Archive for December, 2013

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Year’s End by Matsuo Basho

Year’s end,
all corners
of this floating world, swept.

From: Stryk, Lucien; Ikemoto, Takashi, Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, 1977, Grove Press: New York, p. 46.

Date: 1977 (translated)

By: Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Translated by Lucien Stryk (1924-2013) and Takashi Ikemoto (?- )

Monday, 30 December 2013

Year’s End by Ellen Bryant Voigt

The fingers lie in the lap,
separate, lonely, as in the field
the separate blades of grass
shrivel or grow tall.

We sat together in the little room,
the walls blotched with steam,
holding the baby as if the two of us
could breathe for him and were not helpless.
Upstairs, his sister turned in her sleep
as the phone rang—

to have wakened to a child’s cry,
gagged and desperate,
and then repeat that terror when the call
split the quiet house and centered
its dire message:
a child was dead
and his mother so wrung by grief
she stared and stared
at the moon on its black stalk,
the road glistening like wire.
Rubbing the window clear of steam
as a child rubs sleep from its eyes,
and looking past the fence to where
he had plunged the sled up and down the hill,
we could still see the holes his feet made,
a staggered row of graves
extracting darkness from the snow.
When morning brought the new year in,
the fever broke, and fresh snow
bandaged the tracks on the hill.
For a long time we stayed in the room,
listening to him breathe,
like refugees who listen to the sea,
unable to fully rejoice, or fully grieve.


Date: 1983

By: Ellen Bryant Voigt (1943- )

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Old Father Frost and his Family by William Thom

Grim father Frost, he hath children twain,
The cloud-born daughters of Lady Rain;
The elder, a coquettish pattering thing,
Would woo you in winter, and pelt you in spring;
At times you might scarce feel her feathery fall.
Anon she will beard you with icicle ball;
When the warrings of heaven roll higher and higher.
She, coward-like, flees from the conflict of fire —
Yet heightens the havoc, for her feeble power,
Tho’ scaithless the oak, how it fells the frail flower!
And the bad of the berry, the bloom of the bean,
Are founder’d to earth by the merciless quean;
E’en the stout stems of summer full often must quail
To this rattling, brattling, head-breaking hail.
I’ll not say a word of how rudely she breaks
On the dream of the garret-doomed maid, and awakes
A thousand regrets in the marrowless lass,
And cruelly mimics the ” touch on the glass,”
With her cold little pearls, that dance, bound, and play,
Like our ain bonnie bairns on Candlemas day.
You know her meek sister? Oh, soft is the fall
Of her fairy footsteps on hut and on hall!
To hide the old father’s bleak doings below.
In pity she cometh, the minist’ring snow.
With her mantle she covers the shelterless trees,
As they groan to the howl of the Borean breeze;
And baffles the search of the subtle wind,
Guarding each crevice lest it should find
Its moaning way to the fireless fold
Of the trembling young and the weeping old,
When through her white bosom the daisy appears,
She greets the fair stranger with motherly tears!
And they mingle so sweet with the golden ray
Of the struggling beam that chides her away.
But where ‘s the last speck of her brightness seen,
Mid the bursting spring and its saucy green?
In the coldest side of yon lone churchyard.
Neglected graves she loveth to ward;
But not where gorgeous marble pleads,
And frequent foot of mourner treads;
But down by the stranger’s noteless lair,
Where sighs are few and footsteps rare.
She loveth, she loveth to linger there!
O’er hearts forgotten that sleep below.
There is none to weep but the friendly snow.

From: Thom, William, Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-Loom Weaver (3rd edition with additions), 1847, Smith, Elder and Co: London, pp. 84-88.

Date: 1844

By: William Thom (1799-1848)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Amantium Irae by Richard Edwardes

In going to my naked bed as one that would have slept,
I heard a wife sing to her child, that long before had wept;
She sighàd sore and sang full sweet, to bring the babe to rest,
That would not cease but criàd still, in sucking at her breast.
She was full weary of her watch, and grievàd with her child,
She rockàd it and rated it, till that on her it smiled.
Then did she say, Now have I found this proverb true to prove
The falling out of faithful friends renewing is of love.

Then took I paper, pen, and ink, this proverb for to write,
In register for to remain of such a worthy wight:
As she proceeded thus in song unto her little brat,
Much matter utter’d she of weight, in place whereas she sat:
And provàd plain there was no beast, nor creature bearing life,
Could well be known to live in love without discord and strife:
Then kissàd she her little babe, and sware by God above,
The falling out of faithful friends renewing is of love.

She said that neither king nor prince nor lord could live aright,
Until their puissance they did prove, their manhood and their might.
When manhood shall be matchàd so that fear can take no place,
Then weary works make warriors each other to embrace,
And left their force that failàd them, which did consume the rout,
That might before have lived their time, their strength and nature out:
Then did she sing as one that thought no man could her reprove,
The falling out of faithful friends renewing is of love.

