Robert Frost |
Her teacher's certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, "Maple—
Maple is right.
"But teacher told the school
There's no such name.
"Teachers don't know as much
As fathers about children, you tell teacher.
You tell her that it's M-A-P-L-E.
You ask her if she knows a maple tree.
Well, you were named after a maple tree.
Your mother named you.
You and she just saw
Each other in passing in the room upstairs,
One coming this way into life, and one
Going the other out of life—you know?
So you can't have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard
It must have made your dimple there, and said,
' I said it too: 'Yes, for her name.
So we're sure there's no mistake.
I don't know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree's for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn't try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know
About the different trees, and something, too,
About your mother that perhaps may help.
Dangerous self-arousing words to sow.
Luckily all she wanted of her name then
Was to rebuke her teacher with it next day,
And give the teacher a scare as from her father.
Anything further had been wasted on her,
Or so he tried to think to avoid blame.
She would forget it.
She all but forgot it.
What he sowed with her slept so long a sleep,
And came so near death in the dark of years,
That when it woke and came to life again
The flower was different from the parent seed.
It carne back vaguely at the glass one day,
As she stood saying her name over aloud,
Striking it gently across her lowered eyes
To make it go well with the way she looked.
What was it about her name? Its strangeness lay
In having too much meaning.
As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie,
Rose could have a meaning,
But hadn't as it went.
(She knew a Rose.
This difference from other names it was
Made people notice it—and notice her.
(They either noticed it, or got it wrong.
Her problem was to find out what it asked
In dress or manner of the girl who bore it.
If she could form some notion of her mother—
What she bad thought was lovely, and what good.
This was her mother's childhood home;
The house one story high in front, three stories
On the end it presented to the road.
(The arrangement made a pleasant sunny cellar.
Her mother's bedroom was her father's still,
Where she could watch her mother's picture fading.
Once she found for a bookmark in the Bible
A maple leaf she thought must have been laid
In wait for her there.
She read every word
Of the two pages it was pressed between,
As if it was her mother speaking to her.
But forgot to put the leaf back in closing
And lost the place never to read again.
She was sure, though, there had been nothing in it.
So she looked for herself, as everyone
Looks for himself, more or less outwardly.
And her self-seeking, fitful though it was,
May still have been what led her on to read,
And think a little, and get some city schooling.
She learned shorthand, whatever shorthand may
Have had to do with it--she sometimes wondered.
So, till she found herself in a strange place
For the name Maple to have brought her to,
Taking dictation on a paper pad
And, in the pauses when she raised her eyes,
Watching out of a nineteenth story window
An airship laboring with unshiplike motion
And a vague all-disturbing roar above the river
Beyond the highest city built with hands.
Someone was saying in such natural tones
She almost wrote the words down on her knee,
"Do you know you remind me of a tree--
A maple tree?"
"Because my name is Maple?"
"Isn't it Mabel? I thought it was Mabel.
"No doubt you've heard the office call me Mabel.
I have to let them call me what they like.
They were both stirred that he should have divined
Without the name her personal mystery.
It made it seem as if there must be something
She must have missed herself.
So they were married,
And took the fancy home with them to live by.
They went on pilgrimage once to her father's
(The house one story high in front, three stories
On the side it presented to the road)
To see if there was not some special tree
She might have overlooked.
They could find none,
Not so much as a single tree for shade,
Let alone grove of trees for sugar orchard.
She told him of the bookmark maple leaf
In the big Bible, and all she remembered
of the place marked with it—"Wave offering,
Something about wave offering, it said.
"You've never asked your father outright, have you?"
"I have, and been Put off sometime, I think.
(This was her faded memory of the way
Once long ago her father had put himself off.
"Because no telling but it may have been
Something between your father and your mother
Not meant for us at all.
"Not meant for me?
Where would the fairness be in giving me
A name to carry for life and never know
The secret of?"
"And then it may have been
Something a father couldn't tell a daughter
As well as could a mother.
It may have been their one lapse into fancy
'Twould be too bad to make him sorry for
By bringing it up to him when be was too old.
Your father feels us round him with our questing,
And holds us off unnecessarily,
As if he didn't know what little thing
Might lead us on to a discovery.
It was as personal as be could be
About the way he saw it was with you
To say your mother, bad she lived, would be
As far again as from being born to bearing.
"Just one look more with what you say in mind,
And I give up"; which last look came to nothing.
But though they now gave up the search forever,
They clung to what one had seen in the other
It proved there was something.
They kept their thoughts away from when the maples
Stood uniform in buckets, and the steam
Of sap and snow rolled off the sugarhouse.
When they made her related to the maples,
It was the tree the autumn fire ran through
And swept of leathern leaves, but left the bark
Unscorched, unblackened, even, by any smoke.
They always took their holidays in autumn.
Once they came on a maple in a glade,
Standing alone with smooth arms lifted up,
And every leaf of foliage she'd worn
Laid scarlet and pale pink about her feet.
