Chance Words

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As Winds That Blow Against A Star

(For Aline)

Now by what whim of wanton chance
Do radiant eyes know sombre days?
And feet that shod in light should dance
Walk weary and laborious ways?
But rays from Heaven, white and whole,
May penetrate the gloom of earth;
And tears but nourish, in your soul,
The glory of celestial mirth.
The darts of toil and sorrow, sent
Against your peaceful beauty, are
As foolish and as impotent
As winds that blow against a star.

Joyce Kilmer

Agincourt

FAIR stood the wind for France
When we our sails advance,
Nor now to prove our chance
Longer will tarry;
But putting to the main,
At Caux, the mouth of Seine,
With all his martial train
Landed King Harry.

And taking many a fort,
Furnish'd in warlike sort,
Marcheth tow'rds Agincourt
In happy hour;
Skirmishing day by day
With those that stopp'd his way,
Where the French gen'ral lay
With all his power.

Which, in his height of pride,
King Henry to deride,
His ransom to provide
Unto him sending;
Which he neglects the while
As from a nation vile,
Yet with an angry smile
Their fall portending.

And turning to his men,
Quoth our brave Henry then,
'Though they to one be ten
Be not amazed:
Yet have we well begun;
Battles so bravely won
Have ever to the sun
By fame been raised.

'And for myself (quoth he)
This my full rest shall be:
England ne'er mourn for me
Nor more esteem me:
Victor I will remain
Or on this earth lie slain,
Never shall she sustain
Loss to redeem me.

'Poitiers and Cressy tell,
When most their pride did swell,
Under our swords they fell:
No less our skill is
Than when our grandsire great,
Claiming the regal seat,
By many a warlike feat
Lopp'd the French lilies.'

The Duke of York so dread
The eager vaward led;
With the main Henry sped
Among his henchmen.
Excester had the rear,
A braver man not there;
O Lord, how hot they were
On the false Frenchmen!

They now to fight are gone,
Armour on armour shone,
Drum now to drum did groan,
To hear was wonder;
That with the cries they make
The very earth did shake:
Trumpet to trumpet spake,
Thunder to thunder.

Well it thine age became,
O noble Erpingham,
Which didst the signal aim
To our hid forces!
When from a meadow by,
Like a storm suddenly
The English archery
Stuck the French horses.

With Spanish yew so strong,
Arrows a cloth-yard long
That like to serpents stung,
Piercing the weather;
None from his fellow starts,
But playing manly parts,
And like true English hearts
Stuck close together.

When down their bows they threw,
And forth their bilbos drew,
And on the French they flew,
Not one was tardy;
Arms were from shoulders sent,
Scalps to the teeth were rent,
Down the French peasants went--
Our men were hardy.

This while our noble king,
His broadsword brandishing,
Down the French host did ding
As to o'erwhelm it;
And many a deep wound lent,
His arms with blood besprent,
And many a cruel dent
Bruised his helmet.

Gloster, that duke so good,
Next of the royal blood,
For famous England stood
With his brave brother;
Clarence, in steel so bright,
Though but a maiden knight,
Yet in that furious fight
Scarce such another.

Warwick in blood did wade,
Oxford the foe invade,
And cruel slaughter made
Still as they ran up;
Suffolk his axe did ply,
Beaumont and Willoughby
Bare them right doughtily,
Ferrers and Fanhope.

Upon Saint Crispin's Day
Fought was this noble fray,
Which fame did not delay
To England to carry.
O when shall English men
With such acts fill a pen?
Or England breed again
Such a King Harry?

Michael Drayton

I never hear that one is dead
Without the chance of Life
Afresh annihilating me
That mightiest Belief,

Too mighty for the Daily mind
That tilling its abyss,
Had Madness, had it once or twice
The yawning Consciousness,

Beliefs are Bandaged, like the Tongue
When Terror were it told
In any Tone commensurate
Would strike us instant Dead

I do not know the man so bold
He dare in lonely Place
That awful stranger Consciousness
Deliberately face --

Emily Dickinson

When the Assault Was Intended to the City

Captain, or colonel, or knight in arms,
Whose chance on these defenceless doors may seize,
If deed of honour did thee ever please,
Guard them, and him within protect from harms.
He can requite thee, for he knows the charms
That call fame on such gentle acts as these,
And he can spread thy name o’er lands and seas,
Whatever clime the sun’s bright circle warms.
Lift not thy spear against the Muse’s bower;
The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
Went to the ground; and the repeated air
Of sad Electra’s Poet had the power
To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.

