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46 Works of Robert Graves

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Free Verse

Story type: Poetry

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I now delight In spite Of the might And the right Of classic tradition, In writing And reciting Straight ahead, Without let or omission, Just any little rhyme In any little time That runs in my head; Because, I’ve said, My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed Like Prussian soldiers on parade That march, Stiff […]

1915

Story type: Poetry

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I’ve watched the Seasons passing slow, so slow, In the fields between La Bassee and Bethune; Primroses and the first warm day of Spring, Red poppy floods of June, August, and yellowing Autumn, so To Winter nights knee-deep in mud or snow, And you’ve been everything. Dear, you’ve been everything that I most lack In […]

In The Wilderness

Story type: Poetry

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Christ of His gentleness Thirsting and hungering, Walked in the wilderness; Soft words of grace He spoke Unto lost desert-folk That listened wondering. He heard the bitterns call From ruined palace-wall, Answered them brotherly. He held communion With the she-pelican Of lonely piety. Basilisk, cockatrice, Flocked to his homilies, With mail of dread device, With […]

Cherry-Time

Story type: Poetry

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Cherries of the night are riper Than the cherries pluckt at noon Gather to your fairy piper When he pipes his magic tune: Merry, merry, Take a cherry; Mine are sounder, Mine are rounder, Mine are sweeter For the eater Under the moon. And you’ll be fairies soon. In the cherry pluckt at night, With […]

The youngest poet down the shelves was fumbling In a dim library, just behind the chair From which the ancient poet was mum-mumbling A song about some Lovers at a Fair, Pulling his long white beard and gently grumbling That rhymes were beastly things and never there. And as I groped, the whole time I […]

Down in the mud I lay, Tired out by my long day Of five damned days and nights, Five sleepless days and nights, … Dream-snatched, and set me where The dungeon of Despair Looms over Desolate Sea, Frowning and threatening me With aspect high and steep– A most malignant keep. My foes that lay within […]

Corporal Stare

Story type: Poetry

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Back from the line one night in June, I gave a dinner at Bethune– Seven courses, the most gorgeous meal Money could buy or batman steal. Five hungry lads welcomed the fish With shouts that nearly cracked the dish; Asparagus came with tender tops, Strawberries in cream, and mutton chops. Said Jenkins, as my hand […]

Not Dead

Story type: Poetry

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Walking through trees to cool my heat and pain, I know that David’s with me here again. All that is simple, happy, strong, he is. Caressingly I stroke Rough hark of the friendly oak. A brook goes bubbling by: the voice is his. Turf burns with pleasant smoke; I laugh at chaffinch and at primroses. […]

A Boy In Church

Story type: Poetry

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“Gabble-gabble,… brethren,… gabble-gabble!” My window frames forest and heather. I hardly hear the tuneful babble, Not knowing nor much caring whether The text is praise or exhortation, Prayer or thanksgiving, or damnation. Outside it blows wetter and wetter, The tossing trees never stay still. I shift my elbows to catch better The full round sweep […]

An Idyll Back from the Somme two Fusiliers Limped painfully home; the elder said, S. “Robert, I’ve lived three thousand years This Summer, and I’m nine parts dead.” R. “But if that’s truly so,” I cried, “quick, now, Through these great oaks and see the famous bough “Where once a nonsense built her nest With […]

Escape

Story type: Poetry

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(August 6, 1916.–Officer previously reported died of wounds, now reported wounded: Graves, Captain R., Royal Welch Fusiliers.) … But I was dead, an hour or more. I woke when I’d already passed the door That Cerberus guards, and half-way down the road To Lethe, as an old Greek signpost showed. Above me, on my stretcher […]

Smoke-Rings

Story type: Poetry

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BOY Most venerable and learned sir, Tall and true Philosopher, These rings of smoke you blow all day With such deep thought, what sense have they? PHILOSOPHER Small friend, with prayer and meditation I make an image of Creation. And if your mind is working nimble Straightway you’ll recognize a symbol Of the endless and […]

Through long nursery nights he stood By my bed unwearying, Loomed gigantic, formless, queer, Purring in my haunted ear That same hideous nightmare thing, Talking, as he lapped my blood, In a voice cruel and flat, Saying for ever, “Cat! … Cat! … Cat!…” That one word was all he said, That one word through […]

Marigolds

Story type: Poetry

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With a fork drive Nature out, She will ever yet return; Hedge the flowerbed all about, Pull or stab or cut or burn, She will ever yet return. Look: the constant marigold Springs again from hidden roots. Baffled gardener, you behold New beginnings and new shoots Spring again from hidden roots. Pull or stab or […]

Why do you break upon this old, cool peace, This painted peace of ours, With harsh dress hissing like a flock of geese, With garish flowers? Why do you churn smooth waters rough again, Selfish old skin-and-bone? Leave us to quiet dreaming and slow pain, Leave us alone.

