Rudyard Kipling |
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, of him is the story told.
His mercy fills the Khyber hills -- his grace is manifold;
He has taken toll of the North and the South -- his glory reacheth far,
And they tell the tale of his charity from Balkh to Kandahar.
Before the old Peshawur Gate, where Kurd and Kaffir meet,
The Governor of Kabul dealt the Justice of the Street,
And that was strait as running noose and swift as plunging knife,
Tho' he who held the longer purse might hold the longer life.
There was a hound of Hindustan had struck a Euzufzai,
Wherefore they spat upon his face and led him out to die.
It chanced the King went forth that hour when throat was bared to knife;
The Kaffir grovelled under-hoof and clamoured for his life.
Then said the King: "Have hope, O friend! Yea, Death disgraced is hard;
Much honour shall be thine"; and called the Captain of the Guard,
Yar Khan, a bastard of the Blood, so city-babble saith,
And he was honoured of the King -- the which is salt to Death;
And he was son of Daoud Shah, the Reiver of the Plains,
And blood of old Durani Lords ran fire in his veins;
And 'twas to tame an Afghan pride nor Hell nor Heaven could bind,
The King would make him butcher to a yelping cur of Hind.
"Strike!" said the King.
"King's blood art thou --
his death shall be his pride!"
Then louder, that the crowd might catch: "Fear not -- his arms are tied!"
Yar Khan drew clear the Khyber knife, and struck, and sheathed again.
"O man, thy will is done," quoth he; "a King this dog hath slain.
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, to the North and the South is sold.
The North and the South shall open their mouth to a Ghilzai flag unrolled,
When the big guns speak to the Khyber peak, and his dog-Heratis fly:
Ye have heard the song -- How long? How long? Wolves of the Abazai!
That night before the watch was set, when all the streets were clear,
The Governor of Kabul spoke: "My King, hast thou no fear?
Thou knowest -- thou hast heard," -- his speech died at his master's face.
And grimly said the Afghan King: "I rule the Afghan race.
My path is mine -- see thou to thine -- to-night upon thy bed
Think who there be in Kabul now that clamour for thy head.
That night when all the gates were shut to City and to throne,
Within a little garden-house the King lay down alone.
Before the sinking of the moon, which is the Night of Night,
Yar Khan came softly to the King to make his honour white.
The children of the town had mocked beneath his horse's hoofs,
The harlots of the town had hailed him "butcher!" from their roofs.
But as he groped against the wall, two hands upon him fell,
The King behind his shoulder spake: "Dead man, thou dost not well!
'Tis ill to jest with Kings by day and seek a boon by night;
And that thou bearest in thy hand is all too sharp to write.
But three days hence, if God be good, and if thy strength remain,
Thou shalt demand one boon of me and bless me in thy pain.
For I am merciful to all, and most of all to thee.
My butcher of the shambles, rest -- no knife hast thou for me!"
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, holds hard by the South and the North;
But the Ghilzai knows, ere the melting snows, when the swollen banks break forth,
When the red-coats crawl to the sungar wall, and his Usbeg lances fail:
Ye have heard the song -- How long? How long? Wolves of the Zuka Kheyl!
They stoned him in the rubbish-field when dawn was in the sky,
According to the written word, "See that he do not die.
They stoned him till the stones were piled above him on the plain,
And those the labouring limbs displaced they tumbled back again.
One watched beside the dreary mound that veiled the battered thing,
And him the King with laughter called the Herald of the King.
It was upon the second night, the night of Ramazan,
The watcher leaning earthward heard the message of Yar Khan.
From shattered breast through shrivelled lips broke forth the rattling breath,
"Creature of God, deliver me from agony of Death.
They sought the King among his girls, and risked their lives thereby:
"Protector of the Pitiful, give orders that he die!"
"Bid him endure until the day," a lagging answer came;
"The night is short, and he can pray and learn to bless my name.
Before the dawn three times he spoke, and on the day once more:
"Creature of God, deliver me, and bless the King therefor!"
They shot him at the morning prayer, to ease him of his pain,
And when he heard the matchlocks clink, he blessed the King again.
Which thing the singers made a song for all the world to sing,
So that the Outer Seas may know the mercy of the King.
Abdhur Rahman, the Durani Chief, of him is the story told,
He has opened his mouth to the North and the South, they have stuffed his mouth with gold.
Ye know the truth of his tender ruth -- and sweet his favours are:
Ye have heard the song -- How long? How long? from Balkh to Kandahar.
Alexander Pushkin |
Longing for spiritual springs,
I dragged myself through desert sands .
An angel with three pairs of wings
Arrived to me at cross of lands;
With fingers so light and slim
He touched my eyes as in a dream:
And opened my prophetic eyes
Like eyes of eagle in surprise.
