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Thursday

Z is for Zaccheus


Scottish fantasy novelist, poet and pastor George MacDonald (1824-1905) wrote such well-known works as At the Back of the North Wind, Lilith, Phantastes, and The Princess and the Goblin. Many popular authors have saluted him as an influence, including W.H. Auden, Lewis Carroll, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Zaccheus
By George MacDonald

To whom the heavy burden clings,
It yet may serve him like a staff;
One day the cross will break in wings,
The sinner laugh a holy laugh.

The dwarfed Zacchaeus climbed a tree,
His humble stature set him high;
The Lord the little man did see
Who sought the great man passing by.

Up to the tree he came, and stopped:
'To-day,' he said, 'with thee I bide.'
A spirit-shaken fruit he dropped,
Ripe for the Master, at his side.

Sure never host with gladder look
A welcome guest home with him bore!
Then rose the Satan of rebuke
And loudly spake beside the door:

'This is no place for holy feet;
Sinners should house and eat alone!
This man sits in the stranger's seat
And grinds the faces of his own!'

Outspoke the man, in Truth's own might:
'Lord, half my goods I give the poor;
If one I've taken more than right
With four I make atonement sure!'

'Salvation here is entered in;
This man indeed is Abraham's son!'
Said he who came the lost to win-
And saved the lost whom he had won.

Last year’s A to Z post: A Zillion Zigzags

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Wednesday

Y is for Ye Flowery Banks


Scottish Romantic poet Robert Burns (1759–1796) penned lyrical lines that live on in literature. Popular poems by Burns include “A Man’s a Man for a’ That,” “The Battle of Sherramuir,” “A Red, Red Rose,” and “Tam o’ Shanter.”

Ye Flowery Banks
By Robert Burns

Ye flowery banks o' bonie Doon,
         How can ye blume sae fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
         And I sae fu' o' care?

Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird,
         That sings upon the bough;
Thou minds me o' the happy days,
         When my fause love was true.

Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird,
         That sings beside thy mate;
For sae I sat, and sae I sang,
         And wist na o' my fate.

Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon
         To see the wood-bine twine,
And ilka bird sang o' its luve,
         And sae did I o' mine.

Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose
         Frae aff its thorny tree;
And my fause luver staw my rose
         But left the thorn wi' me.

Last year’s A to Z post: Yea or Nay
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Tuesday

X is for eXiled


Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was an award-winning American poet and playwright. With her lyrical style, she earned the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923.

Exiled
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Searching my heart for its true sorrow,
This is the thing I find to be:
That I am weary of words and people,
Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness
Of the strong wind and shattered spray;
Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound
Of the big surf that breaks all day.

Always before about my dooryard,
Marking the reach of the winter sea,
Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,
Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

Always I climbed the wave at morning,
Shook the sand from my shoes at night,
That now am caught beneath great buildings,
Stricken with noise, confused with light.

If I could hear the green piles groaning
Under the windy wooden piers,
See once again the bobbing barrels,
And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

If I could see the weedy mussels
Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,
Hear once again the hungry crying
Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

Feel once again the shanty straining
Under the turning of the tide,
Fear once again the rising freshet,
Dread the bell in the fog outside,—

I should be happy,—that was happy
All day long on the coast of Maine!
I have a need to hold and handle
Shells and anchors and ships again!

I should be happy, that am happy
Never at all since I came here.
I am too long away from water.
I have a need of water near.

Last year’s A to Z post: Extolling Exhaustless Extravagance
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By MaltaGuy
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Monday

W is for Where Art Thou, Muse


Popularly tagged “The Bard of Avon,” William Shakespeare has been called one of the finest writers in English language history. Shakespeare penned 38 plays (including comedies, histories, and tragedies), as well as more than 150 sonnets.

Shakespeare’s best-known works include As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Here’s a savory sonnet for writers everywhere from a wonderful wordsmith.

Where Art Thou, Muse?
(Sonnet 100)
By William Shakespeare
Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time's spoils despised every where.
   Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
   So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.


That’s for all the A to Z Blogging Challenge participants!

The muse awaits! Keep on blogging! The finish line is close!
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Last year’s A to Z post: Wee Words on Writing   
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By Eustache Le Sueur
Circa 1655
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Sunday

V is for The Village Blacksmith


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was one of American literature’s most prestigious poets. His popular works included “Evangeline,” “The Song of Hiawatha,” and “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

Here’s another Longfellow classic:


The Village Blacksmith
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipe
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling,--rejoicing,--sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!

Last year’s A to Z post: No Victim of Violence
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By Edmund Mahlknecht
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Saturday

U is for Us Too


Who doesn’t love Winnie-the-Pooh?

A.A. Milne (1882-1956) was a British author and playwright, most famous for his series of children’s books about Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Christopher Robin and the other Hundred Acre Wood characters.

Us Too
By A.A. Milne

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "
That's how it is," says Pooh.

Last year’s A to Z post: Upper Room Unbooked  
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Friday

T is for The Triple Fool



British metaphysical poet and priest John Donne (1572-1631) blended spirituality and sensuality with dynamic devotion in his sonnets, sermons and songs. Here’s a prime example.

The Triple Fool
By John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
    For loving, and for saying so
        In whining poetry ;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
        If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
    Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
    Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
    But when I have done so,
    Some man, his art and voice to show,
        Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
        Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
    But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
    For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

Of course, my favorite poem by John Donne is his “Holy Sonnet XIV,” which happens to be one of my three all-time best-loved poems of all time. But it doesn’t start with a “T.”

Last year’s A to Z post: A Tricky Tag for Training
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Lucrezia Borgia
By Bartolomeo Veneto
16th Century
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Thursday

S is for Still I Rise


Writer and civil rights champion Maya Angelou (1928 - ) may be one of the most famous American poets of the current age. Her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, has become almost required reading for American literature students.

With dozens of honorary doctorate degrees, she has spoken at Presidential Inaugurations and university graduations. In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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This poem demonstrates Angelou’s indomitable spirit.

Still I Rise
By Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
 With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.


I rise
I rise
I rise.

Last year’s A to Z post: Stuck on Self
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Wednesday

R is for The Road Not Taken


New England’s Robert Frost (1874-1963) wrote plenty of poems that proved both provincial and profound. In fact, Frost earned four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry (1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943).

Here’s one of Frost’s most famous and oft-quoted works.

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Last year’s A to Z post: The Rumormonger’s Report
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By Blokenearexeter
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Tuesday

Q is for Quiet Girl


American poet and playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) became known as a columnist, a social activist and a wordsmith. His writings were popularly associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.

Hughes’ most famous works include Black Nativity, The Dream Keeper, Let America Be America Again, Not Without Laughter, Shakespeare in Harlem, and The Weary Blues.

Ponder the paradoxical phrasings of this treasured verse.
Quiet Girl
By Langston Hughes

I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.
 Last year’s A to Z post: A Quick Quack … or a Sure Smack
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A Wistful Look
By James Carroll Beckwith
19th Century
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