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Stamps' Favourite Poems

Leslie W. Ortega

Some say I am disabled,
     But you know that isn't true.
I simply have a challenge
     A little different from you.

My slight inconvenience, has taught me
     Things they could not know.
Each obstacle is a victory,
     Enabling me to grow.

I'm not really any different,
     I cry, I laugh, I snore.
I don't want to be treated
     As if I'm not a person anymore.

Out of good intentions,
     People are afraid to let me try.
But sometimes I have to fall,
     And sometimes I need to cry.

God gives me strength and dignity,
     And the courage to be all I can be.
For He doesn't see me as disabled,
     He just sees me as me.

Kiddo read this poem at the fourth annual UAC awards banquet, where she was the keynote speaker.

I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day
Gerard Manley Hopkins 1885(?)

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.

With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life.
And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.

Self yeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves, but worse.

Background: British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), burned all his poetry upon becoming a Catholic priest, thinking it was too worldly, but he later took it up again after repeated admonishments from his superiors that he write more poetry. His earlier work after joining the priesthood, such as "The Windhover," and "God's Grandeur," is filled with hope and beauty, celebrating God's creations. However, a group of his later poems, this piece included, are known as "The Terrible Sonnets" because of their sense of a loss of hope.

He is also the creator of the poetic concepts of Inscape (the design of each individual thing that distinguishes it from all other things in the universe; the inner beauty of a thing), Instress (the power that enables a person to recognize an object's Inscape) and Sprung Rhythm. (I believe that Inscape could also be a means of transcending one's immediate time and place and that Instress, in many of Hopkins' poems, such as "God's Grandeur," is most likely the inspiring power of the Holy Ghost.)

Not Waving But Drowning
Stevie Smith 1957

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Background: Stevie Smith (1902-1971) British woman poet.

One of the reasons I like this poem is one of the same reasons why I like the previous poem by Hopkins. In both works, the speaker tells the reader that they haven't been suffering for a short time; rather, they have been in pain, alone, and in need of help for a long time, for "all my life"! I think all people, especially both those who do not know where to look to find the happiness they seek and those who live especially unique lives that preclude others from understanding them, have a propensity to feel this way. I know you do.

excerpt from Song of Myself
Walt Whitman 1855

I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times . . .

I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.

Background: Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is considered by many to be the great American poet and the prophet that Thoreau was looking for. Dubbed the "Great Gray Poet," some purport that he was a homosexual. Whitman's long poem, Song of Myself is one of the only examples of American long poems that really compare to their British counterparts of the genre.

I find this passage interesting how it describes so well the September 11th attacks of 2001, almost a century and a half after Whitman penned the poem. That day was the worst day of my life.

from Amoretti: Sonnet 75
Edmund Spencer 1595

One day I wrote her name upon the strand1
But came the waves and washed it away:
Agayne I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray2.
"Vayne man," sayd she, "that doest in vaine assay3,
A mortall thing so to immortalize,
For I my selve shall lyke to this decay,
And eek4 my name bee wyped out lykewize."
"Not so," quod5 I, "let baser things devize6
To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens wryte your glorious name.
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
Our love shall live, and later life renew."

1. beach 2. prey 3. attempt 4. also 5. quoth 6. contrive

Background: Edmund Spencer (1552-1599) British poet. This sonnet is one in a series of sonnets. Not only is the language archaic and beautiful, but also the concrete imagery and the concepts are most romantic.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats 1892

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Background: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) British poet. I love how the poet contrasts the colorful sanctuary he longs to retreat to with the "gray" city, and how the speaker hears the lapping of the water in his heart night and day.

Although song lyrics are not necessarily poetry, the words to music are often poetic. In fact, some of the following pieces, such as "The Star Spangled Banner," were originally composed as poems, separate from the music they were later put to.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne

Old Long Since/Times Gone By/Old Long Ago

Should old acquaintances be forgotten
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgotten
And times gone by?

For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!

And surely you'll be your pint tankard
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll take a cup o kindness yet,
For times gone by!

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine
But we've wandered many a weary foot
Since times gone by.

We two have paddled/waded in the stream
From morning sun (noon) till dinnertime
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend
And give me a hand of yours
And we will take of a good draught/drink/toast
For times gone by.

"Auld Lang Syne" (directly translated as "old long since," meaning "times gone by"). It is variously reported that this old Scottish tune was first written down by either one Robert Burns or Rabie Burns 17 December 1788. It is traditionally sung at New Year's, though rarely sung correctly.

O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown

O Savior, thou who wearest A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest, Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.
The soldiers mock and flail thee; For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee To die, O King of all.

No creature is so lowly, No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy, And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee, They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended To ev'ry time and land.
No more can Satan harm us, Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us; We live, O Lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer To thank thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer; In our place thou didst die,
By heaven's plan appointed, To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed, To thee our love we bring!

"O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" Text by Karen Lynn Davidson (b. 1943). Music by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612); adapted by J. S. Bach (1685-1750).

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth'
At home and abroad, on the land or the sea
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"How Firm a Foundation" Text attributed to Robert Keen, circa 1787. Music: Anonymous, circa 1889.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1864. Music: John Baptiste Calkin 1872.

The Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

"The Star Spangled Banner" Francis Scott Key 20 September 1814.

There is Sunshine in My Soul Today

There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there's sunshine, blessed sunshine,
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in the soul.

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus, listening, can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near,
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope, and praise, and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys "laid up" above.

"There is Sunshine in My Soul Today" Text: Eliza E. Hewitt (1851-1920). Music: John R. Sweney (1837-189).

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I'll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" Text: Robert Robinson 1758. Music: John Wyeth 1813.

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