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Poems for 11th Graders

Table of Contents

Spruce and Tamarack
Spruce and Tamarack
by Tom Thomson
  1. My Wage by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
  2. To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet
  3. The Twenty-Second of December by William Cullen Bryant
  4. The Charter-Oak by Lydia Howard Sigourney
  5. Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  6. The Battle of Bunker's Hill by F. S. Cozzens
  7. The Divine Source of Liberty by Samuel Adams
  8. Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  9. Treasure In Heaven by Amos Russel Wells
  10. Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
  11. Ozymandias of Egypt by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  12. She Walks in Beauty by George Gordon, Lord Byron
  13. Pebbles by Frank Dempster Sherman
  14. The Stack Behind the Barn by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts
  15. The Harvest Moon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  16. The Family Doctor by Edgar A. Guest
  17. The Old Fire-Place by Rev. John S. Mohler
  18. After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost
  19. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
  20. It Is Well with My Soul by Horatio Gates Spafford

  1. My Wage

    by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

    I bargained with Life for a penny,
    And Life would pay no more,
    However I begged at evening
    When I counted my scanty store;

    For Life is a just employer,
    He gives you what you ask,
    But once you have set the wages,
    Why, you must bear the task.

    I worked for a menial's hire,
    Only to learn, dismayed,
    That any wage I had asked of Life,
    Life would have paid.

  2. To My Dear and Loving Husband

    Priscilla Mullens and John Alden
    Priscilla Mullens and John Alden
    by Howard Chandler Christy
    by Anne Bradstreet. Anne was a Puritan writer who in 1630, at the age of 18 and less than a decade after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, left England and settled in present day Massachusetts with her husband.

    If ever two were one, then surely we.
    If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
    I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
    My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
    Nor ought but love from thee give recompetence.
    Thy love is such I can no way repay.
    The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
    Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
    That when we live no more, we may live ever.

  3. The Twenty-Second of December

    The Pilgrim Fathers arrive at Plymouth, Massachusetts on board the Mayflower, November 1620
    The Pilgrim Fathers arrive at Plymouth, Massachusetts on board the Mayflower, November 1620
    by William James Aylward
    by William Cullen Bryant

    Wild was the day; the wintry sea
    Moaned sadly on New-England's strand,
    When first, the thoughtful and the free,
    Our fathers, trod the desert land.

    They little thought how pure a light,
    With years, should gather round that day;
    How love should keep their memories bright,
    How wide a realm their sons should sway.

    Green are their bays; but greener still
    Shall round their spreading fame be wreathed,
    And regions, now untrod, shall thrill
    With reverence, when their names are breathed.

    Till where the sun, with softer fires,
    Looks on the vast Pacific's sleep,
    The children of the pilgrim sires
    This hallowed day like us shall keep.

  4. The Charter-Oak

    by Lydia Howard Sigourney

    Charter Oak, Charter Oak
    Tell us a tale,
    Of the years that have fled,
    Like the leaves on the gale,

    For thou bear'st a brave annal,
    On brown root and stem,
    And thy heart was a casket,
    For liberty's gem.

    Speak out, in thy wisdom,
    Oracular tree,
    And we, and our children,
    Will listen to thee,

    For the lore of the aged,
    Is dear in our eyes,
    And thy leaves, and thine acorns,
    As relics we prize.

    I see them, they come,
    The dim ages of old,
    The sires of our nation,
    True-hearted and bold,

    The axe of the woodman,
    Rings sharp through the glade,
    And the poor Indian hunter,
    Reclines in the shade.

    I see them, they come,
    The gray fathers are there,
    Who won from the forest,
    This heritage fair,

    With their high trust in heaven,
    When they suffer'd or toil'd,
    Both the tempest and tyrant,
    Unblenching, they foil'd.

    Charter-Oak, Charter-Oak,
    Ancient and fair,
    Thou didst guard of our freedom,
    The rudiment rare,

    So, a crown of green leaves,
    Be thy gift from the skies,
    With the love of the brave,
    And the thanks of the wise.

