Delmore Schwartz |
Is the spider a monster in miniature?
His web is a cruel stair, to be sure,
Designed artfully, cunningly placed,
A delicate trap, carefully spun
To bind the fly (innocent or unaware)
In a net as strong as a chain or a gun.
There are far more spiders than the man in the street
And the philosopher-king imagines, let alone knows!
There are six hundred kinds of spiders and each one
Differs in kind and in unkindness.
In variety of behavior spiders are unrivalled:
The fat garden spider sits motionless, amidst or at the heart
Of the orb of its web: other kinds run,
Scuttling across the floor, falling into bathtubs,
Trapped in the path of its own wrath, by overconfidence
drowned and undone.
Other kinds - more and more kinds under the stars and
the sun -
Are carnivores: all are relentless, ruthless
Enemies of insects.
Their methods of getting food
Are unconventional, numerous, various and sometimes
Some spiders spin webs as beautiful
As Japanese drawings, intricate as clocks, strong as rocks:
Others construct traps which consist only
Of two sticky and tricky threads.
Yet this ambush is enough
To bind and chain a crawling ant for long
The famished spider feels the vibration
Which transforms patience into sensation and satiation.
The handsome wolf spider moves suddenly freely and relies
Upon lightning suddenness, stealth and surprise,
Possessing accurate eyes, pouncing upon his victim with the
speed of surmise.
Courtship is dangerous: there are just as many elaborate
and endless techniques and varieties
As characterize the wooing of more analytic, more
introspective beings: Sometimes the male
Arrives with the gift of a freshly caught fly.
Sometimes he ties down the female, when she is frail,
With deft strokes and quick maneuvres and threads of silk:
But courtship and wooing, whatever their form, are
By extreme caution, prudence, and calculation,
For the female spider, lazier and fiercer than the male
May make a meal of him if she does not feel in the same
mood, or if her appetite
Consumes her far more than the revelation of love's
Here among spiders, as in the higher forms of nature,
The male runs a terrifying risk when he goes seeking for
the bounty of beautiful Alma Magna Mater:
Yet clearly and truly he must seek and find his mate and
match like every other living creature!
John Ashbery |
Far from the Rappahannock, the silent
Danube moves along toward the sea.
The brown and green Nile rolls slowly
Like the Niagara's welling descent.
Tractors stood on the green banks of the Loire
Near where it joined the Cher.
Lawrence prods among black stones
But the Arno is all stones.
Wind ruffles the Hudson's
The Irawaddy is overflowing.
But the yellowish, gray Tiber
Is contained within steep banks.
Flows too fast to swim in, the Jordan's water
Courses over the flat land.
The Allegheny and its boats
Were dark blue.
The Moskowa is
The Amstel flows slowly.
Leaves fall into the Connecticut as it passes
The Liffey is full of sewage,
Like the Seine, but unlike
The brownish-yellow Dordogne.
Mountains hem in the Colorado
And the Oder is very deep, almost
As deep as the Congo is wide.
The plain banks of the Neva are
The dark Saône flows silently.
And the Volga is long and wide
As it flows across the brownish land.
Is blue, and slow.
The Shannon flows
Swiftly between its banks.
Is one of the world's longest rivers, like the Amazon.
It has the Missouri for a tributary.
The Harlem flows amid factories
The Nelson is in Canada,
Through hard banks the Dubawnt
Forces its way.
People walk near the Trent.
The landscape around the Mohawk stretches away;
The Rubicon is merely a brook.
In winter the Main
Surges; the Rhine sings its eternal song.
The Rhône slogs along through whitish banks
And the Rio Grande spins tales of the past.
The Loir bursts its frozen shackles
But the Moldau's wet mud ensnares it.
The East catches the light.
Near the Escaut the noise of factories echoes
And the sinuous Humboldt gurgles wildly.
The Po too flows, and the many-colored
Into the Atlantic Ocean
Pours the Garonne.
Few ships navigate
On the Housatonic, but quite a few can be seen
On the Elbe.
The Afton has flowed.
If the Rio Negro
Could abandon its song, and the Magdalena
The jungle flowers, the Tagus
Would still flow serenely, and the Ohio
Abrade its slate banks.
The tan Euphrates would
Sidle silently across the world.
Was choked with ice, but the Susquehanna still pushed
The Dee caught the day's last flares
Like the Pilcomayo's carrion rose.
