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Poems About People

Table of Contents

  1. The People by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
  2. Difficult Definition by Anonymous
  3. A charm invests a face by Emily Dickinson
  4. A Portrait by Emily Dickinson
  5. The Shelter by Emily Dickinson
  6. The bone that has no marrow by Emily Dickinson
  7. At the Making of Man by Bliss Carman
  8. Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  9. The House by the Side of the Road by Sam Walter Foss
  10. They Say by Anonymous
  11. Don't by Anonymous
  12. Variety by Ruby Archer
  13. A Busy Street by Annette Wynne
  14. In Land and Sea and Sky and Air by Annette Wynne
  15. If We Knew by Jacob Huff

Turn, turn, my wheel! The human race,
Of every tongue, of every place,
Caucasian, Coptic, or Malay,
All that inhabit this great earth,
Whatever be their rank or worth,
Are kindred and allied by birth,
And made of the same clay.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Song of the Potter
  1. The People

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    The ants are walking under the ground,
    And the pigeons are flying over the steeple,
    And in between are the people.

  2. Difficult Definition

    by Amos Russel Wells

    What is a man? A bit of clay
    The rain dissolves and floats away;

    A diamond of lustre rare,
    Forever firm, forever fair;

    A bubble dancing on the stream,
    An empty film, a bursting gleam;

    A king upon a dateless throne,
    With all eternity his own;

    A mockery of love and hate,
    The play of time, the sport of fate;

    The conqueror of endless life,
    Victorious in every strife;

    Compact of virtue and of sin,
    Creation's matchiess harlequin;

    And each of these, in devious plan,
    Discernible in every man!

    Why, what Superior Scientist,
    What Erudite Anatomist,

    Could pick these creatures from the bog,
    And classify and catalogue?

  3. A charm invests a face

    by Emily Dickinson

    A Charm invests a face
    Imperfectly beheld,—
    The lady dare not lift her veil
    For fear it be dispelled.

    But peers beyond her mesh,
    And wishes, and denies,—
    Lest interview annul a want
    That image satisfies.

  4. A Portrait

    by Emily Dickinson

    A face devoid of love or grace,
    A hateful, hard, successful face,
    A face with which a stone
    Would feel as thoroughly at ease
    As were they old acquaintances,—
    First time together thrown.

  5. The Shelter

    by Emily Dickinson

    The body grows outside,—
    The more convenient way,—
    That if the spirit like to hide,
    Its temple stands alway

    Ajar, secure, inviting;
    It never did betray
    The soul that asked its shelter
    In timid honesty.

  6. The bone that has no marrow

    by Emily Dickinson

    The bone that has no marrow;
    What ultimate for that?
    It is not fit for table,
    For beggar, or for cat.

    A bone has obligations,
    A being has the same;
    A marrowless assembly
    Is culpabler than shame.

    But how shall finished creatures
    A function fresh obtain? —
    Old Nicodemus' phantom
    Confronting us again!

  7. At the Making of Man

    by Bliss Carman

    First all the host of Raphael
    In liveries of gold,
    Lifted the chorus on whose rhythm
    The spinning spheres are rolled, —
    The Seraphs of the morning calm
    Whose hearts are never cold.

    He shall be born a spirit,
    Part of the soul that yearns,
    The core of vital gladness
    That suffers and discerns,
    The stir that breaks the budding sheath
    When the green spring returns, —

    The gist of power and patience
    Hid in the plasmic clay,
    The calm behind the senses,
    The passionate essay
    To make his wise and lovely dream
    Immortal on a day.

    The soft, Aprilian ardors
    That warm the waiting loam
    Shall whisper in his pulses
    To bid him overcome,
    And he shall learn the wonder-cry
    Beneath the azure dome.

    And though all-dying nature
    Should teach him to deplore,
    The ruddy fires of autumn
    Shall lure him but the more
    To pass from joy to stronger joy,
    As through an open door.

    He shall have hope and honor,
    Proud trust and courage stark,
    To hold him to his purpose
    Through the unlighted dark,
    And love that sees the moon's full orb
    In the first silver arc.

    And he shall live by kindness
    And the heart's certitude,
    Which moves without misgiving
    In ways not understood,
    Sure only of the vast event, —
    The large and simple good.

    Then Gabriel's host in silver gear
    And vesture twilight blue,
    The spirits of immortal mind,
    The warders of the true,
    Took up the theme that gives the world
    Significance anew.

    He shall be born to reason,
    And have the primal need
    To understand and follow
    Wherever truth may lead, —
    To grow in wisdom like a tree
    Unfolding from a seed.

    A watcher by the sheepfolds,
    With wonder in his eyes,
    He shall behold the seasons,
    And mark the planets rise,
    Till all the marching firmament
    Shall rouse his vast surmise.

    Beyond the sweep of vision,
    Or utmost reach of sound,
    This cunning fire-maker,
    This tiller of the ground,
    Shall learn the secrets of the suns
    And fathom the profound.

    For he must prove all being
    Sane, beauteous, benign,
    And at the heart of nature
    Discover the divine, —
    Himself the type and symbol
    Of the eternal trine.

