Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sonny's Lettah by Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ)

Duration 3:02


by Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ)

Sonny's Lettah (Anti-sus poem)

Brixton Prison
Jeb Avenue
London, South West 2

Dear Ma Maa,

Good Day
I hope that when these few lines reach you
they may find you in the best of health

Ma Maa I really don' know how to tell yu dis
'cause, I did meck a solemn promise
to teck care a likkle Jim and try
mi best fi look out fi 'im

Ma Maa a really did try mi best
but none de less
mi sorry fi tell yu sey
poor likkle Jim get aress'
it was de middle a de rush 'our
when everybody jus' a hustle an a bustle
fi go 'ome fi dem evenin' shower

Me and Jim stand up waiting pon a bus
    not causing no fuss
when all on a sudden a police man
                pull up
out jump 3 police man
De 'ole a dem carrying baton

Dem walk up to me and Jim
one a dem 'ole on to Jim
sey 'im teckin 'im in
Jim tell him fi leggo a 'im
fa 'im no do nuttin
an 'im naw tief, not even a button

Jim start to riggle
De police start to giggle

Ma Maa, meck a tell yu weh dem do to Jim
Ma Maa , meck a tell yu we dem do to him

Dem tump 'im in 'im belly
    an' it turn to jelly
Dem lick 'im pon 'im back
    an 'im rib get pop
Dem lick 'im pon 'im head
    but it tuff like lead
Dem kick 'im in 'im seed
    an it started to bleed

Ma Maa I just couldn't just stan' up
    deh a no do nutten

So mi juck one ina 'im eye
    an 'im started to cry
Mi tump one in 'im mout
    an 'im started to shout
Mi kick one pon 'im shin
an 'im started to spin
Mi tump 'im pon 'im chin
    an 'im drop pon a bin
            an crash an dead

Ma Maa more police man come down
    an beat me to de ground

Dem charge Jim fi sus
Dem charge mi fi murder
Ma Ma!    Don't fret
don't get depress an down 'earted
be of good courage

Till I hear from yu

I remain your son




Sunday, December 24, 2006

J. Geils Band's 'Floyd's Hotel': A place to get our poetic souls back

For Christmas, I got myself The Morning After, the 1971 album by my favorite band to see in concert in my teens, the J. Geils Band. In those 70s, some of us from Massachusetts had good friends from Manchester, NH. And I remember one time being in a car heading home from Montreal, with a mix of us as we all got into singing and swaying to the song "Floyd's Hotel," a song written about a New Hampshire hotel, done by the Massachusetts-based band. I have many J. Geils albums, the early albums, and the concert ones mainly, in a box down in my basement--but never got this one, and always should have.

Another thought, in watching the video below, it occurs to me that the latest American Idol, Taylor Hicks, has a similar energy to Peter Wolf. This makes me wonder if there is an influence there. I have no inclination to go see Hicks in concert or buy his albums. The reason might be that he comes across too pop. R&B and Rock 'n Roll, versus pop, are rooted in the realities and hard core emotions of life, which include such a hotel as Floyd's and the encounters there. The song enters that world, becomes an anthem for it, and speaks from it. It may turn out to be too "bold" a move for someone like Hicks to do, even if he wanted to. Maybe Hicks has sold his R&B soul to the American Idol devil.

Now, we come back full circle to J. Geils, and whether the band sold their souls in their later albums. The song "Centerfold", a song I would not buy, does not address human sexuality the same way as "Floyd's Hotel." How do you get from "South Side Shuffle" to "Freeze Frame"? One answer might be through the Love Stinks album. Other answers, though, might be through the easy life or the desire for the popularity of pop. Do we need to forgive the band for selling out before they broke up? And, if so, do we forgive Geils and Hicks alike?

The difference between the tightrope Taylor Hicks is walking, and the J. Geils Band's historic journey, is in what Geils demonstrated: that it could be done. J. Geils Band represented the artistry, or should I say the poetry of all R&B artists, in showing that they could do other types of perimeter-inspired poetry as well. "Freeze Frame" and "Centerfold" are standards that will survive in pop culture far beyond we who are living today, as will the band's blues rock survive for R&B seekers in forthcoming generations.

The best pop artists, the ones selling the most records, are not doing it because they do it better. That's settled now. The challenge Peter Wolf and the J. Geils Band has for any pop band or singer, is can they now, with their talents, sing from their for-real souls, as well as from their musical abilities. When and if Taylor Hicks can get his pop standards up for forthcoming generations, he will still need to return to his music for his soul.


