Poetry Selections from The Oxford Book of English Verse and The Best Loved Poems of The American People

Poetry Selections from The Oxford Book of English Verse and The Best Loved Poems of The American People

Here’s a selection of excerpts from a couple of poetry books I enjoy reading. These are from the very old The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1918:

Perfect woman

She was a phantom of delight when first she gleam’d upon my sight; A lovely apparition , sent to be a moment’s ornament; Her eyes as starts of twilight fair; like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair; But all things else about her drawn from May-time and the cheerful dawn’ A dancing shape, an image gay, to abound, to startle, and waylay… William Wordsworth

Blow, Blow, thou Winter Wind

Blow, blow, thou Winter wind, Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude; Thy tooth is not so keen, because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude… William Shakespeare

These excerpts are from The Best Loved Poems of the American People:


The mills of the gods grind late, but they grind fine (Greek poet)

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small; Though with patience he stands waiting, with exactness he grinds all F. Von Logau

Three Gates

If you are tempted to reveal a tale to you someone has told about another, make it pass, before you speak, three gates of gold. These narrow gates: First, is it true? Then, is it needful? In your mind give truthful answer. And the next is last and narrowest, Is it kind? And if to reach your lips at last it passes through these gateways, three, then you may tell the tale, nor fear what the result of speech might be. From The Arabian

This poem reminds me of the classic poem Drop a Pebble in the Water by James W. Foley, that has these lines:

Drop an unkind word, or careless; in a minute it is gone; But there’s a half a hundred ripples circling on and on. They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go, and there is no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow

Walk Slowly

If you should go before me, dear, walk slowly down the ways of death, well worn and wide, for I would want to overtake you quickly and seek the journey’s ending by your side.

I would be so forlorn not to descry you down some shining highroad when I came; Walk slowly, dear, and often look behind you and pause to hear if someone calls your name.        Adelaide Love

The following is an excerpt from a famous poem about the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856 over control of certain areas. It was fought between Imperial Russia on one side and an alliance of France, Brittan, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The poem describes a disastrous cavalry charge on October 25, 1854 as a result of a confused communication sent to Lord Cardigan who led the charge during the battle of Balaclava. Over six hundred British cavalry men rode straight into a valley in the face of over fifty artillery Brigade_2 pieces and twenty battalions of infantry. As it began a rider raced to tell them the order had been misunderstood, but was killed before he could deliver the message, so the charge continued. After the charge only 195 men were still with horses. The futility of the charge caused a French officer to say: "It is magnificent, but it is not war." The Russians first believed the soldiers had to have been drunk to have made the charge, but when the truth was learned, the Russians marveled at the discipline and bravery of the men. Tennyson’s poem is much longer than this excerpt and tells the story of their bravery. The poem’s words: "Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die" have been applied over the years to similar situations encountered by people.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of death rode the six hundred. Forward, the light brigade! Charge for the guns, he said: into the valley of death rode the six hundred. Forward, the light brigade! Was there a man dismay’d?

Not tho’ the soldier knew someone had blunder’d; Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die; into the valley of death rode the six hundred.

I’m not much for cowboy poetry, but one that always makes me smile is the poem Reincarnation by Wallace McRae which I am unable to reproduce due to copyright restrictions. See the poem at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mcrae.htm#Rein

Then there is a poem that always helps me put events in perspective, especially when I have decided how important I am. It’s from Percy Shelley:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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