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Greatest Poets Plus Excerpts (1-24)

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1.Dante- Paradiso
In fashion then as of a snow-white rose
Displayed itself to me the saintly host,
Whom Christ in his own blood had made his bride,

But the other host, that flying sees and sings
The glory of Him who doth enamour it,
And the goodness that created it so noble,

Even as a swarm of bees, that sinks in flowers
One moment, and the next returns again
To where its labour is to sweetness turned,

Sank into the great flower, that is adorned
With leaves so many, and thence reascended
To where its love abideth evermore.

Their faces had they all of living flame,
And wings of gold, and all the rest so white
No snow unto that limit doth attain.

2.Shakespeare- Titus Andronicus
Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?
Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
Even now I curse the day--and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,--
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men's cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends' doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
'Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.'
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

3.Homer- The Iliad
Now the stout heart of Ajax cared no longer
to stay where others had withdrawn; he moved
with long strides on the ships' decks, making play
with his long polished pike, the sections joined
by rivets, long as twenty-two forearms.
Think of an expert horseman, who has harnessed
a double team together from his string
and rides them from the plain to a big town
along the public road, where many see him,
men and women both; with perfect ease,
he changed horses, leaping, at a gallup.
That was Ajax, going from deck to deck
of many ships with his long stride, his shout
rising to heaven, as in raging tones
he ordered the Danaans to defend them.

4.Ferdowsi- The Shahnameh
Both armies drew their swords and closed amid
The din of trump and drum, the sky was ebon,
Earth indigo, while swords and maces gleamed
Like lightning flashing from a murky cloud.
The air was crimson, black, and violet,
With spears and flags. The shouting of the divs,
The clouds of dust, the roar of kettledrums,
And neigh of steeds, rent earth and shook the mountains;
None e'er saw such a fight. Arose the din
Of arrow, mace, and sword, the plain became
A pool of heroes' blood, earth like a sea
Of pitch whose waves were maces, swords, and arrows.
Swift steeds sped on like ships upon the deep.
And thou hadst said of them :"They founder fast !

5.Vyasa- The Bhagavad Ghita
Then, O King! the God, so saying,
Stood, to Pritha's Son displaying
All the splendour, wonder, dread
Of His vast Almighty-head.
Out of countless eyes beholding,
Out of countless mouths commanding,
Countless mystic forms enfolding
In one Form: supremely standing
Countless radiant glories wearing,
Countless heavenly weapons bearing,
Crowned with garlands of star-clusters,
Robed in garb of woven lustres,
Breathing from His perfect Presence
Breaths of every subtle essence
Of all heavenly odours; shedding
Blinding brilliance; overspreading—
Boundless, beautiful—all spaces
With His all-regarding faces;
So He showed!

6.Virgil- The Aeneid
Truly we found here a prodigious fight,
As though there were none elsewhere, not a death
In the whole city: Mars gone berserk, Danaans
In a rush to scale the roof; the gate besieged
By a tortoise shell of overlapping shields.
Ladders clung to the wall, and men strove upward
Before the very doorposts, on the rungs,
Left hand putting the shield up, and the right
Reaching for the cornice. The defenders
Wrenched out upperworks and rooftiles: these
For missiles, as they saw the end, preparing
To fight back even on the edge of death.
And gilded beams, ancestral ornaments,
They rolled down on the heads below. In hall
Others with swords drawn held the entrance way,
Packed there, waiting. Now we plucked up heart
To help the royal house, to give our men
A respite, and to add our strength to theirs,
Though all were beaten. And we had for entrance
A rear door, secret, giving on a passage
Between the palace halls; in other days
Andromache, poor lady, often used it,
Going alone to see her husband's parents
Or taking Astyanax to his grandfather.
I climbed high on the roof, where hopeless men
Were picking up and throwing futile missiles.
Here was a tower like a promontory
Rising toward the stars above the roof:
All Troy, the Danaan ships, the Achaen camp,
Were visible from this. Now close beside it
With crowbars, where the flooring made loose joints,
We pried it from its bed and pushed it over.
Down with a rending crash in sudden ruin
Wide over the Danaan lines it fell;
But fresh troops moved up, and the rain of stones
With every kind of missile never ceased.

