Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Story from “The Epic of Gilgamesh” by Anonymous

of him who knew the most of all men know;
who made the journey; heartbroken; reconciled;

who knew the way things were before the Flood,
the secret things, the mystery; who went

to the end of the earth, and over; who returned,
and wrote the story on a tablet of stone.

He built Uruk. He built the keeping place
of Anu and Ishtar. The outer wall

shines in the sun like brightest copper; the inner
wall is beyond the imagining of kings.

Study the brickwork, study the fortification;
climb the great ancient staircase to the terrace;

study how it is made; from the terrace see
the planted and fallow fields, the ponds and orchards.

This is Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh
the Wild Ox, son of Lugalbanda, son

of the Lady Wildcow Ninsun, Gilgamesh
the vanguard and the rear guard of the army,

Shadow of Darkness over the enemy field,
the Web, the Flood that rises to wash away

the walls of alien cities, Gilgamesh
the strongest one of all, the perfect, the terror.

It is he who opened passes through the mountains;
and he who dug deep wells on the mountainsides;

who measured the world; and sought out Utnapishtim
beyond the world; it is he who restored the shrines;

two-thirds a god, one-third a man, the king.
Go to the temple of Anu and Ishtar:

open the copper chest with the iron locks;
the tablet of lapis lazuli tells the story.

From: Ferry, David, Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse, 1993, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, pp. 3-4.

Date: c1200 BCE (original in Akkadian); 1991 (translation in English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: David Ferry (1924- )

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Questions for a Late Night by Gregory Djanikian

And what if the soldiers came
shouting and clattering, pulling you
out of your house for the journey
which had no clear destination?

What if the road you had to follow
looking for fruit trees, spring water,
had to be imagined each morning,
no jacarandas offering you shade,
the deserts wafting you
like a husk in the simoom?

What if the granaries were leveled, the rivers dry,
young girls bruised in the thighs,
the bird-like men without feet?

What would the darkness bring you—
wolf howls, hoof beats
sticking you like needles—
if all you wanted of it
was a place to enter, disguised
from the smallest reflection?

What if there were no night,
the heavens dismantled, the earth
lit by a hundred suns?

What if you were the perpetual witness
walking without sleep
where everyone desired it
and no one dared close his eyes?

What words could you say
to remember the sound of breakage?
In what place would you touch your body
to feel your body touching you back?


Date: 2007

By: Gregory Djanikian (1949- )

Monday, 18 September 2017

Aberdeen, the Granite City by George Bruce

The brown land behind, south and north
Dee and Don and east the doubtful sea,
The town secured by folk that warsled
With water, earth and stone; quarrying,
Shaping, smoothing their unforgiving stone,
Engineering to make this sufficient city
That takes the salt air for its own.
The pale blue winter sky, the spring green trees,
The castigating thunder rain, the wind
Beating about the midnight streets,
The hard morning sun make their change
By the white unaltered granite –
Streets of it, broad roadways, granite pavemented
To the tall tenements, rectangular wide-walled stores,
To the kirks and pillared Assembly Rooms;
Streets with drinking troughs for the animals,
And at the port quays crowded,
Overfed with horses, lorries, men and boys,
And always and at every point
Clatter on the causies.
Business is good, will be good here
At the dead end of time. Record then
This people who purposive and with strategy
Established a northern city, a coast town
That stands and stares by the waters,
Dee and Don and the sea.


Date: 1971

By: George Bruce (1909-2002)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Spring by John Gardiner Calkins Brainard

TO MISS — —.

Other poets may muse on thy beauties, and sing
Of thy birds, and thy flowers, and thy perfumes, sweet Spring!
They may wander enraptured by hills and by mountains,
Or pensively pore by thy fresh gushing fountains;
Or sleep in the moonlight by favorite streams,
Inspired by the whispering sylphs in their dreams,
And awake from their slumbers to hail the bright sun,
When shining in dew the fresh morning comes on.

But I’ve wet shoes and stockings, a cold in my throat,
The head-ache, and tooth-ache, and quinsy to boot;
No dew from the cups of the flow’rets I sip, —
‘T is nothing but boneset that moistens my lip;
Not a cress from the spring or the brook can be had:
At morn, noon, and night, I get nothing but shad;
My whispering sylph is a broad-shouldered lass,
And my bright sun — a warming-pan made out o brass!

Then be thou my genius; for what can I do,
When I cannot see nature, but copy from you?
If Spring be the season of beauty and youth,
Of hope and of loveliness, kindness, and truth;
Of all that’s inspiring, and all that is bright,
And all that is what we call just about right—
Why need I expose my sick muse to the weather,
When by going to you she would find all together?

From: Brainard, John, Poems of John Brainard, 1996, University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 26-27.

Date: 1825

By: John Gardiner Calkins Brainard (1796-1828)

Saturday, 16 September 2017

An Apologue by Edward Jerningham

Woo’d by the summer gale, an Olive stood
Beside the margin of the silver flood,
Beneath its playful gently-way’ring shade
A Syrian Rose her Eastern bloom display’d!
The flow’r complain’d, that stretching o’er her head
The dark’ning Olive a broad umbrage spread,
Or if admitted to a partial view,
Her blushing leaves imbib’d a yellow hue.

