“A Working Philosophy,” from Blind Children, by Israel Zangwill

lookingup

A Working Philosophy

The solar system turns without thine aid.
Live, die ! The universe is not afraid.
What is, is right ! If aught seems wrong below,
Then wrong it is — of thee to leave it so.
Then wrong it first becomes for human thought,
Which else would die of dieting on naught.
Tied down by race and sex and creed and station,
Go, learn to find thy strength in limitation,
To do the little good that comes to hand.
Content to love and not to understand ;
Faithful to friends and country, work and dreams,
Knowing the Real is the thing that seems.
While reverencing every nobleness.
In whatsoever tongue, or shape, or dress,
Speak out the word that to thy soul seems right.
Strike out thy path by individual light;
‘Tis contradictory rays that give the white.

From Blind Children: Poems, by Israel Zangwill
New York City: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1903

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Question,” from The Music, by Helen Wolfert (1963)

silence

The Question

Sound heard only in
Silence, are you my rush of
Blood in its rivers,

Or the silent spin
Of us through silent space, you
Heard in the silence?

   
 

from The Music: Poems, by Helen Wolfert
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1965.

Helen Wolfert (born Helen Herschdorfer) was married to the novelist, journalist and screenwriter Ira Wolfert, whose 1953 book, Married Men, was recently discussed here (post).

“To My Books,” by Henry Vaughan, from The Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations of Henry Vaughan (1856)

books

To My Books

Bright books! the perspectives to our weak sights,
The clear projections of discerning lights,
Burning and shining thoughts, man’s posthume day,
The track of fled souls, and their milkie way,
The dead alive and busie, the still voice
Of enlarged spirits, kind Heaven’s white decoys!
Who lives with you lives like those knowing flowers,
Which in commerce with light spend all their hours;
Which shut to clouds, and shadows nicely shun.
But with glad haste unveil to kiss the sun.
Beneath you all is dark, and a dead night.
Which whoso lives in wants both health and sight
By sucking you, the wise, like bees, do grow
Healing and rich, though this they do most slow.
Because most choicely; for as great a store
Have we of books as bees of herbs, or more:
And the great task to try, then know, the good,
To discern weeds, and judge of wholesome food,
Is a rare scant performance. For man dyes
Oft ere ’tis done, while the bee feeds and flyes.
But you were all choice flowers; all set and dressed
By old sage florists, who well knew the best;
And I amidst you all am turned a weed.
Not wanting knowledge, but for want of heed.
Then thank thyself, wild fool, that would’st not be
Content to know — what was too much for thee!

From The Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations of Henry Vaughan
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Imperfection,” by Nathalia Crane, from Swear By Night and Other Poems (1936)

misprint

Imperfection

If no poor word

Stepped boldly from a sound,
For sake of sense

That while a critic frowned,
No blush could be,

The rose grow dull at times,
And poesy

Resent her perfect rhymes.
Let go the lure —

The striving to unmake;
Behold the truth

Whenever heart may ache —
There is a glory

In a great mistake.

From Swear by the Night and Other Poems, by Nathalia Crane
New York City: Random House, 1936

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Connoisseur,” by Nobody, from Poems, consisting of Tales, Fables, Epigrams, etc., etc. (1770)

zohaffy

Tribuna of the Uffizi, (1772–1778), by Johan Zoffany

In that fam’d Room where Artist strive
True Taste and Genius to revive,
Where Modern Guidos put in Claim,
Contending for the Wreath of Fame;
Where Virtu’s Sons with great Decision,
A Judge allow’d, a Connoisseur,
With Buckram Gait, and Phiz demure,
Noting a Piece, on which the Crowd
Unusual Compliments bestow’d,
His Glass first peeps thro’ with an Air,
(True Connoisseurs short-sighted are)
The Painting carelessly survey’d.
And when inform’d ’twas English made,
Thus to an Elbow-Friend, with Look
Oracularly Cynic, spoke:
“Sure never was Performance seen,
More Gothic, tasteless, lifeless, mean:
Painting! ‘Tis Canvas spoil’d! Oh, Gad!
‘Tis daubing! Execrable! Sad!
No Colouring! Keeping! And such Clare-
Obscure
! All Englise! All Barbare!
And how unnaturally shows
That ill-made Fly on the vile Rose!
A Fly! ’tis no more like.” When quick,
Pointing toward the Fly his Stick,
To prove his Criticism true,
Away the little Insect flew.

