A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation. Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same. And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. Tenderly will I use you curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men, It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps, And here you are the mothers' laps. This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, Darker than the colorless beards of old men, Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues, And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing. ...What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children? They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas'd the moment life appear'd. All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
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A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation. Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white, Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same. And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. Tenderly will I use you curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men, It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps, And here you are the mothers’ laps. This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, Darker than the colorless beards of old men, Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues, And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing. …What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children? They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d. All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

-Walt Whitman

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Yes,' he said, 'a list. That way, I figure, we'll have a written record of what we've agreed upon as our goals for our relationship. So if problems arise, we'll be able to consult the lists, see which issue it corresponds to, and work out a solution from there.'I could still hear my sister talking, but her voice was fading as she led her group around the house. I said, 'But what if that doesn't work?'Jason blinked at me. Then he said, 'Why wouldn't it?' 'Because,' I said.He just looked at me. 'Because...''Because,' I repeated, as a breeze blew over us,' sometimes things just happen. That aren't expected. Or on the list.''Such as?' he asked.'I don't know,' I said, frustrated. 'That's the point. It would be out of the blue, taking us by surprise. Something we might not be prepared for.''But we will be prepared,' he said, confused. 'We'll have the list.' I rolled my eyes. 'Jason,' I said.'Macy, I'm sorry.' He stepped back, looking at me. 'I just don't understand what you're trying to say.'And then it hit me: he didn't. He had no idea. And this thought was so ludicrous, so completely unreal, that I knew it just had to be true. For Jason, there was no unexpected, no surprises. His whole life was outlined carefully, in lists and sublists, just like the ones I'd helped him go through all those weeks ago. 'It's just...' I said and stopped, shaking my head.'It's just what?' He was waiting, genuinely wanting to know. 'Explain it to me.'But I couldn't. I'd had to learn it my own way, and so had my mother. Jason would eventually, as well. No one could tell you: you just had to go through it on your own. If you were lucky, you came out on the other side and understood. If you didn't, you kept getting thrust back, retracing those steps, until you finally got it right.

-Sarah Dessen

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Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew - who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no doubts. They knew that they had the truth. In their creed there was no guess — no perhaps. They had a revelation from God. They knew the beginning of things. They knew that God commenced to create one Monday morning, four thousand and four years before Christ. They knew that in the eternity — back of that morning, he had done nothing. They knew that it took him six days to make the earth — all plants, all animals, all life, and all the globes that wheel in space. They knew exactly what he did each day and when he rested. They knew the origin, the cause of evil, of all crime, of all disease and death.At the same time they knew that God created man in his own image and was perfectly satisfied with his work... They knew all about the Flood -- knew that God, with the exception of eight, drowned all his children -- the old and young -- the bowed patriarch and the dimpled babe -- the young man and the merry maiden -- the loving mother and the laughing child -- because his mercy endureth forever. They knew too, that he drowned the beasts and birds -- everything that walked or crawled or flew -- because his loving kindness is over all his works. They knew that God, for the purpose of civilizing his children, had devoured some with earthquakes, destroyed some with storms of fire, killed some with his lightnings, millions with famine, with pestilence, and sacrificed countless thousands upon the fields of war. They knew that it was necessary to believe these things and to love God. They knew that there could be no salvation except by faith, and through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.Then I asked myself the question: Is there a supernatural power -- an arbitrary mind -- an enthroned God -- a supreme will that sways the tides and currents of the world -- to which all causes bow?I do not deny. I do not know - but I do not believe. I believe that the natural is supreme - that from the infinite chain no link can be lost or broken — that there is no supernatural power that can answer prayer - no power that worship can persuade or change — no power that cares for man.Is there a God?I do not know.Is man immortal?I do not know.One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.

-Robert G.

