Monday, 25 May 2015

Swifts* by Glyn Jones

Shut-winged fish, brown as mushroom,
The sweet, hedge-hurdling swifts, zoom
Over waterfalls of wind.
I salute all those lick-finned,
Dusky-bladed air-cutters.
Could you weave words as taut, sirs,
As those swifts’, great cywydd kings,
Swart basketry of swoopings?

*This poem is written in a metre called the traethodl, which means something like ‘delivery in rhyme’, I suppose. Each line has seven syllables and an accented final syllable rhymes with an unaccented. The ‘great cywydd-kings’ are the Welsh poets who wrote in the cywydd metre, following Dafydd ap Gwilym and his contemporaries, poets like Gruffydd Grug, Iolo Goch, Dafydd Nanmor, and so on. My poem has only eight lines, and my explanation takes longer than the poem! – Glyn Jones


Date: 1969

By: Glyn Jones (1905-1995)

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Apple Tree by Thomas Rowland Hughes

In bloom my garden apple tree
A marvel of blossom is to me;
A tree of snow near the window panes,
Where light on peace of nightfall rains;
As sheep’s wool white,
Or sunset alight,
Was ever a tree so shapely and bright?

That’s what all people love to see-
The beauty of my apple tree;
But as they praise it to the skies
The salt tears gather in my eyes,
For the boughs bend
Over my friend,
Buried, but faithful to me to the end.

Beauty explodes through boughs of grace
Above my old dog’s burial place,
Flame-coloured whiteness, white as snow,
With redness of dawn and fire’s glow-
I would rejoice
To give from choice
These, but to hear once more my old dog’s voice.


Date: 1948 (original in Welsh); 198? (translated into English)

By: Thomas Rowland Hughes (1903-1949)

Translated by: Glyn Jones (1905-1995)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Sweet Violet by Steve Willey

Behind one violet there is another
See, what is sweet about that –
Or yellow,

Every star emits
Yellow lilac light

Thick violet walls
Raspberry love –

Sweet sandhills draw upwards,

Tooth white stars

Brown silhouetted stole,
Soundhills needle

That I am not
Writing about you at all.

Currents raging.
Violet: sweet as a ghost.


Date: 2011

By: Steve Willey (19??- )

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Werewolf by Mary Anne Grueber Watson Sealy Bushby

‘Twas at the middle hour of night;
And though the moon gave her pale light,
O’er the haunted wood a thick mist hung
And the wind was howling its leaves among.
In a cart along that way so wild
A peasant was driving his wife and child.

“For the fairy folks thou need’st fear not,
They dance ‘neath the moon on yon green spot.
Should the screech-owl cry from yonder marsh
Say a prayer, nor heed its voice so harsh.
Whate’er thou seest, be not afraid,
But clasp the child,” the father said.

“Forward, old horse! Behind yon tree
Our church’s steeple I can see.
Get on! But hold, a moment stop–
The linch-pin is about to drop;
‘Tis crack’d–I’ll cut a stick, my dear;
Hold fast the child, and have no fear!”

An hour alone she might have sat,
When a noise she heard–“Oh, what is that?”
Lo! a coal-black hound! She sees and knows
The werewolf! while his teeth he shows,
And glares upon her child, she flings
Her apron o’er it as he springs.

His sharp teeth bite it; but she cries
To God for help, away he flies.
Her arms the helpless babe enfold,
She sits like a statue, pale and cold.
But soon her husband’s by her side,
And onwards now they safely ride.

Arrived at home, a light is brought;
She starts, as with some horrid thought:
“What? Husband! husband! can these be
Threads hanging from thy teeth I see?
Thou art thyself a werewolf then!”
“Thy words,” he said, “have set me free again!”


Date: 1876

By: Mary Anne Grueber Watson Sealy Bushby (1802-1876)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Toubi ji 55 by Qian Qianyi

It is not quite like wailing, nor like songs,
I grind ink on my broken inkslab as on a shield.
My remaining years , I live them as some random musings –
Oh, that my sparse brush might sweep the demon-host away!
There is no road ahead and the day is waning: I resort to this;
My hair is thin, yet my mind loaded; what else can I do?
Only when I am through chanting “Wuyi1” will I stop crying;
One hundred poems, all wailing and stamping – still not enough.

1”Wuyi” (Mao no. 133) – poem from the Shijing (Book of Odes)

From: Yim, Lawrence C. H., The Poet-historian Qian Qianyi, 2009, Routledge: Oxford, p. 5.

