Just a very few of my favourite descriptive poems which I have loved over
the years. I hope you like, and perhaps learn, one or two as well.
TURNING THE TABLES - (Anon.)
Now, Dolly you must listen
To every word I say!
Come, sit up straight, and look at me,
Don't turn your head away!
You know you have been naughty,
I can see it in your face!
Such conduct, from a doll your age,
Is really a disgrace.
This morning, when a lady
Was calling here on me,
You sat and stared at both of us
As rude as you could be.
And surely you remember
I told you, yesterday
To always rise and step aside
When you were in the way.
But when the lady passed you,
In going to the door,
You sat as still as if your feet
Were glued right to the floor.
And then you know, at breakfast,
You thrust your arms out straight,
And almost spilt your cup of tea
Right over in your plate.
Your conduct is so naughty,
I sometimes blush with shame;
But as I've told you what to do
I know I'm not to blame.
What is it you are saying;
You'd think it better far,
If I'd a good example set,
And just mind my mamma?
Why, yes, of course, but, Dolly,
That's not for you to say;
Come, come, we've had enough of this,
I think we'll go and play!
A TINY BIT OF ORANGE PEEL - (Anon)
Only a tiny bit of orange peel
Upon the pavement lay,
And silently embraced the heel
Of those who passed that way,
Only a tiny bit of yellow orange peel.
It said "I am attached to you,
Come take a slide, or sit down
By my side, come darling do".
Only a tiny bit of yellow orange peel.
A guardsman with his head aloft
Was taken of his guard,
And though his head was very soft
It came down very hard,
And only a tiny bit of yellow orange peel.
A mayor in his robes of state
Collapsed upon the floor,
And never a Mayor in such a state
Was ever seen before.
And only a tiny bit of yellow orange peel.
Then came a Bishop broad and fat,
And down he quickly went,
And he seemed most astonished
At his "Disestablishment"
He smiled a smile devoid of guile,
But yet it was inferred,
If he had not been a Bishop
He'd have used a wicked word
About that tiny bit of yellow orange peel"
Come down! Come down! I'm on your heel"
This was the song of the orange peel;
And they all sat down with all their might,
But they didn't go down to dinner that night
Yet it was only a tiny bit of yellow orange peel.
THE WIND AND THE MOON - by: George
Said the Wind to the Moon,
"I will blow you out!
You stare In the air
As if crying," Beware,
"Always looking what I am about.
I hate to be watched; "I will blow you out!
"The Wind blew hard, and out went the Moon.
On a heap
Of clouds to sleep,
Down lay the Wind, and slumbered soon,
Muttering low "I've done for that Moon"
He turned in his bed; she was there again!
In the sky
With her one ghost-eye,
The Moon shone white and alive and plain;
Said the Wind, " I will blow you out again!"
The wind blew hard, and the moon grew slim,
"With my sledge
And my wedge
I have knocked off her edge!
I will blow, said the Wind, "right fierce and grim,
And the creature will soon be slimmer than slim!"
He blew, and he blew, and she thinned to a thread.
To blow her to snuff!
One good puff more where the last was bred,
And glimmer, glimmer, glum will go that thread"
He blew a great blast, and the thread was gone,
In the air
Was that moonbeam bare;
Larger and clearer the shy stars shone;
Sure and certain the Moon was gone!
The wind he took to his revels once more;
And in town,
A merry-mad clown,
He leaped and holloed with whistle and roar
When there was that glimmering thread once more!
He flew in a rage - he danced and he blew;
But in vain
Was the pain
Of his bursting brain;
For still the Moon-scrap the broader grew,
The more that he swelled his big cheeks and blew,
Slowly she grew - till she filled the night,
On her throne
In the sky alone,
A matchless, wonderful, silvery light,
Radiant and lovely, queen of the night.
THE LISTENERS - by: Walter De La Mare
"Is there anybody there ?" said the traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the travellers head;
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there ?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his gray eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in that old house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men;
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely travellers call,
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
"Tell them I came and no one answered,
That I kept my word", he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake;
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
THE THRUSHES NEST - by: John Clare
Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush,
That overhung a molehill large and round,
I heard from morn to eve a merry thrush
Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound
With joy; and often, an intruding guest,
I watched her secret toil from day to day.
How true she warped the moss, to form a nest,
And modelled it within with wood and clay;
And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,
There lay her shining eggs, as bright as flowers,
Ink-spotted over shells of greeny blue;
And there I witnessed in the sunny hours
A brood of Nature's minstrels chirp and fly,
Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.
