The HyperTexts

The Most Beautiful Lines in the English Language

I have selected the most beautiful lines in the English language from a variety of sources: poems, novels, essays, epigrams, the lyrics of popular songs, etc. In making my selections, I have focused on the beauty of words and images because there is something utterly captivating―something transcendent―about beauty. The writers of the most beautiful lines in the English language includes names we'd expect to find, such as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Sappho, William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats. But there are also less-well-known names here, such as Ernest Dowson, William Dunbar and Mary Elizabeth Frye (the latter a housewife who only wrote one poem of note, and yet it appears to have become the most popular poem in the English language!).

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Its loveliness increases; it will never
pass into nothingness ...
―John Keats

compiled by Michael R. Burch



Gleyre Le Coucher de Sappho by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds sweeping desolate mountains
uprooting oaks.

Ten Wonderfully Moving, Poetic Epigrams

The births of all things are weak and tender, therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
—Michel de Montaigne


Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart, and his friends can only read the title.
—Virginia Woolf


We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels sing. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
—Anton Chekov


Life danced a jig on the sperm-whale's spout.
—Robert Lowell


Always the soul says to us all, Cherish your best hopes as a faith, and abide by them in action.
—Margaret Fuller


The mountain violets have broken the rocks.
—Tennessee Williams


Happiness is like a butterfly:
the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
—Henry David Thoreau


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


It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before,
to test your limits,
to break through barriers.
And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
—Anaïs Nin



Requiescat
by Oscar Wilde

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow ...



The picture above is of Maude Gonne, who inspired a number of poems by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
and nodding by the fire, take down this book
and slowly read, and dream of the soft look
your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep ...

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by William Butler Yeats

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams ...

http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/wysiwyg/image/barretts-of-wimpole-street-norma-shearer.jpg

How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach ...

http://www.dylanthomasboathouse.com/images/dylan/youngdylan.jpg

In My Craft Or Sullen Art

by Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
―Wallace Stevens

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
―Wallace Stevens

Great Lines from Poetry and Literature

They are not long, the days of wine and roses.Ernest Dowson
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind.Ernest Dowson
Any man's death diminishes me because I am  involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;  it tolls for thee.John Donne
No man is an island.John Donne
I am a rock. I am an island.Paul Simon

If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.—W. H. Auden, The More Loving One
In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
I sing myself and celebrate myself.—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
It frightened him to think what must have gone to the making of her eyes.—Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
For poems are like rainbows; they escape you quickly.—Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
I would always rather be happy than dignified.—Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Journeys end in lovers meeting.—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.—J. D. Salinger, A Girl I Knew
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am.—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed
What are men to rocks and mountains?—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
The curves of your lips rewrite history.—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.—William Shakespeare, Hamlet
America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.—Allen Ginsburg, America
It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories. —W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
At the still point, there the dance is.—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.—Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.—Toni Morrison, Beloved
How wild it was, to let it be.—Cheryl Strayed, Wild
She was lost in her longing to understand.—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
The half life of love is forever.—Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her
There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.—Bram Stroker, Dracula
Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.—Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

Do not stand at my grave and weep
by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep:
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starshine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there; I did not die.

This consoling elegy had a very mysterious genesis, as it was written by a Baltimore housewife who lacked a formal education, having been orphaned at age three. As far as we know, she had never written poetry before. Frye wrote the poem on a ripped-off piece of a brown grocery bag, in a burst of compassion for a Jewish girl who had fled the Holocaust only to receive news that her mother had died in Germany. The girl was weeping inconsolably because she couldn't visit her mother's grave. When the poem was named Britain's most popular poem in a 1996 Bookworm poll, with more than 30,000 call-in votes despite not having been one of the critics' nominations, an unlettered orphan girl had seemingly surpassed all England's many cultured and degreed ivory towerists in the public's estimation. Although the poem's origin was disputed for some time (it had been attributed to Native American and other sources), Frye's authorship was confirmed in 1998 after investigative research by Abigail Van Buren, the newspaper columnist better known as Dear Abby. The poem has also been called I Am due to its rather biblical repetitions of the phrase. Frye never formally published or copyrighted the poem, so we believe it is in the public domain and can be shared, although we recommend that it not be used for commercial purposes, since Frye never tried to profit from it herself.

Adlestrop
by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Music When Soft Voices Die (To )
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English romantic poet, painter, illustrator and translator. He was also one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His art was characterized by sensuality and medieval revivalism. In 1850 he met Elizabeth Siddal (pictured above), who became his model, his passion, and eventually in 1860, his wife.

Sudden Light
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

You have been mine before,—
   How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
   Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

Song

by Christina Rossetti

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Whoso List to Hunt
by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, alas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

Noli me tangere means Touch me not. According to the Bible, this is what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene when she tried to embrace him after the resurrection. So perhaps after her betrothal to Henry, religious vows entered into the picture, and left Wyatt out.



Cold-Blooded Creatures
by Elinor Wylie

Man, the egregious egoist
(In mystery the twig is bent)
Imagines, by some mental twist,
That he alone is sentient

Of the intolerable load
That on all living creatures lies,
Nor stoops to pity in the toad
The speechless sorrow of his eyes.

He asks no questions of the snake,
Nor plumbs the phosphorescent gloom
Where lidless fishes, broad awake,
Swim staring at a nightmare doom.

Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar [1460-1525]
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue that is held most dear―
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently―
yet everywhere, no odor but bitter rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again―
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.

Bread and Music
by Conrad Aiken

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,—
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.

Piano
by D. H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.