Not unattentive to the mournful strain,
The Master heard his Syrian Rose complain:
The ready axe soon urg’d the fatal wound,
And bow’d the stately Olive to the ground!
The Rose exulting now with full display
Gave all her beauty to the garish day;
But soon her triumph ceas’d—the mid-day beam
Pour’d on her tender frame a scorching stream:
The Rose now sick’ning, drooping, languid, pale,
Call’d the soft show’r, and call’d the cooling gale;
Nor soft’ning show’r, nor gale with cooling breath,
Approach’d, to save her from untimely death.

The humbled Olive saw the Rose distress’d,
And thus with dying voice the flow’r address’d:
Ah! were it not that low-born envy stole
With all its rancour on thy yielding soul,
I might, attir’d in youth’s unfading green,
Have still embellish’d the surrounding scene;
And thou, detaining still th’ admiring eye,
Have breath’d thy little incense to the sky!

From: Jerningham, Mr., Poems [Part 2], 2009, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 130-131.

Date: 1796

By: Edward Jerningham (1737-1812)

Friday, 15 September 2017

Gloria Lata Via by Henry Peacham

Though life be short, and man doth as the Sunne,
His journey finish, in a little space,
The way is wide, an honest course to runne,
And great the glories of a virtuous race,
That at the last, doe our just labors crowne,
With threefold wreath, Love, Honor, and Renowne.

Nor can Nights shadow , or the Stygian deepe,
Conceale faire Virtue, from the Worldes wide eie,
The more opprest, the more she strives to peepe,
And raise her Rose-bound golden head on high:
When Epicures, the wretch, and worldly slave,
Shall rot in shame, alive, and in the grave.

From: Peacham, Henry, Minerva Britanna, or A Garden of Heroical Devices, furnished, and adorned with Emblemes and Impresa’s of sundry natures, 1612, Shoe-Lane at the Sign of the Falcon: London, p. 122.

Date: 1612

By: Henry Peacham (1578-?1644)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Preface, Expressing the Passioned Minde of the Penitent Sinner: Sonnet 1 by Anne Vaughan Locke/Lock/Lok Prowse

The hainous gylt of my forsaken ghost
So threates, alas, vnto my febled sprite
Deserued death, and (that me greueth most)
Still stand so fixt before my daseld sight
The lothesome filthe of my disteined life,
The mighty wrath of myne offended Lorde,
My Lord whos wrath is sharper than the knife,
And deper woundes than dobleedged sworde,
That, as the dimmed and fordulled eyen
Full fraught with teares & more & more opprest
With growing streames of the distilled bryne
Sent from the fornace of a grefefull brest,
Can not enioy the comfort of the light,
Nor finde the waye wherin to walke aright.

Note: This is the first sonnet from the first known sonnet sequence (A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner) in the English language.


Date: 1560

By: Anne Vaughan Locke/Lock/Lok Prowse (1530-c1590)

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Death-Bed Song of Meilyr, the Poet [Fragment] by Meilyr Brydydd

Great store had I of satin and of gold
From generous lords who loved my art of old;
But silent now are all my hero lays,
Love’s poignant spell my harp no longer sways.
While I, the Poet Meilyr, supplicate
Peter for entrance at The Heavenly Gate,
And sing aloud of that Last Day and dread,
When Earth and Sea shall render forth their dead.

From: Graves, Alfred Perceval (transl. and ed.), Welsh Poetry Old and New in English Verse, 1912, Longmans, Green and Co: London, p. 15      .

Date: c1137 (original in Welsh); 1912 (translation in English)

By: Meilyr Brydydd (fl. 1100-1137)

Translated by: Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Fragment 286: The Influence of Spring by Ibycus

In Spring, bedewed with river-streams,
From where, for everlasting, gleams
The garden of th’ Hesperides
Blossom Cydonian apple-trees; —
In Spring the saplings freshly shine,
Beneath the parent-vine
In shadow and in breeze;
But me Love’s mighty power,
That sleepeth never an hour,
From Venus rushing, burneth with desire,
As with lightning fire;
Black, as the Thracian wind,
He seizes on my mind,
With dry delirious heat
Inflames my reason’s seat,
And, in the centre of my soul,
Keeps empire for a child, and holds
Uncheck’d control.


Date: 7th century BCE (original in Greek); 1833 (translation in English)

By: Ibycus (6th century BCE)

Translated by: Henry Nelson Coleridge (1798-1843)

Monday, 11 September 2017

Soon Summer Will Be Over and the Bugs Will Be Gone by Daniel Donaghy

Soon summer will be over and the bugs will be gone,
Marguerite says, skipping into the overgrown
field of goldenrod and yarrow,
so far from the Y’s other counselors
and kids that when I look back
I can’t see the building or the playground,
and I can’t help thinking
it must have been a scene like this
from which a man abducted her last year,
dyed her hair red and called her
by his dead daughter’s name,
and about all that might one day flood
into her consciousness, how
even though doctors told her mother
it might take years, might never come back,
I hold her hand knowing if it does
there will be nothing anyone
can do to end her grief,
and that if it all came back now,
there would be nothing more
I could do than what I’m doing.
As we head down a trail, I ask
if she’s having fun, and she says yes
and snatches a few more ladybugs,
making over twenty for the hour,
some big with spots on each wing,
others tiny with no spots at all,
their shells flawless as her face,
her cupped hands scooping them
one by one into our bowl before
she opens the lid and sets them free.


Date: 2009

By: Daniel Donaghy (19??- )