Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Blue and the Gray

(Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia)

It began as Decoration Day, a day set aside on May 30 to honor the soldiers of both sides who perished in the Civil War. It is now called Memorial Day and takes place on the last Monday of May to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives for the nation.


By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one, the Blue,
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day
Under the laurel, the Blue,
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

~ Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907), American judge and poet

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Queen of the May

(Madonna among the Strawberries by
an unknown German master, circa 1425)

Since medieval times, in many cultures, the month of May has been devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season ─

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honor?

asks the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring? ─
Growth in every thing ─

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

~ from The May Magnificat by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.,
1844-1899, British poet whose work has had a profound influence on modern poetry


“Queen of the May” is a hymn, most likely Irish, that traces its origins to the thirteenth century. There are several versions of the lyrics, including one written by Mary E. Walsh and first published in 1871. This hymn is often sung during the traditional May processions in the Catholic Church.

(The performance here is by the Irish tenor Frank Patterson,


Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland and hillside and dale.
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling,
The praise of the loveliest flower of the vale.

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, and Queen of the May.
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, and Queen of the May.

Their lady they name thee,
Their mistress proclaim thee.
O grant that thy children on earth be as true;
As long as the bowers
Are radiant with flowers,
As long as the azure shall keep its bright hue.

Sing gaily in chorus,
The bright angels o’er us
Re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
Their harps are repeating
The notes of our greeting,
For Mary herself is the cause of our mirth.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Word

(The Cup of Tea by Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926,
American painter and printmaker)


Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from some place distant
as this morning ─ to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also need accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

─ to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

~ Tony Hoagland, b. 1953, American poet

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dragons Are Singing Tonight

(God Speed by Edmund Blair-Leighton,
1853-1922, English painter)


Tonight is the night all dragons
Awake in their lairs underground,
To sing in cacophonous chorus
And fill the whole world with their sound.

They sing of the days of their glory,
They sing of their exploits of old,
Of maidens and knights, and of fiery fights,
And guarding vast caches of gold.

Some of their voices are treble,
And some of their voices are deep,
And all of their voices are thunderous,
And no one can get any sleep.

I lie in my bed and I listen,
Enchanted and filled with delight,
To songs I can hear only one night a year ─
The dragons are singing tonight.

~ Jack Prelutsky, b. 1940, American poet

Thursday, May 27, 2010

To This May

(Spring Landscape by Erich Heckel, 1883-1970,
German printmaker and painter)


They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

~ W. S. Merwin, b. 1927, American poet

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


(may apple, a perennial herb found in the
woodlands of eastern North America)



May apple, daffodil,
hyacinth, lily,
and by the front
porch steps

every billowing
shade of purple
and lavender lilac,
my mother’s favorite flower,

sweet breath drifting through
the open windows:
perfume of memory – conduit
of spring.

~ Linda Pastan, b. 1932, American poet

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


(Girls on a Bridge by Edvard Munch, 1863-1944,
Norwegian painter)


We were very tired, we were very merry –
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable –
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry –
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), American poet, translator and writer of verse dramas

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Paint Box

(Lake Superior, by Lawren Harris, 1885-1970,
Canadian painter)


“Cobalt and umber and ultramarine,
Ivory black and emerald green ─
What shall I paint to give pleasure to you?”
“Paint for me somebody utterly new.”

“I have painted you tigers in crimson and white.”
“The colors were good and you painted aright.”
“I have painted the cook and a camel in blue
And a panther in purple.” “You painted them true.

Now mix me a color that nobody knows,
And paint me a country where nobody goes,
And put in it people a little like you,
Watching a unicorn drinking the dew.”

~ E. V. Rieu (1887-1972), English poet

Sunday, May 23, 2010


(Honeysuckle, by William Morris, 1834-1896,
English textile designer, artist and writer)


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

~ Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), Polish poet, essayist and translator, and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature

Saturday, May 22, 2010


(Lost Cloud by André Kertész, 1894-1985,
Hungarian-born photographer)


It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see

don't worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain

it's not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

~ A. R. Ammons (1926-2001), American poet

Friday, May 21, 2010


(Woman with Lilacs by Pierre-Auguste
Renoir, 1841-1919)


False blue,
Color of lilac,
Your great puffs of flowers
Are everywhere in this my New England.
Among your heart-shaped leaves
Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing
Their little weak soft songs;
In the crooks of your branches
The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs
Peer restlessly through the light and shadow
Of all Springs.
Lilacs in dooryards
Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;
Lilacs watching a deserted house
Settling sideways into the grass of an old road;
Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom
Above a cellar dug into a hill.
You are everywhere.
You were everywhere.
You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon,
And ran along the road beside the boy going to school.
You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,
You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.
And her husband an image of pure gold.
You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms
Through the wide doors of Custom Houses—
You, and sandal-wood, and tea,
Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks
When a ship was in from China.
You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,
May is a month for flitting.”
Until they writhed on their high stools
And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers.