Fromm Poems, consisting of Tales, Fables, Epigrams, etc., etc., by “Nobody”
London: Printed for Mess. Robinson and Roberts, T. Davies, and T. Slack, 1770

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Beerdrinker’s Song,” by James Henry, M. D., from Poems (1856)

gambrinus
Under a Picture of Gambrinus.

GambrInus was a gallant king–
Reigned once in Flanders old,
He was the man invented beer
As I’Ve been often told.

Of malt and hops he brewed his beer
And made it strong and good,
And some of it he bottled up
And some he kept in wood.

The golden crown upon his head,
The beer jug in his hand,
Beerdrinkers, see before ye here
Your benefactor stand.

Beerlovers, paint him on your shields,
Upon your beerpots paint —
‘Twere well a pope did never worse
Than make Gambrinus Saint.

And now fill every man his pot
Till the foam overflows;
No higher praise asks the good old king
Than froth upon the nose.

Bacchus I’ll honor while I live
And while I live love wine,
But still I’ll hold th’ old Flanders king
And beerjug more divine.

While I have wine night’s darkest shades
To me are full moonlight
But keep my beerpot filled all day
And I’ll sleep sound all night.

So blessings on th’ old Flanders king,
And blessings on his beer,
And curse upon the tax on malt,
That makes good drink so dear.

Written while walking from Schopfheim to Gersbach in the Black Forest (Baden), Octob. 6, 1854

From\m Poems, Chiefly Philosophical, in Continuation of My Book and a Half Year’s Poems, by James Henry, M. D
Dresden: C. C. Meinhold and Sons, 1856

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Cracked Record Blues,”by Kenneth Fearing, from Afternoon of a Pawnbroker (1943)

phonograph

Cracked Record Blues

If you watch it long enough you can see the clock move.
If you try hard enough you can hold a little water in the
          palm of your hand,
If you listen once or twice you know it’s not the needle, or
          the tune, but a crack in the record when sometimes
          a phonograph falters and repeats, and repeats, and
          repeats, and repeats

And if you think about it long enough, long enough, long
          enough, long enough then everything is simple and
          you can understand the times,
You can see for yourself that the Hudson still flows, that the
          seasons change as ever, that love is always love,
Words still have a meaning, still clear and still the same;
You can count upon your fingers that two plus two still
          equals, still equals, still equals, still equals–
There is nothing in this world that should bother the mind.

Because the mind is a common sense affair filled with common
          sense answers to common sense facts,
It can add up, can add up, can add up, can add up earthquakes
          and subtract them from fires,
It can bisect an atom or analyze the planets–
All it has to do is to, do is to, do is to, do is to start at the
          beginning and continue to the end.

from Afternoon Of A Pawnbroker And Other Poems, by Kenneth Fearing
New York City: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Tornado,” by Jack Hirschman, from A Correspondence of Americans (1960)

tornado

Tornado

Amid shambles blown, blown pages of a Gideon,
A farmer with a pitchfork stepped
Before the microphone and said it was a huge
Black arm did it, come sweeping across
The tabletop plain, grizzly, on a binge.

His wife, kind of scared and something shy
Of things stuck right before your face
To talk into, was in the distant field
Pecking at the wreckage of a moviehouse
Fallen out of the sky, for pans.

And still agog, the kid in overalls
Was dancing on shingles, leaping
From tree to tree, his blond crop fluttering,
Yelling to all the buried farmboys
About the swinging tail of the dragon that snapped.

from A Correspondence of Americans, by Jack Hirschman
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Son of Vermont,” from The Collected Poetry of Francesca Falk Miller (1956)

coolidge

Son of Vermont

Its granite rocks thy sire.
Its soil thy mother’s breast.
Its fiercest storms thy discipline.
Its smiling peace thy rest.

Where, in that solitude,
Among those mountain streams,
Didst thou attune thyself to God
And give thyself to dreams?

They call thee “silent” Is
Not that an attribute,
A spell, born of thy native hills
Before which, man is mute?

One does not prate of power
In idle chatter, where
God dwells. And thou
Met Him in silence there!

from The Collected Poetry of Francesca Falk Miller
Chicago: Privately printed, 1956

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

A rare, perhaps unique specimen: an ode to Calvin Coolidge.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Hartford,” from Wedge of Words: Poems, by Frederic Will (1962)

hartford

Hartford

Where nothing’s uninsured except the slow
Still commotion of spring. That seems the least
Of certainties. (Who called it from the ground,
In parks, or gardens long more orderly?)