MISS THOMPSON GOES SHOPPING
- by: Martin Armstrong
In her lone cottage on the downs,
With winds and blizzards and great crowns
Of shining cloud, with wheeling plover
And short grass sweet with the small white clover,
Miss Thompson lived, correct and meek,
A lonely spinster, and every week
On market-day she used to go
Into the little town below,
Tucked in the great downs’ hollow bowl
Like pebbles gathered in a shoal.
So, having washed her plates and cup
And banked the kitchen-fire up,
Miss Thompson slipped upstairs and dressed,
Put on her black (her second best),
The bonnet trimmed with rusty plush,
Peeped in the glass with simpering blush,
From camphor-smelling cupboard took
Her thicker jacket off the hook
Because the day might turn to cold
Then, ready, slipped downstairs and rolled
The hearthrug back; then searched about,
Found her basket, ventured out,
Snecked the door and paused to lock it
And plunge the key in some deep pocket,
Then as she tripped demurely down
The steep descent, the little town
Spread wider till its sprawling street
Enclosed her and her footfalls beat
On hard stone pavement, and she felt
Those throbbing ecstasies that melt
Through heart and mind, as, happy, free,
Her small, prim personality
Merged into the seething strife
Of auction-marts and city life.
Serenely down the busy stream
Miss Thompson floated in a dream,
Now, hovering bee-like, she would stop
Entranced before some tempting shop,
Getting in people’s way and prying
At things she never thought of buying:
Now wafted on without an aim,
Until in course of time she came
To Watson’s boot-shop. Long she pries
At boots and shoes of every size
Brown football-boots with bar and stud
For boys that scuffle in the mud,
And dancing-pumps with pointed toes,
Glossy as jet, and dull black bows;
Slim ladies’ shoes with two-inch heel
And sprinkled beads of gold and steel
"How any one can wear such things!"
On either side the doorway springs
(As in a tropic jungle loom
Masses of strange thick-petalled bloom
And fruits mis-shapen) fold on fold
A growth of sand-shoes rubber-soled
Clambering the door-posts, branching, spawning
Their barbarous bunches like an awning
Over the windows and the doors,
But, framed among the other stores,
Something had caught Miss Thompson’s eye
(O worldliness; O vanity!),
A pair of slippers - scarlet plush.
Miss Thompson feels a conscious blush
Suffuse her face, as though her thought
Had ventured further than it ought,
But O that colour’s rapturous singing
And the answer in her lone heart ringing!
She turns (O Guardian Angels, stop her
From doing anything improper!)
She turns; and see, she stoops and bungles
In through the sand-shoes hanging jungles,
Away from light and common sense,
Into the shop dim-lit and dense
With smells of polish and tanned hide.
Soon from the dark recess inside
Fat Mrs Watson comes slip-slop
To mind the business of the shop.
She walks flat-footed with a roll
A serviceable, homely soul,
With kindly, ugly face like dough,
Hair dull and colourless as tow.
A huge Scotch pebble fills the space
Between her bosom and her face,
One sees her making beds all day.
Miss Thompson lets her say her say:
"So chilly for the time of year,
It’s ages since we saw you here".
Then, heart a-flutter, speech precise,
Describes the shoes and asks the price,
"Them, Miss? Ah, them is six-and -nine,"
Miss Thompson shudders down the spine
(Dream of impossible romance).
She eyes them with a wistful glance,
Torn between good and evil, Yes,
For half-a-minute and no less
Miss Thompson strives with seven devils,
Then, soaring over earthly levels,
Turns from the shoes with lingering touch
"Ah, six and nine is far too much.
Sorry to trouble you. Good-day!".
A little farther down the way
Stands Mile’s fish-shop, whence is shed
So strong a smell of fishes dead
That people of a subtler sense
Hold their breath and hurry thence,
Miss Thompson hovers there and gazes:
Her housewife’s knowing eye appraises
Salt and fresh, severely cons
Kippers bright as tarnished bronze:
Great cods disposed upon the sill,
Chilly and wet with gaping gill,
Flat head, glazed eye, ands mute, uncouth,
Shapeless, wan, old-woman's mouth.
