We see you as we see a face
That trembles in a forest place
Upon the mirror of a pool
Forever quiet, clear and cool;
And in the wayward glass, appears
To hover between smiles and tears,
Elfin and human, airy and true,
And backed by the reflected blue.

by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Into my eyes he lovingly looked,
My arms about his neck were twined,
And in the mirror of my eyes,
What but his image did he find?

Upon my dark-hued eyes he pressed
His lips with breath of passion rare.
The rogue! 'Twas not my eyes he kissed;
He kissed his picture mirrored there.

by Yehudah HaLevi.

On Gazing Into A Mirror

Follow Tao, and nothing is old or new.
Lose it, and the ruins of age return.

Someone smiling back in the mirror,
hair white as the frost-stained glass,

you admit lament is empty, ask how
reflections get so worn and withered.

How speak of peach and plum: timeless
South Mountain blazes in the end?

by Li Po.

Nature's The Same As Rome, Was Reflected In It

Nature's the same as Rome, was reflected in it.
We see images of its civic might
In the clear air, as in the sky-blue circus,
In the forum of fields, the colonnade of the grove.

Nature is the same as Rome, again it seems
We have no reason to trouble the gods.
We've got the viscera of the sacrifices
To tell the fortunes of war, and slaves
To keep the silence, and stones with which to build.

by Osip Emilevich Mandelstam.

SHE knew it not:—most perfect pain
To learn: this too she knew not. Strife
For me, calm hers, as from the first.
'Twas but another bubble burst
Upon the curdling draught of life,—
My silent patience mine again.
As who, of forms that crowd unknown
Within a distant mirror's shade,
Deems such an one himself, and makes
Some sign; but when the image shakes
No whit, he finds his thought betray'd,
And must seek elsewhere for his own.

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

A Memory Of The Players In A Mirror At Midnight

They mouth love's language. Gnash
The thirteen teeth
Your lean jaws grin with. Lash
Your itch and quailing, nude greed of the flesh.
Love's breath in you is stale, worded or sung,
As sour as cat's breath,
Harsh of tongue.

This grey that stares
Lies not, stark skin and bone.
Leave greasy lips their kissing. None
Will choose her what you see to mouth upon.
Dire hunger holds his hour.
Pluck forth your heart, saltblood, a fruit of tears.
Pluck and devour!

by James Joyce.

Untitled :Rosy Mirror

Rosy mirror: an ugly image

That appears in the black background,

Blood weeps from broken eyes

Blaspheming plays with dead snakes.

Snow runs through the staring shirt

Purple over the black face,

That breaks in heavy pieces

From planets, deceased and strange.

A spider appears in the black background

Lust, your countenance deceased and strange.

Blood runs through the staring shirt

Snow weeps from broken eyes.

by Georg Trakl.

The Muse's Mirror

EARLY one day, the Muse, when eagerly bent on adornment,
Follow'd a swift-running streamlet, the quietest nook by it seeking.
Quickly and noisily flowing, the changeful surface distorted
Ever her moving form; the goddess departed in anger.
Yet the stream call'd mockingly after her, saying: "What, truly!
Wilt thou not view, then, the truth, in my mirror so clearly depicted?"
But she already was far away, on the brink of the ocean,
In her figure rejoicing, and duly arranging her garland.

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

To-- Yet Look On Me

Yet look on me -- take not thine eyes away,
Which feed upon the love within mine own,
Which is indeed but the reflected ray
Of thine own beauty from my spirit thrown.
Yet speak to me -- thy voice is as the tone
Of my heart’s echo, and I think I hear
That thou yet lovest me; yet thou alone
Like one before a mirror, without care
Of aught but thine own features, imaged there;
And yet I wear out life in watching thee;
A toil so sweet at times, and thou indeed
Art kind when I am sick, and pity me.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Lady At A Mirror

As in sleeping-drink spices
softly she loosens in the liquid-clear
mirror her fatigued demeanor;
and she puts her smile deep inside.

And she waits while the liquid
rises from it; then she pours her hair
into the mirror, and, lifting one
wondrous shoulder from the evening gown,

she drinks quietly from her image. She drinks
what a lover would drink feeling dazed,
searching it, full of mistrust; and she only

beckons to her maid when at the bottom
of her mirror she finds candles, wardrobes,
and the cloudy dregs of a late hour.

Translated by Edward Snow

by Rainer Maria Rilke.

LOCK your bedroom doors with terror.
Comb your hair between two lights.
In the gold Venetian chamber
But for them let all be sombre.
Sit, and see reflected lights
Color time within your mirror.

Comb, comb, your bright hair. Rain
Fiery threads upon a shadow.
Stare until you see dilated
Eyes stare out as once the excited
Young men coming out of shadow,
Stared into a burning pain.

Find the loveliest shroud you own.
Stilt a ceremonious
Height on gilded heels. Then summon
To a rarity grown common
Starved arachnid, the dead-louse
And whatever feeds on bone.

by John Peale Bishop.

If The Heart Achieves The Status Of A Mirror

If the heart achieves the status of a mirror
The sight of the beloved [God] is free

O [my] tongue, help me [and speak], as today [my] beloved
Is awaiting to hear the splendid description [of her beauty]

Do not ask Bu Ali* about the wisdom of love
He has not learned the rules of this art

The mirror, sitting together with you [O my love]
Has roused the envy of the bed of roses

([Lovers] in peace are wakeful, because of you
"Paupers have no fear of robbers"

[O my love] just have a look at "Vali" for a while
He is waiting for your sight since the morning

by Wali Mohammed Wali.

Oh night, you canopy of embroidered gold!
Oh moon, you lamp of silver!
You, who shroud the world around
And you, who lights us all.

Where have you enfolded
The purest pearl of all?
Where is your dreaming light reflected
In the clearest mirror of all?

Oh, spread sevenfold
The shielding garland round,
That the youth may not observe her
Blazing up in flames;
That no girl with loss of bloom be struck
With all pervading eye.

And gentle lamp looking deeply
Into the clearness of her mirror,
Did you see a picture there?
And, if so, was it mine?

