Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Aspidistra Street by Harold Edward Monro

Go along that road, and look at sorrow.
Every window grumbles.
All day long the drizzle fills the puddles,
Trickles in the runnels and the gutters,
Drips and drops and dripples, drops and dribbles,
While the melancholy aspidistra
Frowns between the parlour curtains.

Uniformity, dull Master! —
Birth and marriage, middle-age and death;
Rain and gossip: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday . . .

Sure, the lovely fools who made Utopia
Planned it without any aspidistra.
There will be a heaven on earth, but first
We must banish from the parlour
Plush and poker-work and paper flowers,
Brackets, staring photographs and what-nots,
Serviettes, frills and etageres,
Anti-macassars, vases, chiffonniers;

And the gloomy aspidistra
Glowering through the window-pane.
Meditating heavy maxims,
Moralising to the rain.

From: Monro, Harold and Monro, Alida (ed.), The Collected Poems of Harold Monro, 1933, Cobden-Sanderson: London, p. 130.
(https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.184362/)

Date: 1917

By: Harold Edward Monro (1879-1932)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Dead Poet by Edward Richard Buxton Shanks

When I grow old they’ll come to me and say:
Did you then know him in that distant day?
Did you speak with him, touch his hand, observe
The proud eyes’ fire, soft voice and light lips’ curve?
And I shall answer: This man was my friend;
Call to my memory, add, improve, amend
And count up all the meetings that we had
And note his good and touch upon his bad.

When I grow older and more garrulous,
I shall discourse on the dead poet thus:
I said to him … he answered unto me …
He dined with me one night in Trinity . . .
I supped with him in King’s . . . Ah, pitiful
The twisted memories of an ancient fool
And sweet the silence of a young man dead!
Now far in Lemnos sleeps that golden head,
Unchanged, serene, for ever young and strong,
Lifted above the chances that belong
To us who live, for he shall not grow old
And only of his youth there shall be told
Magical stories, true and wondrous tales,
As of a god whose virtue never fails,
Whose limbs shall never waste, eyes never fall,
And whose clear brain shall not be dimmed at all.

From: Shanks, Edward, Poems, 1916, Sidgwick & Jackson: London, p. 39.
(https://archive.org/details/poemssha00shanuoft/)

Date: 1915

By: Edward Richard Buxton Shanks (1892-1953)

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Rainbow by Leslie Coulson

I watch the white dawn gleam,
To the thunder of hidden guns.
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawnbreak runs.
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white.
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that dawn is beautiful still.

From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel’s flare,
Over the troubless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.

Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye
Poppies and cornflowers glow
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern against the sky.
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill.
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.

When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep –
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man’s face is white.
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars – for the stars are beautiful still.

From: https://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/coulson.htm

Date: 1917 (published)

By: Leslie Coulson (1889-1916)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Spiders by Ethel Talbot Scheffauer

(To All Munitions Profiteers)

The lean grey spiders sat in their den
And they were starved and cold—
They said—Let there be strife among men
That we may gather gold.

The young men at their toil were brothers
Over all the earth;
The proud eyes of all their mothers
Praised them with equal worth.

There came a word in the ears of the young men,
And they believed and heard,
And there was fire in the eyes of the young men
Because of that word.

Give yourselves to be shattered and broken,
Said the spiders aloud;
And know your enemy by this token
Out of the spider-crowd.

He that has in his eyes a flame,
And in his hands a trust!—
Him shall ye smite in Heaven’s name—
And they played with their yellow dust.

And over the world from morn till even
The young men awoke and heard,
And slew their like by seventy and seven
Because of the word.

And every one that died of the young men
Cried with the same voice
And the spiders at the fall of the young men
Crided from their dens—Rejoice—

And every mother of all the mothers
Bled from the same heart;
Yet cried to the young men that were brothers,
“In God’s name depart.”

And the spiders sat in their lighted palace
And feasted no more a-cold—
And redly, out of a burning chalice,
Gathered their minted gold.

From: Newman, Vivien, Tumult and Tears: The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of its Women Poets, 2016, Pen & Sword History: Barnsley, South Yorkshire, pp. 28-29.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=A8YCDQAAQBAJ)

Date: 1927

By: Edith Talbot Scheffauer (1888-1976)

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Dead Love by Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall

Oh never weep for love that’s dead
Since love is seldom true
But changes his fashion from blue to red,
From brightest red to blue,
And love was born to an early death
And is so seldom true.

Then harbour no smile on your bonny face
To win the deepest sigh.
The fairest words on truest lips
Pass on and surely die,
And you will stand alone, my dear,
When wintry winds draw nigh.

Sweet, never weep for what cannot be,
For this God has not given.
If the merest dream of love were true
Then, sweet, we should be in heaven,
And this is only earth, my dear,
Where true love is not given.