But its age kept them from considering this one.
Twenty-five years ago at Maple's naming
It hardly could have been a two-leaved seedling
The next cow might have licked up out at pasture.
Could it have been another maple like it?
They hovered for a moment near discovery,
Figurative enough to see the symbol,
But lacking faith in anything to mean
The same at different times to different people.
Perhaps a filial diffidence partly kept them
From thinking it could be a thing so bridal.
And anyway it came too late for Maple.
She used her hands to cover up her eyes.
"We would not see the secret if we could now:
We are not looking for it any more.
Thus had a name with meaning, given in death,
Made a girl's marriage, and ruled in her life.
No matter that the meaning was not clear.
A name with meaning could bring up a child,
Taking the child out of the parents' hands.
Better a meaningless name, I should say,
As leaving more to nature and happy chance.
Name children some names and see what you do.
John Trumbull |
In elder days, in Saturn's prime,
Ere baldness seized the head of Time,
While truant Jove, in infant pride,
Play'd barefoot on Olympus' side,
Each thing on earth had power to chatter,
And spoke the mother tongue of nature.
Each stock or stone could prate and gabble,
Worse than ten labourers of Babel.
Along the street, perhaps you'd see
A Post disputing with a Tree,
And mid their arguments of weight,
A Goose sit umpire of debate.
Each Dog you met, though speechless now,
Would make his compliments and bow,
And every Swine with congees come,
To know how did all friends at home.
Each Block sublime could make a speech,
In style and eloquence as rich,
And could pronounce it and could pen it,
As well as Chatham in the senate.
Nor prose alone.
--In these young times,
Each field was fruitful too in rhymes;
Each feather'd minstrel felt the passion,
And every wind breathed inspiration.
Each Bullfrog croak'd in loud bombastic,
Each Monkey chatter'd Hudibrastic;
Each Cur, endued with yelping nature,
Could outbark Churchill's self in satire;
Each Crow in prophecy delighted,
Each Owl, you saw, was second-sighted,
Each Goose a skilful politician,
Each Ass a gifted met'physician,
Could preach in wrath 'gainst laughing rogues,
Write Halfway-covenant Dialogues,
And wisely judge of all disputes
In commonwealths of men or brutes.
'Twas then, in spring a youthful Sparrow
Felt the keen force of Cupid's arrow:
For Birds, as Æsop's tales avow,
Made love then, just as men do now,
And talk'd of deaths and flames and darts,
And breaking necks and losing hearts;
And chose from all th' aerial kind,
Not then to tribes, like Jews, confined
The story tells, a lovely Thrush
Had smit him from a neigh'bring bush,
Where oft the young coquette would play,
And carol sweet her siren lay:
She thrill'd each feather'd heart with love,
And reign'd the Toast of all the grove.
He felt the pain, but did not dare
Disclose his passion to the fair;
For much he fear'd her conscious pride
Of race, to noble blood allied.
Her grandsire's nest conspicuous stood,
Mid loftiest branches of the wood,
In airy height, that scorn'd to know
Each flitting wing that waved below.
So doubting, on a point so nice
He deem'd it best to take advice.
Hard by there dwelt an aged Owl,
Of all his friends the gravest fowl;
Who from the cares of business free,
Lived, hermit, in a hollow tree;
To solid learning bent his mind,
In trope and syllogism he shined,
'Gainst reigning follies spent his railing;
Too much a Stoic--'twas his failing.
Hither for aid our Sparrow came,
And told his errand and his name,
With panting breath explain'd his case,
Much trembling at the sage's face;
And begg'd his Owlship would declare
If love were worth a wise one's care.
The grave Owl heard the weighty cause,
And humm'd and hah'd at every pause;
Then fix'd his looks in sapient plan,
Stretch'd forth one foot, and thus began.
"My son, my son, of love beware,
And shun the cheat of beauty's snare;
That snare more dreadful to be in,
Than huntsman's net, or horse-hair gin.
"By others' harms learn to be wise,"
As ancient proverbs well advise.
Each villany, that nature breeds,
From females and from love proceeds.
'Tis love disturbs with fell debate
Of man and beast the peaceful state:
Men fill the world with war's alarms,
When female trumpets sound to arms;
The commonwealth of dogs delight
For beauties, as for bones, to fight.
Love hath his tens of thousands slain,
And heap'd with copious death the plain:
Samson, with ass's jaw to aid,
Ne'er peopled thus th'infernal shade.
"Nor this the worst; for he that's dead,
With love no more will vex his head.
'Tis in the rolls of fate above,
That death's a certain cure for love;
A noose can end the cruel smart;
The lover's leap is from a cart.
But oft a living death they bear,
Scorn'd by the proud, capricious fair.
The fair to sense pay no regard,
And beauty is the fop's reward;
They slight the generous hearts' esteem,
And sigh for those, who fly from them.
