Poetry for Memorization and Prose for Reading Aloud
Spring 2002
Click on "SAE" to hear the poem read in Standard American English,
on "RP" to hear it in Standard Britsh English ("Received Pronunciation")

1. Ding, Dong Bell
    SAE   RP
Mother Goose

Ding, dong bell, Pussy's in the well!
Who put her in? Little Tommy Lin.
Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout.
What a naughty boy was that
To try to drown poor pussy-cat
Who never did him any harm,
But killed the mice in his father's barn!

2. Ladybug     SAE   RP
translated by Isaac Taylor Headland

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away, do,
Fly to the mountain, and feed upon dew,
Feed upon dew and sleep on a rug,
And then run away like a good little bug.


3. On the Beach at Fontana     SAE   RP
James Joyce  Irish  (1882-1941)

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love!

4. Learning     SAE   RP
Judith Viorst  American  (1931- )

I'm learning to say thank you.
And I'm learning to say please.
And I'm learning to use Kleenex,
Not my sweater, when I sneeze.
And I'm learning not to dribble.
And I'm learning not to slurp.
And I'm learning (though it sometimes really hurts me)
Not to burp.
And I'm learning to chew softer
When I eat corn on the cob.
And I'm learning that it's much
Much easier to be a slob.

5. Sheep in Fog     SAE   RP
Sylvia Plath  American  (1932-1963)

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the color of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells –
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

6. To a Friend     SAE   RP
Amy Lowell  American  (1874-1925)

I ask but one thing of you, only one,
  That always you will be my dream of you;
  That never shall I wake to find untrue
All this I have believed and rested on,
Forever vanished, like a vision gone
  Out into the night. Alas, how few
  There are who strike in us a chord we knew
Existed, but so seldom heard its tone
We tremble at the half-forgotten sound.
  The world is full of rude awakenings
  And heaven-born castles shattered to the ground,
Yet still our human longing vainly clings
  To a belief in beauty through all wrongs.
  O stay your hand, and leave my heart its songs!

7. Lullaby     SAE   RP
Eve Merriam  American  (1916-1992)

Sky light.

Purple as a king's cape
Purple as a grape.

Purple for the evening
When daylight is leaving.

Soft and purry,
Gentle and furry,
Velvet evening-time.

Sky light
Goodbye light.

Into night.

8. Sonnet LXXVI     SAE   RP
William Shakespeare  English  (1564-1616)

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Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
  For as the sun is daily new and old,
  So is my love still telling what is told.

9. The Cutting Edge     SAE   RP
Frances FitzGerald  American

     Americans ignore history, for to them everything has
always seemed new under the sun. The national myth
is that of creativity and progress, of a steady climbing
upward into power and prosperity, both for the individual
and for the country as a whole. Americans see history
as a straight line and themselves standing at the cutting
edge of it as representatives for all mankind.

10. Gazing at the Sacred Peak     SAE   RP
Du Fu (Tu Fu)  Chinese  (712-770)
Link to Chinese original

For all this, what is the mountain god like?
An unending green of lands north and south:
From ethereal beauty Creation distills
There, yin and yang split dusk and dawn.

Swelling clouds sweep by. Returning birds
Ruin my eyes vanishing. One day soon,
At the summit, the other mountains will be
Small enough to hold, all in a single glance.

11. Pine Tree Tops     SAE   RP
Gary Snyder  American  (1930- )

in the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
the creak of boots.
rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.

12. Since There's No Help, Come Let Us Kiss and Part     SAE   RP
Michael Drayton  English  (1563-1631)

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me.
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes -
  Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
  From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.

13. Three Days     SAE   RP
James R. Gilmore  American  (1822-1903)

So much to do: so little done!
Ah! yesternight I saw the sun
Sink beamless down the vaulted gray, –
The ghastly ghost of YESTERDAY.

So little done: so much to do!
Each morning breaks on conflicts new;
But eager, brave, I'll join the fray,
And fight the battle of TO-DAY.

So much to do: so little done!
But when it's o'er, – the victory won, –
Oh! then, my soul, this strife and sorrow
Will end in that great, glad TO-MORROW.