Translation by: David Paley

by Annette Von Droste-Hulshoff.

HOLD it up sternly! See this it sends back! (Who is it? Is it you?)
Outside fair costume--within ashes and filth,
No more a flashing eye--no more a sonorous voice or springy step;
Now some slave's eye, voice, hands, step,
A drunkard's breath, unwholesome eater's face, venerealee's flesh,
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
No brain, no heart left--no magnetism of sex; 10
Such, from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
Such a result so soon--and from such a beginning!

by Walt Whitman.

A Maiden To Her Mirror

He said he loved me! Then he called my hair
Silk threads wherewith sly Cupid strings his bow,
My cheek a rose leaf fallen on new snow;
And swore my round, full throat would bring despair
To Venus or to Psyche.

Time and care
Will fade these locks; the merry god, I know,
Uses no grizzled cords upon his bow.
How will it be when I, no longer fair,
Plead for his kiss with cheeks, whence long ago
The early snowflakes melted quite away,
The rose leaf died – and in whose sallow clay
Lie the deep sunken tracks of life’s gaunt crow?

When this full throat shall wattle fold on fold,
Like some ripe peach left drying on a wall,
Or like a spent accordion, when all
Its music has exhaled – will love grow cold?

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

The Mirror In The Hall

The rich house had in the hall
An enormous mirror, very old;
Bought at least eighty years ago.

A very handsome boy, assistant at a tailor’s
(On Sundays an amateur athlete),
Was standing there with a parcel. He handed it
To someone of the house, and he took it inside
To fetch the receipt. The tailor’s assistant
Was left alone, and waited.
He went up to the mirror and began to look at himself
And put his tie straight. After five minutes
They brought him the receipt. He took it and went away.

But the old mirror which had seen, and seen,
In the many years it had been
In existence, thousands of things and faces;
The old mirror was glad now
And was proud to have received upon itself
That entire beauty for a few minutes.

by Constantine P. Cavafy.

The Mirror Speaks

Where the bells peal far at sea
Cunning fingers fashioned me.
There on palace walls I hung
While that Consuelo sung;
But I heard, though I listened well,
Never a note, never a trill,
Never a beat of the chiming bell.
There I hung and looked, and there
In my grey face, faces fair
Shone from under shining hair.
Well, I saw the poising head,
But the lips moved and nothing said;
And when lights were in the hall,
Silent moved the dancers all.
So awhile I glowed, and then
Fell on dusty days and men;
Long I slumbered packed in straw,
Long I none but dealers saw;
Till before my silent eye
On that sees came passing by.
Now with an outlandish grace,
To the sparkling fire I face
In the blue room at Skerryvore;
Where I wait until the door
Open, and the Prince of Men,
Henry James, shall come again.

by Robert Louis Stevenson.

A carpet, into which the suffering landscape pales

Perhaps the Sea of Galilee, a boat in the gale

Golden things fall out of storm clouds

Insanity, that seizes the gentle human.

The old waters gurgle a blue laughter.

And sometimes a dark pit opens.

The possessed are reflected in cold metals

Drops of blood fall on glowing plates

And a countenance decays in black night.

Flags, which babble in sinister vaults.

Other things remind on the birds' flight

Over the gallows the crows' mystical signs

Coppery snakes sink in spiky grasses

In pillows of incense a smile whore-like and clever.

Good Friday's children stand blindly at fences

In the mirror of dark gutters full of rottenness

The sighing recovery of the dying

And angels who go through white eyes

From lids dimming golden redemption.

by Georg Trakl.

Your Mirror Frame

Methinks I see your mirror frame,
Ornate with photographs of them.
Place mine therein, for, all the same,
I'll have my little laughs at them.

For girls may come, and girls may go,
I think I have the best of them;
And yet this photograph I know
You'll toss among the rest of them.

I cannot even hope that you
Will put me in your locket, dear;
Nor costly frame will I look through,
Nor bide in your breast pocket, dear.

For none your heart monopolize,
You favour such a nest of them.
So I but hope your roving eyes
Seek mine among the rest of them.

For saucy sprite, and noble dame,
And many a dainty maid of them
Will greet me in your mirror frame,
And share your kisses laid on them.

And yet, sometimes I fancy, dear,
You hold me as the best of them.
So I'm content if I appear
To-night with all the rest of them.

by Emily Pauline Johnson.

I SEE myself reflected in thine eyes,
The dainty mirrors set in golden frame
Of eyelash, quiver with a sweet surprise,
And most ingenuous shame.

Like Eve, who hid her from the dread command
Deep in the dewy blooms of paradise ;
So thy shy soul, love calling, fears to stand
Discovered at thine eyes.

Or, like a tender little fawn, which lies
Asleep amid the fern, and waking, hears
Some careless footstep drawing near, and flies,
Yet knows not what she fears :

So shrinks thy soul ; but, dearest, shrink not so ;
Look thou into mine eyes as I in thine :
So our reflected souls shall meet and grow,
And each with each combine

In something nobler ; as when one has laid
Opposite mirrors on a cottage wall ;
And lo ! the never-ending colonnade,
The vast palatial hall.

So our twin souls, by one sweet suicide,
Shall fade into an essence more sublime;
Living through death, and dying glorified,
Beyond the touch of time.

by Sir Lewis Morris.

Before The Mirror

‘I, I, I'. What a word! It's unfair!
Is this man I? Is this not a fake?
Could his mother love him anywhere -
Grayish-yellow, gray in his hair,
And such witty and wise as a snake?

Can it be that the boy who liked dances
In the summer Ostankino's balls -
Is I? I who, by each of my answers,
Call for anger's and fear's upraises
Of the poets, beginning their toils.

Can it be that the same youthful person
Who put vigor in his arguments -
Is I? I, who, at tragic and passion's
Elements, met in all conversations,
Has learnt usage of silence or jests.

Yet it's always when you just freeze on
The midways through your baleful life:
From the trivial reasons to reasons,
And behold, you are lost in wild regions,
And couldn't find former trace of your strife.

