Well, maybe I should share the poems themselves:
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
The art of losing's not too hard to master
Though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
This lovely poem is written in a dificult form -the Villanelle.(see link below)
Bishop begins with what seems to be, in effect, a 'handbook' on dealing with progressively greater losses. Initially the poem seems to be humorous, even as the losses become greater and greater.
In the last stanza however, the cover of humor and exaggeration are dropped just enough to give us a glimpse of the speaker's true anguish, and the poem is revealed to be a love poem.
Here's the link re: villanelles
In Memory of W. B. Yeats
W. H. Auden
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
Robert Frost (1874"1963). North of Boston. 1915.
The Death of the Hired Man
MARY sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. “Silas is back.” 5
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. “Be kind,” she said.
She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps. 10
“When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,” he said.
“I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
‘If he left then,’ I said, ‘that ended it.’
What good is he? Who else will harbour him 15
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
‘He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with, 20
So he won’t have to beg and be beholden.’
‘All right,’ I say, ‘I can’t afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.’
‘Someone else can.’ ‘Then someone else will have to.’
I shouldn’t mind his bettering himself 25
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there’s someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,"
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.” 30
“Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,” Mary said.
“I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.”
“He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe’s I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep, 35
A miserable sight, and frightening, too"
You needn’t smile"I didn’t recognise him"
I wasn’t looking for him"and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.”
“Where did you say he’d been?” 40
“He didn’t say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.”
“What did he say? Did he say anything?” 45
“Anything? Mary, confess
He said he’d come to ditch the meadow for me.”
“But did he? I just want to know.” 50
“Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn’t grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too. 55
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times"he made me feel so queer"
To see if he was talking in his sleep. 60
He ran on Harold Wilson"you remember"
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He’s finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares you’ll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work: 65
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education"you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun, 70
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on.”
“Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.”
“Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn’t think they would. How some things linger! 75
Harold’s young college boy’s assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathise. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late. 80
Harold’s associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold’s saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it"that an argument!
He said he couldn’t make the boy believe 85
He could find water with a hazel prong"
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay""” 90
“I know, that’s Silas’ one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well. 95
He takes it out in bunches like big birds’ nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.”
“He thinks if he could teach him that, he’d be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world. 100
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.” 105
Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings, 110
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard the tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
“Warren,” she said, “he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.” 115
“Home,” he mocked gently.
“Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he’s nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us 120
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.”
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” 125
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
“Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles 130
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day.
Why didn’t he go there? His brother’s rich,
A somebody"director in the bank.”
“He never told us that.” 135
“We know it though.”
“I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I’ll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to"
He may be better than appearances. 140
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he’d had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He’d keep so still about him all this time?”
“I wonder what’s between them.” 145
“I can tell you.
Silas is what he is"we wouldn’t mind him"
But just the kind that kinsfolk can’t abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good 150
As anyone. He won’t be made ashamed
To please his brother, worthless though he is.”
“I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone.”
“No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back. 155
He wouldn’t let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there to-night.
You’ll be surprised at him"how much he’s broken.
His working days are done; I’m sure of it.” 160
“I’d not be in a hurry to say that.”
“I haven’t been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He’s come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn’t laugh at him. 165
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.”
It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row, 170
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned"too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
“Warren,” she questioned.
“Dead,” was all he answered.