Wednesday, September 27, 2017

50 for 50, days 20 & 21: A poem I love

This is the 20th and 21st of 50 posts celebrating my 50th birthday. You can see the rest here.

It isn't that I didn't think of you yesterday. It's that I am on vacation and gave myself a good and proper day off. It was wonderful. I've already written about rest and forgiveness, so skipping yesterday was a good example of both.

Today I want to share with you a poem I love. There are many poems that move me, this is just one of a collection that have helped me through many journeys. I first came across the work of Rupert Brooke in a collection of World War I poetry; so much powerful and innovative work was written by men who eventually died in that conflict. It reminds me (again) of why tyrants kill the poets and storytellers first.

This is far more than a catalog of the things the writer loves. It is a celebration of the things that make life worth fighting for. When you remember that this poem was written while Brooke was a soldier in a brutal conflict, it takes on even more meaning. I (and many others) have written other works in the style of this poem, some that I may share in this blog series, but this stands alone for me as a love song to the world.

So tell me, what do you love?

The Great Lover
Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915
I HAVE been so great a lover: filled my days
So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise,
The pain, the calm, and the astonishment,
Desire illimitable, and still content,
And all dear names men use, to cheat despair,         5
For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear
Our hearts at random down the dark of life.
Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife
Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far,
My night shall be remembered for a star  10
That outshone all the suns of all men's days.
Shall I not crown them with immortal praise
Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me
High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see
The inenarrable godhead of delight?  15
Love is a flame;—we have beaconed the world's night.
A city:—and we have built it, these and I.
An emperor:—we have taught the world to die.
So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence,
And the high cause of Love's magnificence,  20
And to keep loyalties young, I'll write those names
Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames,
And set them as a banner, that men may know,
To dare the generations, burn, and blow
Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming....  25
These I have loved:
      White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;  30
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon  35
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
The benison of hot water; furs to touch;  40
The good smell of old clothes; and other such—
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year's ferns....
                                    Dear names,
And thousand others throng to me! Royal flames;  45
Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing:
Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam  50
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;  55
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;—
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass.
Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.  60
They'll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love's trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
—Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what's left of love again, and make  65
New friends, now strangers....
                  But the best I've known,
Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown
About the winds of the world, and fades from brains
Of living men, and dies.
                  Nothing remains.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again  70
This one last gift I give: that after men
Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed
Praise you, "All these were lovely"; say, "He loved."

(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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