Archive for August, 2014

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Werena My Heart Licht I Wad Dee by Grisell Hume Baillie (with rough translation by flusteredduck)

There ance was a may1, and she lo’ed na men;
She biggit2 her bonnie bow’r doun in yon glen;
But now she cries, Dool and a well-a-day!
Come doun the green gait3 and come here away!

When bonnie young Johnnie cam owre the see,
He said he saw naething sae lovely as me;
He hecht4 me baith rings and mony braw things—
And werena my heart’s licht, I wad dee.

He had a wee titty5 that lo’ed na me,
Because I was twice as bonnie as she;
She raised sic a pother ’twixt him and his mother
That werena my heart’s licht, I wad dee.

The day it was set, and the bridal to be:
The wife took a dwam6 and lay doun to dee;
She maned and she graned out o’ dolour and pain,
Till he vow’d he never wad see me again.

His kin was for ane of a higher degree,
Said—What had he do wi’ the likes of me?
Appose7 I was bonnie, I wasna for Johnnie—
And werena my heart’s licht, I wad dee.

They said I had neither cow nor calf,
Nor dribbles o’ drink rins thro’ the draff,
Nor pickles8 o’ meal rins thro’ the mill-e’e—
And werena my heart’s licht, I wad dee.

His titty she was baith wylie and slee:
She spied me as I cam owre the lea;
And then she ran in and made a loud din—
Believe your ain e’en, an ye trow not me.

His bonnet stood ay fu’ round on his brow,
His auld ane look’d ay as well as some’s new:
But now he lets ’t wear ony gait it will hing9,
And casts himsel dowie10 upon the corn bing.

And now he gaes daund’ring about the dykes,
And a’ he dow do is to hund11 the tykes:
The live-lang nicht he ne’er steeks12 his e’e—
And werena my heart’s licht, I wad dee.

Were I but young for thee, as I hae been,
We should hae been gallopin’ doun in yon green,
And linkin’13 it owre the lily-white lea—
And wow, gin I were but young for thee!

1may: maid.
2biggit: built.
3gait: way, path.
4hecht: promised.
5titty: sister.
6dwam: sudden illness.
7appose: suppose.
8pickles: small quantities.
9hing: hang.
10dowie: dejectedly.
11hund the tykes: direct the dogs.
12steeks: closes.
13linkin’: tripping arm-in-arm.

Were Not My Heart Light* I Would Die by Grisell Hume Baillie (translated by flusteredduck)

There once was a maid, and she loved no men;
She built her bonny bower down in yonder glen;
But now she cries, Woe and ah well-a-day!
Come down the green path and come here away!

When bonny young Johnnie came over the sea,
He said he saw nothing so lovely as me;
He promised me both rings and many beautiful things—
And were it not my heart’s light, I would die.

He had a wee sister that loved not me,
Because I was twice as bonny as she;
She raised such a stir ‘twixt him and his mother
That were it not my heart’s light, I would die.

The day it was set and the bridal to be:
The mother took poison and lay down to die;
She moaned and she groaned out of dolour and pain,
Till he vowed he never would see me again.

His kin were for one of a higher degree,
Said—what had he to do with the likes of me?
Suppose I was bonny, I wasn’t for Johnnie—
And were it not my heart’s light, I would die.

They said I had neither cow nor calf,
Nor dribbles of drink running through the dregs,
Nor bits of meal running through the mill-eye—
And were it not my heart’s light, I would die.

His sister she was both wily and sly:
She spied me as I came over the meadow;
And then she ran in and made a loud din—
Believe your own eyes, if you don’t believe me.

His bonnet stood well round his brow,
His old one looked as well as some that are new:
But now he wears anything that will fit,
And casts himself down upon the oat heap.

And now he goes meandering about the hedges,
And all he does is hound the dogs:
The live-long night he never closes his eyes—
And were it not my heart’s light, I would die.

Were I but young for you, as I have been,
We should have been galloping down in yonder green,
And arm-in-arming it over the lily white meadow—
Ah, if I were but young again for you!