  5. Concord Hymn

    The Shot Heard 'Round the World
    The Shot Heard 'Round the World courtesy the National Guard Bureau
    by Domenick D'Andrea
    by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

     Full Text

    By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood
    And fired the shot heard round the world.

    The foe long since in silence slept;
    Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
    And Time the ruined bridge has swept
    Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

    On this green bank, by this soft stream,
    We set today a votive stone;
    That memory may their deed redeem,
    When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

    Spirit, that made those heroes dare
    To die, and leave their children free,
    Bid Time and Nature gently spare
    The shaft we raise to them and thee.

  6. The Battle of Bunker's Hill

    The Whites of Their Eyes
    The Whites of Their Eyes courtesy the National Guard Bureau
    by Ken Riley
    by F. S. Cozzens

     Full Text

    It was a starry night in June, the air was soft and still,
    When the "minute-men" from Cambridge came, and gathered on the hill;
    Beneath us lay the sleeping town, around us frowned the fleet,
    But the pulse of freemen, not of slaves, within our bosoms beat;
    And every heart rose high with hope, as fearlessly we said,
    "We will be numbered with the free, or numbered with the dead!"

    "Bring out the line to mark the trench, and stretch it on the sward!"
    The trench is marked, the tools are brought, we utter not a word,
    But stack our guns, then fall to work with mattock and with spade,
    A thousand men with sinewy arms, and not a sound is made;
    So still were we, the stars beneath, that scarce a whisper fell;
    We heard the red-coat's musket click, and heard him cry, "All's well!"

    See how the morn, is breaking; the red is in the sky!
    The mist is creeping from the stream that floats in silence by;
    The "Lively's" hall looms through the fog, and they our works have spied,
    For the ruddy flash and round-shot part in thunder from her side;
    And the "Falcon" and the "Cerberus" make every bosom thrill,
    With gun and shell, and drum and bell, and boatswain's whistle shrill;
    But deep and wider grows the trench, as spade and mattock ply,
    For we have to cope with fearful odds, and the time is drawing nigh!

    Up with the pine-tree banner! Our gallant Prescott stands
    Amid the plunging shells and shot, and plants it with his hands;
    Up with the shout! for Putnam comes upon his reeking bay,
    With bloody spur and foaming bit, in haste to join the fray.
    But thou whose soul is glowing in the summer of thy years,
    Unvanquishable Warren, thou, the youngest of thy peers,
    Wert born and bred, and shaped and made, to act a patriot's part,
    And dear to us thy presence is as heart's blood to the heart!

    Hark! from the town a trumpet! The barges at the wharf
    Are crowded with the living freight; and now they're pushing off;
    With clash and glitter, trump and drum, in all its bright array,
    Behold the splendid sacrifice move slowly o'er the bay!
    And still and still the barges fill, and still across the deep,
    Like thunder clouds along the sky, the hostile transports sweep.

    And now they're forming at the Point; and now the lines advance:
    We see beneath the sultry sun their polished bayonets glance;
    We hear anear the throbbing drum, the bugle-challenge ring;
    Quick bursts and loud the flashing cloud, and rolls from wing to wing;
    But on the height our bulwark stands, tremendous in its gloom,—
    As sullen as a tropic sky, and silent as a tomb.

    And so we waited till we saw, at scarce ten rifles' length,
    The old vindictive Saxon spite, in all its stubborn strength;
    When sudden, flash on flash, around the jagged rampart burst
    From every gun the livid light upon the foe accursed.
    Then quailed a monarch's might before a free-born people's ire;
    Then drank the sward the veteran's life, where swept the yeoman's fire.

    Then, staggered by the shot, he saw their serried columns reel,
    And fall, as falls the bearded rye beneath the reaper's steel;
    And then arose a mighty shout that might have waked the dead,—
    "Hurrah! they run! the field is won! Hurrah! the foe is fled!"
    And every man hath dropped his gun to clutch a neighbor's hand,
    As his heart kept praying all the while for home and native land.