Just when your wishes would prevail,
Some rival bird with gayer tail,
Who sings his strain with sprightlier note,
And chatters praise with livelier throat,
Shall charm your flutt'ring fair one down,
And leave your choice, to hang or drown.
Ev'n I, my son, have felt the smart;
A Pheasant won my youthful heart.
For her I tuned the doleful lay,
For her I watch'd the night away;
In vain I told my piteous case,
And smooth'd my dignity of face;
In vain I cull'd the studied phrase,
And sought hard words in beauty's praise.
Her, not my charms nor sense could move,
For folly is the food of love.
Each female scorns our serious make,
"Each woman is at heart a rake.
Thus Owls in every age have said,
Since our first parent-owl was made;
Thus Pope and Swift, to prove their sense,
Shall sing, some twenty ages hence;
Then shall a man of little fame,
One ** **** sing the same.
Henry David Thoreau |
Whate'er we leave to God, God does,
And blesses us;
The work we choose should be our own,
God leaves alone.
If with light head erect I sing,
Though all the Muses lend their force,
From my poor love of anything,
The verse is weak and shallow as its source.
But if with bended neck I grope
Listening behind me for my wit,
With faith superior to hope,
More anxious to keep back than forward it;
Making my soul accomplice there
Unto the flame my heart hath lit,
Then will the verse forever wear--
Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ.
Always the general show of things
Floats in review before my mind,
And such true love and reverence brings,
That sometimes I forget that I am blind.
But now there comes unsought, unseen,
Some clear divine electuary,
And I, who had but sensual been,
Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary.
I hearing get, who had but ears,
And sight, who had but eyes before,
I moments live, who lived but years,
And truth discern, who knew but learning's lore.
I hear beyond the range of sound,
I see beyond the range of sight,
New earths and skies and seas around,
And in my day the sun doth pale his light.
A clear and ancient harmony
Pierces my soul through all its din,
As through its utmost melody--
Farther behind than they, farther within.
More swift its bolt than lightning is,
Its voice than thunder is more loud,
It doth expand my privacies
To all, and leave me single in the crowd.
It speaks with such authority,
With so serene and lofty tone,
That idle Time runs gadding by,
And leaves me with Eternity alone.
Now chiefly is my natal hour,
And only now my prime of life;
Of manhood's strength it is the flower,
'Tis peace's end and war's beginning strife.
It comes in summer's broadest noon,
By a grey wall or some chance place,
Unseasoning Time, insulting June,
And vexing day with its presuming face.
Such fragrance round my couch it makes,
More rich than are Arabian drugs,
That my soul scents its life and wakes
The body up beneath its perfumed rugs.
Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid,
The star that guides our mortal course,
Which shows where life's true kernel's laid,
Its wheat's fine flour, and its undying force.
She with one breath attunes the spheres,
And also my poor human heart,
With one impulse propels the years
Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start.
I will not doubt for evermore,
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For thought the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once He saith.
I will not doubt the love untold
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young, and woos me old,
And to this evening hath me brought.
My memory I'll educate
To know the one historic truth,
Remembering to the latest date
The only true and sole immortal youth.
Be but thy inspiration given,
No matter through what danger sought,
I'll fathom hell or climb to heaven,
And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.
Fame cannot tempt the bard
Who's famous with his God,
Nor laurel him reward
Who has his Maker's nod.
Charles Baudelaire |
Down the street as I was drifting with the city's human tide,
Came a ghost, and for a moment walked in silence by my side --
Now my heart was hard and bitter, and a bitter spirit he,
So I felt no great aversion to his ghostly company.
Said the Shade: `At finer feelings let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, has ever been the motto for the world.
And he said: `If you'd be happy, you must clip your fancy's wings,
Stretch your conscience at the edges to the size of earthly things;
Never fight another's battle, for a friend can never know
When he'll gladly fly for succour to the bosom of the foe.
At the power of truth and friendship let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.
`Where Society is mighty, always truckle to her rule;
Never send an `i' undotted to the teacher of a school;
Only fight a wrong or falsehood when the crowd is at your back,
And, till Charity repay you, shut the purse, and let her pack;
At the fools who would do other let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.
`Ne'er assail the shaky ladders Fame has from her niches hung,
Lest unfriendly heels above you grind your fingers from the rung;
Or the fools who idle under, envious of your fair renown,
Heedless of the pain you suffer, do their worst to shake you down.
At the praise of men, or censure, let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.
`Flowing founts of inspiration leave their sources parched and dry,
Scalding tears of indignation sear the hearts that beat too high;
Chilly waters thrown upon it drown the fire that's in the bard;
And the banter of the critic hurts his heart till it grows hard.
At the fame your muse may offer let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.
`Shun the fields of love, where lightly, to a low and mocking tune,
Strong and useful lives are ruined, and the broken hearts are strewn.
Not a farthing is the value of the honest love you hold;
Call it lust, and make it serve you! Set your heart on nought but gold.
At the bliss of purer passions let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, shall ever be the motto of the world.
