Archive for January, 2013

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Maxwelton Braes by William Douglas

Maxwelton Braes are bonnie
Whare early fa’s the dew,
Whare me and Annie Laurie
Made up the promise true;
Made up the promise true
And ne’er forget will I;
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie,
I’d lay down my head and die.

She’s backit like the peacock,
She’s breistit like the swan,
She’s jimp about the middle,
Her waist ye weel may span;
Her waist ye weel may span,
And she has a rolling eye;
And for Bonnie Annie Laurie,
I’d lay down my head and die.


Date: ?1700

By: William Douglas (?1672-1748)

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Columbus by Cincinattus Hiner Miller (Joaquin Miller)

Behind him lay the grey Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?”
“Why, say, ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’ ”

“My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why, you shall say at break of day,
‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’ ”

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dead seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say” —
He said, “Sail on! sail on! and on!”

They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”

Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck —
A light! a light! at last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!”


Date: 1892

By: Cincinattus Hiner Miller (Joaquin Miller) (1837-1913)

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Cry by David Brooks

Why should the cosmos, hearing
one thing
complaining against another,
take notice,
since everything,
even death,
is a part of itself?
Isn’t it the one thing
that nothing leaves?
If I cry out
just once
doesn’t that cry go on forever?


Date: 2005

By: David Brooks (1953- )

Monday, 28 January 2013

Campo dei Fiori by Czesław Miłosz

In Rome, on Campo dei Fiori,
baskets of olives and lemons
cobbles spattered with wine
and the wreckage of flowers.
Vendors cover the trestles
with rose-pink fish;
armfuls of dark grapes
heaped on peach-down.

On this same square
they burned Giordano Bruno.
Henchmen kindled the pyre
close-pressed by the mob.
Before the flames had died
the taverns were full again,
baskets of olives and lemons
again on the vendors’ shoulders.

I thought of Campo dei Fiori
in Warsaw by the sky-carousel
one clear spring evening
to the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned
the salvos from the ghetto wall,
and couples were flying
high in the blue sky.

At times wind from the burning
would drift dark kites along
and riders on the carrousel
caught petals in midair.
That same hot wind
blew open the skirts of the girls
and the crowds were laughing
on the beautiful Warsaw Sunday.

Someone will read a moral
that the people of Rome and Warsaw
haggle, laugh, make love
as they pass by martyrs’ pyres.
Someone else will read
of the passing of things human,
of the oblivion
born before the flames have died.

But that day I thought only
of the loneliness of the dying,
of how, when Giordano
climbed to his burning
he could not find
in any human tongue
words for mankind,
mankind who live on.

Already they were back at their wine
or peddled their white starfish,
baskets of olives and lemons
they had shouldered to the fair,
and he already distanced
as if centuries had passed
while they paused just a moment
for his flying in the fire.

Those dying here, the lonely
forgotten by the world,
our tongue becomes for them
the language of an ancient planet.
Until, when all is legend
and many years have passed,
on a new Campo dei Fiori
rage will kindle at a poet’s word.


Date: 1943

By: Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004)

Translated by: Louis Iribarne (?- ) & David Brooks (1953- )

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes

September 16, 1830

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;–
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;–
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered bulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!


Date: 1830

By: Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Song of Australia by Caroline J Carleton

There is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies;
And grassy knoll, and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above in azure bright –

There is a land where honey flows,
Where laughing corn luxuriant grows,
Land of the myrtle and the rose,
On hill and plain the clust’ring vine,
Is gushing out with purple wine,
And cups are quaffed to thee and thine –

There is a land where treasures shine
Deep in the dark unfathomed mine,
For worshippers at Mammon’s shrine,
Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam,
And fabled wealth no more doth seem
The idle fancy of a dream –

There is a land where homesteads peep
From sunny plain and woodland steep,
And love and joy bright vigils keep,
Where the glad voice of childish glee
Is mingling with the melody
For nature’s hidden minstrelsy –

There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly,
And freedom’s sons the banner bear,
No shackled slave can breathe the air,
Fairest of Britain’s daughters fair –


Date: 1859

By: Caroline J Carleton (1820-1874)

Friday, 25 January 2013

Dream-Pedlary by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

If there were dreams to sell,
What would you buy?
Some cost a passing bell;
Some a light sigh,
That shakes from Life’s fresh crown
Only a rose-leaf down.
If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rang the bell,
What would you buy?

A cottage lone and still,
With bowers nigh,
Shadowy, my woes to still,
Until I die,
Such pearls from Life’s fresh crown
Fain would I shake me down.
Were dreams to have at will,
This would best heal my ill,
This would I buy.

But there were dreams to sell
Ill didst thou buy;
Life is a dream, they tell,
Waking, to die.
Dreaming a dream to prize,
Is wishing ghosts to rise;
And if I had the spell
To call the buried well,
Which one would I?

If there are ghosts to raise,
What shall I call,
Out of hell’s murky haze,
Heaven’s blue pall?
Raise my loved long-lost boy,
To lead me to his joy. —
There are no ghosts to raise;
Out of death lead no ways;
Vain is the call.

Know’st thou not ghosts to sue,
No love thou hast.
Else lie, as I will do,
And breathe thy last.
So out of Life’s fresh crown
Fall like a rose-leaf down.
Thus are the ghosts to woo;
Thus are all dreams made true,
Ever to last!


Date: 1851 (published)

By: Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone …

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world goodbye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
In the ghetto.

4. 6. 1942


Date: 1942

By: Pavel Friedmann (1921-1944)

Translated by: Unknown

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Library by Valerie Worth Bahlke (Valerie Worth)

No need even
To take out
A book: only
Go inside
And savour
The heady
Dry breath of
Ink and paper,
Or stand and
Listen to the
Silent twitter
Of a billion
Tiny busy
Black words.


Date: 1994

By: Valerie Worth Bahlke (Valerie Worth) (1933-1994)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Seagulls Think We Live At the Seaside by Michael Rosen

The seagulls think we live at the seaside:
the tower blocks are their cliffs,
they swoop for fish in the gutter
but happy that it’s last night’s fried rice.
They stand about talking on the pavement beach
and ride the sea-breezes pumped out by the cinema air-conditioning.
They hover over the waves of cars
and if you stare at them
wondering what they’re doing so far from home
they stare back:
“This is our home now.
That kebab
Is a crab.”


Date: 2010

By: Michael Rosen (1946- )