Second Year

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Poetry Course

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The Modern Scene

William Butler Yeats (1865- 1939)

A Prayer for my Daughter

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid 
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid 
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle 
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill 
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind, 
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed; 
And for an hour I have walked and prayed 
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind. 

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour 
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower, 
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream 
In the elms above the flooded stream; 
Imagining in excited reverie 
That the future years had come, 
Dancing to a frenzied drum, 
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea. 

May she be granted beauty and yet not 
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught, 
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such, 
Being made beautiful overmuch, 
Consider beauty a sufficient end, 
Lose natural kindness and maybe 
The heart-revealing intimacy 
That chooses right, and never find a friend. 

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull 
And later had much trouble from a fool, 
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray, 
Being fatherless could have her way 
Yet chose a bandy-leggd smith for man. 
It's certain that fine women eat 
A crazy salad with their meat 
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone. 

In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned; 
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned 
By those that are not entirely beautiful; 
Yet many, that have played the fool 
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise, 
And many a poor man that has roved, 
Loved and thought himself beloved, 
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes. 

May she become a flourishing hidden tree 
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be, 
And have no business but dispensing round 
Their magnanimities of sound, 
Nor but in merriment begin a chase, 
Nor but in merriment a quarrel. 
O may she live like some green laurel 
Rooted in one dear perpetual place. 

My mind, because the minds that I have loved, 
The sort of beauty that I have approved, 
Prosper but little, has dried up of late, 
Yet knows that to be choked with hate 
May well be of all evil chances chief. 
If there's no hatred in a mind 
Assault and battery of the wind 
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf. 

An intellectual hatred is the worst, 
So let her think opinions are accursed. 
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born 
Out of the mouth of Plenty's horn, 
Because of her opinionated mind 
Barter that horn and every good 
By quiet natures understood 
For an old bellows full of angry wind? 

Considering that, all hatred driven hence, 
The soul recovers radical innocence 
And learns at last that it is self-delighting, 
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting, 
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will; 
She can, though every face should scowl 
And every windy quarter howl 
Or every bellows burst, be happy still. 

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house 
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious; 
For arrogance and hatred are the wares 
Peddled in the thoroughfares. 
How but in custom and in ceremony 
Are innocence and beauty born? 
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn, 
And custom for the spreading laurel tree. 

