Sunday, November 22, 2009

First published on July 23, 2009

Four water poems, in honor of yet another day. I've marked the authors' death dates so you can see who was more or less contemporaneous with whom. Two women, two men. Two famous writers, two not-famous writers. Three Americans (two New Englanders and a Nebraskan), one Brit. All white, all middle class. What's your conclusion about quality? Maybe I'll give you my opinion tomorrow.

The Cherwell

Milly Jourdain (d. 1926)

This bare bright day of early spring, when still
We feel the touch of winter in the wind,
It's good to watch the river's endless flow
And restless moving of the thin brown twigs;

To see the tree-trunks down in those cold depths,
To hear the rushing sound of wind-swept woods,
And see the yellow foam below the weir,
And wish our life could be as excellent.

I was born upon thy bank, river

Henry David Thoreau (d. 1862)

I was born upon thy bank, river,
          My blood flows in thy stream,
And thou meanderest forever
          At the bottom of my dream.

Big Swimming

Edwin Ford Piper (d. 1939)

Rain on the high prairies,
In dusk of autumnal hills;
Under the creaking saddle
My cheerless pony plods. . . .

Down where the obscure water
Lapping the lithe willows
Sunders the chilling plain--
Rusty-hearted and travel worn--
We set our bodies
To the November flood.

The farther shore is a cloud
Beyond midnight. . . .

Big swimming.

Poem 520

Emily Dickinson (d. 1886)

I started Early--Took my Dog--
And visited the Sea--
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me--

And Frigates--in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands--
Presuming Me to be a Mouse--
Aground--upon the Sands--

But no Man moved Me--till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe--
And past my Apron--and my Belt
And past my Bodice--too--

And made as He would eat me up
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve--
And then--I started--too--

And He--He followed--close behind--
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle--Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl--

Until We met the Solid Town--
No One He seemed to know--
And bowing--with a Mighty look--
At me--The Sea withdrew--

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