A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems (1800).
George Charlton, "The Four Seasons: Spring" (c. 1942)
In terms of sound and sense, words and meaning, form and feeling, I believe that this is as close to perfect as poetry can get. On a previous occasion, I attempted to discuss a few of the many fine things about this poem, so I will not repeat that discussion here.
Although I cannot define "poetry," I can say that one mark of a good poem is that it follows you over the years: it haunts you (in a good sense); it returns when you least expect it. Thus, in recent months I have encountered two poems that brought me back to "A slumber did my spirit seal." And now, by mere chance, I have three lovely poems circling around one another.
George Charlton, "The Four Seasons: Summer" (c. 1942)
First, I came across this:
Lay a garland on my hearse
Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow branches bear,
Say I died true.
My Love was false, but I was firm
From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lay
Lightly, gently, earth.
Francis Beaumont/John Fletcher, The Maid's Tragedy (1622), in Norman Ault (editor), Elizabethan Lyrics (1949). The poem is sometimes titled "Aspatia's Song" because it is spoken by a character of that name in Beaumont and Fletcher's play.
George Charlton, "The Four Seasons: Autumn" (c. 1942)
A month or so later, I discovered this:
The honey-throated nightingale, our Musa the blue-eyed
This narrow tomb claimed suddenly where she doth voiceless bide:
For all her art and all her fame, stone-still she lies to-day:
And over thee, our Musa fair, light lie the dust for aye.
A. H. Bullen, Weeping-Cross and Other Rimes (1921).
The poem is a translation by Bullen of an anonymous poem in The Greek Anthology. Bullen was well-known in his time as the editor of a number of editions of Elizabethan verse and drama, and as the founder of the Shakespeare Head Press, which was located in Stratford-upon-Avon. He self-published two volumes of poems (of 25 copies and 30 copies), which he gave to friends only. After his death, Weeping-Cross and Other Rimes was issued. It contains forty poems.
Given Bullen's interests, it is not surprising that his translation of the Greek original has an Elizabethan feel to it.
George Charlton, "The Four Seasons: Winter" (c. 1942)