A Song from Armenia by Geoffrey Hill

Roughly-silvered leaves that are the snow
On Ararat seen through those leaves.
The sun lays down a foliage of shade.

A drinking fountain pulses its head
Two or three inches from the troughed stone.
An old woman sucks there, gripping the rim.

Why do I have to relive, even now,
Your mouth, and your hand running over me
Deft as a lizard, like a sinew of water?

- from The Songbook of Sebastian Arrurruz

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Proverbs by Nitoo Das

Wolves also cry, just
as worms sometimes
fly. A mouse will
spit on a dead cat. A poem
when you tell it to sit.
And some trees
are wiser than others.

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Wet Crow by Nitoo Das

Someday I will learn
to capture
the wet crow in words.
I will write about

the wing-shoulders
hunched a shade of
and the faded evening
caw-cawing against the dark

jade of trees.
I will mention
the curious cocking
of a wise-eyed aging
punk, greyer
and a strange wet

beard beneath the beak.

Someday I will know
how to etch lines
into the black shimmer
shake of body and

clutching claws that speak.

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Edward, Edward - A Scottish Ballad (anon.)

Why does your brand sae drop wi' bluid
Edward, Edward?
Why does your brand sae drop wi' bluid?
And why so sad gang thee, O?

O, I hae killed my hawk sae guid
Mither, mither.
O, I hae killed my hawk sae guid
And I had nae mair but he, O.

Your hawk's bluid was never sae reid,
Edward, Edward.
Your hawks bluid was never sae reid,
My dear son I tell thee, O.

O, I hae killed my reid-roan steed,
Mither, Mither.
O, I hae killed my reid-roan steed,
That erst was sae fair and free, O.

Your steed was auld, and you hae more
Edward, Edward.
Your steed was auld, and you hae more
Some other duel you drie, O.

O, I hae killed my faither dear,
Mither, Mither.
O, I hae killed my faither dear.
Alas and woe is me, O!

And what penance will you drie for that
Edward, Edward?
And what penance will you drie for that
My dear son, now tell me, O.

I'll set my feet in yonder boat
Mither, Mither.
I'll set my feet in yonder boat
And I'll fare over the sea, O.

And what will you do wi' your towers and your hall
Edward, Edward?
And what will you do wi' your towers and your hall
That were so fair to see, O?

I'll let them stand til they down fall,
Mither, Mither.
I'll let them stand til they down fall,
For here never mair maun I'll be, O.

And what will you leave to your bairns and your wife
Edward, Edward?
And what will you leave to your bairns and your wife
When you gang over the sea, o?

The world's room, let them beg through life
Mither, Mither.
The world's room, let them beg through life
For them never more will I see, O.

And what will you leave your own mother dear,
Edward, Edward?
And what will you leave your own mother dear?
My dear son, now tell me, O.

The curse of Hell frae me shall you bear
Mither, Mither.
The curse of Hell frae me you shall you bear,
Sic councils you gave to me, O.

From Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Says Percy: "This curious song was transmitted to the Editor by Sir David Dalrypmle." Modernised spelling by me.

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The Door by Julia Copus

Here is a door. You know that
I am behind it for no other

reason that you saw
me enter it, for you

will never be still
long enough to hear

the banging of my chest,
the voiceless fear that,

once inside, has nowhere
else to go. And if

the door has a lock
what then? For no lock

exists that cannot be
forced as you never

tire of reminding me.
Come for me, then, and tower

over me, let me
cower in your shadow,

put out the light,
for when I am no more

than a silhouette, backlit,
others will come tendering

rewards for my story.
And then I shall speak

but with an actor's voice,
going over every detail

slowly, in the wrong dialect.

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Pebble by Michael Rosen

I know a man who's got a pebble.

he found it and he sucked it
during the war.
He found it and he sucked it
when they ran out of water.
He found it and he sucked it
when they were dying for a drink.
And he sucked it and he sucked it
for days and days and days.

I know a man who's got a pebble
and he keeps it in his drawer.

It's small and brown - nothing much to look at
but I think of the things he thinks
when he sees it:
how he found it
how he sucked it
how he nearly died for water to drink.

A small brown pebble
tucked under his tongue
and he keeps it in his drawer
to look at now and then.


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A Wood Coming into Leaf by Alice Oswald

From the first to the second

Warily, from the tip to the palm

Third leaf (the blackthorn done)

From the fourth to the fifth and
(Larix, Castanea, Fraxinus, Tilia)

Thaw taps, groping in stumps,
frost like an adder easing away

The sixth to the seventh (plum conceive
a knobble in a stone within a blossom)

Ushers the next by the thumbs to the next...

A thirty-first, a thirty-second

A greenwood through a blackwood
passes (like the moon's halves
meet and go behind themselves)

And you and I, quarter-alight, our boots in shadow

Birch, oak, rowan, ash
chinese-whispering the change.

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Symbols by W.B. Yeats

A storm-beaten old watch-tower,
A blind hermit rings the hour.

All-destroying sword blade still
carried by the wandering fool.

Gold-sewn silk on the sword-blade,
Beauty and fool together laid.

