Archive for the ‘Bookshelf’ Category

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.  And then there are books […] which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.  It wasn’t even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author […] seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways.


~ John Green, The Fault in Our Stars


"Lesendes Mädchen" ("Reading Girl") by Emil Rau (1858-1937)

“Lesendes Mädchen” (“Reading Girl”) by Emil Rau (1858-1937)

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A May-Day Madrigal

The sun shines fair on Tweedside, the river flowing bright,

Your heart is full of pleasure, your eyes are full of light,

Your cheeks are like the morning, your pearls are like the dew,

Or morning and her dew-drops are like your pearls and you.


Because you are a princess, a princess of the land,

You will not turn your lightsome eyes a moment where I stand,

A poor unnoticed poet, a-making of his rhymes;

But I have found a mistress, more fair a thousand times.


‘Tis May, the elfish maiden, the daughter of the Spring,

Upon whose birthday morning the birds delight to sing.

They would not sing one note for you, if you should so command,

Although you are a princess, a princess of the land.


                                                                     ~ Robert Fuller Murray


"Spring Spreads One Green Lap of Flowers" by John William Waterhouse, 1910

“Spring Spreads One Green Lap of Flowers” by John William Waterhouse, 1910

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The steadfastness of generations of nobility

shows in the curving lines that form the eyebrows.

And the blue eyes still show traces of childhood fears

and of humility here and there, not of a servant’s,

yet of one who serves obediently, and of a woman.

The mouth formed as a mouth, large and accurate,

not given to long phrases, but to express

persuasively what is right.  The forehead without guile

and favoring the shadows of quiet downward gazing.


This, as a coherent whole, only casually observed;

never as yet tried in suffering or succeeding,

held together for an enduring fulfillment,

yet so as if for times to come, out of these scattered things,

something serious and lasting were being planned.


~ Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Albert Ernest Flemming


"Contemplation" by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902)

“Contemplation” by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902)

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The wind is tossing the lilacs,

The new leaves laugh in the sun,

And the petals fall on the orchard wall,

But for me the spring is done.


Beneath the apple blossoms

I go a wintry way,

For love that smiled in April

Is false to me in May.


~ Sara Teasdale


"Apple Blossom" by Henry Ryland (1856-1924)

“Apple Blossom” by Henry Ryland (1856-1924)

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From Blossoms

From blossoms comes

this brown paper bag of peaches

we bought from the boy

at the bend in the road where we turned toward

signs painted Peaches.


From laden boughs, from hands,

from sweet fellowship in the bins,

comes nectar at the roadside, succulent

peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,

comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.


O, to take what we love inside,

to carry within us an orchard, to eat

not only the skin, but the shade,

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold

the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into

the round jubilance of peach.


There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


                             ~ Li-Young Lee


"Peach Blossoms" by Winslow Homer, 1878

“Peach Blossoms” by Winslow Homer, 1878

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I looked up from my writing,

   And gave a start to see,

As if rapt in my inditing,

   The moon’s full gaze on me.


Her meditative misty head

   Was spectral in its air,

And I involuntarily said,

   ‘What are you doing there?’


‘Oh, I’ve been scanning pond and hole

   And waterway hereabout

For the body of one with a sunken soul

   Who has put his life-light out.


‘Did you hear his frenzied tattle?

   It was sorrow for his son

Who is slain in brutish battle,

   Though he has injured none.


‘And now I am curious to look

   Into the blinkered mind

Of one who wants to write a book

   In a world of such a kind.’


Her temper overwrought me,

   And I edged to shun her view,

For I felt assured she thought me

   One who should drown him too.


~ Thomas Hardy


A. L. Leroy, 1827

A. L. Leroy, 1827

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The Spring

Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost

Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost

Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream

Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;

But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,

And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth

To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree

The drowsy cuckoo, and the humble-bee.

Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring

In triumph to the world the youthful Spring.

The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array

Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.

Now all things smile, only my love doth lour;

Nor hath the scalding noonday sun the power

To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold

Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.

The ox, which lately did for shelter fly

Into the stall, doth now securely lie

In open fields; and love no more is made

By the fireside, but in the cooler shade

Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep

Under a sycamore, and all things keep

Time with the season; only she doth carry

June in her eyes, in her heart January.


                       ~ Thomas Carew


Chloris from Boticelli's Primavera

Chloris from Boticelli’s Primavera

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