~ Amy Lowell (1874-1925), American poet

Thursday, May 20, 2010


(Hungarian State Folk Ensemble)

I like this poem very much for its answer to that all-important philosophical question about the meaning of life. I’m sure my opinion has nothing to do with the fact that my father, Gyula (Jules) Horváth, is Hungarian and this is the first poem in English I have found that mentions Hungarians.


I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

~ Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), American poet and writer and biographer of Lincoln

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Go Unto the Altar of Night

(Blue Bird and Red Swan, watercolor by
Janice C. Atkins, published in Blindness Isn’t Black)


here I am no longer broken

but dance
to the music of memory

flaunt my living flesh
my crutchlessness

celebrate the legs that still
carry me to morning

~ Barbara Sullivan Mangogna, an American poet who is an amputee. This verse was found in Blindness Isn’t Black, a beautiful collection of poems, short stories and illustrations published by VSA Arts of Missouri (2009)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring, the Sweet Spring


Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant king;
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing,
Cuckoo, jug, jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and May make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay,
Cuckoo, jug, jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit
In every street, these tunes our ears do greet,
Cuckoo, jug, jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
Spring, the sweet spring!

~ Thomas Nashe (1567-1601), English Elizabethan poet, critic and satirist

Monday, May 17, 2010

Alongside the Pond

At the edge of vision
just short of sight
pond air shimmers pearly
unbroken ungated. Bright
mist engages me
silent unmediated.

When I turn
and look into it

I want birds.

~ Marie Ponsot, b. 1921, American poet and translator

Sunday, May 16, 2010


(Spring in Giverny by Claude Monet)


Nothing is so beautiful as spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (1844-1899), British poet whose work has had a profound influence on modern poetry

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Out of Hiding

Someone said my name in the garden,

while I grew smaller
in the spreading shadow of peonies,

grew larger by my absence to another,
grew older among the ants, ancient

under the opening heads of the flowers,
new to myself, and stranger.

When I heard my name again, it sounded far,
like the name of the child next door,
or a favorite cousin visiting for the summer,

while the quiet seemed my true name,
a near and inaudible singing
born of hidden ground.

Quiet to quiet, I called back.
And the birds declared my whereabouts all morning.

~ Li-Young Lee, American poet born 1957 in Indonesia, to Chinese parents after they fled political turmoil in China

Friday, May 14, 2010

To a Wild Rose

It’s true, what all our
heroes say. There is a way
in this world for beauty,
for good. It may
be a crooked path
in a tanglewood, but
stay the course and,
when the way grows rocky,
walk your horse,

and who knows, you may yet
come upon the wild rose,
as I have done, and,
paying close attention,
keep from crushing her into
the grime, and then,
with any luck, in time
remember how you found her
and how to find her again
when the way gets wilder.

~ Todd Boss, American poet

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Time and the Garden

The spring has darkened with activity.
The future gathers in vine, bush, and tree:
Persimmon, walnut, loquat, fig, and grape,
Degrees and kinds of color, taste, and shape.
These will advance in their due series, space
The season like a tranquil dwelling-place.
And yet excitement swells me, vein by vein:
I long to crowd the little garden, gain
Its sweetness in my hand and crush it small
And taste it in a moment, time and all!
These trees, whose slow growth measures off my years,
I would expand to greatness. No one hears,
And I am still retarded in duress!
And this is like that other restlessness
To seize the greatness not yet fairly earned,
One which the tougher poets have discerned—
Gascoigne, Ben Jonson, Greville, Raleigh, Donne,
Poets who wrote great poems, one by one,
And spaced by many years, each line an act
Through which few labor, which no men retract.
This passion is the scholar’s heritage,
The imposition of a busy age,
The passion to condense from book to book
Unbroken wisdom in a single look,
Though we know well that when this fix the head,
The mind’s immortal, but the man is dead.

