Poems or lines that bring a lump to your throat.

What’s your favourite saddest lines/poems that invariably set your waterworks going or put a lump the size of a baseball in your throat?

Judgement is simply trying to reject
A part of what we are, because it hurts.
The living cannot call the dead, collect,
They won’t accept the charge, and it reverts.

It’s my own judgement day that I draw near
Descending in the past, without a clue,
Down to that central deadness, the despair,
Older than any hope I ever knew.

(From: Because by James McCauley

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.

“If equal affection cannot be/Let the more loving one be me.”

–W.H. Auden

Lament, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco…"

aaarggh!! ive spent the last hour fruitlessly looking online for a poem called ‘the brothers.’ unfortunately, i dont remember the author, and my norton anthology is in any one af twenty big boxes. can anyone help?

heres one from philip larkin thats always kicked my ass.

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

If memory serves “The Brothers” is a narrative poem by Wordsworth.

Standing by the window I heard it,
while waiting for the turn. In hot light
and chill air it was the crossing flow
of even life, hurt in the mouth but
exhausted with passion and joy. Free
to leave at either side, at the fold line
found in threats like herbage, the watch
is fearful and promised before. The years
jostle and burn up as a trust plasma.
Beyond help it is joy at death itself:
a toy hard to bear, laughing all night.

*–last section of J.H. Prynne, *The Oval Window

At Gallipoli, a place sacred to most Australians and New Zealanders, and the scene of a terrible allied defeat in the Great War, there is a memorial erected by the Turkish Government which bears these words:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…you are now lying of the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
-Kemal Ataturk

[sup]Total casualties of the Gallipoli Campaign

Approximate allied casualties . . . 250,000 (incl. French forces)
Approximate allied deaths . . . 50,000
Turkish casualties . . . over 300,000

The suffering of the wounded was terrible and the facilities for dealing with them were hopelessly inadequate. Death came in horrible ways. Men were killed in action, sniped or shelled. Some died of wounds, dysentery or disease, others were drowned or died of exposure. Men were both burned and frozen to death.
Walker, R W: To What End did they Die?: Officers killed at Gallipoli: The Author: Worcester, England: 1985: pp. 1 & 4[/sup]

The old lie: Dulci et decorum est
Pro patria mori

Thanks, essvee, for the Philip Larkin. I’ve got another of his. In fact, I seem to recall being recently very drunk and posting this in a different thread. No matter, it bears repeating. It is called ‘Wants.’

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff–
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes from death–
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.

And I have one more, this one from W. B. Yeats, titled ‘A Drinking Song’:

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Until we grow old and die.
I raise the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Thank God for poetry!

Indeed, thank God for poetry…

and wine!!

Hey TLD, ever listened to Eric Bogle stuff about the diggers of WW1 (especially ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ and one…I’m not sure if it’s called ‘The Flutes of the Forest’ but it goes…

Well how’d you do Private William McBride
D’ya mind if I sit here down by your graveside
I’ll rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day, lord, and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene.

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o’er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sing the ‘Last Post’ in chorus?
Did the pipes play the "Flutes of the Forest’?

(Well, that’s the first verse and chorus anyway…)

Yup, kambuckta, sure have. The one you quoted is a particular favourite of mine.

I’ve always particularly loved the above lines because, hearing the first, you think it’s just another sabre-rattling, war-glorifying song. Then you hear the second. The reality. That one chills me.

“Reuben Bright” by Edwin Arlington Robinson. That second quatrain always breaks my heart:

Because he was a butcher and thereby
Did earn an honest living (and did right),
I would not have you think that Reuben Bright
Was any more a brute than you or I;
For when they told him that his wife must die,
He stared at them, and shook with grief and fright,
And cried like a great baby half that night,
And made the women cry to see him cry.

And after she was dead, and he had paid
The singers and the sexton and the rest,
He packed a lot of things that she had made
Most mournfully away in an old chest
Of hers, and put some chopped-up cedar boughs
In with them, and tore down the slaughter-house.

Gotta be “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke:

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

I’m not even English, it it still gets me.

Another one would have to be lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner”; if you don’t just sing it mechanically and actually stop and think about the words, you’ll get a lump in your throat too.

“On My First Son” by Ben Jonson

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy:
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O could I lose all father now! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy,
To have so soon 'scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age.
Rest in soft peace, and asked, say, “Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.”
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.

Buy the soundtrack to The Civil War, the PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Flip to the last track, which is an actor reading the last letter of Sullivan Ballou to his wife. He reads that, over a fiddle and guitar playing Ashokan Farewell. I have found that I am physically incapable of listening to this track without tearing up. The words are here.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers
you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens
(touching skilfully, misteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending
nothing we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility; whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain has such small hands
– e. e. cummings

Well… I’m gonna get laughed at for this… but, the line that has gotten me was from Moulin Rouge. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Yeah, I know, everyone else here is cultured and I’m not.

Just to save a little face, one of my favs:

Life is real. Life is earnest,
and the grave is not it’s goal.
Dust thou art. To dust returnest
was never spoken of the soul.


Thank you, kambuckta. I always enjoy these threads and the chance to read new stuff.

Death in Battle

Open the gates for me,
Open the gates of the peaceful castle, rosy in the West,
In the sweet dim Isle of Apples over the wide sea’s breast,
Open the gates for me!
Sorely pressed have I been
And driven and hurt beyond bearing this summer day.
But the heat and the pain together suddenly fall away,
All’s cool and green.
But a moment agone,
Among men cursing in fight and toiling, blinded I fought,
But the labour passed on a sudden even as a passing thought,
And now–alone!
Ah, to be ever alone,
In flowery valleys among the mountains and silent wastes untrod,
In the dewy upland places, in the garden of God,
This would atone!
I shall not see
The brutal, crowded faces around me, that in their toil have grown
Into the faces of devils–yea, even as my own–
When I find thee,
O Country of Dreams!
Beyond the tide of the ocean, hidden and sunk away,
Out of the sound of battles, near to the end of day,
Full of dim woods and streams.

–C.S. Lewis