He touched my ears in movement, single,
And they were filled with noise and jingle:
I heard a shuddering of heavens,
And angels' flight on azure heights
And creatures' crawl in long sea nights,
And rustle of vines in distant valleys.
And he bent down to my chin,
And he tore off my tongue of sin,
In cheat and idle talks aroused,
And with his hand in bloody specks
He put the sting of wizard snakes
Into my deadly stoned mouth.
With his sharp sword he cleaved my breast,
And plucked my quivering heart out,
And coals flamed with God's behest,
Into my gaping breast were ground.
Like dead I lay on desert sands,
And listened to the God's commands:
'Arise, O prophet, hark and see,
Be filled with utter My demands,
And, going over Land and Sea,
Burn with your Word the humane hearts.
Delmore Schwartz |
Nothing is given which is not taken.
Little or nothing is taken which is not freely desired,
freely, truly and fully.
"You would not seek me if you had not found me": this is
true of all that is supremely desired and admired.
"An enigma is an animal," said the hurried, harried
And a horse divided against itself cannot stand;
And a moron is a man who believes in having too many
wives: what harm is there in that?
O the endless fecundity of poetry is equaled
By its endless inexhaustible freshness, as in the discovery
of America and of poetry.
Hence it is clear that the truth is not strait and narrow but infinite:
All roads lead to Rome and to poetry
and to poem, sweet poem
and from, away and towards are the same typography.
Hence the poet must be, in a way, stupid and naive and a
Unless ye be as a little child ye cannot enter the kingdom
Hence the poet must be able to become a tiger like Blake; a
carousel like Rilke.
Hence he must be all things to be free, for all impersonations
a doormat and a monument
to all situations possible or actual
The cuckold, the cuckoo, the conqueror, and the coxcomb.
It is to him in the zoo that the zoo cries out and the hyena:
"Hello, take off your hat, king of the beasts, and be seated,
And hence the poet must seek to be essentially anonymous.
He must die a little death each morning.
He must swallow his toad and study his vomit
as Baudelaire studied la charogne of Jeanne Duval.
The poet must be or become both Keats and Renoir and
Keats as Renoir.
Mozart as Figaro and Edgar Allan Poe as Ophelia, stoned
out of her mind
drowning in the river called forever river and ever.
Keats as Mimi, Camille, and an aging gourmet.
He must also refuse the favors of the unattainable lady
(As Baudelaire refused Madame Sabatier when the fair
blonde summoned him,
For Jeanne Duval was enough and more than enough,
although she cuckolded him
With errand boys, servants, waiters; reality was Jeanne Duval.
Had he permitted Madame Sabatier to teach the poet a greater whiteness,
His devotion and conception of the divinity of Beauty
would have suffered an absolute diminution.
The poet must be both Casanova and St.
He must be Adonis, Nero, Hippolytus, Heathcliff, and
Genghis Kahn, Genghis Cohen, and Gordon Martini
Dandy Ghandi and St.
Professor Tenure, and Dizzy the dean and Disraeli of Death.
He would have worn the horns of existence upon his head,
He would have perceived them regarding the looking-glass,
He would have needed them the way a moose needs a hatrack;
Above his heavy head and in his loaded eyes, black and scorched,
He would have seen the meaning of the hat-rack, above the glass
Looking in the dark foyer.
For the poet must become nothing but poetry,
He must be nothing but a poem when he is writing
Until he is absent-minded as the dead are
Forgetful as the nymphs of Lethe and a lobotomy.
("the fat weed that rots on Lethe wharf").
Rudyard Kipling |
We've got the cholerer in camp -- it's worse than forty fights;
We're dyin' in the wilderness the same as Isrulites;
It's before us, an' be'ind us, an' we cannot get away,
An' the doctor's just reported we've ten more to-day!
Oh, strike your camp an' go, the Bugle's callin',
The Rains are fallin' --
The dead are bushed an' stoned to keep 'em safe below;
The Band's a-doin' all she knows to cheer us;
The Chaplain's gone and prayed to Gawd to 'ear us --
To 'ear us --
O Lord, for it's a-killin' of us so!
Since August, when it started, it's been stickin' to our tail,
Though they've 'ad us out by marches an' they've 'ad us back by rail;
But it runs as fast as troop-trains, and we cannot get away;
An' the sick-list to the Colonel makes ten more to-day.
There ain't no fun in women nor there ain't no bite to drink;
It's much too wet for shootin', we can only march and think;
An' at evenin', down the nullahs, we can 'ear the jackals say,
"Get up, you rotten beggars, you've ten more to-day!"
'Twould make a monkey cough to see our way o' doin' things --
Lieutenants takin' companies an' captains takin' wings,
An' Lances actin' Sergeants -- eight file to obey --
For we've lots o' quick promotion on ten deaths a day!
Our Colonel's white an' twitterly -- 'e gets no sleep nor food,
But mucks about in 'orspital where nothing does no good.