~ Yvor Winters (1900-1968), American poet

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
or everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

~ Galway Kinnell, b. 1927, American poet and translator

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Soft Day

A soft day, thank God!
A wind from the south
With a honey'd mouth;
A scent of drenching leaves,
Briar and beech and lime,
White elderflower and thyme,
And the soaking grass smells sweet,
Crushed by my two bare feet,
While the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the eaves.

A soft day, thank God!
The hills wear a shroud
Of silver cloud;
The web the spider weaves
Is a glittering net;
The woodland path is wet,
And the soaking earth smells sweet
Under my two bare feet,
And the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the leaves.

~ Winifred M. Letts (1882-1972), English poet

We Should Not Mind So Small a Flower

(bobolink ~ a migratory American songbird)

We should not mind so small a flower ‒
Except it quiet bring
Our little garden that we lost
Back to the Lawn again.

So spicy her Carnations nod ‒
So drunken, reel her Bees ‒
So silver steal a hundred flutes
From out a hundred trees ‒

That whoso sees this little flower
By faith may clear behold ‒
The Bobolinks around the throne
And Dandelions gold.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

On Mother's Day


I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.

~ Wendell Berry, b. 1934, American poet, writer and farmer

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In Perpetual Spring

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

~ Amy Gerstler, b. 1956, American poet

Friday, May 7, 2010



Come, Queen of Months! in company
With all thy merry minstrelsy: –
The restless cuckoo, absent long,
And twittering swallows’ chimney-song;
With hedge-row crickets’ notes, that run
From every bank that fronts the sun;
And swarthy bees, about the grass,
That stop with every bloom they pass,
And every minute, every hour,
Keep teasing weeds that wear a flower;
And Toil, and Childhood’s humming joys!

For there is music in the noise
When village children, wild for sport,
In school-time’s leisure, ever short,
Alternate catch the bounding ball;
Or run along the church-yard wall,
Capp’ed with rude figured slabs, whose claims
In times’ bad memory have no names;
Or race around the nooky church;
Or raise loud echoes in the porch;
Throw pebbles o’er the weather-cock,
Viewing with jealous eyes the clock.

~ John Clare (1793-1864), English Romantic poet

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And the Days Are Not Full Enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

~ Ezra Pound (1885-1972), American poet

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I love the word
And hear its long struggle with no
Even in the bird’s throat and budging crocus.
Some winter’s night
I see it flood the faces
Of my friends, ripen their laughter
And plant early flowers in
Their conversation.

You will understand when I say
It is for me a morning word
Though it is older than the sea
And hisses in a way
That may have given
An example
To the serpent itself.
It is this ageless incipience
Whose influence is found
In the first and last pages of books,
In the grim skin of the affirmative battler
And in the voices of women
That constitutes the morning quality
Of yes.

We have all
Thought what it must be like
Never to grow old,
The dreams of our elders have mythic endurance
Though their hearts are stilled
But the only agelessness
Is yes.
I am always beginning to appreciate
The agony from which it is born.
Clues from here and there
Suggest such agony is hard to bear
But it is the shaping God
Of the word that we
Sometimes hear, and struggle to be.

~ Brian Kennelly, b. 1936, Irish poet

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing.
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money.
The queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose!

There was such a commotion
That little Jenny wren
Flew down into the garden
And put it back again

~ Anon., 18th-century English folk song, now a nursery rhyme

Monday, May 3, 2010

Now Is the Month of Maying

Now Is the Month of Maying, performed by The King’s Singers

Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing!
Fa la la la la!
Each with his bonny lass,
A-dancing on the grass!
Fa la la la la!

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness!
Fa la la la la!
And to the bagpipes’ sound,
The nymphs tread out the ground!
Fa la la la la!

Fie then! Why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing?
Fa la la la la!
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play at barley-break?
Fa la la la la!

~ Thomas Morley (1557/1558-1602), English organist and a leading composer of madrigals and other secular music

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright!
The bridal of the earth and sky;
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

~ George Herbert (1593-1633), English clergyman and poet, one of the Metaphysical poets like John Donne and Andrew Marvell; the work of these lyric poets displayed a subtlety of thought and fanciful imagery and often used one surprising metaphor to bring together two very different ideas

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Song on May Morning

(In this merry month of May, the poems sing “of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers.”)


Now the bright morning Star, Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

~ John Milton (1608-1674), English author, defender of civil and religious rights, and poet, famous for his epic poem Paradise Lost.