Under garrets of France, not a fear
Of a panther has set me, at last.
Virgil does not inspire me here…
There is loneliness - framed in the mirror
That is speaking the truth of the glass.

by Vladislav Khodasevich.

In Front of the Mirror

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

Me, me, me. What a preposterous word!
Can that man there really be me?
Did Mama really love this face,
dull yellow with greying edges
like an ancient know-it-all snake?

Can the boy who danced in summer
at the Ostбnkino country-house balls
be myself, whose every response
to freshly-hatched poets inspires
their loathing, malice and fear?

Can that youthful energy thrown into
arguing full pelt well after midnight
have been my own, now that I've learnt
when conversation turns to tragedy
better say nothing - or make a joke?

But that's how it always is at the mid point
of the way through your fate on earth:
from one worthless cause to another,
and look, you've wandered away from the path
and can't even trace your own tracks.

Well, there was no leaping panther
chasing me up to my Paris garret,
and there's no Virgil at my shoulder -
there's only my singular self in the frame
of the talking, truthtelling looking-glass.

by Vladislav Khodasevich.

The Other Side Of A Mirror

I sat before my glass one day,
And conjured up a vision bare,
Unlike the aspects glad and gay,
That erst were found reflected there -
The vision of a woman, wild
With more than womanly despair.
Her hair stood back on either side
A face bereft of loveliness.
It had no envy now to hide
What once no man on earth could guess.
It formed the thorny aureole
Of hard, unsanctified distress.

Her lips were open - not a sound
Came though the parted lines of red,
Whate'er it was, the hideous wound
In silence and secret bled.
No sigh relieved her speechless woe,
She had no voice to speak her dread.

And in her lurid eyes there shone
The dying flame of life's desire,
Made mad because its hope was gone,
And kindled at the leaping fire
Of jealousy and fierce revenge,
And strength that could not change nor tire.

Shade of a shadow in the glass,
O set the crystal surface free!
Pass - as the fairer visions pass -
Nor ever more return, to be
The ghost of a distracted hour,
That heard me whisper: - 'I am she!'

by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge.

The Forest Spring

Push back the brambles, berry-blue:
The hollowed spring is full in view:
Deep-tangled with luxuriant fern
Its rock-embedded, crystal urn.
Not for the loneliness that keeps
The coigne wherein its silence sleeps;
Not for wild butterflies that sway
Their pansy pinions all the day
Above its mirror; nor the bee,
Nor dragon-fly, that passing see
Themselves reflected in its spar;
Not for the one white liquid star,
That twinkles in its firmament;
Nor moon-shot clouds, so slowly sent
Athwart it when the kindly night
Beads all its grasses with the light
Small jewels of the dimpled dew;
Not for the day's inverted blue
Nor the quaint, dimly coloured stones
That dance within it where it moans:
Not for all these I love to sit
In silence and to gaze in it.
But, know, a nymph with merry eyes
Looks at me from its laughing skies;
A graceful glimmering nymph who plays
All the long fragrant summer days
With instant sights of bees and birds,
And speaks with them in water words,
And for whose nakedness the air
Weaves moony mists, and on whose hair,
Unfilleted, the night will set
That lone star as a coronet.

by Madison Julius Cawein.

'Alas!' said the devil, said he to me
And his swart face drooped with care
'Life is a liar, a cheat,' said he
'And the end of it all - despair.
Why mourn you here, poor pawn of the Fates?
The way lies ready: the hemlock waits.
And I'll give you a toast ere you seek release:
'To Death, the gentleman, crowned with peace'!'

'Have done, smart devil!' I made reply.
'Have done with your air of gloom.
The world seemed dreary for such as I
Ere you came into the room.
I was ready, I own, for the crowning sin,
But your foolish babbling makes me grin.
Yet the poisoned cup might I e'en now quaff;
But how can I drink when I want to laugh?

'Poor fool!' moaned the devil. 'Vain words you lisp,
Dull dupe of an ancient lie.
What seek you here but a will-o'-the-wisp,
Mocking you till you die?
For the world's gone mad and the nations rave.
Choose! An ugly dream, or a peaceful grave.
You shall thirst, you shall starve while the earth you roam.
Ah, pick up the dagger and drive it home.'

'Oh, foolish devil!' I made reply.
'Thus to defeat you end,
With your woeful visage and wistful eye:
I could greet you now as a friend.
For, as in a mirror, I now have seen
The fear-crazed fool that I might have been.
Come; tell me some more of this cheerless earth.'
But the devil was gone; and I shrieked with mirth.

by Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis.


When you are trying to sleep, Solominka,
In your enormous bedroom, and are waiting,
Sleepless, for the high and weighty ceiling to come down
With quiet, heavy sorrow on your keen eyelids,

Sonorous Solomka, or seasoned Solominka,
You've drunk down all death, grown tender and
Been broken, my dear Solomka, no more alive --
Not Salome, no, it is Solominka.

In hours of insomnia, objects are heavier
As if fewer of them -- such a stillness --
The cushions glitter in the mirror, whitening a bit,
And the bed is reflected in the round pool.

No, it is not Solomka in her solemn satin
In a huge room above the black Neva.
For twelve months they sing of the final hour,
And the pale blue ice waves in the air.

Solemn December sends out its breath
As if the great Neva were in the room.
No, not Solominka, Ligeia, dying --
I have learned you, glorious words.


I have learned you, blessed words:
-- Lenore, Solominka, Ligeia, Seraphita --
In the enormous room, the great Neva,
And from the granite, the blue blood flows.

Solemn December shines above the Neva.
For twelve months they sing of the final hour.
No, not Solominka in her satin
Savoring a slow, oppressive rest.

In my blood lives December's Ligeia,
Whose blissful love sleeps in a sarcophagus,
And which, solominka, perhaps Salome,
Was killed by pity, and shall never return.

by Osip Emilevich Mandelstam.

Songo River. (Birds Of Passage. Flight The Fourth)

Nowhere such a devious stream,
Save in fancy or in dream,
Winding slow through bush and brake,
Links together lake and lake.

Walled with woods or sandy shelf,
Ever doubling on itself
Flows the stream, so still and slow
That it hardly seems to flow.

