Category Archives: Health and Humanities

Richard Wilbur’s “Boy at the Window”

Boy at the Window (1952)
by Richard Wilbur

Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare
A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where
The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes
Returns him such a God-forsaken stare
As outcast Adam gave to paradise.

The man of snow is, nonetheless, content,
Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element,
He melts enough to drop from one soft eye
A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.

Richard Wilbur, “Boy at the Window” from Collected Poems. © Harcourt, 2004. Suggested to the Humanities Institute by Evan Carton, UT Department of English.

William Williams’s Spring and All

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was a poet and general practitioner in Patterson, New Jersey, who cared primarily for working-class and immigrant families.

Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital]
by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

William Williams, “By the Road to the Contagious Hospital” from Spring and All. New Directions Publishing, 2011. Shared with the Humanities  Institute by Phillip Barrish, Professor of English and Associate Director for Health and Humanities, UT Humanities Institute.

John O’Donohue’s “This Is the Time to Be Slow”

This Is the Time to Be Slow
by John O’Donohue

This is the time to be slow

Lie low to the wall

Until the bitter weather passes

 

Try, as best you can, not to let

The wire brush of doubt

Scrape from your heart

All sense of yourself

And your hesitant light.

 

If you remain generous,

Time will come good;

And you will find your feet

Again on fresh pastures of promise,

Where the air will be kind

And blushed with beginning.

 

John O’Donohue, “This Is the Time to Be Slow.” From To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. Penguin Random House, 2008. Suggested to the Humanities Institute by Professor Kristie Loescher, McCombs School of Business, UT Austin.

C.P. Cavafy’s “The God Abandons Antony”

The God Abandons Antony (1911)
by C.P. Cavafy

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear

an invisible procession going by

with exquisite music, voices,

don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,

work gone wrong, your plans

all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.

As one long prepared, and graced with courage,

say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.

Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say

it was a dream, your ears deceived you:

don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.

As one long prepared, and graced with courage,

as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,

go firmly to the window

and listen with deep emotion, but not

with the whining, the pleas of a coward;

listen—your final delectation—to the voices,

to the exquisite music of that strange procession,

and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

C.P. Cavafy, “The God Abandons Antony” (translated by Edmund Keeley/Phillip Sherrard) from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems: Revised Edition. Princeton University Press 1993. Poem originally published in 1911. Shared with the Humanities Institute by Professor Allen MacDuffie of the UT Department of English.