14. Plea for a Captive     SAE   RP
William Stanley  Merwin American  (1927 - )

Woman with the caught fox
By the scruff, you can drop your hopes:
It will not tame though you prove kind,
Though you entice it with fat ducks
Patiently to your fingertips
And in dulcet love enclose it
Do not suppose it will turn friend,
Dog your heels, sleep at your feet,
Be happy in the house,

It will only trot to and fro,
To and fro, with vacant eye,
Neither will its pelt improve
Nor its disposition, twisting
The raw song of its debasement
Through the long nights, and in your love,
In your delicate meats tasting
Nothing but its own decay
(As at first hand I have learned)

Kill it at once or let it go.

15. Quote from: Franz Kafka  Jewish/Bohemian  (1883-1924)     SAE   RP

     You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at
your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not
even wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer
itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in
ecstasy at your feet.

Quote from: Henry Van Dyke  American  (1852-1933)

     Use what talents you possess; the woods would be
very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.

16. In Honor of David Anderson Brooks, My Father     SAE   RP
July 30, 1883-November 21, 1959
Gwendolyn Brooks  American (1917-2000)

A dryness is upon the house
My father loved and tended.
Beyond his firm and sculptured door
His light and lease have ended.

He walks the valleys, now-replies
To sun and wind forever.
No more the cramping chamber's chill,
No more the hindering fever.

Now out upon the wide clean air
My father's soul revives,
All innocent of self-interest
And the fear that strikes and strives.

He who was Goodness, Gentleness,
And Dignity is free,
Translates to public Love
Old private charity.

17. Was There a Time     SAE   RP
Dylan Thomas  English  (1914-1953)

Was there a time when dancers with their fiddles
In children's circuses could stay their troubles?
There was a time they could cry over books,
But time has set its maggot on their track.
Under the arc of the sky they are unsafe.
What's never known is safest in this life.
Under the skysigns they who have no arms
Have cleanest hands, and, as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so the blind man sees best.

18. When Your Face Dawned...     SAE   RP
Yevgeny Yevtushenko   Russian   (1933- )

When your face dawned
over my crumpled life,
at first I understood
only the poverty of all I have.

Then its particular light
was shed on woods, rivers, and seas
and initiated into the world of colors
the uninitiated me.

I am so frightened, I am so frightened
of the end of the unexpected sunrise,
of the end of revelations, tears, excitement,
but I don't fight with this fear.

I understand – this fear
is what love is. I cherish it,
though I know not how to cherish,
a careless guard of his own love.

This fear has encircled me.
These moments – I know –are brief,
and for me these colors will vanish
when your face sets.

19. Still Here     SAE   RP
Langston Hughes  American  (1902-1967)

I been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
   Snow has friz me,
   Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
   Tried to make me

Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin' –
   But I don't care!
   I'm still here!

20. It's This Way     SAE   RP
Nazim Hikmet  Turkish  (1902-1963)

I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.

My eyes can't get enough of the trees –
they're so hopeful, so green.

A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I'm at the window of the prison infirmary.

I can't smell the medicines –
carnations must be blooming nearby.

It's this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.

21. The Minimal     SAE   RP
Theodore Roethke  American  (1908-1963)

I study the lives on a leaf: the little
Sleepers, numb nudgers in cold dimensions,
Beetles in caves, newts, stone-deaf fishes,
Lice tethered to long limp subterranean weeds,
Squirmers in bogs,
And bacterial creepers
Wriggling through wounds
Like elvers in ponds,
Their wan mouths kissing the warm sutures,
Cleaning and caressing,
Creeping and healing.

22. Stay     SAE   
Ingeborg Bachmann   Austrian   (1926-1973)
translated from the German by Peter Filkins

Now the journey is ending,
the wind is losing heart.
Into your hands it's falling,
a rickety house of cards.

The cards are backed with pictures
displaying all the world.
You've stacked up all the images
and shuffled them with words.

And how profound the playing
that once again begins!
Stay, the card you're drawing
is the only world you'll win.


Karen Steffen Chung (US English)
Colin R. Whiteley (RP)