Never errant knight of old,
Lost in woodland or on wold,
Such a winding path pursued
Through the sylvan solitude.

Never school-boy, in his quest
After hazel-nut or nest,
Through the forest in and out
Wandered loitering thus about.

In the mirror of its tide
Tangled thickets on each side
Hang inverted, and between
Floating cloud or sky serene.

Swift or swallow on the wing
Seems the only living thing,
Or the loon, that laughs and flies
Down to those reflected skies.

Silent stream! thy Indian name
Unfamiliar is to fame;
For thou hidest here alone,
Well content to be unknown.

But thy tranquil waters teach
Wisdom deep as human speech,
Moving without haste or noise
In unbroken equipoise.

Though thou turnest no busy mill,
And art ever calm and still,
Even thy silence seems to say
To the traveller on his way:--

'Traveller, hurrying from the heat
Of the city, stay thy feet!
Rest awhile, nor longer waste
Life with inconsiderate haste!

'Be not like a stream that brawls
Loud with shallow waterfalls,
But in quiet self-control
Link together soul and soul.'

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Well's Secret

I KNEW it all my boyhood: in a lonesome valley meadow,
Like a dryad's mirror hidden by the wood's dim arches near;
Its eye flashed back the sunshine, and grew dark and sad with shadow;
And I loved its truthful depths where every pebble lay so clear.

I scooped my hand and drank it, and watched the sensate quiver
Of the rippling rings of silver as the beads of crystal fell;
I pressed the richer grasses from its little trickling river,
Till at last I knew, as friends know, every secret of the well.

But one day I stood beside it on a sudden, unexpected,
When the sun had crossed the valley and a shadow hid the place;
And I looked in the dark water—saw my pallid cheek reflected—
And beside it, looking upward, met an evil reptile face:

Looking upward, furtive, startled at the silent, swift intrusion;
Then it darted toward the grasses, and I saw not where it fled;
But I knew its eyes were on me, and the old-time sweet illusion
Of the pure and perfect symbol I had cherished there was dead.

O, the pain to know the perjury of seeming truth that blesses!
My soul was seared like sin to see the falsehood of the place;
And the innocence that mocked me, while in dim unseen recesses
There were lurking fouler secrets than the furtive reptile face.

And since then,—O, why the burden?—when the joyous faces greet me,
With their eyes of limpid innocence, and words devoid of art,
I cannot trust their seeming, but must ask what eyes would meet me
Could I look in sudden silence at the secrets of the heart!

by John Boyle O'Reilly.

Late, when the Autumn evening fell
On Mirkwood–Mere's romantic dell,
The lake return'd, in chasten’d gleam,
The purple cloud, the golden beam:
Reflected in the crystal pool,
Headland and bank lay fair and cool;
The weather-tinted rock and tower,
Each drooping tree, each fairy flower,
So true, so soft, the mirror gave,
As if there lay beneath the wave,
Secure from trouble, toil, and care,
A world than earthly world more fair.

But distant winds began to wake,
And roused the Genius of the Lake!
He heard the groaning of the oak,
And donn'd at once his sable cloak,
As warrior, at the battle-cry,
Invests him with his panoply:
Then, as the whirlwind nearer press’d
He 'gan to shake his foamy crest
O'er furrow'd brow and blacken'd cheek,
And bade his surge in thunder speak.
In wild and broken eddies whirl'd.
Flitted that fond ideal world,
And to the shore in tumult tost
The realms of fairy bliss were lost.

Yet, with a stern delight and strange,
I saw the spirit-stirring change,
As warr'd the wind with wave and wood,
Upon the ruin'd tower I stood,
And felt my heart more strongly bound,
Responsive to the lofty sound,
While, joying in the mighty roar,
I mourn’d that tranquil scene no more.

So, on the idle dreams of youth,
Breaks the loud trumpet-call of truth,
Bids each fair vision pass away,
Like landscape on the lake that lay,
As fair, as flitting, and as frail,
As that which fled the Autumn gale.-—
For ever dead to fancy's eye
Be each gay form that glided by,
While dreams of love and lady's charms
Give place to honour and to arms!

by Sir Walter Scott.

Horreur Sympathique (Sympathetic Horror)

De ce ciel bizarre et livide,
Tourmenté comme ton destin,
Quels pensers dans ton âme vide
Descendent? réponds, libertin.

— Insatiablement avide
De l'obscur et de l'incertain,
Je ne geindrai pas comme Ovide
Chassé du paradis latin.

Cieux déchirés comme des grèves
En vous se mire mon orgueil;
Vos vastes nuages en deuil

Sont les corbillards de mes rêves,
Et vos lueurs sont le reflet
De l'Enfer où mon coeur se plaît.

Reflected Horror

From that sky, bizarre and livid,
Distorted as your destiny,
What thoughts into your empty soul
Descend? Answer me, libertine.

— Insatiably avid
For the dark and the uncertain,
I shall not whimper like Ovid
Chased from his Latin paradise.

Skies torn like the shores of the sea,
You are the mirror of my pride;
Your vast clouds in mourning

Are the black hearses of my dreams,
And your gleams are the reflection
Of the Hell which delights my heart.

— Translated by William Aggeler

Sympathetic Horror

From livid skies that, without end,
As stormy as your future roll,
What thoughts into your empty soul
(Answer me, libertine!) descend?

— Insatiable yet for all
That turns on darkness, doom, or dice,
I'll not, like Ovid, mourn my fall,
Chased from the Latin paradise.

Skies, torn like seacoasts by the storm!
In you I see my pride take form,
And the huge clouds that rush in streams

Are the black hearses of my dreams,
And your red rays reflect the hell,
In which my heart is pleased to dwell.

— Translated by Roy Campbell

by Charles Baudelaire.

The Mirror Of Diana

Popular Name for Lake Nemi.

SHE floats into the quiet skies,
Where, in the circle of hills,
Her immemorial mirror fills
With light, as of a Virgin's eyes
When, love a-tremble in their blue,
They glow twin violets dipped in dew.