To the woods, to the woods is the wizard gone; In his grotto the maiden sits alone. She gazes up with a weary smile At the rafter-hanging crocodile, The slowly swinging crocodile. Scorn has she of her master’s gear, Cauldron, alembic, crystal sphere, Phial, philtre–“Fiddlededee For all such trumpery trash!” quo’ she. “A soldier is […]

Children born of fairy stock Never need for shirt or frock, Never want for food or fire, Always get their heart’s desire: Jingle pockets full of gold, Marry when they’re seven years old. Every fairy child may keep Two strong ponies and ten sheep; All have houses, each his own, Built of brick or granite […]

The Next War

Story type: Poetry

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You young friskies who today Jump and fight in Father’s hay With bows and arrows and wooden spears, Playing at Royal Welch Fusiliers, Happy though these hours you spend, Have they warned you how games end? Boys, from the first time you prod And thrust with spears of curtain-rod, From the first time you tear […]

Strong Beer

Story type: Poetry

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“What do you think The bravest drink Under the sky?” “Strong beer,” said I. “There’s a place for everything, Everything, anything, There’s a place for everything Where it ought to be: For a chicken, the hen’s wing; For poison, the bee’s sting; For almond-blossom, Spring; A beerhouse for me.” “There’s a prize for every one […]

Careers

Story type: Poetry

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Father is quite the greatest poet That ever lived anywhere. You say you’re going to write great music– I chose that first: it’s unfair. Besides, now I can’t be the greatest painter and do Christ and angels, or lovely pears and apples and grapes on a green dish, or storms at sea, or anything lovely, […]

Look at my knees, That island rising from the steamy seas! The candles a tall lightship; my two hands Are boats and barges anchored to the sands, With mighty cliffs all round; They’re full of wine and riches from far lands…. I wonder what it feels like to be drowned? I can make caves, By […]

Double red daisies, they’re my flowers, Which nobody else may grow. In a big quarrelsome house like ours They try it sometimes–but no, I root them up because they’re my flowers, Which nobody else may grow. Claire has a tea-rose, but she didn’t plant it; Ben has an iris, but I don’t want it. Daisies, […]

John Skelton

Story type: Poetry

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What could be dafter Than John Skelton’s laughter? What sound more tenderly Than his pretty poetry? So where to rank old Skelton? He was no monstrous Milton, Nor wrote no “Paradise Lost,” So wondered at by most, Phrased so disdainfully, Composed so painfully. He struck what Milton missed, Milling an English grist With homely turn […]

Jonah

Story type: Poetry

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A purple whale Proudly sweeps his tail Towards Nineveh; Glassy green Surges between A mile of roaring sea. “O town of gold, Of splendour multifold, Lucre and lust, Leviathan’s eye Can surely spy Thy doom of death and dust.” On curving sands Vengeful Jonah stands. “Yet forty days, Then down, down, Tumbles the town In […]

Faun

Story type: Poetry

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Here down this very way, Here only yesterday King Faun went leaping. He sang, with careless shout Hurling his name about; He sang, with oaken stock His steps from rock to rock In safety keeping, “Here Faun is free, Here Faun is free!” Today against yon pine, Forlorn yet still divine, King Faun leant weeping. […]

The Spoilsport

Story type: Poetry

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My familiar ghost again Comes to see what he can see, Critic, son of Conscious Brain, Spying on our privacy. Slam the window, bolt the door, Yet he’ll enter in and stay; In tomorrow’s book he’ll score Indiscretions of today. Whispered love and muttered fears, How their echoes fly about! None escape his watchful ears, […]

Near Clapham village, where fields began, Saint Edward met a beggar man. It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled, The old man trembled for the fierce cold. Saint Edward cried, “It is monstrous sin A beggar to lie in rags so thin! An old grey-beard and the frost so keen: I shall give him […]

A Dead Boche

Story type: Poetry

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To you who’d read my songs of War And only hear of blood and fame, I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before) “War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same, Today I found in Mametz Wood A certain cure for lust of blood: Where, propped against a shattered trunk, In a great mess of things […]

When I’m Killed

Story type: Poetry

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When I’m killed, don’t think of me Buried there in Cambrin Wood, Nor as in Zion think of me With the Intolerable Good. And there’s one thing that I know well, I’m damned if I’ll be damned to Hell! So when I’m killed, don’t wait for me, Walking the dim corridor; In Heaven or Hell, […]

I never dreamed we’d meet that day In our old haunts down Fricourt way, Plotting such marvellous journeys there For jolly old “Apres-la-guerre.” Well, when it’s over, first we’ll meet At Gweithdy Bach, my country seat In Wales, a curious little shop With two rooms and a roof on top, A sort of Morlancourt-ish billet […]

The Last Post

Story type: Poetry

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The bugler sent a call of high romance– “Lights out! Lights out!” to the deserted square. On the thin brazen notes he threw a prayer, “God, if it’s this for me next time in France … O spare the phantom bugle as I lie Dead in the gas and smoke and roar of guns, Dead […]

