A Smattering of Poems

English & American Literature Courses
Dr. Lou Rosenberg

CONTENTS
Introduction ....................................................................................................................................... 2 William Shakespeare ......................................................................................................................... 3 SONNET 18 .................................................................................................................................... 3 SONNET 29 .................................................................................................................................... 4 SONNET 71..................................................................................................................................... 5 SONNET 116 ................................................................................................................................... 6 SONNET 130 .................................................................................................................................. 7 John Donne ........................................................................................................................................ 8 Holy Sonnet 10 ............................................................................................................................... 8 Robert Browning................................................................................................................................ 9 My Last Duchess ............................................................................................................................ 9 Porphyria's Lover .......................................................................................................................... 11 Robert Frost ..................................................................................................................................... 13 The Road Not Taken .................................................................................................................... 13 Mending Wall ............................................................................................................................... 14 Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening .................................................................................... 16

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INTRODUCTION
The best way to read poetry is to…well, just read it! Even if you don’t understand what you’re reading at first, the more times you actually engage in the poem, enlightenment should eventually strike. I strongly suggest that you read the poems and gain as much insight as you can before consulting secondary and reference sources. While tempting, working backwards would severely limit your ability to synthesize the poem for use in an assignment. Also, it cannot be overstated how important it is to bring your questions to your lectures.

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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
SONNET 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling1 buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d; But thy eternal summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growest2: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

NOTES

All but two of Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published in 1609 entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.: Never before imprinted. (Sonnets 138 and 144 had previously been published in a 1599 anthology entitled The Passionate Pilgrim.). The publisher, Thomas Thorpe, entered the work into the Stationer’s Register on May 20, 1609; however, whether or not Shakespeare approved of the publication is unknown.

Young grafting metaphor. Grafting is a technique used to join parts from two plants with cords so that they grow as one. Thus the beloved becomes immortal, grafted to time with the poet’s cords (his “eternal lines”).
1 2

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SONNET 29
When, in disgrace1 with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep2 my outcast state And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless3 cries And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him4, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

out of favor. weep over (my outcast state) The poet’s “outcast state” is possibly an allusion to his lack of work as an actor due to the closing of the theatres in 1592 (during an outbreak of plague). It also could be a reference to the attack on Shakespeare at the hands of Robert Greene. 3 unheard 4 other, perhaps more attractive, men
1 2

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SONNET 71
No longer mourn for me when I am dead Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell1 Give warning to the world that I am fled From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell: Nay, if you read this line, remember not The hand that writ it; for I love you so That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot If thinking on me then should make you woe. O, if, I say, you look upon this verse When I perhaps compounded am with clay, Do not so much as my poor name rehearse. But let your love even with my life decay, Lest the wise world should look into your moan And mock you with me after I am gone.

At funerals during the Renaissance, one could pay to have the “passing-bell” rung as many times as the deceased was alive, as a tribute to his or her life.
1

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SONNET 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove:1 O no! it is an ever-fixed mark2 That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star3 to every wandering bark,4 Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.5 Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come:6 Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

i.e., deviates (“bends”) to alter its course (“remove”) as with departure. i.e., a lighthouse 3 North star 4 ship 5 Whose value cannot be calculated, although its altitude can be measured. 6 i.e., physical beauty falls within the range (“compass”) of Time’s curved blade. Note the comparison of Time to the Grim Reaper, the scythe-wielding personification of death.
1 2

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SONNET 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.

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JOHN DONNE
Holy Sonnet 10
Death be not proud, though some have calléd thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so, For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then; One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

NOTES

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English poet, preacher and a major representative of the metaphysical poets of the period. This sonnet is taken from his collection titled Holy Sonnets (or Divine Sonnets)

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ROBERT BROWNING
My Last Duchess
Ferrara1 That’s my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s2 hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said “Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘twas not Her husband’s presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps Frà Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps “Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint “Must never hope to reproduce the faint “Half-flush that dies along her throat”: such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy. She had A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. Sir, ‘twas all one! My favor at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
1 2

NOTES

Robert Browning (1812-1889) was a master of dramatic poetry, especially the dramatic monologue.

The place is the ducal palace in the Italian city-state of Ferrara; the time is the Renaissance. Invented painter of the portrait of the last duchess

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Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thanked Somehow I know not how as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech which I have not to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this “Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, “Or there exceed the mark” and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse, E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet The company below, then. I repeat, The Count your master’s known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretense Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed At starting, is my object. Nay we’ll go Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

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Porphyria's Lover
The rain set early in tonight, The sullen wind was soon awake, It tore the elm-tops down for spite, And did its worst to vex the lake: I listened with heart fit to break. When glided in Porphyria; straight She shut the cold out and the storm, And kneeled and made the cheerless grate Blaze up, and all the cottage warm; Which done, she rose, and from her form Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, And laid her soiled gloves by, untied Her hat and let the damp hair fall, And, last, she sat down by my side And called me. When no voice replied, She put my arm about her waist, And made her smooth white shoulder bare, And all her yellow hair displaced, And, stooping, made my cheek lie there, And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair, Murmuring how she loved me — she Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor, To set its struggling passion free From pride, and vainer ties dissever, And give herself to me forever. But passion sometimes would prevail, Nor could tonight's gay feast restrain A sudden thought of one so pale For love of her, and all in vain: So, she was come through wind and rain. Be sure I looked up at her eyes Happy and proud; at last l knew Porphyria worshiped me: surprise Made my heart swell, and still it grew While l debated what to do. That moment she was mine, mine, fair, Perfectly pure and good: I found A thing to do, and all her hair Page 11 of 16

In one long yellow string l wound Three times her little throat around, And strangled her. No pain felt she; l am quite sure she felt no pain. As a shut bud that holds a bee, l warily oped her lids: again Laughed the blue eyes without a stain. And l untightened next the tress About her neck; her cheek once more Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss: l propped her head up as before, Only, this time my shoulder bore Her head, which droops upon it still: The smiling rosy little head, So glad it has its utmost will, That all it scorned at once is fled, And l, its love, am gained instead! Porphyria's love: she guessed not how Her darling one wish would be heard. And thus we sit together now, And all night long we have not stirred, And yet God has not said aword! N.B. Porphyria is an incurable blood disease that disables and kills thousands every year. Its discovery dates back to the mid-1700s, well before Browning wrote “Porphyria's Lover.” It is often referred to as mental illness or the Royal Disease, which, given Porphyria's tidy golden hair, means Porphyria could have been royalty inasmuch as that description would not likely be associated with Victorian lower class. Symptoms of Porphyria's disease are repeatedly described within the poem by Browning, e.g. blood loss (“gone so pale”), muscle weakness (“too weak to set her passion free”) and light sensitivity which explains why she arrived at night (“rain set in early tonight”) — and so on. Victims of Porphyria's disease suffer a horrible death.

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ROBERT FROST
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

NOTES

Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1937. He is most famous for his depictions of rural New England. Frost was a farmer with a typical New England work ethic of hard work. Therefore, he wrote most of his poetry at night.

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Mending Wall
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it And spills the upper boulder in the sun, And make gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there, I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: "Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him, But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather He said it for himself. I see him there, Page 14 of 16

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father's saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

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Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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