Some of my favourite poems [updated 27th June]

I posted a couple of my own poems.

But here are some that are amongst my favourites by others. I used to have a strange hobby of memorising poetry, using the ancient technique of memory palaces – I set myself a challenge of memorising 100 poems. I’ll write about that later on, there is a chapter of my memoir on it. I built a memory palace when I was younger and use it in some unusual ways that might be of use to others to learn from.

Note these are mostly relatively old poems, as I couldn’t find the newer ones online.

My favourites of all are Sonnet 104, and those by Yeats, Brooke, Primo Levi, Hakuin, and Owen.

Updated 29th April to add ‘The Hollow Men’, ‘If this is a man’, ‘She walks in beauty’

Updated 16th May to add ‘In Flanders Fields’ and ‘Invictus’.

Updated 27th June to add Hakuin’s “Song of Meditation”

Auden – August, 1968
The Ogre does what ogres can, 
Deeds quite impossible for Man, 
But one prize is beyond his reach, 
The Ogre cannot master Speech: 

About a subjugated plain, 
Among its desperate and slain, 
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips, 
While drivel gushes from his lips.

(The poem is about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia)

Blake – The Fly

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Rupert Brooke – The Soldier (WW1 poem)

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
 
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Lord Byron – She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that’s best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes; 
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
Which heaven to gaudy day denies. 

One shade the more, one ray the less, 
Had half impaired the nameless grace 
Which waves in every raven tress, 
Or softly lightens o’er her face; 
Where thoughts serenely sweet express, 
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, 
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent, 
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent!

Ernest Dowson – The shortness of life forbids us long hopes

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
   Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
   We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
   Within a dream.

TS Eliot – The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
            A penny for the Old Guy

                        I

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.

                              II

    Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
    In death’s dream kingdom
    These do not appear:
    There, the eyes are
    Sunlight on a broken column
    There, is a tree swinging
    And voices are
    In the wind’s singing
    More distant and more solemn
    Than a fading star.

    Let me be no nearer
    In death’s dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer-

    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom

                    III

    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man’s hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.

    Is it like this
    In death’s other kingdom
    Waking alone
    At the hour when we are
    Trembling with tenderness
    Lips that would kiss
    Form prayers to broken stone.

                      IV

    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death’s twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.

                            V

Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o’clock in the morning.


    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Hakuin (A 17th Century Zen Monk)

The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He’ll never give up.

If he’d let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.

Hakuin’s Song of Meditation

All living beings are originally Buddhas.
Just like water and ice: Without water there is
no ice, and outside living beings there is no
Buddha.

Not knowing how near it is, people seek it
outside themselves — what a pity!

Like someone in the middle of water crying
out in thirst, or the child of a rich man,
wandering around like a beggar, we are
bound to the six worlds because we are lost
in the darkness of ignorance.

Following dark path after dark path,
when shall we escape birth and death?

The Zen meditation of Mahayana Buddhism is beyond all words of praise.

The virtues of charity, morality, invoking the Buddha, repentance, training,
and all other worthy actions have their source in meditation.

Even those who sit in Zazen only once, will destroy evil karma; how then can there be false paths?

The Pure Land is now very close.
Listen with reverence to this teaching;praise, embrace it, and you will find merit.

Better yet, look within and find self-nature beyond the self,
and you will transcend words and explanations.
When you open the gate of cause and effect,
You will discover a path beyond duality or multiplicity.

When you abide in the form that is no form, whether going or returning, you will always be at home.

When you take thought as non-thought,
You will sing and dance to the music of
Buddhist truth.

Boundless as the sky, radiant as the moon,
is the fourfold wisdom. At this moment, what do you lack?

Nirvana is right in front of you.
This very place is the Lotus Land. This body is
the body of Buddha.

Ernest Henley – Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Housman – Into my heart on air that kills

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows;
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.


Kooser – Selecting a reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will. 


Kate Knapp Johnson - The Meadow

Half the day lost, staring
at this window. I wanted to know
just one true thing

about the soul, but I left thinking
for thought, and now—
two inches of snow have fallen

over the meadow. Where did I go,
how long was I out looking
for you?, who would never leave me,
my withness, my here.
                       

DH Lawrence The Enkindled Spring

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green, 
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes, 
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between 
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes. 

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration 
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze 
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration, 
Faces of people streaming across my gaze. 

And I, what fountain of fire am I among 
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed 
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng 
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

Primo Levi – If this is a man (Auschwitz)

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find on returning in the evening,

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.

Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.

Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,

Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

CS Lewis – Oxford

It is well that there are palaces of peace
And discipline and dreaming and desire,
Lest we forget our heritage and cease
The Spirit’s work—to hunger and aspire:

Lest we forget that we were born divine,
Now tangled in red battle’s animal net,
Murder the work and lust the anodyne,
Pains of the beast ‘gainst bestial solace set.

But this shall never be: to us remains
One city that has nothing of the beast,
That was not built for gross, material gains,
Sharp, wolfish power or empire’s glutted feast.

We are not wholly brute. To us remains
A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.

She was not builded out of common stone
But out of all men’s yearning and all prayer
That she might live, eternally our own,
The Spirit’s stronghold—barred against despair.