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I am Ireland by Augusta Gregory (Lady Gregory)

I am Ireland
Older than the Hag of beara.

Great my pride,
I gave birth to brave Cuchulain.

Great my shame,
My own children killed their mother.

I am Ireland,
Lonelier than the Hag of Beara.

(from the Irish of Padraig Pearse)

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Caliban's Freedom Song by William Shakespeare

No more dams I'll make for fish
Nor fetch in firing
At requiring;
Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish
'Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban
Has a new master: get a new man.
Freedom, hey-day!
hey-day, freedom!
freedom, hey-day,

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, 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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(Suggested for inclusion by Jan Hedge.)

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The World and I by Laura Riding

This is not exactly what I mean
Any more than the sun is the sun.
But how to mean more closely
If the sun shines but approximately?
What a world of awkwardness!
What hostile implements of sense!
Perhaps this is as close a meaning
As perhaps becomes such knowing.
Else I think the world and I
Must live together as strangers and die -
A sour love, each doubtful whether
Was ever a thing to love the other.
No, better for both to be nearly sure
Each of each - exactly where
Exactly I and exactly the world
Fail to meet by a moment, and a word.

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One Art by Elizabrth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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Anecdote of Men by the Thousand by Wallace Stevens

The soul, he said, is composed
Of the external world.

There are men of the East, he said,
Who are the East.
There are men of a province
Who are that province.
There are men of a valley
Who are that valley.

There are men whose words
Are as natural sounds of their places
As the cackle of toucans
In the place of toucans.

The mandoline is the instrument
Of a place.

Are there mandolines of western mountains?
Are there mandolines of northern moonlight?

The dress of a woman of Lhassa,
In its place,
Is an invisible element of that place
Made visible.

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Epitaph on the monument of Sir William Dyer at Colmworth by Lady Catherine Dyer

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowsy patience leave to stay
One hour longer: so that we might either
Sit up, or gone to bed together?
But since thy finished labour hath possessed
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly, and thy widow bride
Shall soon repose her by thy slumbering side,
Whose business now is only to prepare
My nightly dress and call to prayer.
Mine eyes wax heavy, and the day grows old,
The dew falls thick, my blood grows cold,
Draw, draw the closed curtains and make room,
My dear, my dearest dust, I come, I come.

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On Discovering a Butterfly by Vladimir Nabokov

I found it and I named it, being versed
in taxonomic Latin; thus became
godfather to an insect and its first
describer -- and I want no other fame.

Wide open on its pin (though fast asleep),
and safe from creeping relatives and rust,
in the secluded stronghold where we keep
type specimens it will transcend its dust.

Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss,
poems that take a thousand years to die
but ape the immortality of this
red label on a little butterfly.

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Inland by Edna St. Vincent Millay

People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore -
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbor's head,
What do they long for, as I long for, -
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning -
One salt taste of the sea once more?

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from Love and a Life by Edwin Morgan


None of those once known is disknown, hidden, lost, I see them in clouds in streets in trees
Often and often, or in dreams, or if I feel I ought to be at my ease
They prod and probe: ‘When my head was on your knees
And your hand was on my head, did you think time would seize
Head, hand, all, lock all away where there is no ring of keys - ?’
xxxxxxxxxxI did not, oh I did not,
xxxxxxxxxxBut look what I have got,
Frame of a moment made for friendless friendly time to freeze.

‘Ah canny say Ah love ye but.’ ‘I know, that’s all right, it’s all right.’
‘Ah love ma wife an ma weans. Ah don’t go aroon thinking aboot you day an night.
Ah wahnt tae come in yir mooth, an see thee teeth a yours – see they don’t bite!
Ah like ye right enough, but aw that lovey-dovey stuff is pure shite.
Ah widny kiss ye, God no.’ But kiss me he did one afternoon. with a drink in him, at Central Station, on the lips, in broad daylight.
xxxxxxxxxxIt will not be denied
xxxxxxxxxxIn this life. It is a flood-tide.
You may dam with all your language but it breaks and bullers through and blatters all platitudes and protestations before it, clean out of sight.


Love is the most mysterious of the winds that blow.
As you lie alone it batters with sleeplessness at the winter bedroom window.
The friend is absent, the streetlamp shivers desolately to and fro.
Your prostate makes you get up, you look out, police car and ambulance howl and flash as they matter-of-factly come and go.
There is pain and danger down there, greater than the pain you know
xxxxxxxxxxBut it is pain all the same
xxxxxxxxxxAs you breathe the absent name
Of one who is bonded to you beyond blizzards, time-zones, sickness, black stars, snow.

First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light!

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God's Story by RS Thomas

A thousand years went by.
The Buddha sat under the Bo tree
rhyming. God burned in the sky

as of old. The family waited
for him who would not come back
any more. Who is my father

and mother? God fingered the hole
in his side, where the green tree
came from. The desert gave up

its saints. The Pope's ring was deadly
as a snake's kiss. Art and poetry
drank of that slow poison, God,

looking into a dry chalice,
felt the cold touch of the machine
on his hand, leading him

to a steel altar. "Where are you?"
he called, seeking himself among
the dumb cogs and tireless camshafts.

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