Category Archives: Poetry

The Spider to the Fly

The Spider and the Fly 

A FABLE

by Mary Botham Howitt

I.
“Will you walk into my parlour?” said a spider to a fly;
” ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to shew when you are there.”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

II.
“I’m sure you must be weary, with soaring up so high,
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in.”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

III.
Said the cunning spider to the fly, “Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have, within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome—will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no!” said the little fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,”
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.”

IV.
“Sweet creature!” said the spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise.
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

V.
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew, the silly fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner, sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the fly.
Then he went out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple—there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”

VI.
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue:—
Thinking only of her crested head, poor foolish thing!—At last
Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast.

VII.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour—but she ne’er came out again!
—And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

“The Spider and the Fly” is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1829. The story tells of a cunning spider who entraps a fly into its web through the use of seduction and manipulation. The poem is a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and charm to disguise their true intentions.

About the Author:

Mary Botham Howitt was a 19th century English author who is best remembered for her famous children’s poem “The Spider and the Fly.”  Her literary output was considerable and, collaborating on many projects with her husband, she had over 180 books to her name.

Besides her large output of fictional work Howitt also wrote factual books such as The Literature and Romance of Northern Europe, published in 1852, and two volumes of a Popular History of the United States in 1859.  Her renown as a writer won her many awards including a civil list pension of £100 per year from April 1879.  

Having converted to Catholicism late in life (she’d been raised a Quaker), she was selected as one of a delegation chosen to meet the Pope on the 10th January 1888.  Unfortunately within three weeks of this great occasion, she was dead. Howitt contracted bronchitis and died in Rome on the 30th January 1888 at the age of 88.  She was remembered as a spreader of “good and innocent literature,” a description that appeared in her Times Obituary.


Always

Always
by Pablo Neruda

I am not jealous
of what came before me.

Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet,
come like a river
full of drowned men
which flows down to the wild sea,
to the eternal surf, to Time!

Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth
to start our life!

[original Spanish text]

Antes de mí
no tengo celos.

Ven con un hombre
a la espalda,
ven con cien hombres en tu cabellera,
ven con mil hombres entre tu pecho y tus pies,
ven como un río
lleno de ahogados
que encuentra el mar furioso,
la espuma eterna, el tiempo!

Tráelos todos
adonde yo te espero:
siempre estaremos solos,
siempre estaremos tú y yo
solos sobre la tierra
para comenzar la vida!


We Are Marching

We Are Marching
By Carrie Law Morgan Figgs

                      1.
We are marching, truly marching
  Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
We are fearing no impediment
  We have never known defeat.

                      2.
Like Job of old we have had patience,
  Like Joshua, dangerous roads we’ve trod
Like Solomon we have built out temples.
  Like Abraham we’ve had faith in God.

                      3.
Up the streets of wealth and commerce,
  We are marching one by one
We are marching, making history,
  For ourselves and those to come.

                      4.
We have planted schools and churches,
  We have answered duty’s call.
We have marched from slavery’s cabin
  To the legislative hall.

                      5.
Brethren can’t you catch the spirit?
  You who are out just get in line
Because we are marching, yes we are marching
  To the music of the time.

                      6.
We are marching, steady marching
  Bridging chasms, crossing streams
Marching up the hill of progress
  Realizing our fondest dreams.

                      7.
We are marching, truly marching
  Can’t you hear the sound of feet?
We are fearing no impediment
  We shall never know defeat.

Yesterday, in the landmark decision Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The ruling was met with widespread praise among LGBTQ rights groups, which have long argued against such employment discrimination. While this year, the LGBTQ community cannot physically march in Pride parades around the country, we are symbolically marching closer to equality through the courts, and if Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, we will be making even greater strides.

Carrie Law Morgan Figgs was born in 1878. A teacher, community leader, playwright, and poet, Figgs was the author of Poetic Pearls (Edward Waters College Press, 1920) and Nuggets of Gold (Jaxon Printing Company, 1921), as well as several plays. She died in 1968.


A Gift

A Gift
By Kathryn Starbuck

Who is that creature
and who does he want?
Me, I trust. I do not
attempt to call out his
name for fear he will
tread on me. What do
you believe, he asks.

That we all want to be
alone, I reply, except when
we do not; that the world
was open to my sorrow
and ate most of it; that
today is a gift and I am
ready to receive you.