    Thrice on that day we stood the shock of thrice a thousand foes,
    And thrice that day within our lines the shout of victory rose;
    And though our swift fire slackened then, and, reddening in the skies,
    We saw from Charlestown's roofs and walls the flamy columns rise,
    Yet while we had a cartridge left, we still maintained the fight,
    Nor gained the foe one foot of ground upon that blood-stained height.

    What though for us no laurels bloom, and o'er the nameless brave
    No sculptured trophy, scroll, nor hatch records a warrior grave!
    What though the day to us was lost!—upon that deathless page
    The everlasting charter stands for every land and age!

    For man hath broke his felon bonds, and cast them in the dust,
    And claimed his heritage divine, and justified the trust;
    While through his rifted prison-bars the hues of freedom pour,
    O'er every nation, race and clime, on every sea and shore,
    Such glories as the patriarch viewed, when, mid the darkest skies,
    He saw above a ruined world the Bow of Promise rise.

  7. The Divine Source of Liberty

    by Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, Founding Father, and second cousin to 2nd President of the United States, John Adams. He helped to shape the principles and foundations of American Government. In this poem, he expresses his thoughts on the source and authority of the liberty in America he wished to defend.

    All temporal power is of God,
    And the magistratal, His institution, laud,
    To but advance creaturely happiness aubaud:
    Let us then affirm the Source of Liberty.

    Ever agreeable to the nature and will,
    Of the Supreme and Guardian of all yet still
    Employed for our rights and freedom's thrill:
    Thus proves the only Source of Liberty.

    Though our civil joy is surely expressed
    Through hearth, and home, and church manifest,
    Yet this too shall be a nation's true test:
    To acknowledge the divine Source of Liberty.

  8. Old Ironsides

    Action between U.S. Frigate Constitution and HMS Java, 29 December 1812
    Action between U.S. Frigate Constitution and HMS Java, 29 December 1812
    by Charles Robert Patterson
    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
    Long has it waved on high,
    And many an eye has danced to see
    That banner in the sky;
    Beneath it rung the battle shout,
    And burst the cannon’s roar;—
    The meteor of the ocean air
    Shall sweep the clouds no more!

    Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood
    Where knelt the vanquished foe,
    When winds were hurrying o’er the flood
    And waves were white below,
    No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
    Or know the conquered knee;—
    The harpies of the shore shall pluck
    The eagle of the sea!

    O, better that her shattered hulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
    Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave;
    Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every thread-bare sail,
    And give her to the god of storms,—
    The lightning and the gale!

  9. Treasure In Heaven

    by Amos R. Wells

    Treasures of sound! Kind words, and words of love,
    And helpful words, and merry songs of earth,
    Yes, all your tender vocal ministries
    Living forever on the upper air,
    Borne to you on the winds of heaven's May,
    And whispered to you deep in heaven's woods,
    And gratefully repeated here and there
    By unforgetting spirits—ah, the store
    Of golden sounds from earth sent heavenward,
    Echoed in happy tones for evermore!

    Treasures of thought! Decisions firmly true,
    Still meditations blossoming serene,
    The gleam of high ideals followed far,
    Bold aspirations, plans of perfectness
    Outreaching brother arms to all the world,—
    These, written in the libraries of heaven,
    And printed deeply on celestial minds,
    Are authorship indeed! a catalogue
    That Shakespeare well might covet for his own.

    Treasures of courage! Wealth of love and faith,
    Of trust when trust becomes an agony,
    Of hope when hope's last ray has fallen dead,
    Of courage in the chasm of despair!
    These are the pillars of the heavenly homes,
    These are their statues, these their paintings proud,
    The rich adornings of their palaces!
    These are the treasures heaven cannot buy,
    Or God create, The millionaires in these—
    Some gentle mother spending all for love,
    Some patient workman tolling maufully,
    Some large-lived hero living for mankind—
    Will walk in affluence eternally,
    And none will grudge them, but the countless host
    Will glory and rejoice to see them rich.