From: http://lizziesiddal.com/portal/dead-love/

Date: c1855

By: Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall (1829-1862)

Friday, 8 November 2019

To My Most Honored Cosen, Mrs Somerset, On the Unjust Censure Past Upon My Poore Marcelia* by Frances Boothby

Sigh not, Parthenia, that I’me doom’d to dye,
Since a false scandal’s made the reason why.
Fortune I ever found my rigid foe,
And did not hope she now would milder grow.
A small weake barke by a rough tempest tost,
Can raise noe wonder when we heare ’tis lost;
When powerfull enemys resolve to kill,
They heed not justice, strength can do their will;
Ruled by self interest their foes confine,
And word their judgments to their owne designe.
This byas made that injuring blow be given,
That thy Arcasia had prophan’d gainst heaven.
But why this furious hurricane did rise
Where by detracting zeale I’m made a sacrifice,
I cannot reach; for sure a woman’s pen
Is not (like comets,) ominous to men:
Nor could my clouded braine, (wrapt up in night,)
Destroy in all my sex their sunshine light:
The basalisk’s poison lys not in my head,
To strike the wits of other women dead,
If my dull ignorance could blast them all,
Then should I justly as their victim fall.

*The poet’s play, Marcelia, or, The Treacherous Friend, was performed in 1669 in London. It was the first play by a woman produced in London.

From: Clifford, Arthur (ed.), Tixall Poetry; with Notes and Illustrations, 1813, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London and John Ballantyne and Co.: Edinburgh, pp. 228-229.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=a6U_AAAAYAAJ)

Date: 1670

By: Frances Boothby (fl. 1669-1670)

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Reflections on the Sparrow by Celia Gilbert

Matins in the morning and evensong at dusk,
in French called moineaux: little monks, shabby, humble,
more than a bit agitated, twittering prayers
as if time were running out to save the world;
not too proud to forage in the dust,
certain that God looks out
for each and every one
for he takes care of his own.

Lear complains “The lecherous sparrows do couple in my sight.”

They rear three broods in a season,
invade other nests,
attack chickadee, thrush, and robin.

“Who killed Cock Robin?”
“I,” said the sparrow,
I shot him with my little bow and arrow.”

If I were a shaman I would take the sparrow’s cloak,
brown and coca buff,
and whirl and whirl about,
my black eye no bigger than
a pepper seed over my curved beak,
and I would dance the dance of humility and lust,
of friendship and enmity,
I, my chest pounding,
I, in my lowly, kingly robes.

From: http://www.towerjournal.com/spring2011/celia_poetry.htm

Date: 2011

By: Celia Gilbert (1932- )

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Marked by D. by Tony Harrison

When the chilled dough of his flesh went in an oven
not unlike those he fuelled all his life,
I thought of his cataracts ablaze with Heaven
and radiant with the sight of his dead wife,
light streaming from his mouth to shape her name,
‘not Florence and not Flo but always Florrie.’
I thought how his cold tongue burst into flame
but only literally, which makes me sorry,
sorry for his sake there’s no Heaven to reach.
I get it all from Earth my daily bread
but he hungered for release from mortal speech
that kept him down, the tongue that weighed like lead.

From: http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/tony_harrison/poems/12696

Date: 1978

By: Tony Harrison (1937- )

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Fireworks, Harborfest by Luisa A. Igloria

So painful-sweet, all waiting
and anticipation.

The crowds,
as eager a multitude as the pilgrims
come to venerate the Buddha’s
sacred ankle, carried in procession
across a lake in your island home.

A couple has just pushed their way
to where we stand at the edge
of the docks, the woman’s hair
like straw gathered into a wild
bouquet; his hands, like lightning,
streaking down her sides.

Theirs is another kind
of combustion, perhaps more ripe
because it opens in plain sight,
more without reserve
or circumspection.

What they do, not holding back
their ardor, electrifies the space
around them. No one
wants to look at them
directly, to come
too close.

Only when the fireworks burst
above our heads
can we forgive
them their pleasure.

I think of a different
story, the boy Gautama deep
in meditation, the unseen cobra
slithering up to spread its deadly cowl,
shielding him from the rain.

Against the dark roof of sky, a thousand flares
fracture into cathedrals of light: mercury
and oxides, silvered pearl and purple,
flowering with the boom
of worlds becoming—

The way a gong sounds in a temple
far away, carrying across water
to echo in each hollow reed;
the bones in the bronze bell
of the body breathless,
clapping as one, before falling
back into familiar silence.

From: Igloria, Luisa A., “Fireworks, Harborfest,” in Poetry, January 2001, pp. 248-249.
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=177&issue=3&page=10)

Date: 2001

By: Luisa A. Igloria (1961- )

Monday, 4 November 2019

Death’s A Debt That Everybody Owes by Palladas

Death’s a debt that everybody owes,
and if you’ll last the night out no one knows.

Learn your lesson then, and thank your stars
for wine and company and all-night bars.

Life careers gravewards at a breackneck rate,
so drink and love, and leave the rest to Fate.

From: Harrison, Tony, Collected Poems, 2016, Penguin: London, p. [unnumbered].
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=io3_CgAAQBAJ)

Date: 4th century (original in Greek); 1975 (translation in English)

By: Palladas (4th century)

Translated by: Tony Harrison (1937- )