The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can!

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
Out-did 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.

Invictus: The Unconquerable

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Upon the Still Burning of Night

Upon the still burning of night, light shines in the void;
Every winding season carries its ghost,
The mariner sails in the tides of time;
The signaling hands wake the winged throat.

Figures are formed from the lever of the clock;
Summer teaches its feathered arms to fly,
Fall sings the dove its mournful song,
Winter weaves the chain of the holy sea,
And spring gives birth to all its dead.

The trees shall inform the quartered change
As the worm crawls from trunk to branch,
Cloudy turning of the rooted veins
Shall cast the harbor into its cycled grave.

As the light of the sun will darken the skies,
Veiled by the sight of the bleeding moon;
The timeless insect will be betrayed by time,
As time itself will break upon its mortal wound.

  • J. M. Thomez

Ode to the Double “L”

Twin shorelines
at the end
of my name, traffickers
of white space,
you could last on the tongue
forever, lolling, longing,
an endless drawing out
of the little stream
between you.
Fill my life.
I drink from the narrowest
canal, flowing between
two countries
that, half of the time,
claim me.
Double “l,”
bring me back
to the in-between
where my breath
has always lived,
without containment,
like two legs
pointing toward the ocean,
or these arms
reaching into sky.
From birth you have doubled
my grief and my wonder,
shown me
forever the parallel
which can never touch—
the way I run
alongside my love
without entering
his true mind.
Rivulet of secrets,
slim as a eucalyptus leaf,
airplane runway
of the heart.
Double “l,”
let my days
always move
in two directions.
Build me a channel
into which I can pour
this voice.

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree—
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He still may leave thy garland green.

I Sing of an Old Land

I sing of an old land
where the gods have taken shelter underground,
where the human idols eat human sacrifice,
where hatred runs the business of philanthropy,
where blazing dragons eclipse the wronged ghosts,
where silence and smiles are the trace of wisdom,
where words imitate spears and swords,
where truth is always a bloody legend.
I speak of the old land not
out of love or wonderment.
Like my ancestors who were scattered into the smoky winds,
who scrambled to leave home
or rushed towards the approaching enemies,
I join those who fled and returned,
who disappeared in other lands
bearing no hope but persistence, no honor but the story,
no fortune but parents and children,
singing a timeless curse,
a curse that has bound us together
and rooted us deep in the wreck
of our homeland.
I touch the land at night—
My hands trace the map on the wall,
from mountains to villages and to rivers,
from plains to cities and to seashores.
I see the green fields of the South,
the dark soil and birch woods of the North,
and snow swirling in summer.
I dream of myself in that land,
not for happiness or harvest.
I dream of suffering together with my people,
of being understood and useful,
of being left alone and able to sleep,
of my children refusing my land
so they will not repeat my life,
of talking and walking with friends,
of completing the work and dying with ease.
I weep for the old land,
for its vast narrowness,
for its profound stupidity,
for its chaos and tenacity,
for its power to possess those of my kind
to devour us to nourish itself
to seize our hearts and throats
and mix our moans with songs—
songs of monstrous grandeur
and merciless devotion,
songs crazed by the cycle of that land.
  • Ha Jin, “I Sing of an Old Land” from Facing Shadows.  Copyright © 1996 by Ha Jin.

The Fool’s Song

I tried to put a bird in a cage.
O fool that I am!
For the bird was Truth.
Sing merrily, Truth: I tried to put
Truth in a cage!

And when I had the bird in the cage,
O fool that I am!
Why, it broke my pretty cage.
Sing merrily, Truth: I tried to put
Truth in a cage!

And when the bird was flown from the cage,
O fool that I am!
Why, I had nor bird nor cage.
Sing merrily, Truth: I tried to put
Truth in a cage!
Heigh-ho! Truth in a cage.