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When You Are Old






Let Evening Come

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995, American)

 

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

 

To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time

Robert Herrick (1591-1674, English)

 

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying;And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying. The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, The higher he’s a-getting,The sooner will his race be run, And nearer he’s to setting. That age is best which is the first, When youth and blood are warmer;But being spent, the worse, and worst Times still succeed the former. Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry;For having lost but once your prime, You may forever tarry.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae (1872-1918, Canadian)

 

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.

 

 

The Bloody Sire

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962, American)

 

It is not bad. Let them play.

Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane

Speak his prodigious blasphemies.

It is not bad, it is high time,

Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

 

What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine

The fleet limbs of the antelope?

What but fear winged the birds, and hunger

Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?

Violence has been the sire of all the world’s values.

 

Who would remember Helen’s face

Lacking the terrible halo of spears?



Who formed Christ but Herod and Caesar,

The cruel and bloody victories of Caesar?

Violence, the bloody sire of all the world’s values.

 

Never weep, let them play,

Old violence is not too old to beget new values.

 

When You Are Old

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939, Irish)

 

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



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