The above performance of "Floyd's Hotel" is from BBC TV's Old Grey Whistle Test on January 9th, 1973. I have not been able to transcribe the words precisely. Below is what I am hearing. But I cannot make out the first few words, so I include the words from the album "The Morning After" in parentheses, like so:

(She had big rosy red) hips, oh nice and round
Red rosy lips, you know they really got me down

I know very well that that is incorrect, as the progression itself is altered. This is what is on the album:

She had big rosy red hips really knocks them right on
She had juicy red lips that really laid me down

It is interesting to hear how the progressions are different from the album in 1971 to the 1973 rendition. What has come out, and been replaced is this:

Smilin' Jim, he's the cat that checks you in
Big fat Smilin' Jim, you know he signs you in
Don't ask where you goin'
He don't care where you been

What we have instead, is the Hyde Park stanza below.

If you hear it better, let me know. I am open to corrections.


performed by J. Geils Band
      Stephen Jo Bladd, drums
      Magic Dick, harp
      J. Geils, guitar
      Seth Justman, keyboard
      Danny Klein, bass
      Peter Wolf, vocals

written by
      Seth Justman
      Peter Wolf
      & of course, Juke-Joint-Walden

Floyd's Hotel

(She had big rosy red) hips, oh nice and round
Red rosy lips, you know they really got me down
She stuck me in a taxi
And drove me way across town

She got me down, down to Floyd's Hotel
She got me down, down to Floyd's Hotel
Lotta cheap rooms
Always something nice to sell

Fellow there, you know they call him Tyrone
Fellow there, you know they call him Tyrone
He don't care where you go
Always leave you alone

Met a fellow hanging out in Hyde Park
Walking around Hyde Park, met a fellow called Tyrone
That was his name--gave him five quid
You know he really turned me on

Going down, down to Floyd's Hotel
I'm going down, down to Floyd's Hotel
Lotta cheap rooms
Always something nice to sell


Saturday, December 23, 2006

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas," illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)

written, very likely, by either

Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)
Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863)

originally titled

"A Visit from St. Nicholas"

now popularly known as

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Houghton Mifflin Company


Copyright (c) 1912 by Houghton Mifflin Company

All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

HC ISBN 0-395-06952-1
PA ISBN 0-395-64374-0

Printed in the United States of America

LBM 40 39 38 37 36



mid the many celebrations last Christmas Eve, in various places by different persons, there was one, in New York City, not like any other anywhere. A company of men, women, and children went together just after the evening service in their church, and, standing around the tomb of the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," recited together the words of the poem which we all know so well and love so dearly.

Dr. Clement C. Moore, who wrote the poem, never expected that he would be remembered by it. If he expected to be famous at all as a writer, he thought it would be because of the Hebrew Dictionary that he wrote.

He was born in a house near Chelsea Square, New York City, in 1781; and he lived there all his life. It was a great big house, with fireplaces in it;--just the house to be living in on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Moore had children. He liked writing poetry for them even more than he liked writing a Hebrew Dictionary. He wrote a whole book of poems for them.

One year he wrote this poem, which we usually call "'Twas the Night before Christmas," to give to his children for a Christmas present. They read it just after they had hung up their stockings before one of the big fireplaces in their house. Afterward, they learned it, and sometimes recited it, just as other children learn it and recite it now.

It was printed in a newspaper. Then a magazine printed it, and after a time it was printed in the school readers. Later it was printed by itself, with pictures. Then it was translated into German, French, and many other languages. It was even made into "Braille"; which is the raised printing that blind children read with their fingers. But never has it been given to us in so attractive a form as in this book. It has happened that almost all the children in the world know this poem. How few of them know any Hebrew!

Every Christmas Eve the young men studying to be ministers at the General Theological Seminary, New York City, put a holly wreath around Dr. Moore's picture, which is on the wall of their dining-room. Why? Because he gave the ground on which the General Theological Seminary stands? Because he wrote a Hebrew Dictionary? No. They do it because he was the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

Most of the children probably know the words of the poem. They are old. But the pictures that Miss Jessie Willcox Smith has painted for this edition of it are new. All the children, probably, have seen other pictures painted by Miss Smith, showing children at other seasons of the year. How much they will enjoy looking at these pictures, showing children on that night that all children like best,--Christmas Eve!