    He shall perceive the kindling
    Of knowledge, far and dim,
    As of the fire that brightens
    Below the dark sea-rim,
    When ray by ray the splendid sun
    Floats to the world's wide brim.

    And out of primal instinct,
    The lore of lair and den,
    He shall emerge to question
    How, wherefore, whence, and when,
    Till the last frontier of the truth
    Shall lie within his ken.

    Then Michael's scarlet-suited host
    Took up the word and sang;
    As though a trumpet had been loosed
    In heaven, the arches rang;
    For these were they who feel the thrill
    Of beauty like a pang.

    He shall be framed and balanced
    For loveliness and power,
    Lithe as the supple creatures,
    And colored as a flower,
    Sustained by the all-feeding earth,
    Nurtured by wind and shower,

    To stand within the vortex
    Where surging forces play,
    A poised and pliant figure
    Immutable as they,
    Till time and space and energy
    Surrenders to his sway.

    He shall be free to journey
    Over the teeming earth,
    An insatiable seeker,
    A wanderer from his birth,
    Clothed in the fragile veil of sense,
    With fortitude for girth.

    His hands shall have dominion
    Of all created things,
    To fashion in the likeness
    Of his imaginings,
    To make his will and thought survive
    Unto a thousand springs.

    The world shall be his province,
    The princedom of his skill;
    The tides shall wear his harness,
    The winds obey his will;
    Till neither flood, nor fire, nor frost,
    Shall work to do him ill.

    A creature fit to carry
    The pure creative fire,
    Whatever truth inform him,
    Whatever good inspire,
    He shall make lovely in all things
    To the end of his desire.

  8. Solitude

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
    Weep, and you weep alone;
    For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.

    Sing, and the hills will answer,
    Sigh, it is lost on the air;
    The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shirk from voicing care.

    Rejoice and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go;
    They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.

    Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all,
    There are none to decline your nectar'd wine,
    But alone you must drink life's gall.

    Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by;
    Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.

    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 aisle of pain.

    Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

    – Galations 6:2
    The Bible, NIV
  9. The House by the Side of the Road

    by Sam Walter Foss

    There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
    In the peace of their self-content;
    There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
    In a fellowless firmament;
    There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
    Where highways never ran;—
    But let me live by the side of the road
    And be a friend to man.

    Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
    Where the race of men go by—
    The men who are good and the men who are bad,
    As good and as bad as I.
    I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
    Or hurl the cynic’s ban;—
    Let me live in a house by the side of the road
    And be a friend to man.

    I see from my house by the side of the road,
    By the side of the highway of life,
    The men who press with the ardor of hope,
    The men who are faint with the strife.
    But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears—
    Both parts of an infinite plan;—
    Let me live in my house by the side of the road
    And be a friend to man.

    I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
    And mountains of wearisome height;
    That the road passes on through the long afternoon
    And stretches away to the night.
    But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
    And weep with the strangers that moan,
    Nor live in my house by the side of the road
    Like a man who dwells alone.

    Let me live in my house by the side of the road
    Where the race of men go by—
    They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
    Wise, foolish— so am I.
    Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
    Or hurl the cynic’s ban?—
    Let me live in my house by the side of the road
    And be a friend to man.

  10. They Say

    by Anonymous

    The subject of my speech is one
    We hear of every day—
    ’Tis simply all about the fear
    We have of what “they say!

    How happy all of us could be,
    If—as we go our way—
    We did not stop to think and care
    So much for what “they say!

  11. Don't

    by Anonymous

    Don’t worry nor fret
    About what people think
    Of your ways or your means,
    Of your food or your drink.
    If you know you’re doing
    Your best every day,
    With the right on your side,
    Never mind what “they” say.

  12. Variety

    by Ruby Archer

    Look yonder at the tree-tops' line
    Uneven etched along the sky,—
    Some dwarfish bent, some grandly high,—
    But think you that the low repine?

    No envy there of wildwood fame,
    No clamoring for equal room.
    Each gives the pageant one bright plume.
    God would not have us all the same.

  13. A Busy Street

    by Annette Wynne

    All up and down the busy street
    The people pass with eager feet—
    They must have pleasant things to do
    They hurry so the long day through.

    All day long they pass me by;
    They must have better things than I
    At home or where they want to go—
    And that is why they hurry so.

  14. In Land and Sea and Sky and Air

    by Annette Wynne

    On land and sea and sky and air
    Beautiful things are everywhere,
    In people such as you and me—
    If we would only look and see.

  15. If We Knew

    by Jacob Huff

    No one knows the secret sighing,—
    Sobbing in a neighbor's heart;
    No one knows the fond hopes dying—
    No one knows the cruel smart.

    No one knows the hungry yearning
    Of a neighbor's cheerless soul;
    No one knows how grief is burning
    In the heart where love grows cold.

    None but God knows each desire;
    He alone knows griefs untold:
    Ah, He sees the heart's slow fire
    Dying out as love grows cold.

    Ah, I see your neighbor sitting,
    Often with a low bowed head;
    And I know how grief is flitting
    Through his heart, where hope is dead.

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