Comparing a Summer's Day
June 18, 2008 8:29 AM   Subscribe

What poems can I think about while riding my bike on these beautiful June mornings?

I go for bike rides in the early am on trails through the woods and lately it's just been lovely. (and temperate)
I lean more towards angst ridden or melancholy poems, at least as stored in my memory banks. I'd like to think of glorious, nature loving, optimistic lines while starting my day.
Picture sunlight streaming through the trees, meadows filled with wild flowers, baby ducks... that's what I am seeing, and words that capture it?
posted by readery to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is the type of poetry you're looking for, but I always think of the first part of Francis Thomson's From the Night of Forebeing on particularly beautiful early mornings:
Cast wide the folding doorways of the East,
For now is light increased!
And the wind-besomed chambers of the air,
See they be garnished fair;
And look the ways exhale some precious odours,
And set ye all about wild-breathing spice,
Most fit for Paradise.
Now is no time for sober gravity,
Season enough has Nature to be wise;
But now discinct, with raiment glittering free,
Shake she the ringing rafters of the skies
With festal footing and bold joyance sweet,
And let the earth be drunken and carouse!
For lo, into her house
Spring is come home with her world-wandering feet,
And all things are made young with young desires;
And all for her is light increased
In yellow stars and yellow daffodils,
And East to West, and West to East,
Fling answering welcome-fires,
By dawn and day-fall, on the jocund hills.
Break, elemental children, break ye loose
From the strict frosty rule
Of grey-beard Winter's school.
Vault, O young winds, vault in your tricksome courses
Upon the snowy steeds that reinless use
In coerule pampas of the heaven to run;
Foaled of the white sea-horses,
Washed in the lambent waters of the sun.

posted by frobozz at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2008

Along the roads of life there are many, many ruts.
Falling into one can surely drive you nuts.

Always backtrack your steps, to see just how you fell.
Knowing that being in a rut ... can become a living hell.

Your thinking is negative. Nothing goes right.
If you don't try to look up, you barely see light.

Self-pity takes over. You think only of regrets.
The longer this goes on, you find ... the deeper it gets.

So if you see one coming, be sure to take a different route.
Because once you're in a rut, my friend, it's hard to get out.

-- Phyllis Zuccarello
posted by netbros at 9:14 AM on June 18, 2008

Keeping things Whole, by Mark Strand.

And maybe this one by Wallace Stevens:


It was when I said,
“There is no such thing as the truth,”
That the grapes seemed fatter.
The fox ran out of his hole.

You….You said,
“There are many truths,
But they are not parts of a truth.”
Then the tree, at night, began to change,

Smoking through green and smoking blue.
We were two figures in a wood.
We said we stood alone.

It was when I said,
“Words are not forms of a single word.
In the sum of the parts, there are only the parts.
The world must be measured by eye.”

It was when you said,
“The idols have seen lots of poverty,
Snakes and gold and lice,
But not the truth;”

It was at that time, that the silence was largest,
And longest, the night was roundest.
The fragrance of the autumn warmest,
Closest, and strongest.

Fun question...I'll try to think of some more...
posted by newmoistness at 9:15 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

posted by jammy at 9:34 AM on June 18, 2008

Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road was one I always thought of while out on the 'ol Schwinn.
posted by gyusan at 9:36 AM on June 18, 2008

I don't have any of the volumes at hand, but I've always thought that Mary Oliver went well with glorious outside times, sometimes with a melancholy touch. (best of both worlds?) IIRC, American Primitive is the one I've read the most; it sort of follows the seasons over the course of the book. There's one about a bear & honey that you might enjoy, although the exact lines don't jump to mind. (I suck at memorizing poetry.)
posted by epersonae at 9:37 AM on June 18, 2008

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Admittedly a Christian poet, but I'm not religious and I love this poem anyway. Feel free to substitute your own spirituality).
posted by selfnoise at 9:38 AM on June 18, 2008

(not really a poem, but you could recite it like one...)