E. McC.


'Twas the Night Before Christmas

was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

he children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

hen out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

he moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

ith a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

ow, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

s dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

nd then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

e was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

is eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

he stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

e was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

e spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

e sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."


thanks to The Project Gutenberg


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmastime at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882)


When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
    And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
    And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
    Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mired with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
    In the silence and the gloom.

Completing Tales of a Wayside Inn, on his sixty-sixth birthday, February 27, 1873, may have inspired Longfellow to write this poem. That third part of Tales was included in the volume named after the poem, in which the poem was placed last, the last of the third flight of his Birds of Passage.

The Children's Hours

Between the dark and the daylight,
    When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
    That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
    The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
    And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
    Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
    And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
    Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
    To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
    A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
    They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
    O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
    They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
    Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
    In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
    Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
    Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
    And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
    In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
    Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
    And moulder in dust away!

click picture for song in wma format

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
          And wild and sweet
          The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
          Had rolled along
          The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
          A voice, a chime,
          A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
          And with the sound
          The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
          And made forlorn
          The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
          "For hate is strong,
          And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
          The Wrong shall fail,
          The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
    A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
    Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
    The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
    Never through martyrdom of fire was led
    To its repose; nor can in books be read
    The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
    That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
    Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
    These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
    And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

"'Looking over one day,' says Mr. Longfellow's biographer, 'an illustrated book of Western scenery, his attention was arrested by a picture of that mysterious mountain upon whose lonely, lofty breast the snow lies in long furrows that make a rude but wonderfully clear image of a vast cross. At night, as he looked upon the pictured countenance that hung upon his chamber wall, his thoughts framed themselves into the verses that follow [--above, that is]. He put them away in his portfolio, where they were found after his death."

a Fragment

December 18, 1847

Soft through the silent air descend the feathery snow-flakes;
White are the distant hills, white are the neighboring fields;
Only the marshes are brown, and the river rolling among them
Weareth the leaden hue seen in the eyes of the blind.

written on the back of a note from a Mr. Summer, and dated:

"September 28, 1841. Half past 3 o'clock, morning. Now to bed"


The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said:
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,

"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,

"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,

The Good Part

that shall not be taken away

She dwells by Great Kenhawa's side,
    In valleys green and cool;
And all her hope and all her pride
    Are in the village school.

Her soul, like the transparent air
    That robes the hills above,
Though not of earth, encircles there
    All things with arms of love.

And thus she walks among her girls
    With praise and mild rebukes;
Subduing e'en rude village churls
    By her angelic looks.

She reads to them at eventide
    Of One who came to save;
To cast the captive's chains aside
    And liberate the slave.

And oft the blessed time foretells
    When all men shall be free;
And musical, as silver bells,
    Their falling chains shall be.

And following her beloved Lord,
    In decent poverty,
She makes her life one sweet record
    And deed of charity.

For she was rich, and gave up all
    To break the iron bands
Of those who waited in her hall,
    And labored in her lands.

Long since beyond the Southern Sea
    Their outbound sails have sped,
While she, in meek humility,
    Now earns her daily bread.

It is their prayers, which never cease,
    That clothe her with such grace;
Their blessing is the light of peace
    That shines upon her face.

translated by Longfellow from the Spanish

by Francisco de Aldana    (1537-1578)

The Image of God (La Imagen de Dios)

O Lord! who seest, from yon starry height,
    Centred in one the future and the past,
    Fashioned in thine own image, see how fast
    The world obscures in me what once was bright!
Eternal Sun! the warmth which thou hast given,
    To cheer life's flowery April, fast decays;
    Yet in the hoary winter of my days,
    Forever green shall be my trust in Heaven.
Celestial King! O let thy presence pass
    Before my spirit, and an image fair
    Shall meet that look of mercy from on high,
As the reflected image in a glass
    Doth meet the look of him who seeks it there,
    And owes its being to the gazer's eye.

The Meeting

After so long an absence
    At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
    Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
    And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet's two or three berries
    In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
    In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
    How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
    And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
    Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
    And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
    And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
    Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
    Steals over our merriest jests.

published in the Knickerbocker as The Fifth Psalm

also called An Autumnal Chant in Longfellow's diary

Midnight Mass for the Dying Year

Yes, the Year is growing old,
    And his eye is pale and bleared!
Death, with frosty hand and cold,
    Plucks the old man by the beard,
              Sorely, sorely!

The leaves are falling, falling,
    Solemnly and slow;
Caw! caw! the rooks are calling,
    It is a sound of woe,
              A sound of woe!

Through woods and mountain passes
    The winds, like anthems, roll;
They are chanting solemn masses,
    Singing, "Pray for this poor soul,
              Pray, pray!"

