by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Friendless and faint, with martyred steps and slow,
Faint for the flesh, but for the spirit free,
Stung by the mob that came to see the show,
The Master toiled along to Calvary;
We gibed him, as he went, with houndish glee,
Till his dimmed eyes for us did overflow;
We cursed his vengeless hands thrice wretchedly,--
And this was nineteen hundred years ago.

But after nineteen hundred years the shame
Still clings, and we have not made good the loss
That outraged faith has entered in his name.
Ah, when shall come love's courage to be strong!
Tell me, O Lord--tell me, O Lord, how long
Are we to keep Christ writhing on the cross!

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


The Quest

by W. H. Auden

All had been ordered weeks before the start
From the best firms at such work; instruments
To take the measure of all queer events,
And drugs to move the bowels or the heart.

A watch, of course, to watch impatience fly,
Lamps for the dark and shades against the sun;
Foreboding, too, insisted on a gun,
And coloured beads to soothe a savage eye.

In theory they were sound on Expectation
Had there been situations to be in;
Unluckily they were their situation:

One should not give a poisoner medicine,
A conjurer fine apparatus, nor
A rife to a melancholic bore.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


Vergognando talor ch' ancor si taccia

by Francesco Petrarca
Translated by Marion Shore

  Ashamed sometimes, my lady, that I still 
cannot express your beauty in my rhyme,
I wander to that sweet and distant time
when you alone gained power of my will.
  But even there I find no guiding skill,
no strength to scale a height I cannot climb,
for such a task demands a force sublime,
at whose attempt I fall back, mute and still.
  How often do I move my lips to speak,
and find my voice lies buried in my breast --
but then, what sound could ever rise so high?
  How often in my verses do I seek
to find the words my tongue cannot express,
but pen and hand are vanquished with each try.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


Complaint of a louer rebuked

by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Loue, that liueth, and reigneth in my thought,
That built his seat within my captiue brest,
Clad in the armes, wherin with me he fought,
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest.
She, that me taught to loue, and suffer payne,
My doutfull hope, and eke my hote desyre,
With shamefast cloke to shadowe, and refraine,
Her smilyng grace conuerteth straight to yre.
And cowarde Loue then to the hart apace
Taketh his flight, whereas he lurkes, and plaines
His purpose lost, and dare not shewe his face.
For my lordes gilt thus faultlesse byde I paynes.
Yet from my lorde shall not my foote remoue.
Swete is his death, that takes his end by loue.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


Stiamo, Amor, a veder la gloria nostra

by Francesco Petrarca
Translated by Anthony Mortimer

Love, let us stay, our glory to behold,
things passing nature, wonderful and rare:
see how much sweetness rains upon her there,
see the pure light of heaven on earth revealed,

see how art decks with scarlet, pearls and gold
the chosen habit never seen elsewhere,
giving the feet and eyes their motion rare
through this dim cloister which the hills enfold.

Blooms of a thousand colours, grasses green,
under the ancient blackened oak now pray
her foot may press or touch them where they rise;

and the sky, radiant with a glittering sheen,
kindles around, and visibly is gay
to be made cloudless by such lovely eyes.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


Se l'ornorata fronde che prescrive

by Francesco Petrarca
Translated by James Wyatt Cook

  Had not those honored leaves that tame the wrath
Of heaven when high Jove thunders, not denied
To me that crown which customarily
Adorns one who, while shaping verses, writes,
  I'd be a friend to these your goddesses,
The ones this age abandons wretchedly;
But far that wrong already drives me off
From the inventress of the olive tree.
  Indeed, no Ethiopic dust boils up
Beneath the hottest sun the way I blush
At losing such a treasured gift of mine.
  Search out, therefore, a fountain more serene,
For mine of every cordial stands in need,
Save only that which I well forth in tears.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


Solea lontana in sonno consolarme

by Francesco Petrarca
Translated by Anthony Mortimer

In sleep my distant lady used to come,
consoling me with that angelic air,
but now she brings a sad foreboding there,
nor can the grief and dread be overcome:

for all too often in her face I seem
to see true pity blent with heavy care,
and hear those things that teach the heart despair,
since of all joy and hope it must disarm.

'Does our last evening not come back to you',
she says to me, 'and how your eyes were wet,
and how, compelled by time, I left you then?

'I had no power nor wish to speak of it;
now I can say as something tried and true:
hope not to see me on this earth again.'

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.