Where in the finest print calamities
Are exorcised, where death, as any housewife
Knows, has lost its sting, and pays at last.
(Where policies are read before each meal.)

Where spring, an accident that’s never covered,
Creeps libidinous from house to house,
And trickles, when the last martini’s gone,
Into the actuary’s careful blood.

from Wedge of Words: Poems, by Frederic Will
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Dog in a Car,” from A Star by Day, by David McCord (1950)

dogincar

Dog in a Car

He grins a little as they drive him by.
Of what his nose needs there’s a fresh supply
Round every corner, up the rainy field:
He has no daily walk of equal yield.
His head hangs out, his tongue out farther still;
His bark is bolder from that window sill.
His nose is longer on the modern breeze—-
His father being Scotch, not Pekingese.

A lesser breed on leash or running loose
Would find his comradeship of little use;
A dog transported by the family Ford
Rides far beyond the days he loved or warred.
His ancestors on purely urban smells
Leaned hard enough, but they had nothing else.
They hadn’t won to his synthetic taste:
Investigation kept them out of haste.

You drive a dog from State to other State:
His senses meet with scents he can’t relate.
He hasn’t time. His little nostrils twitch.
Was that a rabbit, mole, or brindle bitch?
His eye grows bright. He reaches out in space.
The local brothers hardly see his face.
He’s whirling through a night of strange impact:
Of atavistic cats he once attacked.

from A Star by Day, by David McCord
Garden City, NJ: Doubleday & Company, 1950
Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Song,” from Poems, by Bessie Rayner Belloc (1852)

lady

Song

When my lady’s blue eyes glisten
With the love I hold so dear,
And for joy to look and listen,
All my pulses thrub and stir!
And I, timid, bow before her,
Scarcely daring kiss her hem,
Holy seems she–I adore her.
Wondering whence so bright a gem!

Gracious maiden! I think rather
That thou art that wandering star,
For whom all the weeping Pleiads
Ever vainly longing are.
Oh! I tremble lest they win her
To go back,–the sisters seven.
Scornful all of me, a sinner.
From their shining walk in Heaven.

from Poems, by Bessie Rayner Belloc
London: John Chapman, 1852

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

I reprint this poem for my own gracious lady’s birthday and for the found art delight of the OCR’d version of its second verse, as preserved for digital eternity:

Gracioiiii maiden ! 1 think rather
Tliat thou art tliat wandering star,
For whom all the weeping Pleiads
Ever Miinl}’ longing are.
Oh ! I tremble lest they \vm her
To go l>aek, — the Kistei*s seven.
Scornful all of nu.% a sinner.
From their shining walk in Heaven.

I dread that the Kistei*s might \vm my gracioiiii maiden. Shudder.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Written on Seeing the Bodies of Two Beautiful Women, Cast Away Near Milford,” from Poems, Now First Collected, by Chandos Leigh (1839)

Written on Seeing the Bodies of Two Beautiful Women, Cast Away Near Milford

A dreary waste of snows around
O’er-spread the inhospitable ground;
The storm-blast scarce had ceased to roar,
There lay two corpses on the shore.
Thou, pamper’d lecher, come and see
These shapes, so oft embraced by thee!
What does it shame thee? look again
These were once women, ay, and vain;
Rock-bruised and mangled now, they seem
More horrid than a ghastly dream.
Now kiss their livid lips, and bless
Their fragrant stench, sweet rottenness.
The gay gold rings bemock their fingers,
Where not one trait of beauty lingers;
But, like the shrivell’d star-fish, lie
Their hands in sand, all witheringly.
We start to see this loathsome clay,
Uncoffin’d, rotting fast away;
Yet, we can bear the noisome pest,
Vice, gathering, blackening in the breast.

from Poems, Now First Collected, by Chandos Leigh, 1st Baron Leigh
London: Edward Moxon, 1839

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

Pretty grisly as poems go–a bit like a preliminary sketch for the coroner’s report.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“The Funerals,” from Poems, by Seumas O’Sullivan (1912)

funeral

The Funerals

As I go down Glasnevin way
The funerals pass me day by day,
Stately, sombre, stepping slow
The white-plumed funeral horses go,
With coaches crawling in their wake
A long and slow black glittering snake
(Inside of every crawling yoke
Silent cronies sit and smoke).
Ever more as I grow thinner
Day by day without a dinner,
Every day as I go down
I meet the funerals leaving town;
Soon my procession will be on view,
A hearse, and maybe, a coach or two.

from Poems, by Seumas O’Sullivan
Dublin: Maunsel & Company, Ltd., 1912

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

(Inside of every crawling yoke
Silent cronies sit and smoke).

