Categories
American American Poetry Martin Luther King, Jr. poet Poetry United States

The Streetsweeper


by Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Original Caption) 4/3/1968-Memphis, TN: One of the last pictures to be taken of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — speaking to a mass rally April 3 in Memphis — when he said he would not halt his plans for a massive demonstration scheduled for April 8 in spite of a federal injunction. The Nobel Peace Prize Winner was felled by a sniper’s bullet, April 4.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper,
sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures,
sweep streets like Beethoven composed music,
sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera.

Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.
Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say:
Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill,
be a shrub in the valley.
Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.
If you can’t be a sun, be a star.
For it isn’t by size that you win or fail.
Be the best of whatever you are.

Categories
20th century African-American American American Poetry Langston Hughes Literature Poetry

“Song”


by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes in 1936 photo by Carl Van Vechten
Listen to / “Song” by Langston Hughes, Read by Teyuna Darris

Lovely, dark, and lonely one,
Bare your bosom to the sun,
Do not be afraid of light
You who are a child of night.
Open wide your arms to life,
Whirl in the wind of pain and strife,
Face the wall with the dark closed gate,
Beat with bare, brown fists
And wait.

This poem is in the public domain.

Categories
American American Poetry Edgar Alrbert Guest Uncategorized United States

On Quitting


by Edgar Albert Guest

Edgar Albert Guest (August 20th, 1881 – August 5th, 1959) on his NBC radio program in 1935 // Public Domain
Listen to “On Quitting” by Edgar Albert Guest

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?

You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.

This poem is in the public domain.

Categories
19th century 20th century Khalil Gibran MIddle East modern poetry poet Poetry Uncategorized

“And When My Sorrow was Born” by Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931)


BY KAHLIL GIBRAN

And when my Joy was born, I held it in my arms and stood on the
house-top shouting, “Come ye, my neighbours, come and see, for Joy
this day is born unto me.  Come and behold this gladsome thing that
laugheth in the sun.”
 
But none of my neighbours came to look upon my Joy, and great was
my astonishment.
 
And every day for seven moons I proclaimed my Joy from the
house-top—and yet no one heeded me.  And my Joy and I were alone,
unsought and unvisited.
 
Then my Joy grew pale and weary because no other heart but mine
held its loveliness and no other lips kissed its lips.
 
Then my Joy died of isolation.
 
And now I only remember my dead Joy in remembering my dead Sorrow.
But memory is an autumn leaf that murmurs a while in the wind and
then is heard no more.

Categories
20th century African-American American American Poetry Claude McKay Uncategorized

“The Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay (1889 – 1948)



Listen to the “Harlem Dancer” here:


“The Harlem Dancer

by Claude McKay

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes

And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;

Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes

Blown by black players upon a picnic day.

She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,

The light gauze hanging loose about her form;

To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm

Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.

Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls

Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,

The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,

Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;

But looking at her falsely-smiling face,

I knew her self was not in that strange place.

Categories
African-American America American American Poetry Langston Hughes Literature Poetry Teyuna T. Darris Uncategorized United States

“Snail” by Langston Hughes


 

Snail
Little snail,
Dreaming you go.
Weather and rose
Is all you know.
Weather and rose
Is all you see,
Drinking
The dewdrop’s
Mystery.
by Langston Hughes
From Collected Poems. Copyright ©1994 by The Estate
of Langston Hughes

Categories
19th century America American American Poetry Edna St. Vincent Millay Life Uncategorized

“Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)


I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!

Categories
America American American Poetry Life Robert Frost Uncategorized United States

“Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost (1874–1963)


 

I have been one acquainted with the night. 
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. 
I have outwalked the furthest city light. 

I have looked down the saddest city lane. 
I have passed by the watchman on his beat 
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. 

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet 
When far away an interrupted cry 
Came over houses from another street, 

But not to call me back or say good-bye; 
And further still at an unearthly height, 
One luminary clock against the sky 

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

 

Categories
18th Century Uncategorized William Wordsworth

“The Sun Has Long Been Set” by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)


The sun has long been set,
  The stars are out by twos and threes,
The little birds are piping yet
  Among the bushes and trees;
There’s a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo’s sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.
  Who would “go parading”
In London, “and masquerading,"
On such a night of June
With that beautiful soft half-moon, 
And all these innocent blisses?
On such a night as this is!
Categories
18th Century 19th century Celebration English poetry European Poetry nature Poetry UK Uncategorized United Kingdom William Wordsworth

Poem: “Traveling” by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)


This is the spot:—how mildly does the sun
Shine in between the fading leaves! the air
In the habitual silence of this wood
Is more than silent: and this bed of heath,
Where shall we find so sweet a resting-place?
Come!—let me see thee sink into a dream
Of quiet thoughts,—protracted till thine eye
Be calm as water when the winds are gone
And no one can tell whither.—my sweet friend!
We two have had such happy hours together
That my heart melts in me to think of it.