Mild as a metaphor of Sleep,
Immaculately maiden-white,
The Queen Moon of ancestral night
Beholds her image in the deep:
As if a-gaze she beams above
Lake Nemi's magic glass of love.

White rose, white lily of the vale,
Perfume the even breath of night;
In many a burst of sweet delight
The love throb of the nightingale
Swells through lush flowering woods and fills
The circle of the listening hills.

White rose, white lily of the skies,
The Moon-flower blossoms in the lake;
The nightingale for her fair sake
With hopeless love's impassioned cries
Seems fain to sing till song must kill
Himself with one tumultuous trill.

And all the songs and all the scents,
The light of glowworms and the fires
Of fire-flies in the cypress spires;
And all the wild wind instruments
Of pine and ilex as the breeze
Sweeps out their mystic harmonies;--

All are but Messengers of May
To that white orb of maiden fire
Who fills the moth with mad desire
To die enamoured in her ray,
And turns each dewdrop in the grass
Into a fairy looking-glass.

O Beauty, far and far above
The night moth and the nightingale!
Far, far above life's narrow pale,
O Unattainable! O Love!
Even as the nightingale we cry
For some Ideal set on high.

Haunting the deep reflective mind,
You may surprise its perfect Sphere
Glassed like the Moon within her mere,
Who at a puff of alien wind
Melts in innumerable rings,
Elusive in the flux of things.

by Mathilde Blind.

Before The Mirror

WHITE ROSE in red rose-garden
Is not so white;
Snowdrops that plead for pardon
And pine for fright
Because the hard East blows
Over their maiden rows
Grow not as this face grows from pale to bright.

Behind the veil, forbidden,
Shut up from sight,
Love, is there sorrow hidden,
Is there delight?
Is joy thy dower or grief,
White rose of weary leaf,
Late rose whose life is brief, whose loves are light?

Soft snows that hard winds harden
Till each flake bite
Fill all the flowerless garden
Whose flowers took flight
Long since when summer ceased,
And men rose up from feast,
And warm west wind grew east, and warm day night.

“Come snow, come wind or thunder
High up in air,
I watch my face, and wonder
At my bright hair;
Nought else exalts or grieves
The rose at heart, that heaves
With love of her own leaves and lips that pair.

“She knows not loves that kissed her
She knows not where.
Art thou the ghost, my sister,
White sister there,
Am I the ghost, who knows?
My hand, a fallen rose,
Lies snow-white on white snows, and takes no care.

“I cannot see what pleasures
Or what pains were;
What pale new loves and treasures
New years will bear;
What beam will fall, what shower,
What grief or joy for dower;
But one thing knows the flower; the flower is fair.”

Glad, but not flushed with gladness,
Since joys go by;
Sad, but not bent with sadness,
Since sorrows die;
Deep in the gleaming glass
She sees all past things pass,
And all sweet life that was lie down and lie.

There glowing ghosts of flowers
Draw down, draw nigh;
And wings of swift spent hours
Take flight and fly;
She sees by formless gleams,
She hears across cold streams,
Dead mouths of many dreams that sing and sigh.

Face fallen and white throat lifted,
With sleepless eye
She sees old loves that drifted,
She knew not why,
Old loves and faded fears
Float down a stream that hears
The flowing of all men’s tears beneath the sky.

by Algernon Charles Swinburne.

WHILE the skies of this northern November
Scowl down with a darkening menace,
I wonder if you still remember
That marvellous summer in Venice.
When the mornings by clouds unencumbered
Smiled on in unchanging persistence
On the broad bright laguna that slumbered
Afar in the magical distance.
And the mirror of waters reflected
The sails in their gay plumage grouping
Like tropical birds that erected
Their wings, or sat drowsily drooping.
How by moonlight our gondola gliding
Through gleams and through shadows of wonder,
With its sharp flashing beak flew dividing
The waves slipping silently under.
Then almost too full seemed the chalice
Of new brimming life and of beauty,
As we floated by Riva and palace,
Dogana and stately Salute —
Through deep-mouthed canals overshaded
By balconies gray, quaint and olden,
Where ruins of centuries faded
Stood stripped of their azure and golden.
Do you call back the days when before us
The masters of art shone revealing
Their marvels of color — and o'er us
Glowed grand on the rich massy ceiling
In the halls of the doges, where trembled
The state in its turbulent fever,
And purple-robed senates assembled
In days that are shadows forever?
You remember the yellow light tipping
The domes when the sunset was dying;
The crowds on the quays, and the shipping;
The pennons and flags that were flying; —
Saint Mark's with its mellow-toned glory,
The splendor and gloom of its riches;
The columns Byzantine and hoary;
The arches, the gold-crusted niches;
And the days when the sunshine invited
The painters abroad, until mooring
Their bark in the shadow, delighted
They wrought at their labors alluring;
The pictures receding in stretches
Of amber and opal around us —
The joy of our mornings of sketches —
The spell of achievement that bound us?
Ah, never I busy my brushes
With scenes of that radiant weather,
But through me the memory rushes
When we were in Venice together.
Fair Venice, the pearl-shell of cities!
Though poor the oblations we bring her —
The pictures, the songs and the ditties —
Ah, still we must paint her and sing her!
A vision of beauty long vanished,
A dream that is joy to remember,
A solace that cannot be banished
By all the chill blasts of November!

by Christopher Pearse Cranch.

First Day Of Summer

Sweetest of all delights are the vainest, merest;
Hours when breath is joy, for the breathing's sake.
Summer awoke this morning, and early awake
I rose refreshed, and gladly my eyes saluted
The entering beam of the sun that laughed his clearest.
I too laughed for pleasure, and vowed straightway
To stream and sun the flower of an idle day,
With summer sweetly enjoyed and friends well suited.

Merry were we, as stepping aboard we laid
The shaven oars in order; merry the leap
Of the oar, that grasped the water and stirred from sleep
A wave, to tremble past us in foamy rings.
With rhyming fall, and with bright returning blade
Impetuous music urges the rippling keel;
Softly our necks the flow of the breezes feel;
And blue, and thronged with birds, the morning sings.