The Cottage

Story type: Poetry

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Here in turn succeed and rule Carter, smith, and village fool, Then again the place is known As tavern, shop, and Sunday-school; Now somehow it’s come to me To light the fire and hold the key, Here in Heaven to reign alone. All the walls are white with lime, Big blue periwinkles climb And kiss […]

When outside the icy rain Comes leaping helter-skelter, Shall I tie my restive brain Snugly under shelter? Shall I make a gentle song Here in my firelit study, When outside the winds blow strong And the lanes are muddy? With old wine and drowsy meats Am I to fill my belly? Shall I glutton here […]

The Caterpillar

Story type: Poetry

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Under this loop of honeysuckle, A creeping, coloured caterpillar, I gnaw the fresh green hawthorn spray, I nibble it leaf by leaf away. Down beneath grow dandelions, Daisies, old-man’s-looking-glasses; Rooks flap croaking across the lane. I eat and swallow and eat again. Here come raindrops helter-skelter; I munch and nibble unregarding: Hawthorn leaves are juicy […]

A Pinch Of Salt

Story type: Poetry

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When a dream is born in you With a sudden clamorous pain, When you know the dream is true And lovely, with no flaw nor stain, O then, be careful, or with sudden clutch You’ll hurt the delicate thing you prize so much. Dreams are like a bird that mocks, Flirting the feathers of his […]

Finland

Story type: Poetry

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Feet and faces tingle In that frore land: Legs wobble and go wingle, You scarce can stand. The skies are jewelled all around, The ploughshare snaps in the iron ground, The Finn with face like paper And eyes like a lighted taper Hurls his rough rune At the wintry moon And stamps to mark the […]

The Cruel Moon

Story type: Poetry

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The cruel Moon hangs out of reach Up above the shadowy beech. Her face is stupid, but her eye Is small and sharp and very sly. Nurse says the Moon can drive you mad? No, that’s a silly story, lad! Though she be angry, though she would Destroy all England if she could, Yet think, […]

Mr. Philosopher

Story type: Poetry

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Old Mr. Philosopher Comes for Ben and Claire, An ugly man, a tall man, With bright-red hair. The books that he’s written No one can read. “In fifty years they’ll understand: Now there’s no need. “All that matters now Is getting the fun. Come along, Ben and Claire; Plenty to be done.” Then old Philosopher, […]

Babylon

Story type: Poetry

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The child alone a poet is: Spring and Fairyland are his. Truth and Reason show but dim, And all’s poetry with him. Rhyme and music flow in plenty For the lad of one-and-twenty, But Spring for him is no more now Than daisies to a munching cow; Just a cheery pleasant season, Daisy buds to […]

Goliath And David

Story type: Poetry

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(FOR D.C.T., KILLED AT FRICOURT, MARCH, 1916) Yet once an earlier David took Smooth pebbles from the brook: Out between the lines he went To that one-sided tournament, A shepherd boy who stood out fine And young to fight a Philistine Clad all in brazen mail. He swears That he’s killed lions, he’s killed bears, […]

Dead Cow Farm

Story type: Poetry

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An ancient saga tells us how In the beginning the First Cow (For nothing living yet had birth But Elemental Cow on earth) Began to lick cold stones and mud: Under her warm tongue flesh and blood Blossomed, a miracle to believe: And so was Adam born, and Eve. Here now is chaos once again, […]

To Robert Nichols

Story type: Poetry

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(From Frise on the Somme in February, 1917, in answer to a letter saying: “I am just finishing my ‘Faun’s Holiday.’ I wish you were here to feed him with cherries.”) Here by a snowbound river In scrapen holes we shiver, And like old bitterns we Boom to you plaintively: Robert how can I rhyme […]

Two Fusiliers

Story type: Poetry

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And have we done with War at last? Well, we’ve been lucky devils both, And there’s no need of pledge or oath To bind our lovely friendship fast, By firmer stuff Close bound enough. By wire and wood and stake we’re bound, By Fricourt and by Festubert, By whipping rain, by the sun’s glare, By […]

It doesn’t matter what’s the cause, What wrong they say we’re righting, A curse for treaties, bonds and laws, When we’re to do the fighting! And since we lads are proud and true, What else remains to do? Lucasta, when to France your man Returns his fourth time, hating war, Yet laughs as calmly as […]

“Is that the Three-and-Twentieth, Strabo mine, Marching below, and we still gulping wine?” From the sad magic of his fragrant cup The red-faced old centurion started up, Cursed, battered on the table. “No,” he said, “Not that! The Three-and-Twentieth Legion’s dead, Dead in the first year of this damned campaign– The Legion’s dead, dead, and […]

The great sun sinks behind the town Through a red mist of Volnay wine…. But what’s the use of setting down That glorious blaze behind the town? You’ll only skip the page, you’ll look For newer pictures in this book; You’ve read of sunsets rich as mine. A fresh wind fills the evening air With […]