Poetry Out Loud Winner: Isabella Callery

Ahhh, Chas. Lamb…marvelous sounds performed trippingly.

The National Champion of this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition was announced Wednesday. Isabella Callery recites “Thoughtless Cruelty” by Charles Lamb.npr-rss-pixel.png?story=719366869

Thoughtless Cruelty

BY CHARLES LAMB

There, Robert, you have kill’d that fly — ,
And should you thousand ages try
The life you’ve taken to supply,
You could not do it.

You surely must have been devoid
Of thought and sense, to have destroy’d
A thing which no way you annoy’d —
You’ll one day rue it.

Twas but a fly perhaps you’ll say,
That’s born in April, dies in May;
That does but just learn to display
His wings one minute,

And in the next is vanish’d quite.
A bird devours it in his flight —
Or come a cold blast in the night,
There’s no breath in it.

The bird but seeks his proper food —
And Providence, whose power endu’d
That fly with life, when it thinks good,
May justly take it.

But you have no excuses for’t —
A life by Nature made so short,
Less reason is that you for sport
Should shorter make it.

A fly a little thing you rate —
But, Robert do not estimate
A creature’s pain by small or great;
The greatest being

Can have but fibres, nerves, and flesh,
And these the smallest ones possess,
Although their frame and structure less
Escape our seeing.

Personally, I prefer the performance and command of Rumi to Lamb. Here is Gage Gramlick reciting.

“Where did the handsome beloved go?”

BY JALAL AL-DIN RUMI

TRANSLATED BY BRAD GOOCH AND MARYAM MORTAZ

Where did the handsome beloved go?
I wonder, where did that tall, shapely cypress tree go?

He spread his light among us like a candle.
Where did he go? So strange, where did he go without me?

All day long my heart trembles like a leaf.
All alone at midnight, where did that beloved go?

Go to the road, and ask any passing traveler — 
That soul-stirring companion, where did he go?

Go to the garden, and ask the gardener — 
That tall, shapely rose stem, where did he go?

Go to the rooftop, and ask the watchman — 
That unique sultan, where did he go?

Like a madman, I search in the meadows!
That deer in the meadows, where did he go?

My tearful eyes overflow like a river — 
That pearl in the vast sea, where did he go?

All night long, I implore both moon and Venus — 
That lovely face, like a moon, where did he go?

If he is mine, why is he with others?
Since he’s not here, to what “there” did he go?

If his heart and soul are joined with God,
And he left this realm of earth and water, where did he go?

Tell me clearly, Shams of Tabriz,
Of whom it is said, “The sun never dies” — where did he go?

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