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I have had so many Dwellings, Nat, that I know these Streets as well as a strowling Beggar: I was born in this Nest of Death and Contagion and now, as they say, I have learned to feather it. When first I was with Sir Chris. I found lodgings in Phenix Street off Hogg Lane, close by St Giles and Tottenham Fields, and then in later times I was lodged at the corner of Queen Street and Thames Street, next to the Blew Posts in Cheapside. (It is still there, said Nat stirring up from his Seat, I have passed it!) In the time before the Fire, Nat, most of the buildings in London were made of timber and plaister, and stones were so cheap that a man might have a cart-load of them for six-pence or seven-pence; but now, like the Aegyptians, we are all for Stone. (And Nat broke in, I am for Stone!) The common sort of People gawp at the prodigious Rate of Building and exclaim to each other London is now another City or that House was not there Yesterday or the Situacion of the Streets is quite Changd (I contemn them when they say such things! Nat adds). But this Capital City of the World of Affliction is still the Capitol of Darknesse, or the Dungeon of Man's Desires: still in the Centre are no proper Streets nor Houses but a Wilderness of dirty rotten Sheds, allways tumbling or takeing Fire, with winding crooked passages, lakes of Mire and rills of stinking Mud, as befits the smokey grove of Moloch. (I have heard of that Gentleman, says Nat all a quiver). It is true that in what we call the Out-parts there are numberless ranges of new Buildings: in my old Black-Eagle Street, Nat, tenements have been rais'd and where my Mother and Father stared without understanding at their Destroyer (Death! he cryed) new-built Chambers swarm with life. But what a Chaos and Confusion is there: meer fields of Grass give way to crooked Passages and quiet Lanes to smoking Factors, and these new Houses, commonly built by the London workmen, are often burning and frequently tumbling down (I saw one, says he, I saw one tumbling!). Thus London grows more Monstrous, Straggling and out of all Shape: in this Hive of Noise and Ignorance, Nat, we are tyed to the World as to a sensible Carcasse and as we cross the stinking Body we call out What News? or What's a clock? And thus do I pass my Days a stranger to mankind. I'll not be a Stander-by, but you will not see me pass among them in the World. (You will disquiet your self, Master, says Nat coming towards me). And what a World is it, of Tricking and Bartering, Buying and Selling, Borrowing and Lending, Paying and Receiving; when I walk among the Piss and Sir-reverence of the Streets I hear, Money makes the old Wife trot, Money makes the Mare to go (and Nat adds, What Words won't do, Gold will). What is their God but shineing Dirt and to sing its Devotions come the Westminster-Hall-whores, the Charing-cross whores, the Whitehall whores, the Channel-row whores, the Strand whores, the Fleet Street whores, the Temple-bar whores; and they are followed in the same Catch by the Riband weavers, the Silver-lace makers, the Upholsterers, the Cabinet-makers, Watermen, Carmen, Porters, Plaisterers, Lightemen, Footmen, Shopkeepers, Journey-men... and my Voice grew faint through the Curtain of my Pain.

-Peter Ackroyd

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My son, you are just an infant now, but on that day when the world disrobes of its alluring cloak, it is then that I pray this letter is in your hands.Listen closely, my dear child, for I am more than that old man in the dusty portrait beside your bed. I was once a little boy in my mother’s arms and a babbling toddler on my father's lap.I played till the sun would set and climbed trees with ease and skill. Then I grew into a fine young man with shoulders broad and strong. My bones were firm and my limbs were straight; my hair was blacker than a raven's beak. I had a spring in my step and a lion's roar. I travelled the world, found love and married. Then off to war I bled in battle and danced with death.But today, vigor and grace have forsaken me and left me crippled.Listen closely, then, as I have lived not only all the years you have existed, but another forty more of my own.My son, We take this world for a permanent place; we assume our gains and triumphs will always be; that all that is dear to us will last forever.But my child, time is a patient hunter and a treacherous thief: it robs us of our loved ones and snatches up our glory. It crumbles mountains and turns stone to sand. So who are we to impede its path?No, everything and everyone we love will vanish, one day.So take time to appreciate the wee hours and seconds you have in this world. Your life is nothing but a sum of days so why take any day for granted? Don't despise evil people, they are here for a reason, too, for just as the gift salt offers to food, so do the worst of men allow us to savor the sweet, hidden flavor of true friendship.Dear boy, treat your elders with respect and shower them with gratitude; they are the keepers of hidden treasures and bridges to our past. Give meaning to your every goodbye and hold on to that parting embrace just a moment longer--you never know if it will be your last.Beware the temptation of riches and fame for both will abandon you faster than our own shadow deserts us at the approach of the setting sun. Cultivate seeds of knowledge in your soul and reap the harvest of good character.Above all, know why you have been placed on this floating blue sphere, swimming through space, for there is nothing more worthy of regret than a life lived void of this knowing.My son, dark days are upon you. This world will not leave you with tears unshed. It will squeeze you in its talons and lift you high, then drop you to plummet and shatter to bits . But when you lay there in pieces scattered and broken, gather yourself together and be whole once more. That is the secret of those who know.So let not my graying hairs and wrinkled skin deceive you that I do not understand this modern world. My life was filled with a thousand sacrifices that only I will ever know and a hundred gulps of poison I drank to be the father I wanted you to have.But, alas, such is the nature of this life that we will never truly know the struggles of our parents--not until that time arrives when a little hand--resembling our own--gently clutches our finger from its crib.My dear child, I fear that day when you will call hopelessly upon my lifeless corpse and no response shall come from me. I will be of no use to you then but I hope these words I leave behind will echo in your ears that day when I am no more. This life is but a blink in the eye of time, so cherish each moment dearly, my son.