She said she saw no fish nor fowl, nor beast within her haunt,
That met a stranger in their kind, but could give it a taunt:
Since flesh might not endure, but rest must wrath succeed,
And force the fight to fall to play in pasture where they feed,
So noble nature can well end the work she hath begun,
And bridle well that will not cease her tragedy in some:
Thus in song she oft rehearsed, as did her well behove,
The falling out of faithful friends renewing is of love.

I marvel much pardy (quoth she) for to behold the rout,
To see man, woman, boy and beast, to toss the world about:
Some kneel, some crouch, some beck, some check, and some can smoothly smile,
And some embrace others in arm, and there think many a wile,
Some stand aloof at cap and knee, some humble and some stout;
Yet are they never friends in deed until they once fall out:
Thus ended she her song and said, before she did remove,
The falling out of faithful friends renewing is of love.


Date: 1576 (published)

By: Richard Edwardes (1525-1566)

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Night Thought by Harry Harbord (Breaker) Morant

The world around is sleeping,
The stars are bright o’erhead,
The shades of myalls weeping
Upon the sward are spread;
Among the gloomy pinetops
The fitful breezes blow,
And their murmurs seem the music
Of a song of long ago;
Soft, passionate, and wailing
Is the tender old refrain –
With a yearning unavailing –
“Will he no come back again?”

The camp-fire sparks are flying
Up from the pine-log’s glow,
The wandering wind is sighing
That ballad sweet and low;
The drooping branches gleaming
In the firelight, sway and stir;
And the bushman’s brain is dreaming
Of the song she sang, and her.
And the murmurs of the forest
Ring home to heart and brain,
As in the pine is chorused
“Will he no come back again?”

On a Warrego sandridge, 8 August 1891.


Date: 1891

By: Harry Harbord (Breaker) Morant (?1864-1902)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day by Peter Rose

One by one
they drift back
to their apartments,
company cars laden
with feral gifts –
after-shave, a racquet,
vintage port
in balsa boxes
to decorate a tip.
Neatly knotted,
a stray tie dangles
from a visor. Night
flicks over like a
vinyl record, scratched.
Grilling steak,
bachelors whistle
in the only cool,
regretting stomachs
no longer flat.
Celebrations over,
they sprawl on beds
new fans cooling
day-old resolutions:
sobriety, gymnastics,
the horn of independence.


Date: 1993

By: Peter Rose (1955- )

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A Christmas Carol by Charles John Huffam Dickens

I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing
Let the blossoms and buds be borne:
He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,
And he scatters them ere the morn.
An inconstant elf, he knows not himself
Nor his own changing mind an hour,
He’ll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,
He’ll wither your youngest flower.

Let the Summer sun to his bright home run,
He shall never be sought by me;
When he’s dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud,
And care not how sulky he be!
For his darling child is the madness wild
That sports in fierce fever’s train;
And when love is too strong, it don’t last long,
As many have found to their pain.

A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light
Of the modest and gentle moon,
Has a far sweeter sheen, for me, I ween,
Than the broad and unblushing noon.
But every leaf awakens my grief,
As it lieth beneath the tree;
So let Autumn air be never so fair,
It by no means agrees with me.

But my song I troll out, for Christmas stout,
The hearty, the true, and the bold;
A bumper I drain, and with might and main
Give three cheers for this Christmas old!
We’ll usher him in with a merry din
That shall gladden his joyous heart,
And we’ll keep him up, while there’s bite or sup,
And in fellowship good, we’ll part.

In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide
One jot of his hard-weather scars;
They’re no disgrace, for there’s much the same trace
On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
Then again I sing ’till the roof doth ring,
And it echoes from wall to wall—
To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night,
As the King of the Seasons all!

From: Dickens, Charles, The Poems and Verses of Charles Dickens. Collected and edited, with biographical notes by F G Kitton, 1903, Chapman and Hall Ltd: London, pp. 42-44.

Date: 1837

By: Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


Date: 1822

By: Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

Monday, 23 December 2013

Ecce Puer by James Augustine Aloysius Joyce

Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!


Date: 1932

By: James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882-1941)

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Ticket by Anne Elizabeth Channing Porter

On the night table
Beside my bed
I keep a small
Blue ticket

One day I found it
In my pocketbook
I don’t know how
It got there

I don’t know
What it’s for

On one side
There’s a number

And on the other side
The only thing it says

I keep it carefully
Because I’m old
Which means
I’ll soon be leaving
For another country

Where possibly
Some blinding-bright
Enormous angel
Will stop me
At the border

And ask
To see my ticket.


Date: 2006

By: Anne Elizabeth Channing Porter (1911-2011)