Archive for August, 2015

Monday, 31 August 2015

To Julia Grisi by Nathaniel Parker Willis

After hearing her in “Anna Bolena”

When the rose is brightest,
Its bloom will soonest die;
When burns the meteor brightest,
‘Twill vanish from the sky.
If Death but wait until delight
O’errun the heart, like wine,
And break the cup when brimming quite,
I die — for thou hast pour’d to-night
The last drop into mine.

From: Willis, Nathaniel Parker, The Poems, Sacred, Passionate, and Humorous of Nathaniel Parker Willlis, 1860, Clark, Austin & Smith: New York, p. 278.

Date: 1837

By: Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

To Emma, Doubting the Author’s Sincerity by Cuthbert Shaw

When misers cease to doat on gold,
When justice is no longer sold,
When female tongues their clack shall hush,
When modesty shall cease to blush,
When parents shall no more control
The fond affections of the soul,
Nor force the sad reluctant fair
Her idol from her heart to tear;
For sordid interest to engage,
And languish in the arms of age;
Then in this heart shall falsehood reign,
And pay thy kindness with disdain.
When friends severe as thine shall prove
Propitious to ingenuous love,
Bid thee in merit place affiance,
And think they’re honour’d by the’ alliance:
And oh! when hearts as proud as mine
Shall basely kneel at Plutus’ shrine,
Forego my modest plea to fame,
Or own dull power’s superior claim;
When the bright sun no more shall bring
The sweet return of annual spring;
When Nature shall the change deplore,
And music till the groves no more;
Then in this heart shall falsehood reign,
And pay thy kindness with disdain.
But why from dearer objects rove,
Nor draw illusions whence I love?
When my dear Emma’s eyes shall be
As black as jet or ebony,
And every froward tooth shall stand
As rang’d by Hemet’s* dextrous hand;
When her sweet face, deform’d by rage,
No more shall every heart engage,
When her soft voice shall cease to charm,
Nor malice of its power disarm;
When manners, gentle and refin’d,
No more speak forth her spotless mind;
But the perfidious minx shall prove
A perjur’d traitress to her love:
Then—nor till then—shall Damon be
False to his vows, and false to thee!

*Hemet – a celebrated dentist.

From: Shaw, Cuthbert and Park, Thomas (ed.), The Poetical Works of Cuthbert Shaw. Collated with the best editions, 1807, Stanhope Press: London, pp. 8-9.

Date: c1765

By: Cuthbert Shaw (1738/9-1771)

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Last Sayings of a Mouse, Lately Starved in a Cupboard. As they were taken in Short-hand by a Zealous Rat-catcher, who listned at the Key-hole of the Cupboard Door by Jane Barker

Wretch that I am! and is it come to this?
O short continuance of Earthly bliss.
Did I for this forsake my Country Ease,
My Liberty, my Bacon, Beans, and Pease?
Call ye me this the breeding of the Town,
Which my young Master bragg’d when he came down?
Fool that I was! I heard my Father say
(A Rev’rend Mouse he was, and his Beard gray)
“Young Hunt-crum1, mark me well, you needs must rome,
“And leave me and your Mother here at home:
“Great is your Spirit, at high food you aim,
“But have a care—believe not lying Fame;
“Vast Bodies oft are mov’d by slender Springs,
Great Men and Tables are two diff’rent things:
“Assure thy self, all is not Gold that shines;
“He that looks always far, not always dines:
“For oft I’ve seen one strut in laced Cloak,
“And at th’ same instant heard his Belly croak.”

By sad experience now I find too well,
Old Hunt-crum was an arrant Sydrophel2.
And must I dye? and is there no relief?
No Cheese, though I give over thoughts of Beef.
Where is grave Madge3, and brisk Grimalkin4 now,
Before whose Feet our Race was wont to bow?
No Owl, no Cat, to end my wofull days?
No Gresham Engine5 my lean Corps to squeese?
I’d rather fall to Foes a noble prey,
Than squeek my Soul out under Lock and Key.
What’s this? a pissing Candles latter end,
My dear beloved Country-Save-all Friend?
Thou dreadfull Emblem of Mortality,
Which nothing savour’st of solidity:
Detested Droll’ry of my cruel Fate!
This shadow of a Comfort comes too late.