The Peace offered eternal fragrance
Perhaps, but the Mackenzie churned livid mud
Like tan chalk-marks.
The Brahmaputra slapped swollen dikes
And the Pechora? The São Francisco
Skulks amid gray, rubbery nettles.
Reflexes are slow, and the Arkansas erodes
The Paraná stinks.
The Ottawa is light emerald green
Better that the Indus fade
In steaming sands! Let the Brazos
Freeze solid! And the Wabash turn to a leaden
Cinder of ice! The Marañón is too tepid, we must
Find a way to freeze it hard.
Is freezing slowly in the blasts.
The black Yonne
And the Petit-Morin
Curls up on the solid earth.
Does not remember better times, and the Merrimack's
The Ganges is liquid snow by now;
The Vyatka's ice-gray.
The once-molten Tennessee s
The Japurá is a pack of ice.
The Columbia's gray loam banks.
The Don's merely
A giant icicle.
The Niger freezes, slowly.
The interminable Lena plods on
But the Purus' mercurial waters are icy, grim
The Loing is choked with fragments of ice.
The Weser is frozen, like liquid air.
And so is the Kama.
And the beige, thickly flowing
The rivers bask in the cold.
The stern Uruguay chafes its banks,
A mass of ice.
The Hooghly is solid
The Adour is silent, motionless.
The lovely Tigris is nothing but scratchy ice
Like the Yellowstone, with its osier-clustered banks.
The Mekong is beginning to thaw out a little
And the Donets gurgles beneath the
Huge blocks of ice.
The Manzanares gushes free.
The Illinois darts through the sunny air again.
But the Dnieper is still ice-bound.
The Salado propels irs floes, but the Roosevelt's
The Oka is frozen solider
Than the Somme.
The Minho slumbers
In winter, nor does the Snake
Hilarious, the Canadian
Is solid ice.
The Madeira slavers
Across the thawing fields, and the Plata laughs.
The Dvina soaks up the snow.
Temperature is above freezing.
The Drôme presses
Grass banks; the Adige's frozen
Surface is like gray pebbles.
Birds circle the Ticino.
The Var was dark blue, unfrozen.
Thwaite, cold, is choked with sandy ice;
The Ardèche glistens feebly through the freezing rain.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
Welcome, my old friend,
Welcome to a foreign fireside,
While the sullen gales of autumn
Shake the windows.
The ungrateful world
Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee,
Since, beneath the skies of Denmark,
First I met thee.
There are marks of age,
There are thumb-marks on thy margin,
Made by hands that clasped thee rudely,
At the alehouse.
Soiled and dull thou art;
Yellow are thy time-worn pages,
As the russet, rain-molested
Leaves of autumn.
Thou art stained with wine
Scattered from hilarious goblets,
As the leaves with the libations
Yet dost thou recall
Days departed, half-forgotten,
When in dreamy youth I wandered
By the Baltic,--
When I paused to hear
The old ballad of King Christian
Shouted from suburban taverns
In the twilight.
Thou recallest bards,
Who in solitary chambers,
And with hearts by passion wasted,
Wrote thy pages.
Thou recallest homes
Where thy songs of love and friendship
Made the gloomy Northern winter
Bright as summer.
Once some ancient Scald,
In his bleak, ancestral Iceland,
Chanted staves of these old ballads
To the Vikings.
Once in Elsinore,
At the court of old King Hamlet
Yorick and his boon companions
Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Frederick's Guard
Sang them in their smoky barracks;--
Suddenly the English cannon
Joined the chorus!
Peasants in the field,
Sailors on the roaring ocean,
Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics,
All have sung them.
Thou hast been their friend;
They, alas! have left thee friendless!
Yet at least by one warm fireside
Art thou welcome.
And, as swallows build
In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys,
So thy twittering songs shall nestle
In my bosom,--
Quiet, close, and warm,
Sheltered from all molestation,
And recalling by their voices
Youth and travel.
Wilfred Owen |
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, -- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?
-- These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.
Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
-- Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-- Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
Oh, some folk think vice-royalty is festive and hilarious,
The duties of an A.
are manifold and various,
So listen, whilst I tell in song
The duties of an aide-de-cong.
To the Governor's side
We must stick -- or the public would eat him --
For each bounder we see
Says, "Just introduce me
To His Lordship -- I'm anxious to meet him.