Winter landscape, with rocks

by Sylvia Plath

Water in the millrace, through a sluice of stone,
plunges headlong into that black pond
where, absurd and out-of-season, a single swan
floats chaste as snow, taunting the clouded mind
which hungers to haul the white reflection down.


The Truth the Dead Know
by Anne Sexton

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.


 
I, Being Born a Woman, and Distressed
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I, being born a woman, and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, this poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

Come Slowly, Eden
by Emily Dickinson

Come slowly—Eden
Lips unused to thee—
Bashful—sip thy jasmines—
As the fainting bee—

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—alights—
And is lost in balms!

Go, Lovely Rose
by Edmund Waller

    Go, lovely Rose,—
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
    That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

    Tell her that's young,
And shuns to have her graces spied,
    That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.

    Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retir'd:
    Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desir'd,
And not blush so to be admir'd.

    Then die, that she
The common fate of all things rare
    May read in thee;
How small a part of time they share,
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.

VIII  from Sunday Morning
by Wallace Stevens

She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old despondency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

http://www.veerybooks.com/imgs/000190.jpg

Song for the Last Act
by Louise Bogan

Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd's crook.
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music's cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat's too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.

The Garden
by Ezra Pound

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
               of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.

She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
             will commit that indiscretion.

Lullaby
by W. H. Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful ...

For Her Surgery
by Jack Butler

I
Over the city the moon rides in mist,
scrim scarred with faint rainbow.
Two days till Easter. The thin clouds run slow, slow,
the wind bells bleed the quietest
of possible musics to the dark lawn.
All possibility we will have children is gone.

II
I raise a glass half water, half alcohol,
to that light come full again.
Inside, you sleep, somewhere below the pain.
Down at the river, there is a tall
ghost tossing flowers to dark water—
jessamine, rose, and daisy, salvia lyrata . . .

III
Oh goodbye, goodbye to bloom in the white blaze
of moon on the river, goodbye
to creek joining the creek joining the river, the axil, the Y,
goodbye to the Yes of two Ifs in one phrase . . .
Children bear children. We are grown,
and time has thrown us free under the timeless moon.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Come Lord and Lift
by T. Merrill

Come Lord, and lift the fallen bird
  Abandoned on the ground;
The soul bereft and longing so
  To have the lost be found.

The heart that cries—let it but hear
  Its sweet love answering,
Or out of ether one faint note
  Of living comfort wring.

The Death of a Toad
by Richard Wilbur

      A toad the power mower caught,
Chewed and clipped of a leg, with a hobbling hop has got
  To the garden verge, and sanctuaried him
  Under the cineraria leaves, in the shade
     Of the ashen and heartshaped leaves, in a dim,
         Low, and a final glade.

      The rare original heartsblood goes,
Spends in the earthen hide, in the folds and wizenings, flows
   In the gutters of the banked and staring eyes. He lies
   As still as if he would return to stone,
       And soundlessly attending, dies
          Toward some deep monotone,

      Toward misted and ebullient seas
And cooling shores, toward lost Amphibia's emperies.
   Day dwindles, drowning and at length is gone
   In the wide and antique eyes, which still appear
       To watch, across the castrate lawn,
           The haggard daylight steer.

To Earthward
by Robert Frost

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they’re gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

Depths
by Richard Moore

Once more home is a strange place: by the ocean a
big house now, and the small houses are memories,
  once live images, vacant
       thoughts here, sinking and vanishing.

Rough sea now on the shore thundering brokenly
draws back stones with a roar out into quiet and
   far depths, darkly to lie there
        years, yearsthere not a sound from them.

New waves out of the night's mist and obscurity
lunge up high on the beach, spending their energy,
   each wave angrily dying,
       all shapes endlessly altering,

yet out there in the depths nothing is modified.
Earthquakes won't even moveno, nor the hurricane
   one stone there, nor a glance of
        sun's light stir its identity.

Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

To Celia
by Ben Jonson

Drink to me, only, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.

To Daffodils
by Robert Herrick

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
   You haste away so soon.
As yet the early-rising sun
   Hath not attained his noon.
       Stay, stay,
   Until the hasting day
       Has run
   But to the even-song;
And, having prayed together, we
   Will go with you along.
We have short time to stay, as you;
   We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
   As you, or any thing.
       We die.
   As your hours do, and dry
       Away
   Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew
   Ne'er to be found again.

Tears, Idle Tears
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Acquainted With The Night
by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Song

by John Donne

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devils foot ...

The Convergence Of The Twain
by Thomas Hardy

Lines on the loss of the Titanic


           In a solitude of the sea
           Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
          Steel chambers, late the pyres
           Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
           Over the mirrors meant
           To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls—grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
           Jewels in joy designed
          To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
           Dim moon-eyed fishes near
          Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: What does this vaingloriousness down here?...
           Well: while was fashioning
          This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
          Prepared a sinister mate
          For her—so gaily great—
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
          And as the smart ship grew
          In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
          Alien they seemed to be;
          No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,
          Or sign that they were bent
          By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,
           Till the Spinner of the Years
          Said Now! And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Luke Havergal
by Edward Arlington Robinson

Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The leaves will whisper there of her, and some,
Like flying words, will strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you listen, she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.

The Darkling Thrush

by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

Full Fathom Five

by William Shakespeare

Full fathom five thy father lies;
   Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
   Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
       Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them — ding-dong, bell.

Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Song of Solomon
attributed to King Solomon

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes,
and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor wake my love, till he please.

It Is A Beauteous Evening, Calm And Free
by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity ...

Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns

Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
Oh my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

Upon Julia's Clothes

by Robert Herrick

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
Oh, how that glittering taketh me!

Related pages: The Most Beautiful Sonnets in the English Language; The Best Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings; Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs

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