And lo, the elms, in a day reclothed and gleaming
In delicate youth, above us stir their leaves.
The eye, to naked winter used, receives
A magic pleasure: and still the shore we follow
Winding in flowery meadows; freshly streaming
The river meets us ever from fields unknown:
As light we travel his curving mirror lone,
No longer I envy you, O frolic swallow.

Till moored at noon by shadowy turf, and ended
Awhile that pleasant toil, what relish keen
At ease to lie amid flowers, with rustling green
O'ershaded; there, reclined by a bubbling pool,
The rushing weir in murmur and foam blended,
Entrancing ear and eye, caresses the brain
With smooth perpetual sound, the lulling strain
Of water weariless poured and glittering cool.

O then, refreshed, in the level light serene
Our boat re--entering, her prow homeward turned,
How soft we glided; soft, as evening burned
Through drooping leaves, our liquid furrow stirred
The dim green heights of the elm, reflected green
In shadowy water; at last the dreaming shore
From its own enchanted mirror we know no more:
Softly we glided downward, and spoke no word.

Nor took we land, till the West in a blush was dying,
And over the twilit meadow we loitered home.
Even now in my ear is rushing the constant foam,
And the dappled stream is alight with the wind's laughter,
As I taste, in the cool of the darkness dreamily lying,
The sun yet warm upon limbs that sweetly ache;
Drowsed deliciously, still I linger awake,
Only to keep my delight, and to look not after.

by Robert Laurence Binyon.

Thekla. A Swedish Saga. The Temptation

On the green sward Thekla’s lying,
Summer winds are round her sighing,
At her feet the ocean plays;
In that mirror idly gazing
She beholds, with inward praising,
Her own beauty in amaze.
And with winds and waves attuning
Her low voice, in soft communing
Said: “If truly I’m so fair,
Might the best in our Swedish land
Die all for love of my white hand,
Azure eyes and golden hair.”

And fair Thekla bent down gazing,
Light her golden curls upraising
From her bosom fair to see,
Which, within the azure ocean,
Glittered back hack in soft commotion,
Like a lotus tremblingly.
Saying soft, with pleasure trembling,
“If so fair is the resembling,
How much fairer I must be!
Rose‐lipped shadow, smiling brightly,
Are we angels floating lightly
Through the azure air and sea?
“Oh! that beauty never faded,
That years passing never shaded
Youthful cheek with hues of age!
Oh! thou fairest crystal form,
Can we not time’s hand disarm?”
Hark! the winds begin to rage;
And with onward heaving motion
Rise the waves in wild commotion
Spirits mournfullest they seem
Round the crystal shadow plaining,
Shivered, shattered, fades it waning
From the maiden like a dream.
And from midst the drooping oziers
Of the sunny banks’ enclosures
Rose a woman weird to see:
Strange her mien mein and antique vesture,
Yet with friendly look and gesture
To the trembling girl spake she.
“As the cruel winds bereft thee
Of the shadow that hath left thee,
Maiden, will thy children steal
One by one these treasures from thee,
Till all beauty hath foregone thee:
Mother’s woe is children’s weal.

“For the beauty of the mother
Is the children’s—sister, brother,
As she fades away, will bloom.
Mother’s eyes grow dim by weeping,
Wan her cheek cheak , lone vigils keeping:
Youthful virgin, ’ware your doom!
“Wifely name is sweet from lover,
Yet ere many years are over,
From the fatal day you wed,
Sore you’ll rue the holy altar,
And the salt sea will grow salter
For the bitter tears you’ll shed.
“See the pallid cheek reflected,
Hollow, sunken eyes dejected,
Look of weary, wasting pain;
All changed for thy beauty rarest:
Maiden, tell me, if thou darest
Then come here, and look again.
“But should lovers’ pleading gain thee,
Haste thee quick and I will sain thee
Ere the marriage vows are said;
By the might of magic power,
I can save thee from the hour
Of a mother’s anguish dread.”
Answered Thekla:: “Save me! save me!
Witch or woman, then I crave thee,
From a mother’s fated doom!
So my beauty never fading
Thou canst make with magic aiding,
Fatal Mother, I shall come.”

by Lady Jane Wilde.

Oh, long ago she dwelt
In this gay little room
How shall I find my flower
Here where she used to bloom?
O longing, thirsting eyes,
Pursue the dear surprise:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Work thou some magic spell
And bring her back!

Here, when the morn was bright,
She bathed her lovely face,
Her little hands she bathed,
And clad herself with grace.
Between lips glad with song
Her teeth shone, white and strong:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Work thou some magic spell
To bring her back!

So innocent, so blithe,
Yet starting at a sound,
She let her long hair's veil
Fall her white shoulders round.
Then from her grandsire's book
Her morning prayer she took:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Work thou some magic spell
And bring her back!

Ah, there the book leans now,
Against the sacred palm
Open, as when she prayed,
Or read some holy psalm!
Surely I hear her feet
The wind with them is fleet:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Hast thou no magic spell
To bring her back?

At high mass or at fete
How fair she was to see!
And I, who should have prayed,
O Lord, forgive thou me!
Watched her, as there she knelt;
For prayer her name I spelt:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Work me some magic spell
And bring her back!

Here leaned she forth to talk;
Here of her tasks she thought;
For God's love and God's poor
Such patient stitches wrought;
Her swift hands to and fro
Before thee used to go:
Mirror, thou know'st her well,
Yet hast no magic spell
To bring her back!

Glad days of foolish chat,
Dear days of love and rhyme,
Season of mirth and dance,
Love's long-lost, golden time,
Bright hair where sunshine lay
The priest's hands sheared away:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Hast thou, indeed, no spell
To bring her back?

But thou dost rule, O God!
Thy harvest springs from pain;
And fairest blooms are fed
On tears that fall like rain.
O Gatherer divine,
The sweetest flowers are thine!
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Why hast thou not some spell
To bring her back?

The day she went away
Her cheeks were bathed in tears;
The long night she had wept
Past joys and future fears;
But when the convent's door
Had closed, she wept no more:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
I seek thy magic spell
To bring her back.