Then he ceased and looked intently in my face, and nearer drew;
But a sudden deep repugnance to his presence thrilled me through;
Then I saw his face was cruel, by the look that o'er it stole,
Then I felt his breath was poison, by the shuddering of my soul,
Then I guessed his purpose evil, by his lip in sneering curled,
And I knew he slandered mankind, by my knowledge of the world.
But he vanished as a purer brighter presence gained my side --
`Heed him not! there's truth and friendship
in this wondrous world,' she cried,
And of those who cleave to virtue in their climbing for renown,
Only they who faint or falter from the height are shaken down.
At a cynic's baneful teaching let your lip in scorn be curled!
`Brotherhood and Love and Honour!' is the motto for the world.
Bliss Carman |
TO the assembled folk
At great St.
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;
I give you joy, my friends,
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.
On other festal days
For penitence or praise
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.
Ah, we disparage still
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?
Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,
To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell
The range and sweep of her own boundary!
There is no period
Between the soul and God;
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
To-day we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.
We apprehend peace comes
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.
And we perceive, not awe
But love is the great law
That binds the world together safe and whole.
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
In the profound unknown,
Illumined, fair, and lone,
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine
Each soul is set to shine,
And its unique appointed orbit trace.
There is no near nor far,
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,
Yet where without a sound
The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.
One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,
In the serene benignity for all.
Letting her time-glass run
With star-dust, sun by sun,
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.
There is no far nor near
Within the spirit’s sphere.
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings
Are tinged with the same dye
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?
(The earth was without form;
God moulded it with storm,
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.
Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.
Christ said, ‘By love alone
In man’s heart is God known;
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.
And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!
Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.
And what is energy,
In-working, which bids be
The starry pageant and the life of earth?
What is the genesis
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?
What hangs the sun on high?
What swells the growing rye?
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…
What lurks in the deep gaze
Of the old wolf? Amaze,
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these
Love muses, yearns, and sees,
And is the self that does not change nor veer.
Not love of self alone,
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
And who has understood
Our brothers of the wood,
Save he who puts off guile and every guise
Of violence,—made truce
With panther, bear, and moose,
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?
For they, too, do love’s will,
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
Open the door to-night
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.
Sophie Hannah |
Although you have given me a stomach upset,
Weak knees, a lurching heart, a fuzzy brain,
A high-pitched laugh, a monumental phone bill,
A feeling of unworthiness, sharp pain
When you are somewhere else, a guilty conscience,
A longing, and a dread of what’s in store,
A pulse rate for the Guinness Book of Records -
Life now is better than it was before.
Although you have given me a raging temper,
Insomnia, a rising sense of panic,
A hopeless challenge, bouts of introspection,
Raw, bitten nails, a voice that’s strangely manic,
A selfish streak, a fear of isolation,
A silly smile, lips that are chapped and sore,
A running joke, a risk, an inspiration –
Life now is better than it was before.
Although you have given me a premonition,
Chattering teeth, a goal, a lot to lose,
A granted wish, mixed motives, superstitions,
Hang-ups and headaches, fear of awful news,
A bubble in my throat, a dare to swallow,
A crack of light under a closing door,
The crude, fantastic prospect of forever –
Life now is better that it was before.
Sir Walter Raleigh |
I was a Poet!
But I did not know it,
Neither did my Mother,
Nor my Sister nor my Brother.
The Rich were not aware of it;
The Poor took no care of it.
The Reverend Mr.
Never knew it.
The High did not suspect it;
The Low could not detect it.
Said it was obviously untrue.
Said I was off my head:
(This from a Colonial
Was really a good testimonial.
Still everybody seemed to think
That genius owes a good deal to drink.
So that is how
I am not a poet now,
My inspiration has run dry.
It is no sort of use
To cultivate the Muse
If vulgar people
Can't tell a village pump from a church steeple.
I am merely apologizing
For the lack of the surprising
In what I write
I am quite well-meaning,
But a lot of things are always intervening
What I mean
And what it is said
I had in my head.
It is all very puzzling.
Says Poets need muzzling.
Allen Ginsberg |
Elan that lifts me above the clouds
into pure space, timeless, yea eternal
Breath transmuted into words
Transmuted back to breath
in one hundred two hundred years
nearly Immortal, Sappho's 26 centuries
of cadenced breathing -- beyond time, clocks, empires, bodies, cars,
chariots, rocket ships skyscrapers, Nation empires
brass walls, polished marble, Inca Artwork
of the mind -- but where's it come from?
Inspiration? The muses drawing breath for you? God?
Nah, don't believe it, you'll get entangled in Heaven or Hell --
Guilt power, that makes the heart beat wake all night
flooding mind with space, echoing through future cities, Megalopolis or
Cretan village, Zeus' birth cave Lassithi Plains -- Otsego County
farmhouse, Kansas front porch?
Buddha's a help, promises ordinary mind no nirvana --
coffee, alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms, marijuana, laughing gas?