Date: 1662 (original); 2009 (translation)

By: Qian Qianyi (1582-1664)

Translated by: Lawrence C. H. Yim (19??- )

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

After the United States, the United States by Laura Kilbride

(for Ian Heames)

official subjects of the deepest rolling
news that stays
on the surface, the reception
noisily catches

like oil, the news decays

— the bodies were burnt —

after they frayed
particles blown by current snatches
match of the day

New research into bone immunity
The physiology of the sign O.K.
An attack on our community

The presses are incendiary


No confirmation

from the marine, a unity
gathers the force of information

No confirmation yet

from the marine
inordinate loss

— Ordinary ratiocination to toss
an artificial flower —

laser fall across my goggles
the punctum indolently
the sea throws again, redolently

our sole enemy
now rollingly shot
changes tack

who in the first
flowering of war attacked;
what is attacked
now fills our hours anew

The water-resistant flower
at the appropriate hour
has dutifully done;
its leaves home-spun

as the keen grass, the barely audible
hum of man, falling from
the fiftieth, tenth, or second floor become
official subjects of the rolling deep.

From: Hamilton, Nathan (ed.), Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK, 2013, Bloodaxe Books: Hexham, Northumberland, pp. 138-140.

Date: 2013

By: Laura Kilbride (19??- )

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Seeker by Idris Davies

He sought the truth on Sunday,
But sadly turned away
From the chapel to the hillside
Where till the dusk of day
Alone he dreamed and wandered
And watched the stars smile down
On a folk who regarded the Godhead
As a child regards a clown.


Date: 1945

By: Idris Davies (1905-1953)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Rock Me to Sleep by Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (Florence Percy)

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

From: Akers, Elizabeth (Florence Percy), Poems, 1866, Ticknor and Fields: Boston, pp. 190-192.

Date: 1859

By: Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen (Florence Percy) (1832-1911)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A Wife by Thomas Overbury

Each woman is a briefe of womankind,
And doth in little even as much containe,
As, in one day and night, all life we finde,
Of either, more is but the same againe:
God fram’d her so, that to her husband she,
As Eve, should all the world of woman be.

So fram’d he both, that neither power he gave
Use of themselves, but by exchange to make:
Whence in their face, the faire no pleasure have,
But by reflex of what thence other take.
Our lips in their own kisse no pleasure find:
Toward their proper face, our eies are blinde.

So God in Eve did perfect man, begun;
Till then, in vaine much of himselfe he had:
In Adam, God created only one,
Eve, and the world to come, in Eve he made.
We are two halfes: whiles each from other straies
Both barren are; joindboth their like can raise

At first, both sexes were in man combinde,
Man a she-man did in his body breed;
Adam was EvesEve mother of mankinde,
Eve from live-flesh, man did from dust proceed.
One, thus made twomariage doth re-unite,
And makes them both but one hermaphrodite.

Man did but the well-being of this life
From woman take; her being she from man;
And therefore Eve created was a wife,
And at the end of all her sex, began:
Mariage their object is; their being then,
And now perfection, they receive from men.

Mariage; to all those joyes two parties be,
And doubled are by being parted so,
Wherein the very act of chastity,
Whereby two soules into one body go.
Which makes twoone; while here they living be,
And after death in their posterity.

God to each man a private woman gave,
That in that center his desires might stint,
That he a comfort like himselfe might have,
And that on her his like he might imprint.
Double is womans use, part of their end
Doth in this age, part on the next depend.

We fill but part of time, and cannot dye,
Till we the world a fresh supply have lent.
Children are bodies sole eternity;
Nature is Godsart is mans instrument.
Now all mans art but only dead things makes,
But herein man in things of life partakes.

For wandring lust; I know ’tis infinite,
It still begins, and addes not more to more:
The guilt is everlasting, the delight,
This instant doth not feele, of that before.
The taste of it is only in the sense,
The operation in the conscience.

Woman is not lusts bounds, but woman-kinde;
One is loves number: who from that doth fall,
Hath lost his hold, and no new rest shall find;
Vice hath no meane, but not to be at all.
wife is that enoughlust cannot find:
For lust is till with want, or too muchpin’d.

Bate lust the sin, my share is ev’n with his,
For, not to lust, and to enjoy, is one:
And more or lesse past, equall nothing is;
I still have one, lust one at once, alone:
And though the women often changed be,
Yet he’s the same without variety.

Mariage our lust (as ’twere with fuell fire)
Doth, with a medicine of the same, allay,
And not forbid, but rectifie desire.
My selfe I cannot chuse, my wife I may:
And in the choise of her, it much doth lye,
To mend my selfe in my posterity.

Or rather let me love, then be in love;
So let me chuse, as wife and friend to find,
Let me forget her sex, when I approve:
Beasts likenesse lies in shape, but ours in mind:
Our soules no sexes have, their love is cleane,
No sex, both in the better part are men.

But physicke for our lust their bodies be,
But matter fit to shew our love upon:
But onely shells for our posterity,
Their soules were giv’n lest men should be alone:
For, but the soules interpreters, words be,
Without which, bodies are no company.

