Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Releasing the Sherpas by Campbell McGrath

The last two sherpas were the strongest,
faithful companions, their faces wind-peeled,
streaked with soot and glacier-light on the snowfield
below the summit where we stopped to rest.

The first was my body, snug in its cap of lynx-
fur, smelling of yak butter and fine mineral dirt,
agile, impetuous, broad-shouldered,
alive to the frozen bite of oxygen in the larynx.

The second was my intellect, dour and thirsty,
furrowing its fox-like brow, my calculating brain
searching for some cairn or chasm to explain
my decision to send them back without me.

Looking down from the next, ax-cleft serac
I saw them turn and dwindle and felt unafraid.
Blind as a diamond, sun-pure and rarefied,
whatever I was then, there was no turning back.


Date: 2012

By: Campbell McGrath (1962- )

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke

I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
when you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
you’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
that’s how deep is my devotion.


Date: 1982

By: John Cooper Clarke (1949- )

Monday, 20 February 2017

Paradise Lost by Frances Wynne

Fair at my feet the lake of Como lies;
I hear its murmurous ripples ebb and flow.
Around me, ranging proudly row on row,
The dreamy purple-crested mountains rise.
All bright before me when I lift my eyes
Stands quaint Varenna in the sun a-glow;
And everywhere the crowding roses blow
In this most perfect place, this paradise.

And yet my wayward thoughts will not be bound,
Nor rest at all in this enchanted ground;
They wander forth far over land and sea.
And through the London streets in chill and gloom
They thread their way to some one, wanting whom
Even Paradise is Paradise Lost for me.

Menaggio, May, 1890.

From: Wynne, Frances, Whisper!, 1893, Elkin Mathews and John Lane: London, p. 54.

Date: 1890

By: Frances Wynne (1863-1893)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

To Mr. Grenville on his Intended Resignation by Richard Berenger

A Wretch tir’d out with Fortune’s blows,
Resolv’d at once to end his woes;
And like a thoughtless silly elf,
In the next pond to drown himself.
‘Tis fit, quoth he, my life should end,
The cruel world is not my friend;
I have nor meat, nor drink, nor cloaths,
But want each joy that wealth bestows;
Besides, I hold my life my own,
And when I please may lay it down;
A wretched hopeless thing am I,
Forgetting, as forgot, I’ll die.

Not so, said one who stood behind,
And heard him thus disclose his mind;
Consider well pray what you do,
And think what numbers live in you:
If you go drown, your woes to ease,
Pray who will keep your lice and fleas?
On yours alone their lives depend,
With you they live, with you must end.

On great folks thus the little live,
And in their sunshine bask and thrive:
But when those suns no longer shine,
The hapless insects droop and pine.

Oh GRENVILLE* then this tale apply,
Nor drown yourself lest I should die:
Compassionate your louse’s case,
And keep your own to save his place.

*George Grenville served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain between 1763 and 1765.


Date: 1763

By: Richard Berenger (1719-1782)

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Stanzas 10-13 of “Hiren; or The Fair Greeke” by William Barksted

Hither was got of silly maides some few,
Whom happily no Souldier yet had seas’d,
Tendring their spotlesse vows, in child-cold dew,
Of virgin teares, to have the heavens appeas’d
But teares too late, must be too soone displeas’d,
And hither, like a Tyger from the chase,
Reeking in bloudy thoughts, and bloudy shew
Came Amurath himselfe to sacke the place.

In Armour-clad, of watchet steele, full grim,
Fring’d round about the sides, with twisted gold,
Spotted with shining stars unto the brim,
Which seem’d to burn the spheare which did thě hold:
His bright sword drawn, of temper good and old,
A full moone in a sable night he bore,
On painted shield, which much adornèd him,
With this short Motto: Never glorious more.

And as a Diamond in the dark-dead night,
Cannot but point at beames on every side,
Or as the shine of Cassiopæa bright
Which make the zodiacke, where it doth abide,
Farre more then other planets to be ey’d:
So did faire Hirens eyes encounter his,
And so her beames did terror-strike his sight,
As at the first it made e’m vale amisse.

O that faire beauty in distresse should fall,
For so did she, the wonder of the east,
At least, if it be wondrous faire at all,
That staines the morning, in her purple nest
With guilt-downe curlèd Tresses, rosy drest,
Reflecting in a comet wise, admire,
To every eye whom vertue might appall,
And Syren love inchant with amorous fire.

From: Barksted, William and Grosart, Alexander (ed.), The Poems of William Barksted, One of the Servants of His Majesty’s Revels, 1876, Charles E. Sims: Manchester, pp. 74-75.