About Kathryn Starbuck:

Journalist, essayist, and newspaper editor, Kathryn Starbuck started writing poems in her 60s. Though she was a practiced prose writer, it was the experience of grief that led her to writing poetry. After the deaths of her husband, the poet George Starbuck, her parents, and others close to her, she found that her “scribbling” in notebooks was taking the form of poetry. She has edited the Milford, New Hampshire, weekly newspaper Cabinet. She has traveled widely and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Meditation XVII

Meditation XVII
By John Donne
From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The Background

“No Man Is an Island” is neither a proverb nor a poem. It’s a famous line by the English poet, John Donne in his “Meditation XVII.” John Donne wrote a famous prose work titled Devotions upon Emergent Occasion in 1624 which contains “Meditation XVII.” The work is a series of reflections which he wrote as he recovered from a serious illness. Each part of the work is divided into Mediation, a Prayer and an Expostulation. Mediation XVII is a part of the entire prose work which contains the quote: “No man is an island.” The phrase sounds like, and is, an old proverbial expression. Oddly, although it was coined in the 17th century, it only began to be used widely in the second half of the 20th century. This usage started around 1940 but was probably accelerated by the release of a film of the same name in 1962.

In “Meditation XVII,” Donne compares mankind to a continent. He sees each person as part of the continent and not as an island. He maintains that when a clod breaks off from any continent, such a continent becomes lesser than as it was initially. By this assertion, Donne is referring to the effect of death. When someone dies, mankind which he sees as a continent becomes shortened by that death of the individual.

“No man is an island” is the first of two proverbial phrases from “Meditation XVII.” The second was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom The Bell Tolls. Just as Devotions upon Emergent Occasion is regarded as one of Donne’s greatest works, For Whom The Bell Tolls likewise is regarded as one of Hemingway’s best works. There’s some debate about what precisely what Donne meant by the phrase “for whom the bell tolls.” Some think that Donne was simply pointing out people’s mortality and that when a funeral bell was heard it was a reminder that we are nearer death each day, that is, the bell is tolling for us. Others view it more mystically and argue that Donne is saying we are all one and that, when one dies, we all die a little. This isn’t as bleak as it might sound, as the counterpoint would be that there is some part of the living in the dead and that we continue a form of life after death.

From the above, we can deduce some interpretations. “Meditation XVII” suggests that human beings should not live in isolation. We’re all interconnected to one another. No one stands alone like an island that is surrounded only by the sea. We need one another to survive in life. At a time like this, we should all remember that every human life is sacred.


Annabel Lee

Annabel Lee
by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

This has always been a favorite poem of mine. I will never forget, when I was in high school, I was part of the Model Senate at Birmingham-Southern College. I was Senator Howell Heflin from Alabama, each of us got to portray our preferred senator. The Republicans had just taken over the Senate back then. Alabama’s other senator Richard Shelby has changed parties to join the Republicans so as to be in the majority again. I think this was in 1995. Anyway, the Democrats were filibustering one of the Republican bills, and a guy portraying Senator Paul Simon (I remember because both always wore a bow tie) stood up and recited “Annabel Lee” over and over until the Republicans could muster a cloture vote. So, this poem always sticks in my mind when I think back on that.


If—

If—
Rudyard Kipling – 1865-1936

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling’s (1865-1936) inspirational poem ‘If’ first appeared in his collection ‘Rewards and Fairies’ in 1909. The poem ‘If’ is inspirational, motivational, and a set of rules for ‘grown-up’ living. Kipling’s ‘If’ contains mottos and maxims for life, and the poem is also a blueprint for personal integrity, behavior and self-development. ‘If’ is perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a personal philosophy. Lines from Kipling’s ‘If’ appear over the player’s entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court – a poignant reflection of the poem’s timeless and inspiring quality.


George Gray

George Gray
By Edgar Lee Masters – 1868-1950

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me–
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—

It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.


Elías Nandino

Love Without Death
Dust will be, but dust in love.
~Quevedo
__________

I love and the love I feel
I exist, I have life
and I’m burning my escape
ever born.
I love and every moment
love, my death is urged,
a love without measure
in continual burning.
But when love and do not try
because my body off
absorbent earth again:
everything will be devoured,
but not the burning love
dust of my love.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to feature a Mexican poet. Elías Nandino (1900-1993) was a surgeon from Mexico who was also a poet. Nandino worked as a surgeon at different hospitals during most of his life, during which he also wrote poetry. He was also open about his homosexuality in a time when it was dangerous to do so, but amazingly this did not affect his career as a surgeon.

His early poetry was rather sombre, focusing on topics like death, nighttime and dreams. From the 1950s his poetry became more personal, whereas his later poems combined eroticism and metaphysics.


A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream Within a Dream
By Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?