John McCrae – In Flanders Fields (WW1)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monty Python – The Philosopher’s Song

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel

There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
‘Bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill

Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every dayAristotle,

Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle
And Hobbes was fond of his dram

And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart
“I drink, therefore I am.

“Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he’s pissed

Pablo Neruda – If you forget me

You know how this is: 
if I look 
at the crystal moon, at the red branch 
of the slow autumn at my window, 
if I touch 
near the fire 
the impalpable ash 
or the wrinkled body of the log, 
everything carries me to you, 
as if everything that exists, 
aromas, light, metals, 
were little boats 
that sail 
toward those isles of yours that wait for me. 

Well, now, 
if little by little you stop loving me 
I shall stop loving you little by little. 

If suddenly 
you forget me 
do not look for me, 
for I shall already have forgotten you. 

If you think it long and mad, 
the wind of banners 
that passes through my life, 
and you decide 
to leave me at the shore 
of the heart where I have roots, 
remember 
that on that day, 
at that hour, 
I shall lift my arms 
and my roots will set off 
to seek another land. 

But 
if each day, 
each hour, 
you feel that you are destined for me 
with implacable sweetness, 
if each day a flower 
climbs up to your lips to seek me, 
ah my love, ah my own, 
in me all that fire is repeated, 
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten, 
my love feeds on your love, beloved, 
and as long as you live it will be in your arms 
without leaving mine.


Wilfred Owen – Anthem for Doomed Youth (WW1 poem)

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen – Dulce et Decorum Est (WW1 poem)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Marvell – To his coy mistress

Had we but world enough and time, 
This coyness, lady, were no crime. 
We would sit down, and think which way 
To walk, and pass our long love’s day. 
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side 
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide 
Of Humber would complain. I would 
Love you ten years before the flood, 
And you should, if you please, refuse 
Till the conversion of the Jews. 
My vegetable love should grow 
Vaster than empires and more slow; 
An hundred years should go to praise 
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; 
Two hundred to adore each breast, 
But thirty thousand to the rest; 
An age at least to every part, 
And the last age should show your heart. 
For, lady, you deserve this state, 
Nor would I love at lower rate. 
       But at my back I always hear 
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; 
And yonder all before us lie 
Deserts of vast eternity. 
Thy beauty shall no more be found; 
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound 
My echoing song; then worms shall try 
That long-preserved virginity, 
And your quaint honour turn to dust, 
And into ashes all my lust; 
The grave’s a fine and private place, 
But none, I think, do there embrace. 
       Now therefore, while the youthful hue 
Sits on thy skin like morning dew, 
And while thy willing soul transpires 
At every pore with instant fires, 
Now let us sport us while we may, 
And now, like amorous birds of prey, 
Rather at once our time devour 
Than languish in his slow-chapped power. 
Let us roll all our strength and all 
Our sweetness up into one ball, 
And tear our pleasures with rough strife 
Through the iron gates of life: 
Thus, though we cannot make our sun 
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


Shakespeare – Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Shakespeare – Sonnet 104

To me, fair friend, you never can be old, 
For as you were when first your eye I eyed, 
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold 
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride, 
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned 
In process of the seasons have I seen, 
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned, 
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. 
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand, 
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived; 
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand, 
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived: 
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred: 
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments. Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove. 
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 
It is the star to every wand’ring bark, 
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come; 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. 
If this be error and upon me prov’d, 
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Shakespeare – Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; 
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; 
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; 
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. 
I have seen roses damasked, red and white, 
But no such roses see I in her cheeks; 
And in some perfumes is there more delight 
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. 
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know 
That music hath a far more pleasing sound; 
I grant I never saw a goddess go; 
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground. 
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare 
   As any she belied with false compare.

Robert Louis Stevenson – Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Wordsworth – I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Yeats – When you are old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Yeats – Never give all the heart

Never give all the heart, for love 
Will hardly seem worth thinking of 
To passionate women if it seem 
Certain, and they never dream 
That it fades out from kiss to kiss; 
For everything that’s lovely is 
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight. 
O never give the heart outright, 
For they, for all smooth lips can say, 
Have given their hearts up to the play. 
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love? 
He that made this knows all the cost, 
For he gave all his heart and lost.

Yeats – The Song of the Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


Yeats – He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Yeats – The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core
.

Yeats – He gives his beloved certain rhymes

FASTEN your hair with a golden pin,
And bind up every wandering tress;
I bade my heart build these poor rhymes:
It worked at them, day out, day in,
Building a sorrowful loveliness
Out of the battles of old times.

You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
And bind up your long hair and sigh;
And all men’s hearts must burn and beat;
And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
Live but to light your passing feet.

Yeats – Down by the Salley Gardens

Down by the salley gardens
   my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
   with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
   as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
   with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
   my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
   she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
   as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
   and now am full of tears.

Yeats – Adam’s Curse

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,   
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,   
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.   
Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet   
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen   
The martyrs call the world.’
                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake   
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache   
On finding that her voice is sweet and low   
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be   
So much compounded of high courtesy   
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks   
Precedents out of beautiful old books;   
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;   
We saw the last embers of daylight die,   
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky   
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell   
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell   
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:   
That you were beautiful, and that I strove   
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown   
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

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