That goodly frame we see of flesh and blood,
Their fashion is, not weight; it is I say
But their lay-part; but well digested food;
Tis but ’twixt dust, and dust, lifes middle way:
The worth of it is nothing that is seen,
But only that holds a soule within.

And all the carnall beauty of my wife,
Is but skin-deep, but to two senses known;
Short even of pictures, shorter liv’d then life,
And yet the love survives, that’s built thereon:
For our imagination is too high,
For bodies when they meet, to satisfie.

All shapes, all colours, are alike in night,
Nor doth our touch distinguish foule or faire;
But mans imagination, and his sight,
And those, but the first weeke; by custome are
Both made alike, which differed at first view,
Nor can that difference absence much renew.

Nor can that beauty, lying in the face,
But meerely by imagination be
Enjoy’d by us, in an inferiour place.
Nor can that beauty by enjoying we
Make ours becomeso our desire growes tame,
We changed are, but it remaines the same.

Birth, lesse then beauty, shall my reason blinde,
Her birth goes to my children, not to me:
Rather had I that active gentry finde,
Vertue, then passive from her ancestry;
Rather in her alive one vertue see,
Then all the rest dead in her pedigree.

In the degrees, high rather, be she plac’t
Of nature, then of art, and policy:
Gentry is but a relique of time past:
And love doth only but the present see;
Things were first made, then words: she were the same
, or withoutthat title or that name.

As for (the oddes of sexes) portion,
Nor will I shun it, nor my aime it make;
Birth, beauty, wealth, are nothing worth alone,
All these I would for good additions take,
Not for good parts, those two are ill combin’d
Whom, any third thing from themselves hath join’d.

Rather then these the object of my love,
Let it be good; when these with vertue go,
They (in themselves indifferent) vertues prove,
For good (like fire) turnes all things to be so.
Gods image in her soule, O let me place
My love upon! not Adams in her face.

Good, is a fairer attribute then white,
’Tis the minds beauty keeps the other sweete;
That’s not still one, nor mortall with the light,
Nor glasse, nor painting can it counterfeit;
Nor doth it raise desires, which ever tend
At once, to their perfection and their end.

By good I would have holy understood,
So God she cannot love, but also me,
The law requires our words and deeds be good,
Religion even the thoughts doth sanctifie:
As she is more a maid that ravisht is,
Then she which only doth but wish amisse.

Lust onely by religion is withstood,
Lusts object is alive, his strength within;
Morality resists but in cold blood;
Respect of credit feareth shame, not sin.
But no place darke enough for such offence
She findes, that’s watch’t, by her own conscience.

Then may I trust her body with her mind,
And, thereupon secure, need never know
The pangs of jealousie: and love doth find
More paine to doubt her false, then know her so:
For patience is, of evils that are knowne,
The certaine remedie; but doubt hath none.

And be that thought once stirr’d, ’twill never die:
Nor will grief more mild by custome prove,
Nor yet amendment can it satisfie,
The anguish more or lesse, is as our love;
This misery doth jealousie ensue,
That we may prove her false, but cannot true.

Suspicious may the will of lust restraine,
But good prevents from having such a will;
wife that’s good, doth chaste and more containe,
For chaste is but an abstinence from ill:
And in a wife that’s bad, although the best
Of qualities; yet in a good, the least.

To barre the meanes is care, not jealousie:
Some lawfull things to be avoyded are,
When they occasion of unlawfull be:
Lust ere it hurts, is be descry’d afarre:
Lust is a sinne of two; he that is sure
Of either part, may be of both secure.

Give me next good, an understanding wife,
By nature wise, not learned by much art,
Some knowledge on her side, will all my life
More scope of conversation impart:
Besides, her inborne vertue fortifie.
They are most firmly good, that best know why.

passive understanding to conceive,
And judgement to discerne, I wish to finde:
Beyond that, all as hazardous I leave;
Learning and pregnant wit in woman-kinde,
What it findes malleable, makes fraile,
And doth not adde more ballast, but more saile.

Domesticke charge doth best that sex befit,
Contiguous businesse; so to fixe the mind,
That leisure space for fancies not admit:
Their leysure ’tis corrupteth woman-kind:
Else, being plac’d from many vices free,
They had to heav’n a shorter cut than we.

Bookes are a part of mans prerogative,
In formall inke they thoughts and voyces hold,
That we to them our solitude may give,
And make time-present travell that of old.
Our life, fame peeceth longer at the end,
And bookes it farther backward doe extend.

As good, and knowing, let her be discreete,
That, to the others weight, doth fashion bring;
Discretion doth consider what is fit,
Goodnesse but what is lawfull; but the thing,
Not circumstanceslearning is and wit,
In men, but curious folly without it.

To keepe their name, when ’tis in others hands,
Discretion askes; their credit is by farre
More fraile than they: on likelihoods it stands,
And hard to be disprov’d, lusts slanders are.
Their carriage, not their chastity alone,
Must keepe their name chaste from suspition.