Under the half-dead vine
To this porch I drew nigh:
'This House to Let,' I read
It hurt me like a cry.
No one awaits me here;
But still my heart draws near:
Mirror, thou know'st her well
Yet thou canst work no spell
To bring her back.

by Theodore Aubanel.

Oh, long ago she dwelt
In this gay little room—
How shall I find my flower
Here where she used to bloom?
O longing, thirsting eyes,
Pursue the dear surprise:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Work thou some magic spell
And bring her back!

Here, when the morn was bright,
She bathed her lovely face,
Her little hands she bathed,
And clad herself with grace.
Between lips glad with song
Her teeth shone, white and strong:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Work thou some magic spell
To bring her back!

So innocent, so blithe,
Yet starting at a sound,
She let her long hair's veil
Fall her white shoulders round.
Then from her grandsire's book
Her morning prayer she took:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Work thou some magic spell
And bring her back!

Ah, there the book leans now,
Against the sacred palm—
Open, as when she prayed,
Or read some holy psalm!
Surely I hear her feet—
The wind with them is fleet:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Hast thou no magic spell
To bring her back?

At high mass or at fete
How fair she was to see!
And I, who should have prayed,—
O Lord, forgive thou me!—
Watched her, as there she knelt;
For prayer her name I spelt:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Work me some magic spell
And bring her back!

Here leaned she forth to talk;
Here of her tasks she thought;
For God's love and God's poor
Such patient stitches wrought;
Her swift hands to and fro
Before thee used to go:
Mirror, thou know'st her well,
Yet hast no magic spell
To bring her back!

Glad days of foolish chat,
Dear days of love and rhyme,
Season of mirth and dance,
Love's long-lost, golden time,
Bright hair where sunshine lay
The priest's hands sheared away:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Hast thou, indeed, no spell
To bring her back?

But thou dost rule, O God!
Thy harvest springs from pain;
And fairest blooms are fed
On tears that fall like rain.
O Gatherer divine,
The sweetest flowers are thine!
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Why hast thou not some spell
To bring her back?

The day she went away
Her cheeks were bathed in tears;
The long night she had wept
Past joys and future fears;
But when the convent's door
Had closed, she wept no more:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
I seek thy magic spell
To bring her back.

Under the half-dead vine
To this porch I drew nigh:
'This House to Let,' I read—
It hurt me like a cry.
No one awaits me here;
But still my heart draws near:
Mirror, thou know'st her well—
Yet thou canst work no spell
To bring her back.

by Theodore Aubanel.

How sweetly on the wood-girt town
The mellow light of sunset shone!
Each small, bright lake, whose waters still
Mirror the forest and the hill,
Reflected from its waveless breast
The beauty of a cloudless west,
Glorious as if a glimpse were given
Within the western gates of heaven,
Left, by the spirit of the star
Of sunset's holy hour, ajar!

Beside the river's tranquil flood
The dark and low-walled dwellings stood,
Where many a rood of open land
Stretched up and down on either hand,
With corn-leaves waving freshly green
The thick and blackened stumps between.
Behind, unbroken, deep and dread,
The wild, untravelled forest spread,
Back to those mountains, white and cold,
Of which the Indian trapper told,
Upon whose summits never yet
Was mortal foot in safety set.

Quiet and calm without a fear,
Of danger darkly lurking near,
The weary laborer left his plough,
The milkmaid carolled by her cow;
From cottage door and household hearth
Rose songs of praise, or tones of mirth.

At length the murmur died away,
And silence on that village lay.
-So slept Pompeii, tower and hall,
Ere the quick earthquake swallowed all,
Undreaming of the fiery fate
Which made its dwellings desolate.

Hours passed away. By moonlight sped
The Merrimac along his bed.
Bathed in the pallid lustre, stood
Dark cottage-wall and rock and wood,
Silent, beneath that tranquil beam,
As the hushed grouping of a dream.
Yet on the still air crept a sound,
No bark of fox, nor rabbit's bound,
Nor stir of wings, nor waters flowing,
Nor leaves in midnight breezes blowing.

Was that the tread of many feet,
Which downward from the hillside beat?
What forms were those which darkly stood
Just on the margin of the wood?-
Charred tree-stumps in the moonlight dim,
Or paling rude, or leafless limb?
No,-through the trees fierce eyeballs glowed,
Dark human forms in moonshine showed,
Wild from their native wilderness,
With painted limbs and battle-dress.

A yell the dead might wake to hear
Swelled on the night air, far and clear;
Then smote the Indian tomahawk
On crashing door and shattering lock;

Then rang the rifle-shot, and then
The shrill death-scream of stricken men,-
Sank the red axe in woman's brain,
And childhood's cry arose in vain.
Bursting through roof and window came,
Red, fast, and fierce, the kindled flame,
And blended fire and moonlight glared
On still dead men and scalp-knives bared.

The morning sun looked brightly through
The river willows, wet with dew.
No sound of combat filled the air,
No shout was heard, nor gunshot there;
Yet still the thick and sullen smoke
From smouldering ruins slowly broke;
And on the greensward many a stain,
And, here and there, the mangled slain,
Told how that midnight bolt had sped
Pentucket, on thy fated head.

Even now the villager can tell
Where Rolfe beside his hearthstone fell,
Still show the door of wasting oak,
Through which the fatal death-shot broke,
And point the curious stranger where
De Rouville's corse lay grim and bare;
Whose hideous head, in death still feared,
Bore not a trace of hair or beard;
And still, within the churchyard ground,
Heaves darkly up the ancient mound,
Whose grass-grown surface overlies
The victims of that sacrifice.

by John Greenleaf Whittier.

The Task: Book I, The Sofa (Excerpts)


Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur'd up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne
The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just discern'd
The distant plough slow moving, and beside
His lab'ring team, that swerv'd not from the track,
The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy!
Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along its sinuous course
Delighted. There, fast rooted in his bank,
Stand, never overlook'd, our fav'rite elms,
That screen the herdsman's solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream
That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale,
The sloping land recedes into the clouds;
Displaying on its varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tow'r,
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the list'ning ear,
Groves, heaths and smoking villages remote.
Scenes must be beautiful, which, daily view'd,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years.
Praise justly due to those that I describe....

