Archive for January, 2012

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hope by Emily Brontë

Hope was but a timid friend;
She sat without the grated den,
Watching how my fate would tend,
Even as selfish-hearted men.

She was cruel in her fear;
Through the bars one dreary day,
I looked out to see her there,
And she turned her face away!

Like a false guard, false watch keeping,
Still, in strife, she whispered peace;
She would sing while I was weeping;
If I listened, she would cease.

False she was, and unrelenting;
When my last joys strewed the ground,
Even Sorrow saw, repenting,
Those sad relics scattered round;

Hope, whose whisper would have given
Balm to all my frenzied pain,
Stretched her wings, and soared to heaven,
Went, and ne’er returned again!


Date: 1846

By: Emily Brontë (1818-1848)

Monday, 30 January 2012

To Mistress Margaret Hussey by John Skelton

Merry Margaret,
As midsummer flower,
Gentil as falcon
Or hawk of the tower ;
    With solace and gladness,
Much mirth and no madness,
All good and no badness,
So joyously,
So maidenly,
So womanly
Her demeaning
In every thing,—
Far, far passing
That I can endite
Or suffice to write
Of merry Margaret,
As midsummer flower,
Gentil as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.
    As patient and as still
And as full of good will
As fair Isiphill,
Sweet pomander,
Good Cassaunder ;
Steadfast of thought,
Well made, well wrought ;
Far may be sought
Erst that ye can find
So curteise, so kind
As merry Margaret,
This midsummer flower,
Gentil as falcon
Or hawk of the tower.


Date: 1523

By: John Skelton (?1460-1529)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Rites of Passage by Thom Gunn

Something is taking place.
Horns bud bright in my hair.
My feet are turning hoof.
And Father, see my face
― Skin that was damp and fair
Is barklike and, feel, rough.

See Greytop how I shine.
I rear, break loose, I neigh
Snuffing the air, and harden
Toward a completion, mine.
And next I make my way
Adventuring through your garden.

My play is earnest now.
I canter to and fro.
My blood, it is like light.
Behind an almond bough,
Horns gaudy with its snow,
I wait live, out of sight.

All planned before my birth
For you, Old Man, no other,
Whom your groin’s trembling warns.
I stamp upon the earth
A message to my mother.
And then I lower my horns.

From: Leeson, Edward (Ed), The New Golden Treasury of English Verse, 1980, Pan Books: London, p 491.

Date: 1971

By: Thom Gunn (1929-2004)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Idea LXI by Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!


Date: 1619

By: Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

Alternative Title: Sonnet 61

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sea-Fever by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.


Date: 1902

By: John Masefield (1878-1967)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Australia by Alec Derwent Hope

A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: “we live” but “we survive”,
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.


Date: ?

By: Alec Derwent Hope (1907-2000)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Prologue. By A Gentleman of Leicester by Henry Carter

On opening the Theatre, at Sydney, Botany Bay, to be spoken by the celebrated Mr Barrington

   From distant climes o’er wide-spread seas we come,
Though not with much eclat or beat of drum,
True patriots all; for be it understood,
We left our country for our country’s good;
No private views disgrac’d our generous zeal,
What urg’d our travels was our country’s weal;
And none will doubt but that our emigration
Has prov’d most useful to the British nation.

   But, you inquire, what could our breasts inflame
With this new passion for theatric fame?
What, in the practice of our former days,
Could shape our talents to exhibit plays?
Your patience, sirs, some observations made,
You’ll grant us equal to the scenic trade.

   He, who to midnight ladders is no stranger,
You’ll own will make an admirable Ranger.
To seek Macheath, we have not far to roam;
And sure in Filch I shall be quite at home.
Unrival’d there, none will dispute my claim
To high pre-eminence and exalted fame.

   As oft on Gadshill we have ta’en our stand,
When ‘twas so dark you could not see your hand,
Some true-bred Falstaff we may hope to start
Who, when well bolster’d, well will play his part.
The scene to vary, we shall try in time
To treat you with a little pantomime.
Here light and easy Columbines are found,
And well tried harlequins with us abound;
From durance vile our precious selves to keep,
We often had recourse to th’ flying leap;
To a black face have sometimes ow’d escape,
And Hounslow-Heath has prov’d the worth of crape.

   But how, you ask, can we e’er hope to soar
Above these scenes, and rise to tragic lore?
Too oft, alas, we’ve forc’d th’ unwilling tear,
And petrified the heart with real fear.
Macbeth a harvest of applause will reap,
For some of us, I fear, have murder’d sleep;
His lady too with grace will sleep and talk.
Our females have been us’d at night to walk.

   Sometimes, indeed, so various is our art,
An actor may improve and mend his part;
“Give me a horse,” bawls Richard, like a drone,
We’ll find a man would help himself to one.
Grant us your favour, put us to the test,
To gain your smiles we’ll do our very best;
And, without dread of future turnkey Lockits,
Thus, in an honest way, still pick your pockets

From: Burke, Edmund (Ed), Annual Register, Volume 43, 1802, Longmans Green & Co: London, pp. 516-517. (

Date: 1801

By: Henry Carter (?-1806)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Ewan MacColl

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the empty skies my love
To the dark and the empty skies

The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hands
Like a trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command my love
That was there at my command.

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time my love
It would last till the end of time my love

The first time ever I saw your face, your face,
your face, your face.


Date: 1957

By: Ewan MacColl (1915-1989)

Monday, 23 January 2012

I’ve Gotten a Rock, I’ve Gotten A Reel by Susanna Blamire

I’ve gotten a rock, I’ve gotten a reel,
I’ve gotten a wee bit spinning–wheel;
An’ by the whirling rim I’ve found
How the weary, weary warl goes round.
‘Tis roun’ an’ roun’ the spokes they go,
Now ane is up, an’ ane is low;
‘Tis by ups and downs in Fortune’s wheel,
That mony ane gets a rock to reel.

I’ve seen a lassie barefoot gae,
Look dash’d an’ blate, wi’ nought to say;
But as the wheel turn’d round again,
She chirp’d an’ talk’d, nor seem’d the same:
Sae fine she goes, sae far aglee,
That folks she kenn’d she canna see;
An’ fleeching chiels around her thrang,
Till she miskens her a’ day lang.

There’s Jock, when the bit lass was poor,
Ne’er trudg’d o’er the lang mossy moor,
Though now to the knees he wades, I trow,
Through winter’s weet an’ winter’s snow:
An’ Pate declar’d the ither morn,
She was like a lily amang the corn;
Though ance he swore her dazzling een
Were bits o’ glass that black’d had been.

Now, lassies, I hae found it out,
What men make a’ this phrase about;
For when they praise your blinking ee,
‘Tis certain that your gowd they see:
An’ when they talk o’ roses bland,
They think o’ the roses o’ your land;
But should dame Fortune turn her wheel,
They’d aff in a dance of a threesome reel.


Date: c1790

By: Susanna Blamire (1747-1794)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Love and Sleep by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Lying asleep between the strokes of night
    I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
    Pale as the duskiest lily’s leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
    But perfect-coloured without white or red.
    And her lips opened amorously, and said –
I wist not what, saving one word – Delight.

And all her face was honey to my mouth,
    And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
         The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
    The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
         And glittering eyelids of my soul’s desire.  


Date: 1866

By: Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)