7.Ovid- The Heroides
Penelope to the tardy Ulysses:
do not answer these lines, but come, for
Troy is dead and the daughters of Greece rejoice.
But all of Troy and Priam himself
are not worth the price I've paid for victory.
How often I have wished that Paris
had drowned before he reached our welcoming shores.
If he had died I would not have been
compelled now to sleep alone in my cold bed
complaining always of the tiresome
prospect of endless nights and days spent working
like a poor widow at my tedious loom.
Imagining hazards more awful than real,
love has always been tempered by fear:
I was sure it was you the Trojans attacked
and the name of Hector made me pale;
if someone told the tale of Antilochus
I dreamed of you dead as he had died;
if they sang of the death of Menoetius' son,
slain in armour not his own, I wept,
because even clever tricks had failed

8.Tasso- Jerusalem Delivered
I sing the reverent armies, and that Chief
who set the great tomb of our Savior free;
much he performed with might and judgement, much
he suffered in the glorious victory;
in vain Hell rose athwart his path, in vain
two continents combined in mutiny.
Heaven graced him with it's favor, and restored
his straying men to the banner of the Lord.

O Muse, who do not string a garland of
the fading laurel fronds of Helicon,
but far in heaven among the blessed choirs
wreathe deathless stars into a golden crown
breathe into my heart the fire of Heavenly love,
illuminate my song and if I have sewn
embroideries of the truth in any place,
I ask forgiveness for their lesser grace.

9.Milton- Paradise Lost
horror and doubt distract
His troubl'd thoughts, and from the bottom stirr
The Hell within him, for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step no more then from himself can fly
By change of place:

10.Rumi- Masnavi
Yet ears are slow, and carnal eyes are blind.
Free through each mortal form the spirits roll,
But sight avails not. Can we see the soul?
Such notes breath'd gently from yon vocal frame:
Breath'd said I? no; 'twas all enliv'ning flame.
'Tis love, that fills the reed with warmth divine;
'Tis love, that sparkles in the racy wine.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God.

12.Baudelaire- Flowers of Evil
Folly and error, stinginess and sin
Possess our spirits and fatigue our flesh.
And like a pet we feed our tame remorse
As beggars take to nourishing their lice.

Our sins are stubborn, our contrition lax;
We offer lavishly our vows of faitb
And turn back gladly to tbe path of filth,
Thinking mean tears will wash away our stains.

On evil's pillow lies the alchemist
Satan Thrice-Great, who lulls our captive soul,
And all the richest metal of our will
Is vaporized by his hermetie arts.

Truly tbe Devil pulls on all our strings!
In most repugnant objects we find charms;
Each day we're one step furtber into Hell,
Content to move across tbe stinking pit.

As a poor libertine will suck and kiss
The sad, tormented tit of some old whore,
We steal a furtive pleasure as we pass,
A shrivelled orange that we squeeze and press.

Close, swarming, like a million writhing worms,
A demon nation riots in our brains,
And, when we breathe, death flows into our lungs,
A secret stream of dull, lamenting cries.

13.Jayadeva- Gita Govinda
Fish! that didst outswim the flood;
Tortoise! whereon earth hath stood;
Boar! who with thy tusk held'st high
The world, that mortals might not die;
Lion! who hast giants torn;
Dwarf! who laugh'dst a king to scorn;
Sole Subduer of the Dreaded!
Slayer of the many-headed!
Mighty Ploughman! Teacher tender!
Of thine own the sure Defender!
Under all thy ten disguises
Endless praise to thee arises.

Endless praise arises,
O thou God that liest
Rapt, on Kumla's breast,
Happiest, holiest, highest!
Planets are thy jewels,
Stars thy forehead-gems,
Set like sapphires gleaming
In kingliest anadems;
Even the great gold Sun-God,
Blazing through the sky,
Serves thee but for crest-stone,
_Jai, jai!_ Hari, _jai!_
As that Lord of day
After night brings morrow,
Thou dost charm away
Life's long dream of sorrow.

14.Anonymous- Book of Job
Can an innocent man be punished?
Can a good man die in distress?
I have seen the plowers of evil
reaping the crimes they sowed.
One breath from God and they shrivel up;
one blast of his rage and they burn.
The lion may roar with fury,
but his teeth are cracked in his mouth.
The jackal howls and goes hungry;
the wolf is driven away.

15.Jean Racine- Andromache
PYLADES: What, is it true? Your soul a slave to love,
you are thrown upon its mercy? By what charm,
forgetting so much agony endured,
could you consent to wear those irons again?
Do you suppose Hermione, cold in Sparta,
waits burning in Epirus? Well ashamed
to have persisted in such useless prayers,
you hated her, you spoke no more of her.
Sir, you deceived me.
ORESTES: I deceived myself.