Next a row of soles and plaice
With querulous and twisted face,
And red-eyed bloaters, golden-grey;
Smoked haddocks ranked in neat array;
A group of smelts that take the light
Like slips of rainbow , pearly bright;
Silver trout with rosy spots,
And coral shrimps with keen black dots
For eyes, and hard and jointed sheath
And crisp tails curving underneath,
But there upon the sanded floor,
More wonderful in all that store
Than anything on slab or shelf,
Stood Miles, the fishmonger, himself
Four-square he stood and filled the place,
His huge hands and his jolly face
Were red. He had a mouth to quaff
Pint after pint: a sounding laugh,
But wheezy at the end, and oft
His eyes bulged outwards as he coughed.
Aproned he stood from chin to toe,
The apron’s vertical long flow
Warped grandly outwards to display
His hale, round belly hung midway,
Whose apex was securely bound
With apron strings wrapped round and round.
Outside, Miss Thompson, small and staid,
Felt, as she always felt, afraid
Of this huge man who laughed so loud
And drew the notice of the crowd,
Awhile she paused in timid thought,
Then promptly hurried in and bought
"Two kippers, please. Yes lovely weather."
"Two kippers ? Sixpence altogether,"
And in basket laid the pair
Wrapped face to face in newspaper.
Then on she went, as one half blind,
For things were stirring in her mind;
Then turned about with fixed intent
And, heading for the boot-shop, went
Straight in and bought the slippers
And popped them in beside the kippers.
So much for that. From there she tacked,
Still flushed by this decisive act,
Westward, and came without a stop
To Mr Wren the chemist’s shop,
And stood outside a while to see
The tall, big-bellied bottles three
Red, blue and emerald, richly bright
Each with its burning core of light,
The bell chimed as she pushed the door,
Spotless the oilcloth on the floor,
Limpid as water each glass case,
Each thing precisely in its place,
Rows of small drawers, black-lettered each
With curious words of foreign speech,
Ranked high above the other ware,
The strange old fragrance filled the air,
A fragrance like the garden pink,
But tinged with vague medicinal stink
Of camphor, soap, new sponges, blent
With chloroform and violet scent.
And Wren the chemist, tall and spare,
Stood gaunt behind his counter there,
Quiet and very wise he seemed,
With skull-like face, bald head that gleamed;
Through spectacles his eyes looked kind,
He wore a pencil tucked behind
His ear. And never he mistakes
The wildest signs the doctor makes
Prescribing drugs. Brown paper, string,
He will not use for anything,
But all in neat white parcels packs
And seals them up with sealing-wax,
Miss Thompson bowed and blushed, and then
Undoubting bought of Mr Wren,
Being free from modern scepticism,
A bottle for her rheumatism;
Also some peppermints to take
In case of wind; an oval cake
Of scented soap; a penny square
Of pungent naphthaline to scare
The moth. And after Wren had wrapped
And sealed the lot, Miss Thompson clapped
Them in beside the fish and shoes;
"Good day," she says, and off she goes.
Beelike Miss Thompson, whither next?
Outside, you pause awhile, perplext,
Your bearings lost. Then all comes back,
And round she wheels, hot on the track
Of Giles the grocer, and from there
To Emilie the milliner,
There to be tempted by the sight
Of hats and blouses fiercely bright,
(O guard Miss Thompson, Powers that Be,
From Crudeness and Vulgarity.)
Still on from shop to shop she goes
With sharp bird’s-eye, inquiring nose,
Prying and peering, entering some,
Oblivious of the thought of home,
The town brimmed up with deep-blue haze,
But still she stayed to flit and gaze,
Her eyes ablur with rapturous sights,
Her small soul full of small delights,
Empty her purse, her basket filled,
The traffic in the town was stilled,
The clock struck six. Men thronged the inns,
Dear, dear, she should be home long since.
Then as she climbed the misty downs
The lamps were lighted in the town’s
Small streets. She saw them star by star
Multiplying from afar;
Till, mapped beneath her, she could trace
Each street, and the wide square market-place
Sunk deeper and deeper as she went
Higher up the steep ascent.
And all that soul-uplifting stir
Step by step fell back from her,
The glory gone, the blossoming
Shrivelled, and she, a small, frail thing,
Carrying her laden basket. Till
Darkness and silence of the hill
Received her in their restful care
And stars came dropping through the air.
But loudly, sweetly sang the slippers
In the basket with the kippers;
And loud and sweet the answering thrills
From her lone heart on the hills.
- 1998-2002 - All rights reserved
Steve J. McWilliam
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