Now you my Brethren Mice, if any be
As yet unstarv’d in all our Family,
From your obscure Retreats rise and appear,
To your, or to your Ghosts I now draw near.
Unto my pristine dust I hast apace,
Observe my hollow Eyes, and meager Face;
And learn from me the sad reverse of Fate,
‘Tis better to be innocent than great.
Good Consciences and Bellies full, say I,
Exceed the pomp that only fills the Eye.
Farewell you see (my friends) that knew me once
Pamper’d and smooth, reduc’d to Skin and Bones.
Poor as a Church-Mouse! O I faint! I dye!
Fly, fly from Cat in shape of Famine, fly;
VVhilst at my Death I my Ambition rue,
In this my Cupboard, and my Coffin too;
Farewell to Victuals, Greatness, and to you.

1Hunt-crum – mouse.
2Sydrophel – character in Samuel Butler’s poem, Hudibras, considered to be a conjurer, fortune teller, impostor and rascal.
3Madge – owl.
4Grimalkin – cat.
5Gresham Engine – mouse trap, specifically a spring trap baited with cheese.

From: Barker, Jane, Poetical recreations consisting of original poems, songs, odes, &c. with several new translations : in two parts / part I, occasionally written by Mrs. Jane Barker, part II, by several gentlemen of the universities, and others, 1688, Benjamin Crayle: London, pp. 59-61.

Date: 1688

By: Jane Barker (1652-1732)

Friday, 28 August 2015

Slides from Tolstoy. I. Under Oaks by Matthew Gregory

When she tore off a leaf to give to him
he held it up like a note from her.
They laughed, and he let her go lightly
ahead under the oak’s green print.
They walked, for interminable passages

in the Summer Garden that June.

In her silhouettes he saw her elbows
fly out before her, her bonnet loose
over her live hair, in her silhouettes
he saw her plural all around.
Count Levin looked at the leaf
in his hand—forgive me, but I am happy.

Kitty stopped and posed by one trunk
that’d surged up the centuries. She was tiny
under its cambers.Well, what do you think? ‘The Tsarina’ by Makovsky? Levin nodded
but was a muzhik when it came to art.
He stood back and saw only his Kitty
by the high tree, pressing in his palm
its warm, strange leaf, a fold from the realm.


Date: 2011

By: Matthew Gregory (1984- )

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Common Weather by Nicholas Moore

And here indeed is the irrelevance
Of all distinctions, here this warm, damp morning.
And men and women, hurrying in the streets
Are all brought to a common level,
I and my friends distinct and different creatures,
All that we have a common knowledge of evil.

Yet times are not so indolent as we think.
There is more to a traffic than a mere
Weapon of disease, of unchanged, of desire.
Men and women are good as well as evil,
And that queer bronze flame of hair
That I, Oh! remember, changes the whole level.

There is level upon which all men disport:
And that hair, and all those other womanly
Distinctions melt into desires which hurt,
The pain, the beauty equally acute,
Of the unachieved, the unachievable,
That longing to possess which is a hell.

And here brought by a common weather to
Considerations of the commonplace,
I sit like a clown and hide my smiling face,
Conscious of the despair, the truth, the evil,
The actions which destroy that queer bronze flame.
Bringing distinction down and glories level.


Date: 1947

By: Nicholas Moore (1918-1986)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Winter Shore by Thomas Wade

January, 1830.