*Licht in this sense is very hard to translate – it can mean light/fair/bright but it can also mean enlightened as in the religious sense with the suggestion of purity/innocence. Not being sure whether it is being used in the ironic sense here (which seems doubtful given the earnestness of the rest of the poem) or whether as a comment on the maid’s purity of heart/religiosity, I have stuck to the straightforward translation of light and leave it to the reader to decide how it should be interpreted.

And, as I’m doing lengthy footnotes for once, the poet’s first name of Grisell appears in multiple variants – eg Grizel, Grizell, Grisel. I have opted for Grisell as that it is how appears on her grave stone (the full inscription of which can be read here:


Date: 1725

By: Grisell Hume Baillie (1665-1746)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Post-Mortem by Nicky Beer

To me, you have bequeathed
a half-dissolved
apple, a spider,
and three crescents
of your fingernails.

A large Y of black stitches
has split your trunk into thirds —
a child’s rendition
of a bird migrating
towards your feet.

The arc of the scar
on your right calf
reminds me of a hooked trout
I once saw leaping
from the surge of a stream,

a curve of light shaped
by the moment between life
and the infinite space
just above it.

Smoke-browned fish on a white plate,
dawn-grey body on a silver table —
we do not like to linger
on how the dead may still nourish us.

Later, I will tell your family
what no one ever knew,
but you may have suspected:

you had two exquisite,
plum-colored kidneys,
lustrous and faultless
as the surface of a yolk.


Date: 2009

By: Nicky Beer (19??- )

Friday, 29 August 2014

Home, Sweet Home from “Clari, or The Maid of Milan” by John Howard Payne

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

An exile from home, splendour dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gaily, that come at my call —
Give me them — and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child,
As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door
Thro’ the woodbine, whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

How sweet ’tis to sit ‘neath a fond father’s smile,
And the caress of a mother to soothe and beguile!
Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

To thee I’ll return, overburdened with care;
The heart’s dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!


Date: 1823

By: John Howard Payne (1791-1852)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Concerning the Honour of Books by John Florio

Since honour from the honourer proceeds,
How well do they deserve, that memorize,
And leave in Books for all posterities
The names of worthies and their virtuous deeds;
When all their glory else, like water-weeds,
Without their element, presently dies,
And all their greatness quite forgotten lies,
And when and how they flourished no man heeds
How poor remembrances are statues, tombs,
And other monuments that men erect
To princes, which remain in closèd rooms
Where but a few behold them, in respect
Of Books, that to the universal eye
Show how they lived; the other where they lie!

From: Nicoll, Henry J., C Sonnets by C Authors, 1883, Anson D. F. Randolph and Co: New York, p. V.

Date: 1613

By: John Florio (1553-1625)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard by Michael Cirelli

The broken down fishing boats on the docks rock back and forth
as if there is music in the air. Norma Jean, Captain’s Girl, Jenny,
all hips and
bounce –shimmy shimmy ya in their slips. Across the street,
Randazzo’s Clam Bar,
“the pride of Sheepshead Bay,” bustles. Inside, not fisherman nor
pirate, but rapper
Ol’ Dirty Bastard has his own seat, where he reigns with sunglasses
and a vinyl bib.
Dirty likes it raw, so raw he fathered 13 children, and when he
rolls up to Randazzo’s,
in his black school bus with 24-inch rims, his clan of offspring
pour out like bass.
Mama Randazzo sighs and smiles that forced diagonal smile,
as she drags 6 tables together
There are platters of mussels and little necks with mouths
wide open!
Dinner rolls bounce off the walls like handballs! Sword fights
break out with shrimp
skewers, the toddlers wear calamari rings on their fingers like
diamonds, and lil’ Rusty
does the fake-sneeze-trick that leaves an oyster in his open
palm. Ol’ Dirty is ravishing
a huge boiled lobster, drawn butter dripping down his
chin, as he cracks open the claws
with his golden fangs.


Date: 2008

By: Michael Cirelli (19?? – )

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Where Corals Lie by Richard Garnett

The deeps have music soft and low
When winds awake the airy spry,
It lures me, lures me on to go
And see the land where corals lie.