Date: 1611

By: William Barksted (fl. 1607-1611)

Friday, 17 February 2017

Davy Dycars Dreame by Thomas Churchyard

When faith in frendes beare fruit, and folysh fancyes fade,
& crafty catchers cum to nought, & hate gret love hath made
When fraud flieth far from towne, & lewterers leave the fielde,
And rude shall runne a rightfull race, and all men be well wilde:
When gropers after gayne, shall carpe for comen welth,
And wyly workers shall disdayne, to fygge and lyve by stelth:
When wisdome walks a loft, and folly syts full low,
And vertue vanquish pampred vice, and grace begins to grow.
When Justice joynes to truth, and law lookes not to meede,
& bribes help not to build fair bowres, nor gifts gret glotōs fede
When hongre hides his head, and plenty please the poore,
And niggerdes to the nedy men, shall never shut their doore:
When double darke deceit, is out of credit worne,
And fauning speche is falshed found, & craft is laught to skorne
When pride which picks the purs, gapes not for garments gay
No javels* weare no velvet weeds, nor wandrīg wits bere sway
When riches wrongs no right, nor power poore put backe,
Nor covetous creepes not into Courte, nor lerned, livings lack
When slipper sleights are seene, and far fatchers be founde,
And private profit & selfe love, shall both be put in pounde:
When dette no sergeant dreeds, and cowriters credit keepe,
& might mels not with merchandise, nor lords shal sell no sheepe:
When lucre lasts not long, and hurd great heaps doth hate,
And every wight is well content, to walke in his estate,
When truth doth tread the stretes, and lyers lurke in den,
And Rex doth raigne & rule the rost, & weeds out wicked men:
Then baelfull barnes be blythe that here in England wonne,
Your strife shal stynt I undertake, your dreedfull daies ar done.

*javels – vagabonds, worthless fellows.

From: Churchyard, Thomas, Davy Dycars dreame quod. T. Churcharde, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford.

Date: 1552

By: Thomas Churchyard (c1520-1604)

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Song of Adebon by Aneirin

The apple-tree is not far from the apple.
The industrious is not akin to the spendthrift.
No one is a hero when naked among thistles.
Every one who swears strongly fails (to perform).
Do not be the friend of one who loves injustice.
We cannot die twice.
To be dumb is not an appropriate quality for an orator.
Do not love to be foremost in conversation.
Jewels are the dainties of the feeble-minded.
Savage from hoof to horn.
Peace is lost in a mansion.
Where there is a large house there will be continual entertainments.
There is always a way for him who seeks it.
Kind gentles, victorious over the foe,
Smile on the Gorchan (song) of Adebon.
And so ends the Gorchan Adebon.

From: Nash, D. W., Taliesin; or, The Bards and Druids of Britain. A Translation of the Remains of the Earliest Welsh Bards, and an Examination of the Bardic Mysteries, 1858, John Russell Smith: London, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 6th century (original in Welsh); 1858 (translation in English)

By: Aneirin (6th century)

Translated by: David William Nash (1809/10-1876)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Raising the Alarm by Meleager of Gadara

Help! He is gone. That wild boy, Love, has escaped!
Just now, as day was breaking, he flew from his bed and was gone.
Description? Sweetly tearful, talks forever, swift, irreverent,
Slyly laughing, wings on his back, and carries a quiver.
His last name? I don’t know, for his father and mother,
Whoever they are, in earth or heaven, won’t admit it.
Everyone hates him, you see. Take care, take care,
Or even now he’ll be weaving new snares for your heart.
But hush—look there, turn slowly. You don’t deceive me, boy,
Drawing your bow so softly where you hide in Zenophile’s eyes.


Date: 1st century BCE (original in Greek); 2013 (translation in English)

By: Meleager of Gadara (1st century BCE)

Translated by: Thomas McEvilley (1939-2013)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Radiocarbon Dating by Anja König

It’s no longer done,
comparing a woman’s body to a landscape –
buttock hillocks, dales and deltas –

politically incorrect. But I want you
in charge of manning up an expedition to undefined
white spaces on my map. I want you

to use your scientific training, evaluate
my forestation, measure the circumference of both
polar caps. You can examine drilling cores

to reconstruct my seismic history. The positions
of tectonic faults, degree of liquefaction
of the crust and mantle imply

tremors are possible and could be more
than modern settlements can handle.

You can still shift your paradigm, embrace
a post-colonial sentiment and keep your footprint light.


Date: 2013

By: Anja König (19??- )

Monday, 13 February 2017

Babi Yar by Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-“They come!”

-“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!”

-“They break the door!”

-“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!


Date: 1961 (original in Russian); 1996 (translation in English)

By: Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko (1933- )

Translated by: Benjamin Okopnik (19??- )

Note: Babi Yar is a ravine near Kiev. It was the scene of what is considered the largest shooting massacre of the Holocaust. Despite the majority of the victims of the massacre being Jewish, the Soviet Union authorities refused to see the massacre as part of the Holocaust, instead describing it as a crime against the Soviet people by Hitler’s forces.