Great Poetry Quotes

Ulysses
by Tennyson

We are not now the strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

 

Kobayashi Issa
(One of my favorite poets is Kobayashi Issa, a master poet for the common person.  His haiku and tanka reflect the reality of life for most of us who live on the lines.  I hope you enjoy reading these translated poems, but also visualizing the scenes in your mind.)

This world of dew 
is only the world of dew–
and yet… oh and yet…

I must be crazy
not to be crazy in this
crazy spring nightmare

A parent’s mind may
not be unenlightened and
one may nonetheless
lose one’s way completely
over love for one’s child.

What you do or don’t
say really doesn’t matter:
talking to dead trees

Passing high above
our village, migrating birds cry,
“Nobody needs you!”

A butterfly
flutters past–my body feels
the dust of the ages

Thus spring begins: old
stupidities repeated,
new errors invented

I wish she were here
to listen to my bitching
and enjoy this moon

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Gratitude for gifts,
even snow on my bedspread
a gift from the Pure Land

A world of trials,
and if the cherry blossoms,
it simply blossoms

While the street-corner
priest continues to blather–
ah!–tranquility

Just to say the word
home, that one word alone,
so pleasantly cool

O summer snail,
you climb but slowly, slowly
to Fuji’s summit

 

Song of Myself
by Walt Whitman
(WW is my favorite American poet.  Like Issa, he writes for the common person, expressing our thoughts and lives as they are lived out in the fields and valleys.) 

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Four Quartets
by T.S. Eliot
(A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1971)

Burnt Norton I:

            Time present and time past
            Are both perhaps present in time future,
            And time future contained in time past.
            If all time is eternally present
            All time is unredeemable.
            What might have been an abstraction
            Remaining a perpetual possibility
            Only in a world of speculation.
            What might have been and what has been
            Point to one end, which is always present.
            Footfalls echo in the memory
            Down the passage which we did not take
            Towards the door we never opened
            Into the rose-garden.  My words echo
            Thus, in your mind.
                        But to what purpose
            Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
            I do not know.

            * *

            Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
            Cannot bear very much reality.
            Time past and time future
            What might have been and what has been
            Point to one end, which is always present.

Burnt Norton III

*  * *

            Distracted from distraction by distraction

            *  * *

Little Gidding IV

            The dove descending breaks the air
            With flame of incandescent terror
            Of which the tongues declare
            The one discharge from sin and error.
            The only hope, or else despair
                        Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre–
                        To be redeemed from fire by fire.

                        Who then devised the torment?  Love.
            Love is the unfamiliar Name
            Behind the hands that wove
            The intolerable shirt of flame
            Which human power cannot remove.
                        We only live, only suspire
                        Consumed by either fire or fire.