"This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls." --John Muir
posted by jammy at 9:40 AM on June 18, 2008

Corson's Inlet by A. R. Ammons (poet/biologist)
posted by amtho at 9:41 AM on June 18, 2008

Ah, this is the one I was thinking of: "Honey at the Table".
posted by epersonae at 9:43 AM on June 18, 2008

Also, Wordsworth has many poems that might fit, but here's one:


------NOT a breath of air
Ruffles the bosom of this leafy glen.
From the brook's margin, wide around, the trees
Are stedfast as the rocks; the brook itself,
Old as the hills that feed it from afar,
Doth rather deepen than disturb the calm
Where all things else are still and motionless.
And yet, even now, a little breeze, perchance
Escaped from boisterous winds that rage without,
Has entered, by the sturdy oaks unfelt,
But to its gentle touch how sensitive
Is the light ash! that, pendent from the brow
Of yon dim cave, in seeming silence makes
A soft eye-music of slow-waving boughs,
Powerful almost as vocal harmony
To stay the wanderer's steps and soothe his thoughts.
posted by selfnoise at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2008

Also, in another month or two, August might be appropriate.
the black honey of summer
into my mouth
I can smell blackberries along the side of the trail already. :)
posted by epersonae at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2008

The morning was, a memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld.
The sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds,
Grain-tinctured, drench'd in empyrean light;
And, in the meadows and the lower grounds,
Was all the sweetness of a common dawn--
Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds,
And Labourers going forth into the fields.
Ah! Need I say, dear Friend, that to the brim
My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be--else sinning greatly--
A dedicated Spirit. On I walked
In blessedness, which even yet remains.

--From "The Prelude" by William Wordsworth
posted by jammy at 9:50 AM on June 18, 2008

I love Morning Has Broken. Yes it's a Christian hymn but it was originally a poem - and you can think of the Cat Stevens cover if it makes you feel better.

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day.
posted by kitkatcathy at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2008

I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

-- Emily Dickinson
posted by jammy at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2008

Most of the Tao Te Ching might also work well.
posted by newmoistness at 10:20 AM on June 18, 2008

(feel free to substitute "gals" for "boys)

On the Road by Ninon Neckar

Away we go on our wheels, boys,
As free as the roving breeze,
And over our pathway steals, boys,
The music of wind-swept trees;
And round by the woods and over the hill
Where the ground so gently swells.
From a thousand throats in echoing notes
The songster melody wells.

Along we speed o’er the road, boys, —
The road that we know so well;
Those oaks know the whir of our wheels, boys,
And they welcome the cycle’s bell;
And down in the hollow the streamlet flows
In rollicking humor along;
While flinging its wavelets’ cadence up
To challenge the cycler’s song.

Above us we feel in the air, boys,
A spirit that’s kin with ours, —
A spirit that gives to our life, boys,
The brightest of earth’s best flowers;
For the health and strength that are beauty’s own,
That are stamped with Nature’s seal,
Are securely bound and circled round
In the spokes of the flying wheel.
posted by jammy at 10:48 AM on June 18, 2008

From The Wind in the Willows:

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

Ducks' tails, drakes' tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim--
Here we keep our larder,
Cool and full and dim.

Everyone for what he likes!
WE like to be
Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above
Swifts whirl and call--
WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!
And then William Allingham:
The Fairies

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!
posted by pracowity at 11:28 AM on June 18, 2008

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2008

Thanks, just what I needed - these will last me through the summer.

But I can always be greedy for more poetry.
posted by readery at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2008

This is a night time poem but depends how early you start riding...

The Cows at Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them–forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.

-- Hayden Carruth
posted by jessamyn at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

John Clare's "Summer Images" is made to order:

Rich music breathes in Summer's every sound;
And in her harmony of varied greens,
Woods, meadows, hedge-rows, corn-fields, all around
Much beauty intervenes,
Filling with harmony the ear and eye;
While o'er the mingling scenes
Far spreads the laughing sky.

It has a "moon-June-spoon" quality to it, but his poems are really more like ballad sheets than capital L Literature - they're perfect for singing to yourself on a bike ride!
posted by ryanshepard at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2008

One of my favorites:

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything
which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;
this is the birth day
of life and of love
of wings:
and a gay great happening illimitably earth)

how should
tasting touching
hearing seeing
--lifted from the no of all nothing-
human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake
and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- e.e. cummings
posted by triggerfinger at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, triggerfinger.
I had forgotten that poem. I memorized it as a teenager with just the same idea in mind as my middle-aged self has now.
Two readings and it comes back to me good as new.
posted by readery at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2008

The Lady of Shalott
posted by ZaneJ. at 4:44 PM on June 18, 2008

What wondrous life is this I lead!

Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peace
Into my hand themselves do reach;
Sumbling on melons, as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Andrew Marvell.

(not so much about cycling, but it works for me)
posted by twirlypen at 1:18 AM on June 19, 2008

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