Then they grab at his paw
And they chatter and jaw
Till they'd talk him to death -- if we'd let 'em --
And the folk he has met,
They are all in a fret,
Just for fear he might chance to forget 'em.
When some local King Billy
Is talking him silly,
Or the pound-keeper's wife has waylaid him,
From folks of that stamp
When he has to decamp --
We're his aides to decamp -- so we aid him.
Then some feminine beauty
Will come and salute ye,
She may be a Miss or a Madam,
Or a man comes in view,
Bails you up, "How de do!"
And you don't know the fellow from Adam!
But you've got to keep sweet
With each man that you meet,
And a trifle like this mustn't bar you,
So you clutch at his fin,
And you say, with a grin,
"Oh, delighted to see you -- how are you?"
Then we do country shows
Where some prize-taker blows
Of his pig -- a great, vast forty-stoner --
"See, my Lord! ain't he fine!
How is that for a swine!"
When it isn't a patch on its owner!
We fix up the dinners
For parsons and sinners
And lawyers and bishops and showmen,
And a judge of the court
We put next to a "sport",
And an Orangeman next to a Roman.
We send invitations
To all celebrations,
Some Nobody's presence entreating,
And the old folks of all
We invite to a ball,
And the young -- to a grandmothers' meeting.
And when we go dancing,
Like cart-horses prancing,
We plunge where the people are thickenkn';
And each gay local swell
Thinks it's "off" to dance well,
So he copies our style -- ain't it sickenin'!
Then at banquets we dine
And swig cheap, nasty wine,
But the poor aide-de-camp mustn't funk it --
And they call it champagne,
But we're free to maintain
That he feels real pain when he's drunk it.
Then our horses bestriding
We go out a-riding
Lest our health by confinement we'd injure;
You can notice the glare
Of the Governor's hair
When the little boys say, "Go it, Ginger!"
Then some wandering lords --
They so often are frauds --
This out-of-way country invading,
If a man dresses well
And behaves like a swell,
Then he's somebody's cook masquerading.
But an out-an-out ass
With a thirst for the glass
And the symptoms of drink on his "boko",
Who is perpetually
Pursuing the ballet,
He is always the "true Orinoco".
We must slave with our quills --
Keep the cash -- pay the bills --
Keep account of the liquor and victuals --
So I think you'll agree
That the gay A.
Has a life that's not all beer and skittles!
Henry Lawson |
He'd been for years in Sydney "a-acting of the goat",
His name was Joseph Swallow, "the Great Australian Pote",
In spite of all the stories and sketches that he wrote.
And so his friends held meetings (Oh, narrow souls were theirs!)
To advertise their little selves and Joseph's own affairs.
They got up a collection for Joseph unawares.
They looked up his connections and rivals by the score –
The wife who had divorced him some twenty years before,
And several politicians he'd made feel very sore.
They sent him down to Coolan, a long train ride from here,
Because of his grey hairs and "pomes" and painted blondes – and beer.
(I mean to say the painted blondes would always give him beer.
(They loved him for his eyes were dark, and you must not condemn
The love for opposites that mark the everlasting fem.
Besides, he "made up" little bits of poetry for them.
They sent him "for his own sake", but not for that alone –
A poet's sins are public; his sorrows are his own.
And poets' friends have skins like hides, and mostly hearts of stone.
They said "We'll send some money and you must use your pen.
"So long," they said.
"Adoo!" they said.
"And don't come back again.
Well, stay at least a twelve-month – we might be dead by then.
Two greybeards down at Coolan – familiar grins they had –
They took delivery of the goods, and also of the bad.
(Some bread and meat had come by train – Joe Swallow was the bad.
They'd met him shearing west o' Bourke in some forgotten year.
They introduced him to the town and pints of Wagga beer.
(And Wagga pints are very good –- I wish I had some here.
It was the Busy Bee Hotel where no one worked at all,
Except perhaps to cook the grub and clean the rooms and "hall".
The usual half-wit yardman worked at each one's beck and call.
'Twas "Drink it down!" and "Fillemup!" and "If the pub goes dry,
There's one just two-mile down the road, and more in Gundagai" –
Where married folk by accident get poison in the pie.
The train comes in at eight o'clock – or half-past, I forget,
And when the dinner table at the Busy Bee was set,
Upon the long verandah stool the beards were wagging yet.