    20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

    – Matthew 6:20
    KJV
  10. Fire and Ice

    Great Blue Spring of the Lower Geyser Basin, Firehole River, Yellowstone
    Great Blue Spring of the Lower Geyser Basin, Firehole River, Yellowstone
    by Thomas Moran
    by Robert Frost

    Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

  11. Ozymandias of Egypt

    Oedipus in Egypt
    Oedipus in Egypt
    by Jean-Léon Gérôme
    by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:

    'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away;"

  12. She Walks in Beauty

    A Spring Idyll
    A Spring Idyll
    by George Henry Boughton
    by George Gordon, Lord Byron

    She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that’s best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
    Thus mellowed to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

    One shade the more, one ray the less,
    Had half impaired the nameless grace
    Which waves in every raven tress,
    Or softly lightens o’er her face;
    Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
    How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

    And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
    So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
    The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
    But tell of days in goodness spent,
    A mind at peace with all below,
    A heart whose love is innocent!

  13. Pebbles

    by Frank Dempster Sherman

    Out of a pellucid brook
    Pebbles round and smooth I took;
    Like a jewel, every one
    Caught a color from the sun,—
    Ruby red and sapphire blue,
    Emerald and onyx too,
    Diamond and amethyst,—
    Not a precious stone I missed;
    Gems I held from every land
    In the hollow of my hand.

    Workman Water these had made;
    Patiently through sun and shade,
    With the ripples of the rill
    He had polished them, until
    Smooth, symmetrical and bright,
    Each one sparkling in the light
    Showed within its burning heart
    All the lapidary’s art;
    And the brook seemed thus to sing:
    Patience conquers everything!

  14. The Stack Behind the Barn

    Hiding in the Haycocks
    Hiding in the Haycocks
    by William Bliss Baker
    by Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

    September is here, with the ripened seeds,
    And the homely smell of the autumn weeds,
    My heart goes back to a vanished day,
    And I am again a boy at play
    In the stack behind the barn.

    Dear memory of the old home-farm,—
    The hedge-rows fencing the crops from harm,
    The cows, too heavy with milk for haste,
    The barn-yard, yellow with harvest waste,
    And the stack behind the barn.

    Dear, dear, dear the old garden-smell,
    Sweet William and phlox that I loved so well,
    And the seeding mint, and the sage turned grey,
    But dearer the smell of the tumbled hay
    In the stack behind the barn.

    In the side of the stack we made our nest,
    And there was the play-house we loved the best.
    A thicket of goldenrod, bending and bright,
    Filled us with glory and hid us from sight
    In the stack behind the barn.

    Then, when the stack, with the year, ran low,
    And our frosty, morning cheeks were aglow,
    When time had forgotten the dropping leaves,
    What joy to drop from the barn's wide eaves
    To the stack behind the barn!

    O childhood years! Your heedless feet
    Have slipped away with how much that's sweet!
    But dreams and memory master you,
    Till the make-believe of Life is through
    I still may play as the children do
    In the stack behind the barn.

  15. The Harvest Moon

    The Hay Harvest
    The Hay Harvest
    by Ford Madox Brown
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
    And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
    And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
    Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
    Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
    And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
    Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
    With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
    All things are symbols: the external shows
    Of Nature have their image in the mind,
    As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
    The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
    Only the empty nests are left behind,
    And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

  16. The Family Doctor

    by Edgar A. Guest

    I've tried the high-toned specialists, who doctor folks to-day;
    I've heard the throat man whisper low "Come on now let us spray";
    I've sat in fancy offices and waited long my turn,
    And paid for fifteen minutes what it took a week to earn;
    But while these scientific men are kindly, one and all,
    I miss the good old doctor that my mother used to call.