Nope, too heavy for this lightness lifts the brain into blue sky
at May dawn when birds start singing on East 12th street --
Where does it come from, where does it go forever?
Erica Jong |
Sometimes the poem
doesn't want to come;
it hides from the poet
like a playful cat
who has run
under the house
& lurks among slugs,
roots, spiders' eyes,
ledge so long out of the sun
that it is dank
with the breath of the Troll King.
Sometimes the poem
like a coy lover
who is afraid of being possessed,
of feeling too much,
of losing his essential
loneliness-which he calls
Sometimes the poem
the poet's passion.
The poem is a dance
between poet & poem,
but sometimes the poem
just won't dance
and lurks on the sidelines
tapping its feet-
out of step with the music
of your mariachi band.
If the poem won't come,
I say: sneak up on it.
Pretend you don't care.
Sit in your chair
reading Shakespeare, Neruda,
and let yourself flow
into their music.
Go to the kitchen
and start peeling onions
for homemade sugo.
Before you know it,
the poem will be crying
as your ripe tomatoes
When the whole house is filled
with the tender tomato aroma,
start kneading the pasta.
As you rock
over the damp sensuous dough,
making it bend to your will,
as you make love to this manna
of flour and water,
the poem will get hungry
just like a cat
when you least
Barry Tebb |
I was never a film buff, give me Widmark and Wayne any day
Saturday matin?es with Margaret Gardener still hold sway
As my memory veers backwards this temperate Boxing Day-
Westerns and war films and a blurred Maigret,
Coupled with a worn-out sixties Penguin Mallarm?-
How about that mix for a character trait?
Try as I may I can’t get my head round the manifold virtues
Of Geraldine Monk or either Riley
Poetry has to have a meaning, not just patterns on a page,
Vertical words and snips of scores just make me rage.
Is Thom Gunn really the age-old sleaze-weasel Andrew Duncan says?
Is Tim Allen right to give Geraldine Monk an eleven page review?
At least they care for poetry to give their lives to it
As we do, too.
My syntax far from perfect, my writing illegible
But somehow I’ll get through, Bloodaxe and Carcourt
May jeer but an Indian printer’s busy with my ‘Collected’
And, Calcutta typesetters permitting, it will be out this year
With the red gold script of sari cloth on the spine
And fuck those dusty grey contemporary voices
Those verses will be mine.
Haslam’s a whole lot better but touchy as a prima donna
And couldn’t take it when I said he’d be a whole lot better
If he’d unloose his affects and let them scatter
I’m envious of his habitat, The Haworth Moors
Living there should be the inspiration of my old age
But being monophobic I can’t face the isolation
Or persuade my passionate friend to join me.
What urban experiences can improve
Upon a cottage life with my own muse!
Robert William Service |
You've heard of "Casey at The Bat,"
And "Casey's Tabble Dote";
But now it's time
To write a rhyme
Of "Casey's Billy-goat.
Pat Casey had a billy-goat he gave the name of Shamus,
Because it was (the neighbours said) a national disgrace.
And sure enough that animal was eminently famous
For masticating every rag of laundry round the place.
For shirts to skirts prodigiously it proved its powers of chewing;
The question of digestion seemed to matter not at all;
But you'll agree, I think with me, its limit of misdoing
Was reached the day it swallowed Missis Rooney's ould red shawl.
Now Missis Annie Rooney was a winsome widow women,
And many a bouncing boy had sought to make her change her name;
And living just across the way 'twas surely only human
A lonesome man like Casey should be wishfully the same.
So every Sunday, shaved and shined, he'd make the fine occasion
To call upon the lady, and she'd take his and coat;
And supping tea it seemed that she might yield to his persuasion,
But alas! he hadn't counted on that devastating goat.
For Shamus loved his master with a deep and dumb devotion,
And everywhere that Casey went that goat would want to go;
And though I cannot analyze a quadruped's emotion,
They said the baste was jealous, and I reckon it was so.
For every time that Casey went to call on Missis Rooney,
Beside the gate the goat would wait with woefulness intense;
Until one day it chanced that they were fast becoming spooney,
When Shamus spied that ould red shawl a-flutter on the fence.
Now Missis Rooney loved that shawl beyond all rhyme or reason,
And maybe 'twas an heirloom or a cherished souvenir;
For judging by the way she wore it season after season,
I might have been as precious as a product of Cashmere.
So Shamus strolled towards it, and no doubt the colour pleased him,
For he biffed it and he sniffed it, as most any goat might do;
Then his melancholy vanished as a sense of hunger seized him,
And he wagged his tail with rapture as he started in to chew.
"Begorrah! you're a daisy," said the doting Mister Casey
to the blushing Widow Rooney as they parted at the door.
"Wid yer tinderness an' tazin' sure ye've set me heart a-blazin',
And I dread the day I'll nivver see me Anniw anny more.
"Go on now wid yer blarney," said the widow softly sighing;
And she went to pull his whiskers, when dismay her bosom smote.