A mighty change it is, and ominous
Of mightier, sleeping in Eternity.
The bare cliffs seem half-sinking in the sand,
Heaved high by winter seas; and their white crowns,
Struck by the whirlwinds, shed their hair-like snow
Upon the desolate air. Sullen and black,
Their huge backs rearing far along the waves,
The rocks lie barrenly, which there have lain,
Reveal’d, or hidden, from immemorial time;
And o’er them hangs a sea-weed drapery,
Like some old Triton’s hair, beneath which lurk
Myriads of crowned shell-fish, things whose life,
Like a cell’d hermit’s, seemeth profitless.
Vast slimy masses harden’d into stone
Rise smoothly from the surface of the Deep,
Each with a hundred thousand fairy cells
Perforate, like a honeycomb, and, cup-like,
Fill’d with the sea’s salt crystal—the soft beds
Once of so many pebbles, thence divorced
By the continual waters, as they grew
Slowly to rock. The bleak shore is o’erspread
With sea-weeds green and sere, curl’d and dishevell’d,
As they were mermaids’ tresses, wildly torn
For some sea-sorrow. The small mountain-stream,
Swoln to a river, laves the quivering beach,
And flows in many channels to the sea
Between high shingly banks, that shake for ever.
The solitary sea-bird, like a spirit,
Balanced in air upon his crescent wings,
Hangs floating in the winds, as he were lord
Of the drear vastness round him, and alone
Natured for such dominion. Spring and Summer
And stored Autumn, of their liveries
Here is no vestige; Winter, tempest-robed,
In gloomy grandeur o’er the hills and seas
Reigneth omnipotent.

From: Wade, Thomas, Mundi et Cordis: de rebus, sempiternis et temporalis: carmina. Poems and Sonnets, 1835, John Miller: London, pp. 23-24.

Date: 1830

By: Thomas Wade (1805-1875)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Liberty by Sarah Fyge Egerton

Shall I be one, of those obsequious Fools,
That square there lives, by Customs scanty Rules;
Condemn’d for ever, to the puny Curse,
Of Precepts taught, at Boarding-school, or Nurse,
That all the business of my Life must be,
Foolish, dull Trifling, Formality.
Confin’d to a strict Magick complaisance,
And round a Circle, of nice visits Dance,
Nor for my Life beyond the Chalk advance:
The Devil Censure, stands to guard the same,
One step awry, he tears my ventrous Fame.
So when my Friends, in a facetious Vein,
With Mirth and Wit, a while can entertain;
Tho’ ne’er so pleasant, yet I must not stay,
If a commanding Clock, bids me away:
But with a sudden start, as in a Fright,
I must be gone indeed, ’tis after Eight.
Sure these restraints, with such regret we bear,
That dreaded Censure, can’t be more severe,
Which has no Terror, if we did not fear;
But let the Bug-bear, timerous Infants fright,
I’ll not be scar’d, from Innocent delight:
Whatever is not vicious, I dare do,
I’ll never to the Idol Custom bow,
Unless it suits with my own Humour too.
Some boast their Fetters, of Formality,
Fancy they ornamental Bracelets be,
I’m sure their Gyves, and Manacles to me.
To their dull fulsome Rules, I’d not be ty’d,
For all the Flattery that exalts their Pride:
My Sex forbids, I should my Silence break,
I lose my Jest, cause Women must not speak.
Mysteries must not be, with my search Prophan’d,
My Closet not with Books, but Sweat-meats cram’d
A little China, to advance the show,
My Prayer Book, and seven Champions, or so.
My pen if ever us’d imploy’d must be,
In lofty Themes of useful Houswifery,
Transcribing old Receipts of Cookery:
And what is necessary ‘mongst the rest,
Good Cures for Agues, and a cancer’d Breast,
But I can’t here, write my Probatum est.
My daring Pen, will bolder Sallies make,
And like myself, an uncheck’d freedom take;
Not chain’d to the nice Order of my Sex,
And with restraints my wishing Soul perplex:
I’ll blush at Sin, and not what some call Shame,
Secure my Virtue, slight precarious Fame.
This Courage speaks me, Brave, ’tis surely worse,
To keep those Rules, which privately we Curse:
And I’ll appeal, to all the formal Saints,
With what reluctance they indure restraints.