But though true worth and virtue, in the mild
And genial soil of cultivated life,
Thrive most, and may perhaps thrive only there,
Yet not in cities oft: in proud and gay
And gain-devoted cities. Thither flow,
As to a common and most noisome sewer,
The dregs and feculence of every land.
In cities foul example on most minds
Begets its likeness. Rank abundance breeds
In gross and pamper'd cities sloth and lust,
And wantonness and gluttonous excess.
In cities vice is hidden with most ease,
Or seen with least reproach; and virtue, taught
By frequent lapse, can hope no triumph there
Beyond th' achievement of successful flight.
I do confess them nurseries of the arts,
In which they flourish most; where, in the beams
Of warm encouragement, and in the eye
Of public note, they reach their perfect size.
Such London is, by taste and wealth proclaim'd
The fairest capital of all the world,
By riot and incontinence the worst.
There, touch'd by Reynolds, a dull blank becomes
A lucid mirror, in which Nature sees
All her reflected features. Bacon there
Gives more than female beauty to a stone,
And Chatham's eloquence to marble lips....

God made the country, and man made the town.
What wonder then that health and virtue, gifts
That can alone make sweet the bitter draught
That life holds out to all, should most abound
And least be threaten'd in the fields and groves?
Possess ye therefore, ye who, borne about
In chariots and sedans, know no fatigue
But that of idleness, and taste no scenes
But such as art contrives, possess ye still
Your element; there only ye can shine,
There only minds like yours can do no harm.
Our groves were planted to console at noon
The pensive wand'rer in their shades. At eve
The moonbeam, sliding softly in between
The sleeping leaves, is all the light they wish,
Birds warbling all the music. We can spare
The splendour of your lamps, they but eclipse
Our softer satellite. Your songs confound
Our more harmonious notes: the thrush departs
Scared, and th' offended nightingale is mute.
There is a public mischief in your mirth;
It plagues your country. Folly such as yours,
Grac'd with a sword, and worthier of a fan,
Has made, which enemies could ne'er have done,
Our arch of empire, steadfast but for you,
A mutilated structure, soon to fall.

by William Cowper.

L'Homme Et La Mer (Man And The Sea)

Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer!
La mer est ton miroir; tu contemples ton âme
Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame,
Et ton esprit n'est pas un gouffre moins amer.

Tu te plais à plonger au sein de ton image;
Tu l'embrasses des yeux et des bras, et ton coeur
Se distrait quelquefois de sa propre rumeur
Au bruit de cette plainte indomptable et sauvage.

Vous êtes tous les deux ténébreux et discrets:
Homme, nul n'a sondé le fond de tes abîmes;
Ô mer, nul ne connaît tes richesses intimes,
Tant vous êtes jaloux de garder vos secrets!

Et cependant voilà des siècles innombrables
Que vous vous combattez sans pitié ni remords,
Tellement vous aimez le carnage et la mort,
Ô lutteurs éternels, ô frères implacables!

Man and the Sea
Free man, you will always cherish the sea!
The sea is your mirror; you contemplate your soul
In the infinite unrolling of its billows;
Your mind is an abyss that is no less bitter.

You like to plunge into the bosom of your image;
You embrace it with eyes and arms, and your heart
Is distracted at times from its own clamoring
By the sound of this plaint, wild and untamable.

Both of you are gloomy and reticent:
Man, no one has sounded the depths of your being;
O Sea, no person knows your most hidden riches,
So zealously do you keep your secrets!

Yet for countless ages you have fought each other
Without pity, without remorse,
So fiercely do you love carnage and death,
O eternal fighters, implacable brothers!

— Translated by William Aggeler

Man and the Sea

Free man, you'll always love the sea — for this,
That it's a mirror, where you see your soul
In its eternal waves that chafe and roll;
Nor is your soul less bitter an abyss.

in your reflected image there to merge,
You love to dive, its eyes and limbs to match.
Sometimes your heart forgets its own, to catch
The rhythm of that wild and tameless dirge.

The two of you are shadowy, deep, and wide.
Man! None has ever plummeted your floor —
Sea! None has ever known what wealth you store —
Both are so jealous of the things you hide!

Yet age on age is ended, or begins,
While you without remorse or pity fight.
So much in death and carnage you delight,
Eternal wrestlers! Unrelenting twins!

— Translated by Roy Campbell

Man and the Sea

Free man, you shall forever cherish the vast sea,
The sea, that image where you contemplate your soul
As everlastingly its mighty waves unroll.
Your mind a yawning gulf seasoned as bitterly.

You love to plunge into your image to the core,
Embracing it with eyes and arms; your very heart
Sometimes finds a distraction from its urgent smart
In the wild sea's untamable and plaintive roar.

Both of you live in darkness and in mystery:
Man, who has ever plumbed the far depths of your being?
O Sea, who knows your private hidden riches, seeing
How strange the secrets you preserve so jealously?

And yet for countless ages you have fought each other
With hands unsparing and with unforbearing breath,
Each an eternal foe to his relentless brother,
So avid are you both of slaughter and of death.

— Translated by Jacques LeClercq

L'Homme et le Mer

love Ocean always, Man: ye both are free!
the Sea, thy mirror: thou canst find thy soul
in the unfurling billows' surging roll,
they mind's abyss is bitter as the sea.

thou doest rejoice thy mirrored face to pierce,
plunging, and clasp with eyes and arms; thy heart
at its own mutter oft forgets to start,
lulled by that plaint indomitably fierce.

discreet ye both are; both are taciturn:
Man, none has measured all thy dark abyss,
none, Sea, knows where thy hoarded treasure is,
so jealously your secrets ye inurn!

and yet for countless ages, trucelessly,
— o ruthless warriors! — ye have fought and striven:
brothers by lust for death and carnage driven,
twin wrestlers, gripped for all eternity!

— Translated by Lewis Piaget Shanks

by Charles Baudelaire.