Her ould red shawl! 'Twas missin' where she'd left it bravely drying -
Then she saw it disappearing - down the neck of Casey's goat.
Fiercely flamed her Irish temper, "Look!" says she, "The thavin' divvle!
Sure he's made me shawl his supper.
Well, I hope it's to his taste;
But excuse me, Mister Casey, if I seem to be oncivil,
For I'll nivver wed a man wid such a misbegotten baste.
So she slammed the door and left him in a state of consternation,
And he couldn't understand it, till he saw that grinning goat:
Then with eloquence he cussed it, and his final fulmination
Was a poem of profanity impossible to quote.
So blasting goats and petticoats and feeling downright sinful,
Despairfully he wandered in to Shinnigan's shebeen;
And straightway he proceeded to absorb a might skinful
Of the deadliest variety of Shinnigan's potheen.
And when he started homeward it was in the early morning,
But Shamus followed faithfully, a yard behind his back;
Then Casey slipped and stumbled, and without the slightest warning
like a lump of lead he tumbled - right across the railroad track.
And there he lay, serenely, and defied the powers to budge him,
Reposing like a baby, with his head upon the rail;
But Shamus seemed unhappy, and from time to time would nudge him,
Though his prods to protestation were without the least avail.
Then to that goatish mind, maybe, a sense of fell disaster
Came stealing like a spectre in the dim and dreary dawn;
For his bleat of warning blended with the snoring of his master
In a chorus of calamity - but Casey slumbered on.
Yet oh, that goat was troubled, for his efforts were redoubled;
Now he tugged at Casey's whisker, now he nibbled at his ear;
Now he shook him by the shoulder, and with fear become bolder,
He bellowed like a fog-horn, but the sleeper did not hear.
Then up and down the railway line he scampered for assistance;
But anxiously he hurried back and sought with tug and strain
To pull his master off the track .
when sudden! in the distance
He heard the roar and rumble of the fast approaching train.
Did Shamus faint and falter? No, he stood there stark and splendid.
True, his tummy was distended, but he gave his horns a toss.
By them his goathood's honour would be gallantly defended,
And if their valour failed him - he would perish with his boss
So dauntlessly he lowered his head, and ever clearer, clearer,
He heard the throb and thunder of the Continental Mail.
He would face the mighty monster.
It was coming nearer, nearer;
He would fight it, he would smite it, but he'd never show his tail.
Can you see that hirsute hero, standing there in tragic glory?
Can you hear the Pullman porters shrieking horror to the sky?
No, you can't; because my story has no end so grim and gory,
For Shamus did not perish and his master did not die.
At this very present moment Casey swaggers hale and hearty,
And Shamus strolls beside him with a bright bell at his throat;
While recent Missis Rooney is the gayest of the party,
For now she's Missis Casey and she's crazy for that goat.
You're wondering what happened? Well, you know that truth is stranger
Than the wildest brand of fiction, so Ill tell you without shame.
There was Shamus and his master in the face of awful danger,
And the giant locomotive dashing down in smoke and flame.
What power on earth could save them? Yet a golden inspiration
To gods and goats alike may come, so in that brutish brain
A thought was born - the ould red shawl.
Then rearing with elation,
Like lightning Shamus threw it up - AND FLAGGED AND STOPPED THE TRAIN.
Thomas Hood |
Oh, very gloomy is the house of woe,
Where tears are falling while the bell is knelling,
With all the dark solemnities that show
That Death is in the dwelling!
Oh, very, very dreary is the room
Where Love, domestic Love, no longer nestles,
But smitten by the common stroke of doom,
The corpse lies on the trestles!
But house of woe, and hearse, and sable pall,
The narrow home of the departed mortal,
Ne’er looked so gloomy as that Ghostly Hall,
With its deserted portal!
The centipede along the threshold crept,
The cobweb hung across in mazy tangle,
And in its winding sheet the maggot slept
At every nook and angle.
The keyhole lodged the earwig and her brood,
The emmets of the steps has old possession,
And marched in search of their diurnal food
In undisturbed procession.
As undisturbed as the prehensile cell
Of moth or maggot, or the spider’s tissue,
For never foot upon that threshold fell,
To enter or to issue.
O’er all there hung the shadow of a fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted.
Howbeit, the door I pushed—or so I dreamed--
Which slowly, slowly gaped, the hinges creaking
With such a rusty eloquence, it seemed
That Time himself was speaking.
But Time was dumb within that mansion old,
Or left his tale to the heraldic banners
That hung from the corroded walls, and told
Of former men and manners.
Those tattered flags, that with the opened door,
Seemed the old wave of battle to remember,
While fallen fragments danced upon the floor
Like dead leaves in December.
The startled bats flew out, bird after bird,
The screech-owl overhead began to flutter,
And seemed to mock the cry that she had heard
Some dying victim utter!
A shriek that echoed from the joisted roof,
And up the stair, and further still and further,
Till in some ringing chamber far aloof
In ceased its tale of murther!