Date: 1704

By: Sarah Fyge Egerton (?1670-1723)

Monday, 24 August 2015

Songe by Ellin Thorne with rough translation into almost modern English by flusteredduck

Would god that deth with cruell darte
and fatall sesters thre
before had perste my virgins harte
or I did fancye the

Cupido then his force had bent
and golden bowe in vaine
my womans harte hade not ben rent
with this most rewfull paine

His denting darte no soner flew
from sounding silver stringe
but pinchinge paines eke dolores newe
within my brest did springe

O lukeless happ unhapy luke
some lyones me feede
some Savage tiger gave me suke
un thankfulness me brede

Els I not once had fended the
whoss shynning comely graice
constraines me nowe to rune I se
a captives Rufull rayce

O spile me not but spedely
thie mercy here extende
and I wyll serve the faithfully
unto my latter ende.

Song by Ellin Thorne (translated by flusteredduck)

Would god that death with cruel dart
and fatal sisters three
before had pierced my virgin’s heart
or I did fancy thee

Cupid then his force had bent
And golden bow in vain
my woman’s heart had not been rent
with this most rueful pain

His denting dart no sooner flew
from sounding silver string
but pinching pains of dolour new
within my breast did spring

O luckless that unhappy luck
some lioness fed me
some savage tiger gave me suck
unthankfulness bred me

Else I not once had offended thee
whose shining comely grace
constrains me now to ruin I see
a captive’s rueful race

O destroy me not but speedily
thy mercy here extend
and I will serve thee faithfully
unto my later end.

From: Stevenson, Jane and Davidson, Peter (eds.), Early Modern Women Poets: An Anthology, 2001, Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 75-76.

Date: c1576

By: Ellin Thorne (fl. 1576)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Here Is Something You Don’t Know by Eileen Pun

Mother I am frowning while I work.
I am browning like a peasant,
I have been months in these fields of Grosseto,
that are too removed and too wild for you.
Weeds should not grow too flamboyant.
It is July, the work will be hacking.
Sorry, nothing can be done about the hot.
They hand me implements, gloves for blisters,
a hat for the sun. I carry these under my arm,
your ransoms in my head, a dull hoe for hacking.
The land is not like you. It needs love and taming like me.
It is itching underneath sheets of heat.
It is dry as static, prickly as our conversations,
carcasses fouling in thickets of scratches.
Brittle things snap with little provocation.
There are collapsing nests, bloodlines
dismembered. In these fields you are a giant.
Your yawns and disappointments
are vortices and huge shadows.
You think I make big dramas, loud disagreements
But I flee to dark burrows when disturbed.
I relate to the spiders, no more than abdomen core
and propping stick. I am insectile and careful.
I make movements in miniscule.
My breath is buzzing, my steps are ticks.
Here is something you don’t know.
Here we talk in pulses, our chatter is intimate
immediate as trembling teeth.
We work in staccato, we mate in situ
we are ringing with love.
Weeds should not grow too flamboyant
But I am deep in this place.
Propped like a cricket
in a bed a man is hacking at me.
I hear crescendo of whistling stalks
limbs rubbing like strings.
I am surrounded and cannot hear your reasonings.


Date: 2009

By: Eileen Pun (198?- )

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Nameless by William Montgomerie

Its light is in the grass,
Its yearning in the white gull’s cry
And in the geese that pass
In a long wavering line across the sky.

I listen, and it dreams
In silence, and it has no name;
The life of light it seems,
And all thing burn with it, as with a flame.

Rabbits on a dune
Erect, with long translucent ears,
Know the eternal tune,
And trees pulse with the wisdom of the years.

All the flying birds
Know it, and have no need to learn;
They teach us without words,
And ask from us no knowledge in return.


Date: 1933

By: William Montgomerie (1904-1994)