Words to Live By (two metres apart) on World Poetry Day 2020

 Photograph: Getty Images

Photograph: Getty Images

 

Happy the man, whose wish and care/A few paternal acres bound/content to breathe his native air/In his own ground. (Alexander Pope)

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 (William Wordsworth)

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,/Let it not be among the jumbled heap/Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, /Nature’s observatory – whence the dell/its flowery slopes, its river’s crystals swell,/May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep/’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap/Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell. (John Keats)

What do you get when you kiss a guy?/You get enough germs to catch pneumonia/After you do, he’ll never phone ya. (Burt Bacherach)

I and Pangur Bán my cat/’Tis a like task we are at:/Hunting mice is his delight/Hunting words I sit all night […] ’Tis a merry thing to see/At our tasks how glad are we,/When at home we sit and find/Entertainment to our mind.” (Anonymous monk, circa eighth century, translated from Irish by Robin Flower)

The Brain – is wider than the sky –/For put them side by side –/The one the other will contain/With ease – and you – beside –/The Brain is deeper than the sea –/For – hold them – Blue to Blue –/the one the other will absorb –/As Sponges – Buckets – do – (Emily Dickinson)

A mighty creature is the germ,/Though smaller than the pachyderm/His customary dwelling place/Is deep within the human race/His childish pride he often pleases/By giving people strange diseases/Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?/You probably contain a germ (Ogden Nash)

There is room in the halls of pleasure/For a large and lordly train/But one by one we must all file on/Through the narrow aisles of pain (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,/I all alone beweep my outcast state,/And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,/And look upon myself, and curse my fate . . . (Shakespeare)

Romeo: I would I were thy bird. Juliet: Sweet, so would I./Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing./Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow/That I should say good night till it be tomorrow. (Shakespeare again)

It’s no use, he sees her/He starts to shake and cough/Just like the old man in/That book by Nabokov (Chorus) Don’t stand, don’t stand so/Don’t stand so close to me (The Police)

Half-past eight and there is not a spot/Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown/That might turn out a man or woman, not/A footfall tapping secrecies of stone. (Patrick Kavanagh)

Now no-one’s knocked upon my door/For a thousand years, or more/All made up and nowhere to go/Welcome to this one man show (The Police again)

I have what every poet hates in spite/Of all the solemn talk of contemplation./ Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight/Of being king and government and nation./A road, a mile of kingdom.I am king/Of banks and stones and every blooming thing (Kavanagh, continued)

I never saw a man who looked/With such a wistful eye/Upon that little tent of blue/Which prisoners call the sky (Oscar Wilde)

We all play the game and when we dare/To cheat ourselves at Solitaire/Inventing lovers on the phone/Repenting other lives unknown. (Janice Ian)

Being apart and lonely is like the rain./It climbs toward evening from the ocean plains;/from flat places, rolling and remote, it climbs/to heaven, which is its old abode./And only when leaving heaven drops upon the city. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

He’s a germ-free adolescent/Cleanliness is her obsession/Cleans her teeth ten times a day/Scrub away, scrub away/scrub away/The S.R. way (Poly Styrene & the X-Ray Specs)

[Don’t] touch me with your naked hand/Touch me with your glove/And dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen, slightly adapted for Health and Safety)

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 (Wordsworth again)

All the trouble in the world derives from mankind’s inability to sit quietly in a room (Blaise Pascal).

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Cheltenham* to be born? (*With apologies to WB Yeats).

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