Archive for October, 2014

Friday, 31 October 2014

On Halloween by Janet Little Richmond

Some folk in courts for pleasure sue,
An’ some ransack the theatre:
The airy nymph is won by few;
She’s of so coy a nature.
She shuns the great bedaub’d with lace,
Intent on rural jokin
An’ spite o’ breeding, deigns to grace
A merry Airshire rockin,
Sometimes at night.

At Halloween, when fairy sprites
Perform their mystic gambols,
When ilka witch her neebour greets,
On their nocturnal rambles;
When elves at midnight-hour are seen,
Near hollow caverns sportin,
Then lads an’ lasses aft convene,
In hopes to ken their fortune,
By freets that night.

At Jennet Reid’s not long ago,
Was held an annual meeting,
Of lasses fair an’ fine also,
With charms the most inviting:
Though it was wat, an’ wondrous mirk,
It stopp’d nae kind intention;
Some sprightly youths, frae Loudoun-kirk,
Did haste to the convention,
Wi’ glee that night.

The nuts upon a clean hearthstane
Were plac’d by ane anither,
An’ some gat lads, an’ some gat nane,
Just as they bleez’d the gither.
Some sullen cooffs refuse to burn;
Bad luck can ne’er be mended;
But or they a’ had got a turn,
The pokefu’ nits was ended
Owre soon that night.

A candle on a stick was hung,
An’ ti’d up to the kipple:
Ilk lad an’ lass, baith auld an’ young,
Did try to catch the apple;
Which aft, in spite o’ a’ their care,
Their furious jaws escaped;
They touch’d it ay, but did nae mair,
Though greedily they gaped,
Fu’ wide that night.

The dishes then, by joint advice,
Were plac’d upon the floor;
Some stammer’d on the toom ane thrice,
In that unlucky hour.
Poor Mall maun to the garret go,
Nae rays o’ comfort meeting;
Because sae aft she’s answer’d no,
She’ll spend her days in greeting,
An’ ilka night.

Poor James sat trembling for his fate;
He lang had dree’d the worst o’t;
Though they had tugg’d and rugg’d till yet,
To touch the dish he durst not.
The empty bowl, before his eyes,
Replete with ills appeared;
No man nor maid could make him rise,
The consequence he feared
Sae much that night.

Wi’ heartsome glee the minutes past,
Each act to mirth conspired:
The cushion game perform’d at last,
Was most of all admired.
From Janet’s bed a bolster came,
Nor lad nor lass was missing;
But ilka ane wha caught the same,
Was pleas’d wi’ routh o’ kissing,
Fu’ sweet that night.

Soon as they heard the forward clock
Proclaim ’twas nine, they started,
An’ ilka lass took up her rock;
Reluctantly they parted,
In hopes to meet some other time,
Exempt from false aspersion;
Nor will they count it any crime,
To hae sic like diversion
Some future night.

From: Little, Janet, The Poetical Works of Janet Little, the Scotch Milkmaid, 1792, John & Peter Wilson: Air, pp. 167-170.

Date: 1792

By: Janet Little Richmond (1759-1813)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Spook by James Francis Carlin MacDonnell

The most horrible sight I ever saw
Was the soul of a scare-crow, gaunt and queer,
Made of Humor, the Shadow of straw
And a foolish notion of Fear.

From: Carlin, Francis, The Cairn of Stars, 1920, Henry Holt and Company: New York, p. 96.

Date: 1920

By: James Francis Carlin MacDonnell (1881-1944)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sonnet XIV. To the Spider by Thomas Russell

Ingenious insect, but of ruthless mould,
Whose savage craft (as nature taught) designs
A mazy web of death; the filmy lines
That form thy circling labyrinth enfold
Each thoughtless fly that wanders near the hold,
Sad victim of thy guile; nor aught avail
His silken wings nor coat of glossy mail
Nor varying hues of azure, jet or gold:
Yet, though thus ill the fluttering captive fares,
Whom heedless of the fraud thy toils trepan,
Thy tyrant fang that slays the stranger, spares
The bloody brothers of thy cruel clan;
While man against his fellows spreads his snares–
Then most delighted when his prey is man.


Date: 1789

By: Thomas Russell (1762-1788)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Age Appropriate by Philip Schultz

mystified by the behaviour
of one of my sons,
my wife will point out
if   it’s age-appropriate,
making me wonder why
I still shout at ballplayers on TV
and argue with the dead.
Last week, my oldest son,
with a wild pitch, turned
my left ankle into an eggplant.
I didn’t yell at the doctors
who refused my insurance,
or get angry with a friend
who told me to soak it
in bourbon and garlic. No,
I read Montaigne who said
self-revelation is the purpose
of discourse, which, in his day,
meant knowing whether
to be flattered if a friend
didn’t use a food-taster,
or amused if a witch cast a spell
of   weeping on an in-law.
Blaise Monluc, the king’s
lieutenant general during
the civil wars, Montaigne says,
threw so many hanged Protestants
down a well you could reach in
and touch the top one’s head. Yes,
Monluc, who was fond of saying
“When the scaffolds are full, use trees,”
knew what was appropriate.
On occasion I’ll run into a lobby
to avoid greeting a friend,
not because my mind vanishes
and I can’t remember his name,
which is true, but because I
must flee what is darkest in me.
In other words, when evicted from
a strange lobby into a stranger street,
where every scaffold is full
and bodies dangle in the long
blue sorrow of the afternoon,
without context, explanation, or sympathy,
it’s good to know, even momentarily,
how to live, among the relevant,
the passionate, and the confused.