June 1919 


T. S. Eliot (1888- 1965)

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

                           S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse 
                           A persona che mai tornasse al mondo 
                           Questa fiamma staria sensa piu scosse. 
                           Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo 
                           Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero 
                           Sensa tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
                Let us go then, you and I, 
                When the evening is spread out against the sky 
                Like a patient etherized upon a table; 
                Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, 
                The muttering retreats 
                Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels 
                And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: 
                Streets that follow like a tedious argument 
                Of insidious intent 
                To lead you to an overwhelming question . . . 
                Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’ 
                Let us go and make our visit. 
                In the room the women come and go 
                Talking of Michelangelo. 
                The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, 
                The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, 
                Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening, 
                Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains, 
                Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys, 
                Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 
                And seeing that it was a soft October night, 
                Curled once about the house, and fell asleep. 
                And indeed there will be time 
                For the yellow smoke that slides along the street, 
                Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 
                There will be time, there will be time 
                To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; 
                There will be time to murder and create, 
                And time for all the works and days of hands 
                That lift and drop a question on your plate; 
                Time for you and time for me, 
                And time yet for a hundred indecisions, 
                And for a hundred visions and revisions, 
                Before the taking of a toast and tea. 
                In the room the women come and go 
                Talking of Michelangelo. 
                And indeed there will be time 
                To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’ 
                Time to turn back and descend the stair, 
                With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 
                [They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’] 
                My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, 
                My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— 
                [They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’] 
                Do I dare 
                Disturb the universe? 
                In a minute there is time 
                For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. 
                For I have known them all already, known them all— 
                Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, 
                I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; 
                I know the voices dying with a dying fall 
                Beneath the music from a farther room. 
                So how should I presume? 
                And I have known the eyes already, known them all— 
                The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, 
                And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, 
                When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, 
                Then how should I begin 
                To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? 
                And how should I presume? 
                And I have known the arms already, known them all— 
                Arms that are braceleted and white and bare 
                [But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!] 
                Is it perfume from a dress 
                That makes me so digress? 
                Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl. 
                And should I then presume? 
                And how should I begin? 
                                         .      .      .      .      . 
                Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 
                And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes 
                Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . . 
                I should have been a pair of ragged claws 
                Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. 
                                         .      .      .      .      . 
                And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! 
                Smoothed by long fingers, 
                Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers 
                Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me. 
                Should I, after tea and cakes and ices, 
                Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 
                But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, 
                Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter 
                I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter; 
                I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, 
                And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 
                And in short, I was afraid. 
                And would it have been worth it, after all, 
                After the cups, the marmalade, the tea, 
                Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me, 
                Would it have been worth while 
                To have bitten off the matter with a smile, 
                To have squeezed the universe into a ball 
                To roll it toward some overwhelming question, 
                To say: ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead, 
                Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all’— 
                If one, settling a pillow by her head, 
                Should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all. 
                That is not it, at all.’ 
                And would it have been worth it, after all, 
                Would it have been worth while, 
                After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets, 
                After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor— 
                And this, and so much more?— 
                It is impossible to say just what I mean! 
                But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: 
                Would it have been worth while 
                If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl, 
                And turning toward the window, should say: 
                ‘That is not it at all, 
                That is not what I meant at all.’ 
                No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; 
                Am an attendant lord, one that will do 
                To swell a progress, start a scene or two 
                Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool, 
                Deferential, glad to be of use, 
                Politic, cautious, and meticulous; 
                Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; 
                At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— 
                Almost, at times, the Fool. 
                I grow old . . . I grow old . . . 
                I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. 
                Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? 
                I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
                I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. 
                I do not think that they will sing to me. 
                I have seen them riding seaward on the waves 
                Combing the white hair of the waves blown back 
                When the wind blows the water white and black. 
                We have lingered in the chambers of the sea 
                By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 
                Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Ted Hughes (1930- 1998)

Hawk Roosting

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads -

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.


Pike, three inches long, perfect
Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
They dance on the surface among the flies.

Or move, stunned by their own grandeur, 
Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
Of submarine delicacy and horror.
A hundred feet long in their world.

In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
Gloom of their stillness: 
Logged on last year's black leaves, watching upwards.
Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds

The jaws' hooked clamp and fangs
Not to be changed at this date: 
A life subdued to its instrument; 
The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.

Three we kept behind glass, 
Jungled in weed: three inches, four, 
And four and a half: red fry to them-
Suddenly there were two. Finally one

With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-

One jammed past its gills down the other's gullet: 
The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
The same iron in this eye
Though its film shrank in death.

A pond I fished, fifty yards across, 
Whose lilies and muscular tench
Had outlasted every visible stone
Of the monastery that planted them-

Stilled legendary depth: 
It was as deep as England. It held
Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
That past nightfall I dared not cast

But silently cast and fished
With the hair frozen on my head
For what might move, for what eye might move.
The still splashes on the dark pond, 

Owls hushing the floating woods
Frail on my ear against the dream
Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed, 
That rose slowly toward me, watching.



Now is the globe shrunk tight 
Round the mouse's dulled wintering heart 
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass, 
Move through an outer darkness 
Not in their right minds, 
With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends, 
Brutal as the stars of this month, 
Her pale head heavy as metal.


Robert Frost (1874 –1963)

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground,
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm,
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
>From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.


The Gum-Gatherer

There overtook me and drew me in       
To his down-hill, early-morning stride,   
And set me five miles on my road          
Better than if he had had me ride,          
A man with a swinging bag for load               
And half the bag wound round his hand.            
We talked like barking above the din     
Of water we walked along beside.        
And for my telling him where I’d been   
And where I lived in mountain land                
To be coming home the way I was,       
He told me a little about himself.            
He came from higher up in the pass       
Where the grist of the new-beginning brooks     
Is blocks split off the mountain mass—          
And hopeless grist enough it looks         
Ever to grind to soil for grass.    
(The way it is will do for moss.) 
There he had built his stolen shack.        
It had to be a stolen shack                
Because of the fears of fire and loss       
That trouble the sleep of lumber folk:     
Visions of half the world burned black   
And the sun shrunken yellow in smoke. 
We know who when they come to town                    
Bring berries under the wagon seat,       
Or a basket of eggs between their feet;  
What this man brought in a cotton sack 
Was gum, the gum of the mountain spruce.        
He showed me lumps of the scented stuff                  
Like uncut jewels, dull and rough.          
It comes to market golden brown;         
But turns to pink between the teeth.