John Milton

Sic Vita

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
Methinks,
For milder weather.
A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
The law
By which I'm fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
Doth make the rabble rout
That waste
The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,
But stand
In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
The woe
With which they're rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,
And after in life's vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
Alive
To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers
Will bear,
While I droop here.

Henry David Thoreau

Nirvana

not much chance,
completely cut loose from
purpose,
he was a young man
riding a bus
through North Carolina
on the wat to somewhere
and it began to snow
and the bus stopped
at a little cafe
in the hills
and the passengers
entered.
he sat at the counter
with the others,
he ordered and the
food arived.
the meal was
particularly
good
and the
coffee.
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
known.
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher.
in back,
laughed, a good
clean
pleasant
laugh.
the young man watched
the snow through the
windows.
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
forever.
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
was
beautiful
there,
that it would always
stay beautiful
there.
then the bus driver
told the passengers
that it was time
to board.
the young man
thought, I'll just sit
here, I'll just stay
here.
but then
he rose and followed
the others into the
bus.
he found his seat
and looked at the cafe
through the bus
window.
then the bus moved
off, down a curve,
downward, out of
the hills.
the young man
looked straight
foreward.
he heard the other
passengers
speaking
of other things,
or they were
reading
or
attempting to
sleep.
they had not
noticed
the
magic.
the young man
put his head to
one side,
closed his
eyes,
pretended to
sleep.
there was nothing
else to do-
just to listen to the
sound of the
engine,
the sound of the
tires
in the
snow.

Charles Bukowski

Chance

These things wondering I saw beneath the sun:
That never yet the race was to the swift,
The fight unto the mightiest to lift,
Nor favors unto men whose skill had done
Great works, nor riches ever unto one
Wise man of understanding. All is drift
Of time and chance, and none may stay or sift
Or know the end of that which is begun.
Who waits until the wind shall silent keep,
Will never find the ready hour to sow.
Who watcheth clouds will have no time to reap.
At daydawn plant thy seed, and be not slow
At night. God doth not slumber take nor sleep:
Which seed shall prosper thou shalt never know.

Helen Hunt Jackson

On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Robert Frost

Sonnet VIII

Oft as by chance, a little while apart
The pall of empty, loveless hours withdrawn,
Sweet Beauty, opening on the impoverished heart,
Beams like the jewel on the breast of dawn:
Not though high heaven should rend would deeper awe
Fill me than penetrates my spirit thus,
Nor all those signs the Patmian prophet saw
Seem a new heaven and earth so marvelous;
But, clad thenceforth in iridescent dyes,
The fair world glistens, and in after days
The memory of kind lips and laughing eyes
Lives in my step and lightens all my face, --
So they who found the Earthly Paradise
Still breathed, returned, of that sweet, joyful place.

Alan Seeger

Small Frogs Killed On The Highway

Still,
I would leap too
Into the light,
If I had the chance.
It is everything, the wet green stalk of the field
On the other side of the road.
They crouch there, too, faltering in terror
And take strange wing. Many
Of the dead never moved, but many
Of the dead are alive forever in the split second
Auto headlights more sudden
Than their drivers know.
The drivers burrow backward into dank pools
Where nothing begets
Nothing.

Across the road, tadpoles are dancing
On the quarter thumbnail
Of the moon. They can't see,
Not yet.

James Wright

If By Chance Your Eye Offend You

If by chance your eye offend you,
Pluck it out, lad, and be sound:
'Twill hurt, but here are salves to friend you,
And many a balsam grows on ground.

And if your hand or foot offend you,
Cut it off, lad, and be whole;
But play the man, stand up and end you,
When your sickness is your soul.

A. E. Housman

Come-by-Chance

As I pondered very weary o'er a volume long and dreary --
For the plot was void of interest; 'twas the Postal Guide, in fact --
There I learnt the true location, distance, size and population
Of each township, town, and village in the radius of the Act.
And I learnt that Puckawidgee stands beside the Murrumbidgee,
And the Booleroi and Bumble get their letters twice a year,
Also that the post inspector, when he visited Collector,
Closed the office up instanter, and re-opened Dungalear.

