Ode, by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

We are the music makers,
  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers, 
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
  We build up the world's great cities
And out of a fabulous story
  We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
  Can trample a kingdom down.

We, in the ages lying
  In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
  And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
  To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
  Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration
  Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
  Unearthly, impossible seeming—
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
  Are working together in one,    
Till our dream shall become their present,
  And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
  Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing    
  Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broken,
  A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
  Wrought flame in another man's heart.    

And therefore to-day is thrilling
  With a past day's late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
  In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,  
  Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
  The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
  Ceaseless and sorrowless we!    
The glory about us clinging
  Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
  O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,    
  A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
  And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
  Intrepid you hear us cry—    
How, spite of your human scorning,
  Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
  That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers    
  From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
  And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before:    
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
  And a singer who sings no more.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.
      A penny for the Old Guy

      I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

      II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

      III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

      IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.    
 
V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                   For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

North American Bear, by Charles Wright

Early November in the soul,
                                    a hard rain, and dusky gold
From the trees, late afternoon
Squint-light and heavy heart-weight.
It's always downleaf and dim.
A sixty-two-year-old, fallow-voiced, night-leaning man,
I stand at ease on the blank sidewalk.
Unhinder my habitat, starlight, make me insoluble;
Negative in my afterscape
                                    sidle the shadow across my mouth.
-------------------------------------
Random geometry of the stars,
                                    random word-strings,
As beautiful as the alphabet.
Or so I remember them,
                                    North American Bear,
Orion, Cassiopeia, and the Pleiades,
Stitching their syntax across the deep North Carolina sky
A half-century ago,
The lost language of summer nights, the inarticulate scroll
Of time
                                    pricked on its dark, celestial cylinder.
-------------------------------------
What is it about the stars we can't shake?
                                    What pulse, what tide drop
Pulls us like vertigo upward, what
Height-like reversal urges us towards their clear deeps?
Tonight, for instance,
Something is turning behind my eyes,
                                    something unwept, something unnamable
Spinning its line out.
Who is to say the hijacked heart has not returned to its cage?
Who is to say some angel has not
                                    breathed in my ear?
-------------------------------------
I walk in the chill of the late autumn night
                                    like Orpheus,
Thinking my song, anxious to look back,
My vanished life an ornament, a drifting cloud, behind me,
A soft, ashen transcendence
Buried and resurrected once, then time and again.
The sidewalk unrolls like a deep sleep.
Above me the stars, stern stars,
Uncover their faces.
                                    No heartbeat on my heels, no footfall.
-------------------------------------
Some of these star fires must surely be ash by now.
I dawdle outside in the backyard,
Humming old songs that no one cares about anymore.
The hat of darkness tilts the night sky,
Inch by inch, foot by black foot,
                                    over the Blue Ridge.
How bright the fire of the world was, I think to myself
Before white hair and the ash of days.
I gaze at the constellations,
                                    forgetting whatever it was I had to say.
-------------------------------------
The sidewalk again, unrolling grey and away. 9 p.m.
A cold wind from the far sky.
There is a final solitude I haven’t arrived at yet,
Weariness like a dust in my throat.
                                    I simmer inside its outline,
However, and feel safe, as the stars spill by, for one more night
Like some medieval journeyman enfrescoed with his poem in his hand,
Heaven remaining in my neighborhood.
And like him, too, with something red and inviolate
                                    under my feet.

Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades 
For ever and for ever when I move. 
How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

Death closes all: but something ere the end, 
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Come, my friends, 
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.