Meanwhile the rusty armor rattled round,
The banner shuddered, and the ragged streamer;
All things the horrid tenor of the sound
Acknowledged with a tremor.
The antlers where the helmet hung, and belt,
Stirred as the tempest stirs the forest branches,
Or as the stag had trembled when he felt
The bloodhound at his haunches.
The window jingled in its crumbled frame,
And through its many gaps of destitution
Dolorous moans and hollow sighings came,
Like those of dissolution.
The wood-louse dropped, and rolled into a ball,
Touched by some impulse occult or mechanic;
And nameless beetles ran along the wall
In universal panic.
The subtle spider, that, from overhead,
Hung like a spy on human guilt and error,
Suddenly turned, and up its slender thread
Ran with a nimble terror.
The very stains and fractures on the wall,
Assuming features solemn and terrific,
Hinted some tragedy of that old hall,
Locked up in hieroglyphic.
Some tale that might, perchance, have solved the doubt,
Wherefore, among those flags so dull and livid,
The banner of the bloody hand shone out
So ominously vivid.
Some key to that inscrutable appeal
Which made the very frame of Nature quiver,
And every thrilling nerve and fiber feel
So ague-like a shiver.
For over all there hung a cloud of fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted!
Prophetic hints that filled the soul with dread,
But through one gloomy entrance pointing mostly,
The while some secret inspiration said,
“That chamber is the ghostly!”
Across the door no gossamer festoon
Swung pendulous, --no web, no dusty fringes,
No silky chrysalis or white cocoon,
About its nooks and hinges.
The spider shunned the interdicted room,
The moth, the beetle, and the fly were banished,
And when the sunbeam fell athwart the gloom,
The very midge had vanished.
One lonely ray that glanced upon a bed,
As if with awful aim direct and certain,
To show the Bloody Hand, in burning red,
Embroidered on the curtain.
Barry Tebb |
For Jeremy Reed
Rejection doesn’t lead me to dejection
But to inspiration via irritation
Or at least to a bit of naughty new year wit-
Oh isn’t it a shame my poetry’s not tame
Like Rupert’s or Jay’s - I never could
Get into their STRIDE just to much pride
To lick the arses of the poetry-of-earthers
Or the sad lady who runs KATABASIS from the back
Of a bike, gets shouted at by rude parkies
And writing huffy poems to prove it.
Oh to be acceptable and
IN THE POETRY REVIEW
Like Lavinia or Jo
With double spreads
And a glossy colour photo
Instead I’m stuck in a bus queue at Morden
London’s meridian point of zero imagination
Actually it’s a bit like ACUMEN with the Oxleys
Boasting about their 150,000 annual submissions-
If what they print’s the best God help the rest.
At least my Christmas post had - instead of a card
From Jeremy Reed - his ELEGY FOR DAVID GASCOYNE -
The best poem I’ve had by post in forty years
And Jeremy’s best to date in my estimate -
The English APOLLINAIRE - your ZONE, your SONG
OF THE BADLY LOVED - sitting in a cafe in South End Green
I send you this poem, Jeremy, sight unseen,
A new year’s gift to you, pushing through
To star galaxies still unmapped and to you, BW,
Sonneteer of silence, huddled in the fourth month
Of your outdoor vigil, measuring in blood, tears and rain
Your syllable count in hour-glass of pain.
Kahlil Gibran |
One hour devoted to the pursuit of Beauty
And Love is worth a full century of glory
Given by the frightened weak to the strong.
From that hour comes man's Truth; and
During that century Truth sleeps between
The restless arms of disturbing dreams.
In that hour the soul sees for herself
The Natural Law, and for that century she
Imprisons herself behind the law of man;
And she is shackled with irons of oppression.
That hour was the inspiration of the Songs
Of Solomon, an that century was the blind
Power which destroyed the temple of Baalbek.
That hour was the birth of the Sermon on the
Mount, and that century wrecked the castles of
Palmyra and the Tower of Babylon.
That hour was the Hegira of Mohammed and that
Century forgot Allah, Golgotha, and Sinai.
One hour devoted to mourning and lamenting the
Stolen equality of the weak is nobler than a
Century filled with greed and usurpation.
It is at that hour when the heart is
Purified by flaming sorrow and
Illuminated by the torch of Love.
And in that century, desires for Truth
Are buried in the bosom of the earth.
That hour is the root which must flourish.
That hour of meditation, the hour of
Prayer, and the hour of a new era of good.
And that century is a life of Nero spent
On self-investment taken solely from
This is life.
Portrayed on the stage for ages;
Recorded earthly for centuries;
Lived in strangeness for years;
Sung as a hymn for days;
Exalted but for an hour, but the
Hour is treasured by Eternity as a jewel.