'E sends us 'eaps o' comforts, all bought from 'is pay --
But there aren't much comfort 'andy on ten deaths a day.
Our Chaplain's got a banjo, an' a skinny mule 'e rides,
An' the stuff 'e says an' sings us, Lord, it makes us split our sides!
With 'is black coat-tails a-bobbin' to Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-ay!
'E's the proper kind o' padre for ten deaths a day.
An' Father Victor 'elps 'im with our Roman Catholicks --
He knows an 'eap of Irish songs an' rummy conjurin' tricks;
An' the two they works together when it comes to play or pray;
So we keep the ball a-rollin' on ten deaths a day.
We've got the cholerer in camp -- we've got it 'ot an' sweet;
It ain't no Christmas dinner, but it's 'elped an' we must eat.
We've gone beyond the funkin', 'cause we've found it doesn't pay,
An' we're rockin' round the Districk on ten deaths a day!
Then strike your camp an' go, the Rains are fallin',
The Bugle's callin'!
The dead are bushed an' stoned to keep 'em safe below!
An' them that do not like it they can lump it,
An' them that cannot stand it they can jump it;
We've got to die somewhere -- some way -- some'ow --
We might as well begin to do it now!
Then, Number One, let down the tent-pole slow,
Knock out the pegs an' 'old the corners -- so!
Fold in the flies, furl up the ropes, an' stow!
Oh, strike -- oh, strike your camp an' go!
(Gawd 'elp us!)
Derek Walcott |
Broad sun-stoned beaches.
A green river.
scorched yellow palms
from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.
Days I have held,
days I have lost,
days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms.
Robert Lowell |
Here the jack-hammer jabs into the ocean;
My heart, you race and stagger and demand
More blood-gangs for your ******-brass percussions,
Till I, the stunned machine of your devotion,
Clanging upon this cymbal of a hand,
Am rattled screw and footloose.
End in the mud-flat detritus of death.
My heart, beat faster, faster.
In Black Mud
Hungarian workmen give their blood
For the martyrs Stephen who was stoned to death.
Black Myd, a name to conjure with: O mud
For watermelons gutted to the crust,
Mud for the mole-tide harbor, mud for mouse,
Mud for teh armored Diesel fishing tubs that thud
A year and a day to wind and tide; the dust
Is on this skipping heart that shakes my house,
House of our Savior who was hanged till death.
My heart, beat faster, faster.
In Black Mud
Stephen the martyre was broken down to blood:
Our ransom is the rubble of his death.
Christ walks on the black water.
In Black Mud
Darts the kingfisher.
On Corpus Christi, heart,
Over the drum-beat of St.
I hear him, Stupor Mundi, and the mud
Flies from his hunching wings and beak--my heart,
he blue kingfisher dives on you in fire.
Thomas Hardy |
'TWAS a death-bed summons, and forth I went
By the way of the Western Wall, so drear
On that winter night, and sought a gate--
The home, by Fate,
Of one I had long held dear.
And there, as I paused by her tenement,
And the trees shed on me their rime and hoar,
I thought of the man who had left her lone--
Him who made her his own
When I loved her, long before.
The rooms within had the piteous shine
The home-things wear which the housewife miss;
From the stairway floated the rise and fall
Of an infant's call,
Whose birth had brought her to this.
Her life was the price she would pay for that whine--
For a child by the man she did not love.
"But let that rest forever," I said,
And bent my tread
To the chamber up above.
She took my hand in her thin white own,
And smiled her thanks--though nigh too weak--
And made them a sign to leave us there;
Then faltered, ere
She could bring herself to speak.
"'Twas to see you before I go--he'll condone
Such a natural thing now my time's not much--
When Death is so near it hustles hence
All passioned sense
Between woman and man as such!
"My husband is absent.
The City detains him.
But, in truth,
He has not been kind.
I will speak no blame,
But--the child is lame;
O, I pray she may reach his ruth!
"Forgive past days--I can say no more--
Maybe if we'd wedded you'd now repine!.
But I treated you ill.
I was punished.
--Truth shall I tell?
Would the child were yours and mine!
"As a wife I was true.
But, such my unease
That, could I insert a deed back in Time,
I'd make her yours, to secure your care;
And the scandal bear,
And the penalty for the crime!"
--When I had left, and the swinging trees
Rang above me, as lauding her candid say,
Another was I.
Her words were enough:
Came smooth, came rough,
I felt I could live my day.
Next night she died; and her obsequies
In the Field of Tombs, by the Via renowned,
Had her husband's heed.
His tendance spent,
I often went
And pondered by her mound.
All that year and the next year whiled,
And I still went thitherward in the gloam;
But the Town forgot her and her nook,
And her husband took
Another Love to his home.
And the rumor flew that the lame lone child
Whom she wished for its safety child of mine,
Was treated ill when offspring came
Of the new-made dame,
And marked a more vigorous line.