    The old-time family doctor! Oh, I am sorry that he's gone,
    He ushered us into the world and knew us every one;
    He didn't have to ask a lot of questions, for he knew
    Our histories from birth and all the ailments we'd been through.
    And though as children small we feared the medicines he'd send,
    The old-time family doctor grew to be our dearest friend.

    No hour too late, no night too rough for him to heed our call;
    He knew exactly where to hang his coat up in the hall;
    He knew exactly where to go, which room upstairs to find
    The patient he'd been called to see, and saying: "Never mind,
    I'll run up there myself and see what's causing all the fuss."
    It seems we grew to look and lean on him as one of us.

    He had a big and kindly heart, a fine and tender way,
    And more than once I've wished that I could call him in to-day.
    The specialists are clever men and busy men, I know,
    And haven't time to doctor as they did long years ago;
    But some day he may come again, the friend that we can call,
    The good old family doctor who will love us one and all.

  17. The Old Fire-Place

    by Rev. John S. Mohler

    How sad is the memory of days that are gone
    When parents and children in a circle at home
    Around the Old Fire-place would cheerfully gather,
    Away from the cold and inclemency of weather.

    Around the Old Fire-place mother, all the day long,
    Was toiling, and toiling with cheer and with song
    For father and children preparing them food,
    While nourishing and rearing her innocent brood.

    At evening with treadle she was humming the wheel
    While father was wrapping the yarn from the reel;
    And brothers and sisters were reading their books,
    Or merrily playing in their innocent sports.

    As the embers on the hearth were dying away,
    Our father more fuel would carefully lay,
    Till the Old Fire-place blazed again in a roar,
    Which caused us to widen our circle still more.

    When the toils and the pleasures of evening were o'er,
    We knelt 'round the Fire-place, God's mercy to implore,
    From harm and from evil us safely would keep,
    As defenseless we lay in the silence of sleep.

    As the cold wintery winds were passing away,
    And the gentle breeze sighed through the long summer day,
    And the embers had died on the once blazing hearth,
    Now vocal at evening with the cricket's soft chirp.

    The Old Fire-place scenes, alas, I see them no more,
    For its circle is scattered to far distant shores:
    the wheel and the reel are covered with rust,
    And parents and children are moldering to dust.

    The hearth that once glowed with warmth and with cheer,
    Is forsaken and desolate, cold and drear;
    No prattling of children's sweet voices are there,
    No songs of devotion, thanksgiving, or prayer.

    Just a few broken links of the beautiful chain,
    That bound us together on earth, yet remain;
    But that circle complete I hope I shall view
    In the day when the Lord maketh all things new.

  18. After Apple-Picking

    Apple Harvest
    Apple Harvest
    by Lajos Karcsay Leader
    by Robert Frost

    My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
    Toward heaven still,
    And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
    Beside it, and there may be two or three
    Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
    But I am done with apple-picking now.
    Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
    The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
    I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
    I got from looking through a pane of glass
    I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
    And held against the world of hoary grass.
    It melted, and I let it fall and break.
    But I was well

    Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
    And I could tell
    What form my dreaming was about to take.
    Magnified apples appear and disappear,
    Stem end and blossom end,
    And every fleck of russet showing dear.
    My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
    It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
    I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
    And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
    The rumbling sound
    Of load on load of apples coming in.
    For I have had too much
    Of apple-picking: I am overtired
    Of the great harvest I myself desired.
    There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
    Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
    For all
    That struck the earth,
    No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
    Went surely to the cider-apple heap
    As of no worth.
    One can see what will trouble
    This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
    Were he not gone,
    The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
    Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
    Or just some human sleep.

  19. Nothing Gold Can Stay

    by Robert Frost

    Nature's first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold,

    Her early leaf's a flower;
    But only so an hour.

    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,

    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

  20. It Is Well with My Soul

    by Horatio Gates Spafford

    When peace like a river attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
    “It is well, it is well with my soul!”

    Refrain:
    It is well with my soul!
    It is well, it is well with my soul!

    Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

    My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
    My sin, not in part, but the whole,
    Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

    For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
    If dark hours about me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

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