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In Memoriam

Pet was never mourned as you,

Purrer of the spotless hue,

Plumy tail, and wistful gaze,

While you humoured our queer ways,

Or outshrilled your morning call

Up the stairs and through the hall—

Foot suspended in its fall—

While, expectant, you would stand

Arched, to meet the stroking hand;

Till your way you chose to wend

Yonder, to your tragic end.

 

Never another pet for me!

Let your place all vacant be;

Better blankness day by day

Than companion torn away.

Better bid [her] memory fade,

Better blot each mark [s]he made,

Selfishly escape distress

By contrived forgetfulness,

Than preserve [her] prints to make

Every morn and eve an ache.

 

From “Last Words to a Dumb Friend” by Thomas Hardy

 

When we go out into the fields of learning

We go by a rough route

Marked by colossal statues, Frankenstein’s

Monsters, AMPAC and the 704,

AARDVARK, and deoxyribonucleic acid.

They guard the way.

Headless they nod, wink eyeless,

Thoughtless compute, not heartless,

For they figure us, they figure

Our next turning.

They are reading the books to be written.

As we start out

At first daylight into the fields, they are saying,

Starting out.

 

In every sage leaf is contained a toad

Infinitely small.

 

                                 ~ Josephine Miles

 

Winslow Homer, 1879

 

Ebb

I know what my heart is like

     Since your love died:

It is like a hollow ledge

Holding a little pool

     Left there by the tide,

     A little tepid pool,

Drying inward from the edge.

 

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884

What makes a nation’s pillars high

And its foundation strong?

What makes it mighty to defy

The foes that round it throng?

 

It is not gold.  Its kingdoms grand

Go down in battle shock;

Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,

Not on abiding rock.

 

Is it the sword?  Ask the red dust

Of empires passed away;

The blood has turned their stones to rust,

Their glory to decay.

 

And is it pride?  Ah, that bright crown

Has seemed to nations sweet;

But God has struck its luster down

In ashes at his feet.

 

Not gold but only men can make

A people great and strong;

Men who for truth and honor’s sake

Stand fast and suffer long.

 

Brave men who work while others sleep,

Who dare while others fly…

They build a nation’s pillars deep

And lift them to the sky.

 

                            ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Our Banner in the Sky” by Frederic Edwin Church, 1861

The fountain murmuring of sleep,

A drowsy tune;

The flickering green of leaves that keep

The light of June;

Peace, through a slumbering afternoon,

The peace of June.

 

A waiting ghost, in the blue sky,

The white curved moon;

June, hushed and breathless, waits, and I

Wait too, with June;

Come, through the lingering afternoon,

Soon, love, come soon.

 

                            ~ Arthur William Symons

 

“Undine” by John William Waterhouse, 1872

Who has not waked to list the busy sounds

Of summer’s morning, in the sultry smoke

Of noisy London?  On the pavement hot

The sooty chimney-boy, with dingy face

And tattered covering, shrilly bawls his trade,

Rousing the sleepy housemaid.  At the door

The milk-pail rattles, and the tinkling bell

Proclaims the dustman’s office; while the street

Is lost in clouds impervious.  Now begins

The din of hackney-coaches, wagons, carts;

While tinmen’s shops, and noisy trunk-makers,

Knife-grinders, coopers, squeaking cork-cutters,

Fruit-barrows, and the hunger-giving cries

Of vegetable-vendors, fill the air.

Now every shop displays its varied trade,

And the fresh-sprinkled pavement cools the feet

Of early walkers.  At the private door

The ruddy housemaid twirls the busy mop,

Annoying the smart ’prentice, or neat girl,

Tripping with band-box lightly.  Now the sun

Darts burning splendor on the glittering pane,

Save where the canvas awning throws a shade

On the gay merchandise.  Now, spruce and trim,

In shops (where beauty smiles with industry)

Sits the smart damsel; while the passenger

Peeps through the window, watching every charm.

Now pastry dainties catch the eye minute

Of humming insects, while the limy snare

Waits to enthrall them.  Now the lamp-lighter

Mounts the tall ladder, nimbly venturous,

To trim the half-filled lamps, while at his feet

The pot-boy yells discordant!  All along

The sultry pavement, the old-clothes-man cries

In tone monotonous, while sidelong views

The area for his traffic: now the bag

Is slyly opened, and the half-worn suit

(Sometimes the pilfered treasure of the base

Domestic spoiler), for one half its worth,

Sinks in the green abyss.  The porter now

Bears his huge load along the burning way;

And the poor poet wakes from busy dreams,

To paint the summer morning.

 

                           ~ Mary Robinson

 

“A Street Flower Seller” by Augustus Edwin Mulready, 1882

Solstice

Each year, on this same date, the summer solstice comes.

Consummate light: we plan for it,

the day we tell ourselves

that time is very long indeed, nearly infinite.

And in our reading and writing, preference is given

to the celebratory, the ecstatic. 

 

There is in these rituals something apart from wonder:

there is also a kind of preening,

as though human genius had participated in these arrangements

and we found the results satisfying.

 

What follows the light is what precedes it:

the moment of balance, of dark equivalence.

 

But tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs

so late into the evening –

why should we look either forward or backward?

Why should we be forced to remember:

it is in our blood, this knowledge.

Shortness of the days; darkness, coldness of winter.

It is in our blood and bones; it is in our history.

It takes genius to forget these things.

 

                                                                             ~ Louise Glück

 

“The Dreamer (Summer Evening)” by James Joseph Jacques Tissot, 1871

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