But my languid mood forsook me, when I found a name that took me;
Quite by chance I came across it -- "Come-by-Chance" was what I read;
No location was assigned it, not a thing to help one find it,
Just an N which stood for northward, and the rest was all unsaid.

I shall leave my home, and forthward wander stoutly to the northward
Till I come by chance across it, and I'll straightway settle down;
For there can't be any hurry, nor the slightest cause for worry
Where the telegraph don't reach you nor the railways run to town.

And one's letters and exchanges come by chance across the ranges,
Where a wiry young Australian leads a packhorse once a week,
And the good news grows by keeping, and you're spared the pain of weeping
Over bad news when the mailman drops the letters in a creek.

But I fear, and more's the pity, that there's really no such city,
For there's not a man can find it of the shrewdest folk I know;
"Come-by-Chance", be sure it never means a land of fierce endeavour --
It is just the careless country where the dreamers only go.

* * * * * * *

Though we work and toil and hustle in our life of haste and bustle,
All that makes our life worth living comes unstriven for and free;
Man may weary and importune, but the fickle goddess Fortune
Deals him out his pain or pleasure, careless what his worth may be.

All the happy times entrancing, days of sport and nights of dancing,
Moonlit rides and stolen kisses, pouting lips and loving glance:
When you think of these be certain you have looked behind the curtain,
You have had the luck to linger just a while in "Come-by-Chance".

Andrew Barton Paterson

To One Hated

Had it been when I came to the valley where the paths parted asunder,
Chance had led my feet to the way of love, not hate,
I might have cherished you well, have been to you fond and faithful,
Great as my hatred is, so might my love have been great.

Each cold word of mine might have been a kiss impassioned,
Warm with the throb of my heart, thrilled with my pulse's leap,
And every glance of scorn, lashing, pursuing, and stinging,
As a look of tenderness would have been wondrous and deep.

Bitter our hatred is, old and strong and unchanging,
Twined with the fibres of life, blent with body and soul,
But as its bitterness, so might have been our love's sweetness
Had it not missed the way­strange missing and sad!­to its goal.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Taking His Chance

They stood by the door of the Inn on the Rise;
May Carney looked up in the bushranger's eyes:
`Oh! why did you come? -- it was mad of you, Jack;
You know that the troopers are out on your track.'
A laugh and a shake of his obstinate head --
`I wanted a dance, and I'll chance it,' he said.

Some twenty-odd bushmen had come to the `ball',
But Jack from his youth had been known to them all,
And bushmen are soft where a woman is fair,
So the love of May Carney protected him there;
And all the short evening -- it seems like romance --
She danced with a bushranger taking his chance.

`Twas midnight -- the dancers stood suddenly still,
For hoofs had been heard on the side of the hill!
Ben Duggan, the drover, along the hillside
Came riding as only a bushman can ride.
He sprang from his horse, to the shanty he sped --
`The troopers are down in the gully!' he said.

Quite close to the homestead the troopers were seen.
`Clear out and ride hard for the ranges, Jack Dean!
Be quick!' said May Carney -- her hand on her heart --
`We'll bluff them awhile, and 'twill give you a start.'
He lingered a moment -- to kiss her, of course --
Then ran to the trees where he'd hobbled his horse.

She ran to the gate, and the troopers were there --
The jingle of hobbles came faint on the air --
Then loudly she screamed: it was only to drown
The treacherous clatter of slip-rails let down.
But troopers are sharp, and she saw at a glance
That someone was taking a desperate chance.

They chased, and they shouted, `Surrender, Jack Dean!'
They called him three times in the name of the Queen.
Then came from the darkness the clicking of locks;
The crack of the rifles was heard in the rocks!
A shriek and a shout, and a rush of pale men --
And there lay the bushranger, chancing it then.

The sergeant dismounted and knelt on the sod --
`Your bushranging's over -- make peace, Jack, with God!'
The bushranger laughed -- not a word he replied,
But turned to the girl who knelt down by his side.
He gazed in her eyes as she lifted his head:
`Just kiss me -- my girl -- and -- I'll -- chance it,' he said.

Henry Lawson

The Gascon

I AM always inclined to suspect
The best story under the sun
As soon as by chance I detect
That teller and hero are one.