-Shakieb Orgunwall

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What is the use of beauty in woman? Provided a woman is physically well made and capable of bearing children, she will always be good enough in the opinion of economists.What is the use of music? -- of painting? Who would be fool enough nowadays to prefer Mozart to Carrel, Michael Angelo to the inventor of white mustard?There is nothing really beautiful save what is of no possible use. Everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and man's needs are low and disgusting, like his own poor, wretched nature. The most useful place in a house is the water-closet.For my part, saving these gentry's presence, I am of those to whom superfluities are necessaries, and I am fond of things and people in inverse ratio to the service they render me. I prefer a Chinese vase with its mandarins and dragons, which is perfectly useless to me, to a utensil which I do use, and the particular talent of mine which I set most store by is that which enables me not to guess logogriphs and charades. I would very willingly renounce my rights as a Frenchman and a citizen for the sight of an undoubted painting by Raphael, or of a beautiful nude woman, -- Princess Borghese, for instance, when she posed for Canova, or Julia Grisi when she is entering her bath. I would most willingly consent to the return of that cannibal, Charles X., if he brought me, from his residence in Bohemia, a case of Tokai or Johannisberg; and the electoral laws would be quite liberal enough, to my mind, were some of our streets broader and some other things less broad. Though I am not a dilettante, I prefer the sound of a poor fiddle and tambourines to that of the Speaker's bell. I would sell my breeches for a ring, and my bread for jam. The occupation which best befits civilized man seems to me to be idleness or analytically smoking a pipe or cigar. I think highly of those who play skittles, and also of those who write verse. You may perceive that my principles are not utilitarian, and that I shall never be the editor of a virtuous paper, unless I am converted, which would be very comical.Instead of founding a Monthyon prize for the reward of virtue, I would rather bestow -- like Sardanapalus, that great, misunderstood philosopher -- a large reward to him who should invent a new pleasure; for to me enjoyment seems to be the end of life and the only useful thing on this earth. God willed it to be so, for he created women, perfumes, light, lovely flowers, good wine, spirited horses, lapdogs, and Angora cats; for He did not say to his angels, 'Be virtuous,' but, 'Love,' and gave us lips more sensitive than the rest of the skin that we might kiss women, eyes looking upward that we might behold the light, a subtile sense of smell that we might breathe in the soul of the flowers, muscular limbs that we might press the flanks of stallions and fly swift as thought without railway or steam-kettle, delicate hands that we might stroke the long heads of greyhounds, the velvety fur of cats, and the polished shoulder of not very virtuous creatures, and, finally, granted to us alone the triple and glorious privilege of drinking without being thirsty, striking fire, and making love in all seasons, whereby we are very much more distinguished from brutes than by the custom of reading newspapers and framing constitutions.