Womans behaviour is a surer barre
Then is their nothat fairely doth deny
Without denyingthereby kept they are
Safe ev’n from hope; in part to blame is she
Which hath without consent bin only tride;
He comes too neere, that comes to be denide.

Now since a woman we to marry are,
soule and body, not a soule alone,
When one is good, then be the other faire;
Beauty is health and beauty, both in one;
Be she so faire, as change can yeeld no gaine;
So faire, as she most woman else containe.

So faire at least let me imagine her;
That thought to me, is truthopinion
Cannot in matter of opinion erre;
With no eyes shall I see her but mine owne.
And as my fancy her conceives to be,
Even such my senses both, doe feele and see.

The face we may the seat of beauty call,
In it the relish of the rest doth lye,
Nay ev’n a figure of the mind withall:
And of the face, the life moves in the eye;
No things else, being two, so like we see,
So like, that they, two but in number, be.

Beauty in decent shape, and colours lies.
Colours the matter are, and shape the soule;
The soule, which from no single part doth rise,
But from the just proportion of the whole.
And is a meere spirituall harmony,
Of every part united in the eye.

Love is a kind of superstition,
Which feares the idoll which it self hath fram’d:
Lust a desire, which rather from his owne
, then from the object is inflam’d:
Beauty is loves objectwoman lust’s to gaine
Love, love desires; lust onely to obtaine.

No circumstance doth beauty beautifie,
Like gracefull fashion, native comelinesse.
Nay ev’n gets pardon for deformity;
Art cannot ought beget, but may increase;
When nature had fixt beauty, perfect made,
Something she left for motion to adde.

But let the fashion more to modesty
Tend, then assurancemodesty doth set
The face in her just place, from passions free,
’Tis both the mindes, and bodies beauty met;
But modesty no vertue can we see;
That is the faces onely chastity.

Where goodnesse failes, ’twixt ill and ill that stands:
Whence ’tis, that women though they weaker be,
And their desire more strong, yet on their hands
The chastity of men doth often lye:
Lust would more common be then any one,
Could it, as other sins, be done alone.

All these good parts a perfect woman make:
Adde love to me, they make a perfect wife:
Without her love, her beauty should I take,
As that of pictures; dead; that gives it life:
Till then her beauty like the sun doth shine
Alike to all; that makes it, only mine.

And of that love, let reason father be,
And passion mother; let it from the one
His being take, the other his degree;
Selfe-love (which second loves are built upon)
Will make me (if not her) her love respect;
No man but favours his owne worths effect.

As good and wise; so be she fit for me,
That is, to will, and not to will, the same:
My wife is my adopted selfe, and she
As me, so what I love, to love must frame:
For when by mariage both in one concurre,
Woman converts to man, not man to her.


Date: 1613

By: Thomas Overbury (1581-1613)

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Mary’s Elephant, Elizabeth’s Spinet by Ruth Sophia Padel

Some night in the 1580s, she snaps the last knot off with her teeth
By candle-light. One blob under the tail and she has him, in tent
Stitch: startled king from ‘Icones Animalium’, a beast she’s never seen.
Ears, silver-pink abalone. Feet lost in a webbed pool
Of bubbles: blue muttonfat peas.  She rests him on her lap
Writing letters in her head, unsendable as words for resin
In Armenian akrolect. Her cousin knows everything she has to say
Already. It’s been said.  Outside, the black unbroken forest
Rides to London. Wolves kill a roe, for cubs whose last descendent
Will be shot in Mary’s realm, two hundred years down the line.
But she, in these walls, is marigold: a heliotrope,
Turning to sun that will never warm her skin again,
Ransacking old books in Spanish for emblems of hope.

Down south, the keyboard’s come from Florian, in Venice.
Cousin E tries some Byrdian version of ‘Only the Lonely’, checks
The gilt inlay, Islamic painted whorls, the logo of falcon and sceptre.
(Her mum’s. She paid extra for that.) A fretted bronze rose
For the sound-hole: an eavesdropping sun. She’s awaiting her spies.
She has become her own grotesque. She can never give in.
She sends men to the tropics, men to death. When her blood says
Dance, she will gavotte the night away with the Earl of Leicester.
Are there tears for what she looks like now; for who on earth else
May show up in her bed? When melancholy strikes, they see
Her turn to a Pavane. Shadow-bones, capitate, triquetral, lunate,
Stripe and flinch in the back of her hand. One frizzed hair,
White and red, drifts down over black middle C.

And if you and I held hands across this room, touched DNA
Of their touch sloughed off on this tusker
Embroidered in velvet and lint, this Venice lacquer,
Cypress, ebony, we would join fingerprints that never met.


Date: 2002

By: Ruth Sophia Padel (1946- )


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