We're all of us prone to conceit,
And like to proclaim our own glory,
But our purpose we're apt to defeat
As actors in chief of our story.

To prove the truth of what I state
Let me an anecdote relate:
A Gascon with his comrade sat
At tavern drinking. This and that
He vaunted with assertion pat.
From gasconade to gasconade
Passed to the conquests he had made
In love. A buxom country maid,
Who served the wine, with due attention
Lent patient ear to each invention,
And pressed her hands against her side
Her bursting merriment to hide.
To hear our Gascon talk, no Sue
Nor Poll in town but that he knew;
With each he'd passed a blissful night
More to their own than his delight.
This one he loved for she was fair,
That for her glossy ebon hair.
One miss, to tame his cruel rigour,
Had brought him gifts.--She owned his vigour
In short it wanted but his gaze
To set each trembling heart ablaze.
His strength surpassed his luck,--the test--
In one short night ten times he'd blessed
A dame who gratefully expressed
Her thanks with corresponding zest.
At this the maid burst forth, "What more?
"I never heard such lies before!
"Content were I if at that sport
"I had what that poor dame was short."

Jean de La Fontaine

Kore

As I was walking
I came upon
chance walking
the same road upon.

As I sat down
by chance to move
later
if and as I might,

light the wood was,
light and green,
and what I saw
before I had not seen.

It was a lady
accompanied
by goat men
leading her.

Her hair held earth.
Her eyes were dark.
A double flute
made her move.

"O love,
where are you
leading
me now?"

Robert Creeley

Sonnet LXXXI

Fayre is my loue, when her fayre golden heares,
with the loose wynd ye wauing chance to marke:
fayre when the rose in her red cheekes appeares,
or in her eyes the fyre of loue does sparke.
Fayre when her brest lyke a rich laden barke,
with pretious merchandize she forth doth lay:
fayre whe[n] that cloud of pryde, which oft doth dark
her goodly light with smiles she driues away.
But fayrest she, when so she doth display,
the gate with pearles and rubyes richly dight:
throgh which her words so wise do make their way
to beare the message of her gentle spright,
The rest be works of natures wonderment,
but this the worke of harts astonishment.

Edmund Spenser

XII. Written at a Convent.

IF chance some pensive stranger, hither led,
His bosom glowing from majestic views,
The gorgeous dome, or the proud landscape's hues,
Should ask who sleeps beneath this lowly bed --
'Tis poor Matilda! To the cloister'd scene,
A mourner, beauteous and unknown, she came,
To shed her tears unseen; and quench the flame
Of fruitless love: yet was her look serene
As the pale midnight on the moon-light isle --
Her voice was soft, which e'en a charm could lend,
Like that which spoke of a departed friend,
And a meek sadness sat upon her smile!
Now here remov'd from ev'ry human ill,
Her woes are buried, and her heart is still.

William Lisle Bowles

A Suggestion

As I go and shop, sir!
If a car I stop, sir!
Where you chance to sit,
And you want to read, sir!
Never mind or heed, sir!
I’ll not care a bit.

For it’s now aesthetic
To be quite athletic.
That’s our fad, you know.
I can hold the strap, sir!
And keep off your lap, sir!
As we jolting go.

If you read on blindly,
I shall take it kindly,
All the car’s not mine.
But, if you sit and stare, sir!
At my eyes and hair, sir!
I must draw the line.

If the stare is meant, sir!
For a compliment, sir!
As we jog through town,
Allow me to suggest, sir!
A woman oft looks best, sir!
When she’s sitting down.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Ordinary Man

If you and I should chance to meet,
I guess you wouldn't care;
I'm sure you'd pass me in the street
As if I wasn't there;
You'd never look me in the face,
My modest mug to scan,
Because I'm just a commonplace
And Ordinary Man.

But then, it may be, you are too
A guy of every day,
Who does the job he's told to do
And takes the wife his pay;
Who makes a home and kids his care,
And works with pick or pen. . . .
Why, Pal, I guess we're just a pair
Of Ordinary Men.

We plug away and make no fuss,
Our feats are never crowned;
And yet it's common coves like us
Who make the world go round.
And as we steer a steady course
By God's predestined plan,
Hats off to that almighty Force:
THE ORDINARY MAN.

Robert W. Service
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