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Romance

Romance, who loves to nod and sing,

With drowsy head and folded wing,

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been—a most familiar bird—

Taught me my alphabet to say—

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild wood I did lie,

A child—with a most knowing eye.

Of late, eternal Condor years

So shake the very Heaven on high

With tumult as they thunder by,

I have no time for idle cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky.

And when an hour with calmer wings

Its down upon my spirit flings—

That little time with lyre and rhyme

To while away—forbidden things!

My heart would feel to be a crime

Unless it trembled with the strings.

 

                           ~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809

 

Edwin Austin Abbey, 1879

A Good Book

A good book is an education of the heart.  It enlarges your sense of human possibility what human nature is of what happens in the world.  It’s a creator of inwardness.

~ Susan Sontag, born on this day in 1933

 

“Literary Pursuits of a Young Lady” by Alexei Harlamoff

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

 

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.

All animals are smothered in their lairs.

I am too absent-spirited to count;

The loneliness includes me unawares.

 

And lonely as it is that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less—

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

 

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.

 

                                      ~ Robert Frost

 

“La neige à Louveciennes (Snow at Louveciennes)” by Alfred Sisley, 1878

Winter-Time

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,  

A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;  

Blinks but an hour or two; and then,  

A blood-red orange, sets again.  

  

Before the stars have left the skies,

At morning in the dark I rise;  

And shivering in my nakedness,  

By the cold candle, bathe and dress.  

  

Close by the jolly fire I sit  

To warm my frozen bones a bit;

Or with a reindeer-sled, explore  

The colder countries round the door.  

  

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap  

Me in my comforter and cap;  

The cold wind burns my face, and blows

Its frosty pepper up my nose.  

  

Black are my steps on silver sod;  

Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;  

And tree and house, and hill and lake,  

Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

 

                   ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

 

“Wet Snow, Auvergne” by Victor Charreton, circa 1899

As my Scotch, spared the water, blondly sloshes

About its tumbler, and gay manic flame

Is snapping in the fireplace, I grow youthful:

I realize that calendars aren’t truthful

And that for all of my grand unsuccesses

External causes are to blame.

 

And if at present somewhat destitute,

I plan to alter, prove myself more able,

And suavely stroll into the coming years

As into rooms with thick rugs, chandeliers,

And colorfully pyramided fruit

On linened lengths of table.

 

At times I fear the future won’t reward

My failures with sufficient compensation,

But dump me, aging, in a garret room

Appointed with twilit, slant-ceilinged gloom

And a lone bulb depending from a cord

Suggestive of self-strangulation.

 

Then, too, I have bad dreams, in one of which

A cowled, scythe-bearing figure beckons me.

Dark plains glow at his back: it seems I’ve died,

And my soul, weighed and judged, has qualified

For an extended, hyper-sultry hitch

Down in eternity.

 

Such fears and dreams, however, always pass.

And gazing from my window at the dark,

My drink in hand, I’m jauntily unbowed.

The sky’s tiered, windy galleries stream with cloud,

And higher still, the dazed stars thickly mass

In their long Ptolemaic arc.

 

What constellated powers, unkind or kind,

Sway me, what far preposterous ghosts of air?

Whoever they are, whatever our connection,

I toast them (toasting also my reflection),

Not minding that the words which come to mind

Make the toast less toast than prayer:

 

Here’s to the next year, to the best year yet;

To mixed joys, to my harum-scarum prime;

To auguries reliable and spacious;

To times to come, such times being precious,

If only for the reason that they get

Shorter all the time.

 

                             ~ Timothy Steele

 

“Moulin de la Galette” by Ramon Casas i Carbó (1866-1932)

We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

 

~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

 

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,

And the winter winds are wearily sighing:

Toll ye the church bell sad and slow,

And tread softly and speak low,

For the old year lies a-dying.

Old year you must not die;

You came to us so readily,

You lived with us so steadily,

Old year you shall not die.

 

……………………………………………

 

He froth’d his bumpers to the brim;

A jollier year we shall not see.

But tho’ his eyes are waxing dim,

And tho’ his foes speak ill of him,

He was a friend to me.

Old year, you shall not die;

We did so laugh and cry with you,

I’ve half a mind to die with you,

Old year, if you must die.

 

He was full of joke and jest,

But all his merry quips are o’er.

To see him die across the waste

His son and heir doth ride post-haste,

But he’ll be dead before.

Every one for his own.

The night is starry and cold, my friend,

And the New-year blithe and bold, my friend,

Comes up to take his own.

 

~ From “The Death of the Old Year” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

“Saint Giles, His Bells” by Charles Altamont Doyle (1832-1893)

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