T’ats a marvelous t’ing, t’at rhoime is!–Ed.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Lines on a Swing,” from The Casket; or, Original and Selected Poetry, an anthology from 1826

swing

Lines on a Swing

Whilst thus I cleave the fanning air,
In swift yet stationary car,
Its motion but too well portrays
The soul’s low flights and dull delays,
Which seems with buoyant zeal to rise,
At times ambitious of the skies;
But check’d by some terrestrial chain,
Too soon, alas! sinks down again.

from The Casket; or, Selected Poetry, an anthology edited by W. J.
Edinburgh: W. Oliphant, 1826

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Love,” from Selected Poetry, by Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650)

lovers

Love

Love is the sire, dam, nurse, and seed
Of all that earth, air, waters breed:
All these, earth, water, air, fire.
Though contraries, in love conspire.
Fond painters: Love is not a lad
With bow, and shafts, and feathers clad,
As he is fancied in the brain
Of some loose loving idle swain.
Much sooner is he felt than seen;
His substance subtle, slight, and thin.
Oft leaps he from the glancing eyes;
Oft in some smooth mount he lies;
Soonest he wins, the fastest flies;
Oft lurks he ‘twixt the ruddy lips,
Thence, while the heart his nectar sips,
Down to the soul the poison slips;
Oft in a voice creeps down the ear;
Oft hides his darts in golden hair;
Oft blushing cheeks do light his fires;

Oft in a smooth soft skin retires;
Often in smiles, often in tears,
His flaming heat in water bears;
When nothing else kindles desire,
Even Virtue’s self shall blow the fire.
Love with a thousand darts abounds.
Surest and deepest virtue wounds;
Oft himself becomes a dart,
And love with love doth love impart.
Thou painful pleasure, pleasing pain,
Thou gainful loss, thou losing gain,
Thou bitter sweet, easing disease,
How dost thou by displeasing please?
How dost thou thus bewitch the heart,
To live in hate, to joy in smart,
To think itself most bound when free,
And freest in its slavery?
Every creature is thy debtor;
None but loves, some worse, some better:
Only in love they happy prove

from Selected Poetry, by Phineas Fletcher
Cottingham near Hull: J. R. Tutin, 1904

Available on the Internet Archive: Link

From the Preface

It is difficult to understand why certain poets of undoubted merit–and Phineas Fletcher is a robust and nervous writer whom it is good to know — should long remain neglected while others are frequently reprinted, and therefore, it is to be resumed, continuously read. It may be hoped that a goodly proportion of the readers of John Halifax, Gentleman who have had their curiosity piqued by Mrs Craik’s praise of Phineas Fletcher, will be glad of an opportunity to read some portion of his work.

Phineas Fletcher–son of one who has been described as “civilian, ambassador and poet”–was born in 1582, at the pastoral village of Cranbrook in Kent ; he was educated at Eton and Cambridge, staying at the University, as student and Fellow, from 1600 until 1616. Then for five years he was chaplain at Risley in Derbyshire to Sir Henry Willoughby, and from 1621 until his death, towards the close of 1650, he was rector of Hilgay in Norfolk. Despite the troubled times in which his later years were cast, he appears to have passed a quiet life conducive to contemplation. That his poetical genius was recognised by his contemporaries is shown by some striking tributes.

I like this poem because it reads so well aloud, what with its rhymes, half-rhymes, alliterations, and switching word pairs. There is some good common sense in it, but it’s more fun than profound: a precursor to Ogden Nash, perhaps.

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive.

“Nine O’Clock Show,” from Poems, 1930-1960, by Josephine Miles (1960)

I’ve decided to introduce a new feature on the site, devoted to bringing back to light neglected poems from collections to be found on the Internet Archive. Each year I promise to spend more time reading poetry, and each year I disappoint myself. So this exercise will not only contribute to the site’s purpose but serve a selfish one at the same time.

movietheaterNine O’Clock Show

Going into the show one heard nothing but closing sounds,
Doors closing, shutters drawing down,
Except before the palace and ice cream parlor
One heard the closing of the town,
One heard the shades and shops and nightfall drawing down.

But after Harlow listen what has arisen,
The rustle of feet in leaves and leaves in black,
The suck of straws and slam of a screen door rising,
Rising the racket of frogs in the waking black,
In the town in the field in the heart and the whole way back.

from Poems, 1930-1960, by Josephine Miles
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1960

Available on the Internet Archive: Link