By mount and mead, by lawn and rill,
When night is deep, and moon is high,
That music seeks and finds me still,
And tells me where the corals lie.

Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well,
But far the rapid fancies fly
To rolling worlds of wave and shell,
And all the land where corals lie.

Thy lips are like a sunset glow,
Thy smile is like a morning sky,
Yet leave me, leave me, let me go
And see the land where corals lie.

From: Garnett, Richard, Io in Egypt, and Other Poems, 1859, Bell and Daldy: London, p. 98.

Date: 1859

By: Richard Garnett (1835-1906)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Eubule by Antiphilus of Byzantium

Eubule, craving Heaven’s will to know,
Would poise a pebble. Wished she to hear no,
The stone was ponderous past all belief;
If yes, ’twas lighter than a withered leaf.
And did the divination prove at fault,
“Phoebus,” she’d say, “thou art not worth thy salt.”

From: Tomson, Graham R. (ed.), Selections from the Greek Anthology, 1895, Walter Scott: London, p. 67.

Date: ?

By: Antiphilus of Byzantium (fl. 53)

Translated by: Richard Garnett (1835-1906)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Father’s Child: Athena’s Choice by Colleen Anderson

From within—fearless Metis opened her thighs
in blood she birthed me
then fed me milk and words
Metis told me he had swallowed us
hoping to keep our wisdom
she was content to wait and plan
knew I would do as I choose

And so I chose
he could not swallow destiny
and I battled with words
speared his every thought
knowing full well my power
in my father

He conceived an idea, words, a gender
tried to swallow the counsel of women
tried to digest me before I opposed
I did not spring from his head
More my anger boiled too long
that brought my release

I countered until I won my way
out he called for Hephaestus
bright ingenious Hephaestus
who swung his mighty axe
split the head of Zeus in two

Out of that duality
I strode forth.


Date: 2013

By: Colleen Anderson (19??- )

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sonnet. Death by William Walsh

What has this Bugbear Death, that’s worth our Care?
After a Life in Pain and Sorrow past,
After deluding Hope and dire Despair,
Death only gives us Quiet at the last.

How strangely are our Love and Hate misplac’d!
Freedom we seek, and yet from Freedom flee;
Courting those Tyrant-Sins that chain us fast,
And shunning Death, that only sets us free.

‘Tis not a foolish fear of future Pains,
(Why should they fear who keep their Souls from Stains?)
That makes me dread thy Terrors, Death, to see:
‘Tis not the Loss of Riches, or of Fame,
Or the vain Toys the Vulgar Pleasures name:
‘Tis nothing, Caelia, but losing thee.

From: Walsh, William, The Poetical Works of William Walsh with the Life of the Author, 1797, C. Cooke: London, p. 21.

From: 1692

By: William Walsh (1662-1708)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Homesick by Dorothy Frances McCrae

I’m sick of fog and yellow gloom,
Of faces strange, and alien eyes,
Your London is a vault, a tomb,
To those born ’neath Australian skies.
Oh, land of gold and burning blue,
I’m crying like a child for you!

The trees are tossing in the park
Against the banked-up amethyst,
At four o’clock it will be dark,
And I a blind man in the mist.
Hark to old London’s smothered roar,
Gruff jailer growling at my door!

Each day I see Fate’s wheel whirl round,
And yet my fortunes are the same,
My hopes are trodden in the ground,
Good luck has never heard my name,
Oh friends, oh home, beyond the seas,
Alone in darkness here I freeze!

The Day is dead: night falls apace;
I reach my hand to draw the blind,
To hide old London’s frowning face,
And then (alas!) I call to mind
The shining ways we used to roam
Those long, light evenings at home.

I hate this fog and yellow gloom,
These days of grey and amethyst;
I want to see the roses bloom,
The smiling fields by sunshine kissed —
Oh land of gold and burning blue!
I’m crying like a child for you!


Date: 1909

By: Dorothy Frances McCrae (1878-1937)