I told him this is a pleasant life,  
To set your breast to the bark of trees           
That all your days are dim beneath,       
And reaching up with a little knife,         
To loose the resin and take it down       
And bring it to market when you please.


E. E. Cummings (1894 –1962)

anyone lived in a pretty how town

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


Women and men(both little and small)

cared for anyone not at all

they sowed their isn't they reaped their same

sun moon stars rain


children guessed(but only a few

and down they forgot as up they grew

autumn winter spring summer)

that noone loved him more by more


when by now and tree by leaf

she laughed his joy she cried his grief

bird by snow and stir by still

anyone's any was all to her


someones married their everyones

laughed their cryings and did their dance

(sleep wake hope and then)they

said their nevers they slept their dream


stars rain sun moon

(and only the snow can begin to explain

how children are apt to forget to remember

with up so floating many bells down)


one day anyone died i guess

(and noone stooped to kiss his face)

busy folk buried them side by side

little by little and was by was


all by all and deep by deep

and more by more they dream their sleep

noone and anyone earth by april

wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

if seventy were young
if seventy were young
and death uncommon
(forgiving not divine,
to err inhuman)
or any thine a mine
to say would be to sing

if broken hearts were whole
and cowards heroes
(the popular the wise,
a weed a tearose)
and every minus plus
--fare ill:fare well--
a frown would be a smile
if sorrowful were gay
(today tomorrow,
doubting believing and
to lend to borrow)
or any foe a friend
--cry nay:cry yea--
november would be may
that you and i'd be quite
zome such perfectionñ
another i and you,
is a deduction
which(be it false or true)
disposes me to shoot
dogooding folk on sight


The Contemporary Scene

John Ashbery

At North Farm

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you, 
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?

Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917- 2000)

We Real Cool

We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We


Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We


Jazz June. We

Die soon.

 (Read analysis )


Rudolph Reed was oaken.
His wife was oaken too.
And his two good girls and his good little man
Oakened as they grew. 
"I am not hungry for berries.
I am not hungry for bread.
But hungry hungry for a house
Where at night a man in bed 
"May never hear the plaster
Stir as if in pain.
May never hear the roaches
Falling like fat rain. 
"Where never wife and children need
Go blinking through the gloom.
Where every room of many rooms
Will be full of room. 
"Oh my home may have its east or west
Or north or south behind it.
All I know is I shall know it,
And fight for it when I find it." 
The agent's steep and steady stare
Corroded to a grin.
Why you black old, tough old hell of a man,
Move your family in!
Nary a grin grinned Rudolph Reed,
Nary a curse cursed he,
But moved in his House. With his dark little wife,
And his dark little children three. 
A neighbor would look, with a yawning eye
That squeezed into a slit.
But the Rudolph Reeds and children three
Were too joyous to notice it. 
For were they not firm in a home of their own
With windows everywhere
And a beautiful banistered stair
And a front yard for flowers and a back for grass? 
The first night, a rock, big as two fists.
The second, a rock big as three.
But nary a curse cursed Rudolph Reed.
(Though oaken as man could be.) 
The third night, a silvery ring of glass.
Patience arched to endure,
But he looked, and lo! small Mabel's blood
Was staining her gaze so pure. 
Then up did rise our Roodoplh Reed
And pressed the hand of his wife,
And went to the door with a thirty-four
And a beastly butcher knife. 
He ran like a mad thing into the night
And the words in his mouth were stinking.
By the time he had hurt his first white man
He was no longer thinking. 
By the time he had hurt his fourth white man
Rudolph Reed was dead.
His neighbors gathered and kicked his corpse.
"Nigger--" his neighbors said. 
Small Mabel whimpered all night long,
For calling herself the cause.
Her oak-eyed mother did no thing
But change the bloody gauze.
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