Poems by Theme


Gibran, Khalil

Song of Man

I was here from the moment of the
Beginning, and here I am still. And
I shall remain here until the end
Of the world, for there is no
Ending to my grief-stricken being.

I roamed the infinite sky, and
Soared in the ideal world, and
Floated through the firmament. But
Here I am, prisoner of measurement.

I heard the teachings of Confucius;
I listened to Brahma's wisdom;
I sat by Buddha under the Tree of Knowledge.
Yet here I am, existing with ignorance
And heresy.

I was on Sinai when Jehovah approached Moses;
I saw the Nazarene's miracles at the Jordan;
I was in Medina when Mohammed visited.
Yet I here I am, prisoner of bewilderment.

Then I witnessed the might of Babylon;
I learned of the glory of Egypt;
I viewed the warring greatness of Rome.
Yet my earlier teachings showed the
Weakness and sorrow of those achievements.

I conversed with the magicians of Ain Dour;
I debated with the priests of Assyria;
I gleaned depth from the prophets of Palestine.
Yet, I am still seeking truth.

I gathered wisdom from quiet India;
I probed the antiquity of Arabia;
I heard all that can be heard.
Yet, my heart is deaf and blind.

I suffered at the hands of despotic rulers;
I suffered slavery under insane invaders;
I suffered hunger imposed by tyranny;
Yet, I still possess some inner power
With which I struggle to great each day.

My mind is filled, but my heart is empty;
My body is old, but my heart is an infant.
Perhaps in youth my heart will grow, but I
Pray to grow old and reach the moment of
My return to God. Only then will my heart fill!

I was here from the moment of the
Beginning, and here I am still. And
I shall remain here until the end
Of of world, for there is no
Ending to my grief-stricken being.

Service, Robert


He wrote a play; by day and night
He strove with passion and delight;
Yet knew, long ere the curtain drop,
His drama was a sorry flop.

In Parliament he sought a seat;
Election Day brought dire defeat;
Yet he had wooed with word and pen
Prodigiously his fellow men.

And then he wrote a lighter play
That made him famous in a day.
He won a seat in Parliament,
And starry was the way he went.

Yet as he neared the door of death
They heard him say with broken breath:
'For all I've spoken, planned and penned,
I'm just a wash-out in the end.'

So are we all; our triumphs won
Are mean by what we might have done.
Our victories that men applaud
Are sordid in the sight of God.

Sandburg, Carl

I am the People, The Mob

I AM the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history.
The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns.
They die.
And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground.
I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me.
I forget.
The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
I forget.
Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have.
And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember.
Then--I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool--then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name:
"The People," with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Whitman, Walt


Of public opinion,
Of a calm and cool fiat sooner or later, (how impassive! how certain and final!)
Of the President with pale face asking secretly to himself, What will the people say at last?
Of the frivolous Judge--of the corrupt Congressman, Governor, Mayor--of such as these standing helpless and exposed,
Of the mumbling and screaming priest, (soon, soon deserted,)
Of the lessening year by year of venerableness, and of the dicta of officers, statutes, pulpits, schools,
Of the rising forever taller and stronger and broader of the intuitions of men and women, and of Self-esteem and Personality;
Of the true New World--of the Democracies resplendent en-masse,
Of the conformity of politics, armies, navies, to them,
Of the shining sun by them--of the inherent light, greater than the rest,
Of the envelopment of all by them, and the effusion of all from them.

Service, Robert


The night before I left Milan
A mob jammed the Cathedral Square,
And high the tide of passion ran
As politics befouled the air.
A seething hell of human strife,
I shrank back from its evil core,
Seeing in this convulsive life
The living seeds of war.

To Barcelona then I came,
And oh the heavenly release!
From conflict and consuming flame
I knew the preciousness of peace.
Such veneration for the law!
How decorous was every one!
And then (significant) I saw
Each copper packed a tommy gun.

Well, maybe it is best that way.
Peace can mean more than liberty:
These people, state-directed, may
Be happier than those more free.
When politics wield evil grip,
And warring factions rise and fall,
Benevolent dictatorship
May be the answer, after all.

Hughes, Langston


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

Deutsch, Babette


Once it was packed like a box with the toys of childhood,
Even the largest dolls grown small and familiar,
And the cuckoo clock saying,
“Tomorrow, tomorrow.”
Once it was sad and comic like Mr. Punch,
And events jumped up, like Judy, to be whacked
Over the head, and the greatest kings, like actors,
Were happily at once dead and alive.
Once it was apart
As a crumbled castle on a darkening slope
Half seen from the express.
But whether it was tall as towers or
Tumbled with playthings on the nursery floor,
It was remote and faithful.

Coming too close
Is monstrous, like a doll
That is alive and bigger than the child
Who tries to hold it.
It is a clock that tolls the thirteenth hour.
It is a theatre
On fire.
Our history
Images not the castle but the train
Emerging from the tunnel, ruining
Down the embankment toward the modest station,
Where it will lie like a box of toys, broken,
Unpacked in vain.