Archive for November, 2013

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Tears, Flow No More by Edward Herbert

Tears, flow no more, or if you needs must flow,
Fall yet more slow,
Do not the world invade,
From smaller springs than yours rivers have grown,
And they again a Sea have made,
Brackish like you, and which like you hath flown.

Ebb to my heart, and on the burning fires
Of my desires,
O let your torrents fall,
From smaller heate than theirs such sparks arise
As into flame converting all,
This world might be but my love’s sacrifice.

Yet if the tempests of my sighs so blow
You both must flow,
And my desires still burn,
Since that in vain all help my love requires,
Why may not yet their rages turn
To dry those tears, and to blow out those fires?


Date: 1665 (published)

By: Edward Herbert (1583-1648)

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Bicycle by Derek Mahon

There was a bicycle, a fine
Raleigh with five gears
And racing handlebars.
It stood at the front door
Begging to be mounted;
The frame shone in the sun.

I became like a character
In “The Third Policeman,” half
Human, half bike, my life
A series of dips and ridges,
Happiness a free-wheeling
Past fragrant hawthorn hedges.

Cape and sou’wester streamed
With rain when I rode to school
Side-tracking the bus routes.
Night after night I dreamed
Of valves, pumps, sprockets,
Reflectors and repair kits.

Soon there were long rides
In the country, wet week-ends
Playing snap in the kitchens
Of mountain youth-hostels,
Day-runs to Monaghan,
Rough and exotic roads.

It went with me to Dublin
Where I sold it the same winter;
But its wheels still sing
In the memory, stars that turn
About an eternal centre,
The bright spokes glittering.


Date: 1972

By: Derek Mahon (1941- )

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dance of the Dust Witches by William Haskell Simpson

Are you not weary,
O desert dust witches?

I cannot see who waltzes with you
In close embrace–
But your lips meet hotly in kisses,

Your hair is disheveled,
Your ribbons are flying,
Your skirts are in tatters.

The music you dance to–
It comes from fiddles bewitched.


Date: 1920

By: William Haskell Simpson (1858-1933)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Praise of Age by Robert Henryson (with modern verse translation by Patrick Fraser Tytler)

Wythin a garth, under a rede rosere,
Ane ald man and decrepit herd I syng;
Gay was the note, suete was the voce and clere;
It was grete joy to here of sik a thing.
“And to my dome,” he said in his dytyng,
“For to be yong I wald not, for my wis,
Off all this warld to mak me lord and king:
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blis.

“False is this warld and full of variance,
Besoucht with syn and othir sytis mo;
Treuth is all tynt, gyle has the gouvernance,
Wrechitnes has wroht all welthis wele to wo,
Fredome is tynt and flemyt the lordis fro,
And covatise is all the cause of this;
I am content that youthede is ago:
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse.

“The state of youth I repute for na gude,
For in that state sik perilis now I see
Bot full smal grace; the regeing of his blude
Can none gaynstand quhill that he agit be;
Syne of the thing that tofore joyit he
Nothing remaynis for to be callit his,
For quhy it were bot veray vanitee:
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse.

“Suld no man traist this wrechit warld, for quhy
Of erdly joy ay sorow is the end,
The state of it can noman certify;
This day a king, to morne na gude to spend.
Quhat have we here bot grace us to defend?
The quhilk God grant us, for to mend oure mys,
That to His glore He may oure saulis send:
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse.”

Praise of Age (modern verse translation by Patrick Fraser Tytler)

In garden green, beneath a sweet rose-tree,
I heard an aged man serenely sing;
Gay was the note, his voice was full and free,
It gave me joy to see so strange a thing.
And thus he sang: – I would not, to be a king
Of all this world, live o’er a life like this.
Oh Youth! thy sweetest flowers have a sharpest sting:
The more of age the nearer heavenly bliss.

False is the world, and full of changes vile;
O’errun with sin, and penury, and pain:
Truth is all fled – the helm is held by guile –
Fell coward treason hath high honour slain,
And freedom languisheth in iron chain.
‘Tis the low love of power hath brought all this.
Ah! weep not then that youth is on the wane:
The more of age the nearer heavenly bliss.

Trust then no more this wretched world – for why?
All earthly joy doth still in sorrow end;
His mortal state can no man certify:
To-day a king – to-morrow none will lend
Thy regal head a shelter: – may God mend,
With his sweet grace, so sad a wreck as this;
And to his glory soon our spirits send:
The more of age the nearer heavenly bliss.

From: Tytler, Patrick Fraser, Lives of Scottish Worthies: James 1 [pt. 2]. Robert Henryson. William Dunbar. Gavin Douglas. Sir David Lindsay. Antiquarian Illustrations, 1833, John Murray: London, pp. 83-84.

Date: 1508 (published), 1833 (translation)

By: Robert Henryson (c1460-1500)

Translation by: Patrick Fraser Tytler (1791-1849)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Going Down Hill on a Bicycle by Henry Charles Beeching

A Boy’s Song

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:—
“O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.

“Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!”

Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.

Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.


Date: 1895

By: Henry Charles Beeching (1859-1919)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Early Train by Jonathan Davidson

Leaving the house in half-dark, I am going
without goodbye, pulling the front door shut

with a muffled clunk. During the night,
at two and then at three o’clock, the four

and then the six year old had clambered up
into our narrow bed. We’d all slept sound

in the same moonlight from the street lamp
marooned across the bay from our harbour,

and the sea of leaves that turned in the trees
was a fierce squall that filled our dreaming.