They talked of where they hadn't been and what they hadn't won;
They talked of mostly everything that's known beneath the sun.
The things they didn't talk about were big things they had done.
They talked of what they called to mind, and couldn't call to mind;
They talked of men who saw too far and people who were "blind".
Tradition says that Joe's grey beard wagged not so far behind.
They got a horse and sulky and a riding horse as well,
And after three o'clock they left the Busy Bee Hotel –
In case two missuses should send from homes where they did dwell.
No barber bides in Coolan, no baker bakes the bread;
And every local industry, save rabbitin', is dead –
And choppin' wood.
The women do all that, be it said.
(I'll add a line and mention that two-up goes ahead.
The shadows from the sinking sun were long by hill and scrub;
The two-up school had just begun, in spite of beer and grub;
But three greybeards were wagging yet down at the Two-mile pub.
A full, round, placid summer moon was floating in the sky;
They took a demijohn of beer, in case they should go dry;
And three greybeards went wagging down the road to Gundagai.
At Gundagai next morning (which poets call "th' morn")
The greybeards sought a doctor – a friend of the forlorn –
Whose name is as an angel's who sometimes blows a horn.
And Doctor Gabriel fixed 'em up, but 'twas not in the bar.
It wasn't rum or whisky, nor yet was it Three Star.
'Twas mixed up in a chemist's shop, and swifter stuff by far.
They went out to the backyard (to make my meaning plain);
The doctor's stuff wrought mightily, but by no means in vain.
Then they could eat their breakfasts and drink their beer again.
They made a bond between the three, as rock against the wave,
That they'd go to the barber's shop and each have a clean shave,
To show the people how they looked when they were young and brave.
They had the shave and bought three suits (and startling suits in sooth),
And three white shirts and three red ties (to tell the awful truth),
To show the people how they looked in their hilarious youth.
They burnt their old clothes in the yard, and their old hats as well;
The publican kicked up a row because they made a smell.
They put on bran'-new "larstin'-sides" – and, oh, they looked a yell!
Next morning, or the next (or next), from demon-haunted beds,
And very far from feeling like what sporting men call "peds",
The three rode back without their beards, with "boxers" on their heads!
They tried to get Joe lodgings at the Busy Bee in vain;
They did not take him to their homes, they took him to the train;
They sent him back to Sydney till grey beards grew again.
They sent him back to Sydney to keep away a year;
Because of shaven beards and wives they thought him safer here.
And so he cut his friends and stuck to powdered blondes and beer.
Until the finish came at last, as 'twill to any "bloke";
But in Joe's case it chanced to be a paralytic stroke;
The soft heart of a powdered blonde was, as she put it, "broke".
She sought Joe in the hospital and took the choicest food;
She went there very modestly and in a chastened mood,
And timid and respectful-like – because she was no good.
She sat the death-watch out alone on the verandah dim;
And after all was past and gone she dried her eyes abrim,
And sought the head-nurse timidly, and asked "May I see him?"
And then she went back to her bar, where she'd not been for weeks,
To practise there her barmaid's smile and mend and patch the streaks
The only real tears for Joe had left upon her cheeks
Robert William Service |
Obit 23rd April 1616
Is it not strange that on this common date,
Two titans of their age, aye of all Time,
Together should renounce this mortal state,
And rise like gods, unsullied and sublime?
Should mutually render up the ghost,
And hand n hand join Jove's celestial host?
What wondrous welcome from the scribes on high!
Homer and Virgil would be waiting there;
Plato and Aristotle standing nigh;
Petrarch and Dante greet the peerless pair:
And as in harmony they make their bow,
Horace might quip: "Great timing, you'll allow.
Imagine this transcendant team arrive
At some hilarious banquet of the gods!
Their nations battled when they were alive,
And they were bitter foes - but what's the odd?
Actor and soldier, happy hand in hand,
By death close-linked, like loving brothers stand.
But how diverse! Our Will had gold and gear,
Chattels and land, the starshine of success;
The bleak Castilian fought with casque and spear,
Passing his life in prisons - more or less.
The Bard of Avon was accounted rich;
Cervantes often bedded in a ditch.
Yet when I slough this flesh, if I could meet
By sweet, fantastic fate one of these two,
In languorous Elysian retreat,
Which would I choose? Fair reader, which would you?
Well, though our William more divinely wrote,
By gad! the lousy Spaniard has my vote.