16.T.S. Eliot- The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

17.Du Fu- Song of the Wagons
"Where do you go to-day ?" a passer-by
Calls to the marching men.
A grizzled old veteran answers him,
Halting his swinging stride:
"At fifteen I was sent to the north
To guard the river against the Hun;
At forty I was sent to camp,
To farm in the west, far, far from home.
When I left, my hair was long and black;
When I came home, it was white and thin.
Today they send me again to the wars,
Back to the north frontier,
By whose gray towers our blood has flowed
In a red tide, like the sea--
And will flow again, for Wu Huang Ti
Is resolved to rule the world.

18.Leopardi- Infinitive
I've always loved this lonesome hill
And this hedge that hides
The entire horizon, almost, from sight.
But sitting here in a daydream, I picture
The boundless spaces away out there, silences
Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush
In which my heart is hardly a beat
From fear. And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence-
And a notion of eternity floats to mind,
And the dead seasons, and the season
Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So,
In this immensity my toughts all drown;
And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

19.Coleridge- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

And some in dreams assured were
Of the spirit that plagued us so:
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

20.Lucan- Pharsalia
Tyrrhenus high
Upon the bulwarks of his ship was struck
By leaden bolt from Balearic sling
Of Lygdamus; straight through his temples passed
The fated missile; and in streams of blood
Forced from their seats his trembling eyeballs fell.
Plunged in a darkness as of night, he thought
That life had left him; yet ere long he knew
The living rigour of his limbs; and cried,
"Place me, O friends, as some machine of war
Straight facing towards the foe; then shall my darts
Strike as of old; and thou, Tyrrhenus, spend
Thy latest breath, still left, upon the fight:
So shalt thou play, not wholly dead, the part
That fits a soldier, and the spear that strikes
Thy frame, shall miss the living." Thus he spake,
And hurled his javelin, blind, but not in vain;
For Argus, generous youth of noble blood,
Below the middle waist received the spear
And falling drave it home. His aged sire
From furthest portion of the conquered ship
Beheld; than whom in prime of manhood none,
More brave in battle: now no more he fought,
Yet did the memory of his prowess stir
Phocaean youths to emulate his fame.
Oft stumbling o'er the benches the old man hastes
To reach his boy, and finds him breathing still.
No tear bedewed his cheek, nor on his breast
One blow he struck, but o'er his eyes there fell
A dark impenetrable veil of mist
That blotted out the day; nor could he more
Discern his luckless Argus.He, who saw
His parent, raising up his drooping head
With parted lips and silent features asks
A father's latest kiss, a father's hand
To close his dying eyes. But soon his sire,
Recovering from his swoon, when ruthless grief
Possessed his spirit, "This short space," he cried,
"I lose not, which the cruel gods have given,
But die before thee. Grant thy sorrowing sire
Forgiveness that he fled thy last embrace.
Not yet has passed thy life blood from the wound
Nor yet is death upon thee -- still thou may'st
Outlive thy parent." Thus he spake, and seized
The reeking sword and drave it to the hilt,
Then plunged into the deep, with headlong bound,
To anticipate his son: for this he feared
A single form of death should not suffice.

21.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 dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: --
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing 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.

22.Shelley- Ozymandias
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.'

23.Petrarch- The Secret
And what is life itself? A space of toil,
A wrestling, a stage-play, a labyrinth
Of errors, or a game of mountebanks,
A desert, a morass, a land of briers,
An unploughed valley, or a crest unclomb:
Sombre its caves, and what wild beasts dwell there!
There is the stream of tears, the sea of woes,
Rest ever anxious, labour all for naught,
Hope without fruit, false pleasure but true pain,
Full breadth of poverty but empty wealth,
Inglorious honour, waste of all desire,
Adversity with never-stayned complaint,
The sting in all enjoyment, and the sweet,
Alas, not seldom bitter; a brief halt
At wayside inns; a dirty prison; a ship
Without a rudder; a blind man unled;
A stormy sea, a dangerous coast, a port
All doubtful,--with no dearth of monstrous wreck;
Hate, lust, and anger, virtue aye assumed,
Successful fraud labelled with honour's name,
Innocence scoffed at, faith held up to scorn,
And puffed-up science that no science is;
A land of ghosts and spectres, 'neath the reign
Of Lucifer and demons; or a sleep
Death ends and every dream. But yet some way
Remains, thank heaven, to good life, and hereafter
Unto the eternal.

24.Yeats- The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?