Mary Darby Robinson |
O, let me seize thy pen sublime
That paints, in melting dulcet rhyme,
The glowing pow'r, the magic art,
Th' extatic raptures of the Heart;
Soft Beauty's timid smile serene,
The dimples of Love's sportive mien;
The sweet descriptive tale to trace;
To picture Nature's winning grace;
To steal the tear from Pity's eye;
To catch the sympathetic sigh;
O teach me, with swift light'nings force
To watch wild passion's varying course;
To mark th' enthusiast's vivid fire,
Or calmly touch thy golden lyre,
While gentle Reason mildly sings
Responsive to the trembling strings.
SWEET Nymph, enchanting Poetry!
I dedicate my mind to Thee.
Oh! from thy bright Parnassian bow'rs
Descend, to bless my sombre hours;
Bend to the earth thy eagle wing,
And on its glowing plumage bring
Blithe FANCY, from whose burning eye
The young ideas sparkling fly;
O, come, and let us fondly stray,
Where rosy Health shall lead the way,
And soft FAVONIUS lightly spread
A perfum'd carpet as we tread;
Ah! let us from the world remove,
The calm forgetfulness to prove,
Which at the still of evening's close,
Lulls the tir'd peasant to repose;
Repose, whose balmy joys o'er-pay
The sultry labours of the day.
And when the blue-ey'd dawn appears,
Just peeping thro' her veil of tears;
Or blushing opes her silver gate,
And on its threshold, stands elate,
And flings her rosy mantle far
O'er every loit'ring dewy star;
And calls the wanton breezes forth,
And sprinkles diamonds o'er the earth;
While in the green-wood's shade profound,
The insect race, with buzzing sound
Flit o'er the rill,a glitt'ring train,
Or swarm along the sultry plain.
Then in sweet converse let us rove,
Where in the thyme-embroider'd grove,
The musky air its fragrance pours
Upon the silv'ry scatter'd show'rs;
To hail soft Zephyr, as she goes
To fan the dew-drop from the rose;
To shelter from the scorching beam,
And muse beside the rippling stream.
Or when, at twilight's placid hour,
We stroll to some sequester'd bow'r;
And watch the haughty Sun retire
Beneath his canopy of fire;
While slow the dusky clouds enfold
Day's crimson curtains fring'd with gold;
And o'er the meadows faintly fly
Pale shadows of the purpling sky:
While softly o'er the pearl-deck'd plain,
Cold Dian leads the sylvan train;
In mazy dance and sportive glee,
SWEET MUSE, I'll fondly turn to thee;
And thou shalt deck my couch with flow'rs,
And wing with joy my silent hours.
When Sleep, with downy hand, shall spread
A wreath of poppies round my head;
Then, FANCY, on her wing sublime,
Shall waft me to the sacred clime
Where my enlighten'd sense shall view,
Thro' ether realms of azure hue,
That flame, where SHAKESPEARE us'd to fill,
With matchless fire, his "golden quill.
While, from its point bright Genius caught
The wit supreme, the glowing thought,
The magic tone, that sweetly hung
About the music of his tongue.
Then will I skim the floating air,
On a light couch of gossamer,
While with my wonder-aching eye,
I contemplate the spangled sky,
And hear the vaulted roof repeat
The song of Inspiration sweet;
While round the winged cherub train,
Shall iterate the aëry strain:
Swift, thro' my quiv'ring nerves shall float
The tremours of each thrilling note;
And every eager sense confess
Extatic transport's wild excess:
'Till, waking from the glorious dream,
I hail the morn's refulgent beam.
DEAR Maid! of ever-varying mien,
Exulting, pensive, gay, serene,
Now, in transcendent pathos drest,
Now, gentle as the turtle's breast;
Where'er thy feath'ry steps shall lead,
To side-long hill, or flow'ry mead;
To sorrow's coldest, darkest cell,
Or where, by Cynthia's glimm'ring ray,
The dapper fairies frisk and play
About some cowslip's golden bell;
And, in their wanton frolic mirth,
Pluck the young daisies from the earth,
To canopy their tiny heads,
And decorate their verdant beds;
While to the grass-hopper's shrill tune,
They quaff libations to the moon,
From acorn goblets, amply fill'd
With dew, from op'ning flow'rs distill'd.
Or when the lurid tempest pours,
From its dark urn, impetuous show'rs,
Or from its brow's terrific frown,
Hurls the pale murd'rous lightnings down;
To thy enchanting breast I'll spring,
And shield me with thy golden wing.
Or when amidst ethereal fire,
Thou strik'st thy DELLA CRUSCAN lyre,
While round, to catch the heavenly song,
Myriads of wond'ring seraphs throng:
Whether thy harp's empassioned strain
Pours forth an OVID's tender pain;
Or in PINDARIC flights sublime,
Re-echoes thro' the starry clime;
Thee I'll adore; transcendent guest,
And woe thee to my burning breast.
But, if thy magic pow'rs impart
One soft sensation to the heart,
If thy warm precepts can dispense
One thrilling transport o'er my sense;
Oh! keep thy gifts, and let me fly,
In APATHY's cold arms to die.