As the night went out, scouring temporary
channels in the sand, we would, one by one,

wake up. I was the first, and before I left
to cycle to the station, I took a photo

of the three of them, in the five-thirty light,
to remember the lie of their bodies becalmed,

their faces and voices, their words and replies
washed up on the further shore, to remember
what it was we became when we lived together.


Date: 2011

By: Jonathan Davidson (1964- )

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Spider Bought a Bicycle by Phyllis Flowerdew

A spider bought a bicycle
And had it painted black
He started off along the road
With an earwig on his back
He sent the pedals round so fast
He travelled all the day
Then he took the earwig off
And put the bike away.


Date: 1967

By: Phyllis Flowerdew (1913-1994)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Wail of the Waiter by Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke

All day long, at Scott’s or Menzies’, I await the gorging crowd,
Panting, penned within a pantry, with the blowflies humming loud,
There at seven in the morning do I count my daily cash,
While the home-returning reveller calls for ‘soda and a dash’.
And the weary hansom-cabbies set the blinking squatters down,
Who, all night, in savage freedom, have been ‘knocking round the town’.
Soon the breakfast gong resounding bids the festive meal begin,
And, with appetites like demons, come the gentle public in.
‘Toast and butter!’ ‘Eggs and coffee!’ ‘Waiter, mutton chops for four!’
‘Flatheads!’ ‘Ham!’ ‘Beef!’ ‘Where’s the mustard?’ ‘Steak and onions!’ ‘Shut the door!’
Here sits Bandicoot, the broker, eating in a desperate hurry,
Scowling at his left-hand neighbour, Cornstalk from the Upper Murray,
Who with brandy-nose enpurpled, and with blue lips cracked and dry,
In incipient delirium shoves the eggspoon in his eye.
‘Bloater paste!’ ‘Some tender steak, sir?’ ‘Here, confound you, where’s my chop?’
‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!’ ‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!!’ – running till I’m fit to drop.
Then at lunch time — fearful crisis! In by shoals the gorgers pour,
Gobbling, crunching, swilling, munching — ten times hungrier than before.
‘Glass of porter!’ ‘Ale for me, John!’ ‘Where’s my stick?’ ‘And where’s my hat!’
‘Oxtail soup!’ ‘I asked for curry!’ ‘Cold boiled beef, and cut it fat!’
‘Irish stew!’ ‘Some pickled cabbage!’ ‘What, no beans?’ ‘Bring me some pork!’
‘Soup, sir?’ ‘Yes. You grinning idiot, can I eat it with a FORK?’
‘Take care, waiter!’ ‘Beg your pardon.’ ‘Curse you, have you two left legs?’

‘I asked for bread an hour ago, sir!’ ‘Now then, have you laid those eggs?’
‘Sherry!’ ‘No, I called for beer — of all the fools I ever saw!’
‘Waiter!’ ‘Yessir!’ ‘WAITER!!’ ‘Here, sir!’ ‘Damme, sir, this steak is RAW!’
Thus amid this hideous Babel do I live the livelong day,
While my memory is going, and my hair is turing grey.
All my soul is slowly melting, all my brain is softening fast,
And I know that I’ll be taken to the Yarra Bend at last
For at night from fitful slumbers I awaken with a start,
Murmuring of steak and onions, babbling of apple-tart.
While to me the Poet’s cloudland a gigantic kitchen seems,
And those mislaid table-napkins haunt me even in my dreams
Is this right? — Ye sages tell me! — Does a man live but to eat?
Is there nothing worth enjoying but one’s miserable meat?
Is the mightiest task of genius but to swallow buttered beans,
And has man but been created to demolish pork and greens?
Is there no unfed Hereafter, where the round of chewing stops?
Is the atmosphere of heaven clammy with perpetual chops?
Do the friends of Mr Naylor sup on spirit-reared cow-heel?
Can the great Alexis Soyer really say ‘Soyez tranquille?’
Or must I bring spirit beefsteak grilled in spirit regions hotter
For the spirit delectation of some spiritual squatter?
Shall I in a spirit kitchen hear the spirit blowflies humming,
Calming spiritual stomachs with a spiritual ‘Coming!’?
Shall — but this is idle chatter, I have got my work to do.
‘WAITER!!’ ‘Yessir.’ ‘Wake up, stupid! Boiled calves’ feet for Number Two!’


Date: 1900

By: Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke (1846-1881)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Charity by Connie Bensley

Trouble has done her good,
trouble has stopped her trivializing everything,
giggling too much,
glittering after other people’s husbands.

Trouble has made her think;
taken her down a peg,
knocked the stuffing out of her.
Trouble has toned down the vulgarity.

Under the bruises she looks more deserving:
someone you’d be glad to throw a rope to,
somewhere to send your old blouses
or those wormy little windfalls.


Date: 1984

By: Connie Bensley (1929- )

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Boy on a Bicycle by James Roderick Burns

A boy rides a bicycle before the first world war. He is eighteen, almost nineteen – a man, really – and wears his new uniform with pride. He is cycling along an embankment on the outskirts of a small town. The sun is halfway towards noon, the wind tousling his light brown hair; his pinkish lips are mouthing a music-hall ditty under his sparse moustache. He is going to see a girl he used to know.

He has no idea he will be dead in a week, his legs thrown out the wrong way under a snarl of barbed wire. Now he marvels at the warmth of his muscles as the chain drives the wheels around. Now his tongue tastes of mint and apples.


Date: 2001

By: James Roderick Burns (1972- )