds of our youth, just as we must extirpate them from those of the false patriots, out of love for our mothers, the concept of the nation as Mother. How could she ever be our mother if, as you tell us, we have to give the last drop of our blood for her! We must be the sons of the true fatherland: the fatherland of love and equality. — Federico Garcia Lorca

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Thanksgiving in Poetry, Literature, Song, Prayer ... and Especially in the Real World
Grace Notes in Poetry, Literature, Art and Music

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