Date: 2013

By: Philip Schultz (1945- )

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Invisible Person by James Laughlin

Life kept rolling her over
like a piece of driftwood

in the surf of an angry sea
she was intelligent and beau-

tiful and well-off she made
friends easily yet she wasn’t

able to put the pieces to-
gether into any recognizable

shape   she wasn’t sure who
she wanted to be   so she

ended up being no one in par-
ticular   she made herself al-

most invisible   she was the
person you loved so much who

really wasn’t there at all.


Date: 1995

By: James Laughlin (1914-1997)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Susan’s Story by Charlotte Alington Pye Barnard (Claribel)

Oh mother take the wheel away and put it out of sight,
For I am heavy-hearted, and I cannot spin to-night;
Come nearer, nearer yet, I have a story for your ear,
So come and sit beside me, come and listen, mother dear;
You heard the village bells to-day, his wedding bells they were,
And Mabel is his happy wife, and I am lonely here;
A year ago to-night, I mind, he woo’d me for his bride,
And who so glad at heart as I that happy easter-tide.

But Mabel came among us, and her face was fair to see,
What wonder was it, mother, that he thought no more of me;
When first he said fair words to her, I know she would not hear,
But in the end she listen’d, could she help it, mother dear?

And afterwards we met, and we were friendly all the same,
For ne’er a word I said to them of anger or of blame;
Till both believed I did not care, and may be they were right,
But mother put the wheel away, I cannot spin to-night.

From: Claribel, Fireside Thoughts, Ballads, Etc., Etc., 1865, James Nisbet and Co: London, pp. 67-68.


Date: 1865

By: Charlotte Alington Pye Barnard (Claribel) (1830-1869)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Love by George Granville

To Love is to be doom’d, in Life, to feel
What after Death the Tortur’d meet in Hell.
The Vulture dipping in Prometheus Side
His bloody Beak, with his torn Liver dy’d,
Is Love: The Stone that labours up the Hill,
Mocking the Lab’rer’s Toil, returning still,
Is Love: Those Streams where Tantalus is curst
To sit, and never drink, with endless Thirst,
Those loaden Boughs that with their Burthen bend
To court his Taste, and yet escape his Hand,
All this is Love, that to dissembled Joys
Invites vain Men, with real Griefs destroys.

From: Granville, George, Poems Upon Several Occasions, 1712, J. Tonson: London, pp. 19-20.

Date: 1712

By: George Granville (1666/7-1735)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Children’s Hour by Li-Young Lee

Soldiers with guns are at our door again.
Sister, quick. Change into a penny.
I’ll fold you in a handkerchief,
put you in my pocket
and jump inside a sack,
one of the uncooked rice.

Brother, hurry. Turn yourself
into one of our mother’s dolls
on the living room shelf. I’ll be the dust
settling on your eyelids.

The ones wearing wings are in the yard.
The ones wearing lightning are in the house.
The ones wearing stars and carrying knives
are dividing our futures among them.

Don’t answer when they call to us in the voice of Nanny.
Don’t listen when they promise sugar.
Don’t come out until evening,
or when you hear our mother weeping to herself.

If only I could become the mirror in her purse,
I’d never come back until the end of time.


Date: 2010

By: Li-Young Lee (1957- )

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Woodman, Spare That Tree! by George Pope Morris

Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
‘Twas my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy axe shall harm it not.

That old familiar tree,
Whose glory and renown
Are spread o’er land and sea—
And wouldst thou hew it down?
Woodman, forebear thy stroke!
Cut not its earth-bound ties;
Oh, spare that aged oak,
Now towering to the skies!

When but an idle boy,
I sought its grateful shade;
In all their gushing joy
Here, too, my sisters played.
My mother kissed me here;
My father pressed my hand—
Forgive this foolish tear,
But let that old oak stand.

My heart-strings round thee cling,
Close as thy bark, old friend!
Here shall the wild-bird sing,
And still thy branches bend.
Old tree! the storm still brave!
And, woodman, leave the spot;
While I’ve a hand to save,
thy axe shall harm it not.


Date: 1837

By: George Pope Morris (1802-1864)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Giraffes by Roy Fuller

I think before they saw me the giraffes
Were watching me. Over the golden grass,
The bush and ragged open tree of thorn,
From a grotesque height, under their lightish horns,
Their eyes fixed on mine as I approached them.
The hills behind descended steeply: iron
Coloured outcroppings of rock half covered by
Dull green and sepia vegetation, dry
And sunlit: and above, the piercing blue
Where clouds like islands lay or like swans flew.

Seen from those hills the scrubby plain is like
A large-scale map whose features have a look
Half menacing, half familiar, and across
Its brightness arms of shadow ceaselessly
Revolve. Like small forked twigs or insects move
Giraffes, upon the great map where they live.

When I went nearer, their long bovine tails
Flicked loosely, and deliberately they turned,
An undulation of dappled grey and brown,
And stood in profile with those curious planes
Of neck and sloping haunches. Just as when
Quite motionless they watched I never thought
Them moved by fear, a desire to be a tree,
So as they put more ground between us I
Saw evidence that there were animals with
Perhaps no wish for intercourse, or no
Above the falling sun
Like visible winds the clouds are streaked and spun,
And cold and dark now bring the image of
Those creatures walking without pain or love.


Date: 1944

By: Roy Fuller (1912-1991)