-Théophile Gautier

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The moon fled eastward like a frightened dove, while the stars changed their places in the heavens, like a disbanding army.'Where are we?' asked Gil Gil.'In France,' responded the Angel of Death. 'We have now traversed a large portion of the two bellicose nations which waged so sanguinary a war with each other at the beginning of the present century. We have seen the theater of the War of Succession. Conquered and conquerors both lie sleeping at this instant. My apprentice, Sleep, rules over the heroes who did not perish then, in battle, or afterward of sickness or of old age. I do not understand why it is that below on earth all men are not friends? The identity of your misfortunes and your weaknesses, the need you have of each other, the shortness of your life, the spectacle of the grandeur of other worlds, and the comparison between them and your littleness, all this should combine to unite you in brotherhood, like the passengers of a vessel threatened with shipwreck. There, there is neither love, nor hate, nor ambition, no one is debtor or creditor, no one is great or little, no one is handsome or ugly, no one is happy or unfortunate. The same danger surrounds all and my presence makes all equal. Well, then, what is the earth, seen from this height, but a ship which is foundering, a city delivered up to an epidemic or a conflagration?''What are those ignes fatui which I can see shining in certain places on the terrestrial globe, ever since the moon veiled her light?' asked the young man.'They are cemeteries. We are now above Paris. Side by side with every city, every town, every village of the living there is always a city, a town, or a village of the dead, as the shadow is always beside the body. Geography, then, is of two kinds, although mortals only speak of the kind which is agreeable to them. A map of all the cemeteries which there are on the earth would be sufficient indication of the political geography of your world. You would miscalculate, however, in regard to the population; the dead cities are much more densely populated than the living; in the latter there are hardly three generations at one time, while, in the former, hundreds of generations are often crowded together. As for the lights you see shining, they are phosphorescent gleams from dead bodies, or rather they are the expiring gleams of thousands of vanished lives; they are the twilight glow of love, ambition, anger, genius, mercy; they are, in short, the last glow of a dying light, of the individuality which is disappearing, of the being yielding back his elements to mother earth. They are - and now it is that I have found the true word - the foam made by the river when it mingles its waters with those of the ocean.' The Angel of Death paused. ("The Friend of Death")

-Pedro Antonio

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[The Old Astronomer to His Pupil]Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of howWe are working to completion, working on from then to now.Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.You 'have none but me,' you murmur, and I 'leave you quite alone'?Well then, kiss me, -- since my mother left her blessing on my brow,There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;I can dimly comprehend it, -- that I might have been more kind,Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.I 'have never failed in kindness'? No, we lived too high for strife,--Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you stillTo the service of our science: you will further it? you will!There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;And remember, 'Patience, Patience,' is the watchword of a sage,Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.I have sown, like Tycho Brahe, that a greater man may reap;But if none should do my reaping, 'twill disturb me in my sleepSo be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,--God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.

-Tycho Brahe

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MOTHER – By Ted KooserMid April already, and the wild plumsbloom at the roadside, a lacy whiteagainst the exuberant, jubilant greenof new grass and the dusty, fading black of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,only the delicate, star-petaledblossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.You have been gone a month todayand have missed three rains and one nightlongwatch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellarfrom six to eight while fat spring cloudswent somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,a storm that walked on legs of lightning,dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.The meadowlarks are back, and the finchesare turning from green to gold. Those sametwo geese have come to the pond again this year,honking in over the trees and splashing down.They never nest, but stay a week or twothen leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts,burning in circles like birthday candles,for this is the month of my birth, as you know,the best month to be born in, thanks to you,everything ready to burst with living.There will be no more new flannel nightshirtssewn on your old black Singer, no birthday cardaddressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.You asked me if I would be sad when it happenedand I am sad. But the iris I moved from your housenow hold in the dusty dry fists of their rootsgreen knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that. Were it not for the way you taught me to lookat the world, to see the life at play in everything,I would have to be lonely forever.

-Ted Kooser

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(I know, it's a poem but oh well).Why! who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water, Or stand under trees in the woods, Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, Or sit at table at dinner with my mother, Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon, Or animals feeding in the fields, Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright, Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring; Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best-- mechanics, boatmen, farmers, Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera, Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery, Or behold children at their sports, Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman, Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial, Or my own eyes and figure in the glass; These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, Every foot of the interior swarms with the same; Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them, All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?

-Walt Whitman

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