Colored Blues Singer by Countee Cullen

Some weep to find the Golden Pear
Feeds maggots at the core,
And some grow cold as ice, and bear
Them prouder than before.

But you go singing like the sea
Whose lover turns to land;
You make your grief a melody
And take it by the hand.

Such songs the mellow-bosomed maids
Of Africa intone
For lovers dead in hidden glades,
Slow rotting flesh and bone.

Such keenings tremble from the kraal,
Where sullen-browed abides
The second wife whose dark tears fail
To draw him to her sides.

Somewhere Jeritza breaks her heart
On symbols Verdi wrote;
You tear the strings of your soul apart,
Blood dripping note by note.

Countee Cullen
1903-1946

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Fable by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel;
And the former called the latter “Little Prig.”
Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together,
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry.
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882

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To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such that I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love lets so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet
1612-1672

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The Cloak, The Boat and The Shoes by W. B. Yeats

‘What do you make so fair and bright?’

‘I make the cloak of Sorrow:
O lovely to see in all men’s sight
Shall be the cloak of Sorrow,
In all men’s sight.’

‘What do you build with sails for flight?’

‘I build a boat for Sorrow:
O swift on the seas all day and night
Saileth the rover Sorrow,
All day and night.’

What do you weave with wool so white?’

‘I weave the shoes of Sorrow:
Soundless shall be the footfall light
In all men’s ears of Sorrow,
Sudden and light.’

William Butler Yeats
1865-1939

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Self’s the Man by Philip Larkin

Oh, no one can deny
That Arnold is less selfish than I.
He married a woman to stop her getting away
Now she’s there all day,

And the money he gets for wasting his life on work
She takes as her perk
To pay for the kiddies’ clobber and the drier
And the electric fire,

And when he finishes supper
Planning to have a read at the evening paper
It’s Put a screw in this wall
He has no time at all,

With the nippers to wheel round the houses
And the hall to paint in his old trousers
And that letter to her mother
Saying Won’t you come for the summer.

To compare his life and mine
Makes me feel a swine:
Oh, no one can deny
That Arnold is less selfish than I.

But wait, not so fast:
Is there such a contrast?
He was out for his own ends
Not just pleasing his friends;

And if it was such a mistake,
He still did it for his own sake,
Playing his own game.
So he and I are the same,

Only I’m a better hand
At knowing what I can stand
Without them sending a van—
Or I suppose I can.

Philip Larkin
1922-1985

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Base Details by Siegfried Sassoon

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. “Poor young chap,”
I’d say — “I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.”
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die — in bed.

Siegfried Sassoon
1886–1967

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An Exequy to His Matchless Never to be Forgotten Friend by Henry King

Sleep on, my love, in thy cold bed,
Never to be disquieted!
My last goodnight! Thou wilt not wake
Till I thy fate shall overtake;
Till age, or grief, or sickness must
Marry my body to that dust
It so much loves, and fill the room
My heart keeps empty in thy tomb.
Stay for me there, I will not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And every hour a step towards thee.
At night when I betake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my west
Of life, almost by eight hours’ sail,
Than when sleep breathed his drowsy gale.
Thus from the sun my bottom steers,
And my day’s compass downward bears;
Nor labour I to stem the tide
Through which to thee I swiftly glide.
‘Tis true, with shame and grief I yield,
Thou like the van first took’st the field,
And gotten hath the victory
In thus adventuring to die
Before me, whose more years might crave
A just precedence in the grave.
But hark! my pulse like a soft drum
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And slow howe’er my marches be,
I shall at last sit down by thee.
The thought of this bids me go on,
And wait my dissolution
With hope and comfort. Dear, (forgive
The crime) I am content to live
Divided, with but half a heart,
Till we shall meet and never part.

Henry King
1592-1669

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