Poetry, like science, finds it’s power when it says a lot with very little. It’s fun for me to read poems out loud and try to unlock the meaning contained in but a few words. There is ambiguity and enigma contained in poetry- in art. The fun of acting is finding this and bringing it to life.
Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,
Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.
And what a congress of stinks!
Roots ripe as old bait,
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
Nothing would give up life: Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.
Theodore Roethke, 1948
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 I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, 1916
I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling high up in heaven, And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit narrowing, I understood then That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-feathers Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer. I could see the naked red head between the great wings Bear downward staring. I said, “My dear bird, we are wasting time here. These old bones will still work; they are not for you.” But how beautiful he’d looked, gliding down On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the sea-light over the precipice. I tell you solemnly That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak and become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes— What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment; what a life after death.
Robinson Jeffers, 1962
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced, but they Outdid the sparkling waves in glee; A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
William Wordsworth, 1804
The Waning Moon
And like a dying lady, lean and pale, Who totters forth, wrapped in a gauzy veil, Out of her chamber, led by the insane And feeble wanderings of her fading brain, The moon arose up in the murky East A white and shapeless mass. Art thou pale for weariness Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth, Wandering companionless Among the stars that have a different birth, And ever changing, like a joyless eye That finds no object worth its constancy?
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1820
All the world’s a stage
JAQUES: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined; With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And Whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
William Shakespeare, 1599 You Like It, Act II, Scene 7
Stop all the clocks
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let airplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood, For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W. H. Auden, 1938