And the hooded clouds, like friars,
    Tell their beads in drops of rain,
And patter their doleful prayers;
    But their prayers are all in vain,
              All in vain!

There he stands in the foul weather,
    The foolish, fond Old Year,
Crowned with wild flowers and with heather,
        Like weak, despised Lear,
              A king, a king!

Then comes the summer-like day,
    Bids the old man rejoice!
His joy! his last!    Oh, the man gray
    Loveth that ever-soft voice,
              Gentle and low.

To the crimson woods he saith,
    To the voice gentle and low
Of the soft air, like a daughter's breath,
    "Pray do not mock me so!
              Do not laugh at me!"

And now the sweet day is dead;
    Cold in his arms it lies;
No stain from its breath is spread
    Over the glassy skies,
              No mist or stain!

Then, too, the Old Year dieth,
    And the forests utter a moan,
Like the voice of one who crieth
    In the wilderness alone,
              "Vex not his ghost!"

Then comes, with an awful roar,
    Gathering and sounding on,
The storm-wind from Labrador,
    The wind Euroclydon,
                The storm-wind!

Howl! howl! and from the forest
    Sweep the red leaves away!
Would, the sins that thou abhorrest,
    O soul! could thus decay,
              And be swept away!

For there shall come a mightier blast,
    There shall be a darker day;
And the stars, from heaven down-cast
    Like red leaves be swept away!
              Kyrie, eleyson!
              Christe, eleyson!


Out of the bosom of the Air,
    Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
    Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
        Silent, and soft, and slow
        Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
    Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
    In the white countenance confession,
        The troubled sky reveals
        The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
    Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
    Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
        Now whispered and revealed
        To wood and field.

The Three Kings

Three Kings came riding from far away,
    Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
    For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large, and clear,
    That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
    Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
    Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
    Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
    Through the dusk of night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
    With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
    "Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
    To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
    We know of no king but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
    Like riders in haste, and who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
    Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
    And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
    The only one in the gray of morn
Yes, it stopped, it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
    The city of David where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
    Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
    And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
    In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
    Of a kingdom not human but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
    Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
    Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
    The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
    The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
    And sat as still as a statue of stone;
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
    Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
    With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
    And returned to their homes by another way.

The Wind Over the Chimney

See, the fire is sinking low,
Dusky red the embers glow,
    While above them still I cower,
While a moment more I linger,
Though the clock, with lifted finger,
    Points beyond the midnight hour.

Sings the blackened log a tune
Learned in some forgotten June
    From a school-boy at his play,
When they both were young together,
Heart of youth and summer weather
    Making all their holiday.

And the night-wind rising, hark!
How above there in the dark,
    In the midnight and the snow,
Ever wilder, fiercer, grander,
Like the trumpets of Iskander,
    All the noisy chimneys blow!

Every quivering tongue of flame
Seems to murmur some great name,
    Seems to say to me, "Aspire!"
But the night-wind answers, "Hollow
Are the visions that you follow,
    Into darkness sinks your fire!"

Then the flicker of the blaze
Gleams on volumes of old days,
    Written by masters of the art,
Loud through whose majestic pages
Rolls the melody of ages,
    Throb the harp-strings of the heart.

And again the tongues of flame
Start exulting and exclaim:
    "These are prophets, bards, and seers;
In the horoscope of nations,
Like ascendant constellations,
    They control the coming years."

But the night-wind cries: "Despair!
Those who walk with feet of air
    Leave no long-enduring marks;
At God's forges incandescent
Mighty hammers beat incessant,
    These are but the flying sparks.

"Dust are all the hands that wrought;
Books are sepulchres of thought;
    The dead laurels of the dead
Rustle for a moment only,
Like the withered leaves in lonely
    Churchyards at some passing tread."

Suddenly the flame sinks down;
Sink the rumors of renown;
    And alone the night-wind drear
Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,--
"'T is the brand of Meleager
    Dying on the hearth-stone here!"

And I answer,--"Though it be,
Why should that discomfort me?
    No endeavor is in vain;
Its reward is in the doing,
And the rapture of pursuing
    Is the prize the vanquished gain."

written in Longfellow's college years, before he was 19

Woods in Winter

When winter winds are piercing chill,
    And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
    That overbrows the lonely vale.

O'er the bare upland, and away
    Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
    And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
    The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
    The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
    Pour out the river's gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater's iron rings,
    And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
    When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
    And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
    Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
    Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds!    my ear
    Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
    I listen, and it cheers me long.

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