Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Further than Hoy by George Mackay Brown

Further than Hoy
the mermaids whisper
through ivory shells
a-babble with vowels

Further than history
the legends thicken
the buried broken
vases and columns

Further than fame
are fleas and visions,
the hermit’s cave
under the mountain

Further than song
the hushed awakening
of country children
the harp unstroked

Further than death
your feet will come
to the forest, black forest
where Love walks, alone.

From: http://www.georgemackaybrown.co.uk/Extracts%20from/FurtherthanHoy.htm

Date: 1954

By: George Mackay Brown (1921-1996)

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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Belling the Cat by William Langland

With that there ran a rout of rats at once,
And small mice with them more than thousand,
And came to a council for their common profit;
For a cat from the Court came when he liked
And o’er leaped them lightly and caught them at will,
Played with them perilously and pushed them about.
‘For dread of divers dangers we dare not look about;
If we grumble at his game he will attack us all,
Scratch us or clutch us and in his claws hold us,
So that we loathe life ere he lets us go.
Could we with any wit his will withstand
We might be lords above him and live at our ease.’

A rat of renown most ready of tongue
Said, as a sovereign help to himself:
‘I have seen men,’ quoth he ‘in the city of London
Bearing bright necklaces about their necks,
Some with collars of skilful work uncoupled they wander
Both in warrens and wastes wherever they like;
And otherwhile they are elsewhere as I tell you.
Were there a bell on their collars by Jesus, I think
Men might know where they went and get out of their way!
And right so,’ quoth that rat ‘reason me showeth
To buy a brass bell or one of bright silver
Make it fast to a collar for our common profit,
And hang it on the cat’s neck then we may hear
When he romps or rests or runneth to play.
And if he wants play then we may look out
And appear in his presence the while he play liketh,
And if he gets angry, beware and shun all his paths.’
All this rout of rats to this plan assented.
But though the bell was bought and on the collar hanged,
There was not a rat in the rout for all the realm of France
That dare bind on the bell about the cat’s neck,
Nor hang it round her ears all England to win;
They held themselves not bold and their counsel feeble,
Esteemed their labour as lost and all their long plotting.

A mouse that knew much more as it seemed to me,
Ran forth determined and stood before them all,
And to the rout of rats rehearsed these words:
‘Though we killed the cat yet there would come another,
To scratch us and all our kind though we creep under benches.
Therefore I counsel all the commons to let the cat be,
And be we never so bold to show to him the bell;
For I heard my sire say now seven years ago,
“When the cat is a kitten the Court is right wretched,”
As witnesseth Holy Writ whoso will it read:
“Vae tibi, terra, cujus rex puer est.”
No man can have rest there for the rats by night;
While the cat catcheth conies he covets not our carrion,
But feeds himself on venison may we never defame him!
For better is a little loss than a long sorrow;
He’s the fear among us all whereby we miss worse things.
For many men’s malt we mice would destroy,
And the riot of rats would rend men’s clothes,
Were it not for that Court cat that can leap in among you;
For had ye rats your will ye could not rule yourselves.
As for me,’ quoth the mouse ‘I see so much to come
That cat nor kitten never shall by my counsel be harmed,
Nor carping of this collar that cost me nothing.
Though it had cost me full dear I would not own to it
But suffer him to live and do just as he liketh:
Coupled and uncoupled to catch what they can.
Therefore each wise wight I warn to watch well his own.’

From: http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/langland.html

Date: c1377-1379

By: William Langland (c1332-c1400)

Alternative Title: The Bell and the Cat; The Mice in Council; The Cat, the Mice and the Bell; Piers Plowman, William’s Vision Concerning Piers Plowman

Monday, 27 February 2012

To Cloris by Charles Sedley

Cloris, I cannot say your eyes
Did my unwary heart surprise;
Nor will I swear it was your face,
Your shape, or any nameless grace:
For you are so entirely fair,
To love a part, injustice were;
No drowning man can know which drop
Of water his last breath did stop;
So when the stars in heaven appear,
And join to make the night look clear;
The light we no one’s bounty call,
But the obliging gift of all.
He that does lips or hands adore,
Deserves them only, and no more;
But I love all, and every part,
And nothing less can ease my heart.
Cupid, that lover, weakly strikes,
Who can express what ’tis he likes.

From: http://allpoetry.com/poem/8484859-To_Cloris-by-Sir_Charles_Sedley

Date: 1670s

By: Charles Sedley (1639-1701)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Loch Ness Monster’s Song by Edwin Morgan

Sssnnnwhuffffll?
Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl –
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok – doplodovok – plovodokot-doplodokosh?
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl –
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,
blp.

From: http://edwinmorgan.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poems/loch_ness_monsters_song.html

Date: 1973

By: Edwin Morgan (1920-2010)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Poem or To F S by James Mercer Langston Hughes

I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There is nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began, —
I loved my friend.

From: http://lifeoflangstonhughes.blogspot.com.au/

Date: 1925

By: James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

From: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173590

Date: 1901

By: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Alternative Title: By the Century’s Deathbed

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Excerpt from Book III (2267-2290) of Confessio Amantis by John Gower

Bot dedly werre hath his covine
Of pestilence and of famine,
Of poverte and of alle wo,
Wherof this world we blamen so,
Which now the werre hath under fote,
Til god himself therof do bote.
For alle thing which god hath wroght
In Erthe, werre it bringth to nocht:
The cherche is brent, the priest is slain,
The wif, the maide is ek forlain,
The lawe is lore and god unserved:
I not what mede he hath deserved
That suche werres ledeth inne.
If that he do it forto winne,
Ferst to acompte his grete cost
Forth with the folk that he hath lost,
As to the wordes rekeninge
Ther schal he finde no winnynge;
And if he do it to pourchace
The hevene mede, of such a grace
I can noght speke, and natheles
Crist has comanded love and pes,
And who that worcheth the revers,
I trowe his mede is ful divers.

From: http://war-poets.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/john-gower-on-war.html

Date: 1390

By: John Gower (c1330-1408)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Pavane for the Nursery by William Jay Smith

Now touch the air softly,
Step gently. One, two…
I’ll love you till roses
Are robin’s-egg blue;
I’ll love you till gravel
Is eaten for bread,
And lemons are orange,
And lavender’s red.

Now touch the air softly,
Swing gently the broom.
I’ll love you till windows
Are all of a room;
And the table is laid,
And the table is bare,
And the ceiling reposes
On bottomless air.

I’ll love you till Heaven
Rips the stars from his coat,
And the Moon rows away in
A glass-bottomed boat;
And Orion steps down
Like a diver below,
And Earth is ablaze,
And Ocean aglow.

So touch the air softly,
And swing the broom high.
We will dust the gray mountains,
And sweep the blue sky;
And I’ll love you as long
As the furrow the plow,
As However is Ever,
And Ever is Now.

From: http://www.gb.nrao.edu/~koneil/personal/wedding/readings.html

Date: 1954

By: William Jay Smith (1918- )

Alternative Title: Now Touch the Air Softly

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Poem 20 by Pablo Neruda

I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: «The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance».

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.
I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.
Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.
The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.
My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.
We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,
and these are the last lines I will write for her.

From: http://www.poesi.as/pn24020uk3.htm

Date: 1924

By: Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Translated By: A S Kline  (1947- )

Monday, 20 February 2012

Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

From: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/stop.html

Date: 1890 (published)

By: Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)