A smarter grief within me wrought
Than even at loss of her so dear;
Dead the being whose soul my soul suffused,
Her child ill-used,
I helpless to interfere!
One eve as I stood at my spot of thought
In the white-stoned Garth, brooding thus her wrong,
Her husband neared; and to shun his view
By her hallowed mew
I went from the tombs among
To the Cirque of the Gladiators which faced--
That haggard mark of Imperial Rome,
Whose Pagan echoes mock the chime
Of our Christian time:
It was void, and I inward clomb.
Scarce had night the sun's gold touch displaced
From the vast Rotund and the neighboring dead
When her husband followed; bowed; half-passed,
With lip upcast;
Then, halting, sullenly said:
"It is noised that you visit my first wife's tomb.
Now, I gave her an honored name to bear
While living, when dead.
So I've claim to ask
By what right you task
My patience by vigiling there?
"There's decency even in death, I assume;
Preserve it, sir, and keep away;
For the mother of my first-born you
Show mind undue!
--Sir, I've nothing more to say.
A desperate stroke discerned I then--
God pardon--or pardon not--the lie;
She had sighed that she wished (lest the child should pine
Of slights) 'twere mine,
So I said: "But the father I.
"That you thought it yours is the way of men;
But I won her troth long ere your day:
You learnt how, in dying, she summoned me?
'Twas in fealty.
--Sir, I've nothing more to say,
"Save that, if you'll hand me my little maid,
I'll take her, and rear her, and spare you toil.
Think it more than a friendly act none can;
I'm a lonely man,
While you've a large pot to boil.
"If not, and you'll put it to ball or blade--
To-night, to-morrow night, anywhen--
I'll meet you here.
But think of it,
And in season fit
Let me hear from you again.
--Well, I went away, hoping; but nought I heard
Of my stroke for the child, till there greeted me
A little voice that one day came
To my window-frame
And babbled innocently:
"My father who's not my own, sends word
I'm to stay here, sir, where I belong!"
Next a writing came: "Since the child was the fruit
Of your passions brute,
Pray take her, to right a wrong.
And I did.
And I gave the child my love,
And the child loved me, and estranged us none.
But compunctions loomed; for I'd harmed the dead
By what I'd said
For the good of the living one.
--Yet though, God wot, I am sinner enough,
And unworthy the woman who drew me so,
Perhaps this wrong for her darling's good
She forgives, or would,
If only she could know!
Robert Louis Stevenson |
When the grass was closely mown,
Walking on the lawn alone,
In the turf a hole I found
And hid a soldier underground.
Spring and daisies came apace;
Grasses hid my hiding-place;
Grasses run like a green sea
O'er the lawn up to my knee.
Under grass alone he lies,
Looking up with leaden eyes,
Scarlet coat and pointed gun,
To the stars and to the sun.
When the grass is ripe like grain,
When the scythe is stoned again,
When the lawn is shaven clear,
Then my hole shall reappear.
I shall find him, never fear,
I shall find my grenadier;
But, for all that's gone and come,
I shall find my soldier dumb.
He has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if he could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.
He has seen the starry hours
And the springing of the flowers;
And the fairy things that pass
In the forests of the grass.
In the silence he has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O'er him as he lay alone.
Not a word will he disclose,
Not a word of all he knows.
I must lay him on the shelf,
And make up the tale myself.
Dylan Thomas |
Once it was the colour of saying
Soaked my table the uglier side of a hill
With a capsized field where a school sat still
And a black and white patch of girls grew playing;
The gentle seaslides of saying I must undo
That all the charmingly drowned arise to cockcrow and kill.
When I whistled with mitching boys through a reservoir park
Where at night we stoned the cold and cuckoo
Lovers in the dirt of their leafy beds,
The shade of their trees was a word of many shades
And a lamp of lightning for the poor in the dark;
Now my saying shall be my undoing,
And every stone I wind off like a reel.
Rg Gregory |
[from a motif by Jean Dunand (1877-1942)]
seven lacqueur ducks on a silver pond
their rippling held in a moveless frieze
nothing now can help them swim beyond
the stoned edges (invent a new-age breeze)
eternity is water starved of trees
their fixture is our own - for all we fidget
history puts us down as one dead digit
silver-ponded we can't stop being stirred
to leap behind and forward in our schemes
tasting the larger landscapes of each word
wishing the stillborn pond break into streams
to sweep us to the oceans of our dreams
in our small minds the universe is waltzing.
takes pain to sauerkraut such schmaltzing
the patch we're stuck in's our best endeavour
(lacquered in the way our talents choose)
in a phoney war we're gunned to being clever
its medals leave an unrelenting bruise
every win predicts elsewhere we'll lose
wisdom roots deep - needs not to see beyond
seven lacqueur ducks on a silver pond