Archive for December, 2015

Thursday, 31 December 2015

On New Year’s Eve by Frederic(k) Edward Weatherly

We left behind rich lights that cast
A mingled glow about the room;
We left the farewell-words, and past
With lingering footsteps into gloom;
And “Dying,” sang in mournful swells,
The Year is dying,” rang the bells,
On New Year’s eve.

The farewell-words with wishes blent,
Good wishes for the coming year,
That rang, as down the hill we went
Into the village, on our ear;
And “Dying,” sang in mournful swells,
The Year is dying,” rang the bells,
On New Year’s eve.

A merry party, two by two,
Homeward the shining road we prest,
And paused to hear the bells, and view
The stars asleep on heaven’s wide breast.
And “Dying,” sang in mournful swells,
The Year is dying,” rang the bells,
On New Year’s eve.

Not long: and borne by hands unheard,
The dead Year, in his shadowy pall,
Swept heavenwards, and with whispered word
We parted ’neath the garden-wall.
And “Welcome,” sang in joyful swells,
O Year, we hail thee!” rang the bells,
On New Year’s morn.


From: Weatherly, Frederick Edward, Muriel, The Sea-King’s Daughter; and Other Poems, 1870, T. Shrimpton & Son: Oxford, p. 101-102.

Date: 1867

By: Frederic(k) Edward Weatherly (1848-1929)

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

In Praise of Chaucer, Father of English Poetry by Moses Browne

Long veil’d in Gothick mists our Britain lay,
E’er dawning science beam’d a cheering ray,
Dark monkish systems and dull senseless rhymes
Swell’d the vain volumes of those ruder times:
When Chaucer rose, the Phoebus of our isle,
And bid bright art on downward ages smile;
His genius pierc’d the gloom of error through,
And truth with nature rose at once to view.

In regal courts by princely favours grac’d
His easy muse acquir’d her skilful taste:
A universal genius she displays
In his mixt subject tun’d to various lays.
If in heroic strain he tries his art,
All Homer’s fire and strength the strains impart.
Is love his theme? how soft the lays, how warm!
With Ovid’s sweetness all his numbers charm!
His thoughts so delicate, so bright his flame,
Not just praise we owe the Roman name.
What pious strains the heavenly piece adorn,
Where guilty Magdalen is taught to mourn;
Devotion’s charms their strongest powers combine,
And with the poet equals the divine.
When he some scene of tragic woe recites,
Our pity feels the strong distress he writes;
Like Sophocles majestic he appears,
And claims alike our wonder and our tears.
Does he to comic wit direct his aim?
His humour crowns th’ attempt with equal fame.
Meer fictions for realities we take,
So just a picture his descriptions make;
So true with life his characters agree,
Whate’er is read we almost think we see.

Such Chaucer was, bright mirror of his age!
Tho’ length of years has quite obscur’d his page;
His stile grown obsolete, his numbers rude,
Scarce read, and but with labor understood.
Yet by fam’d modern bards new minted o’er,
His standard wit has oft enrich’d their store;
Whose Canterbury Tales could task impart
For Pope’s and Dryden’s choice-refining art;
And in their graceful polish let us view
What wealth enrich’d the mind where first they grew.


Date: 1740

By: Moses Browne (1704-1787)

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

On the Birth of a Son by Su Tung-Po (Su Shi)

Families when a child is born
Hope it will turn out intelligent.
I, through intelligence
Having wrecked my whole life,
Only hope that the baby will prove
Ignorant and stupid.
Then he’ll be happy all his days
And grow into a cabinet minister.


Date: c1060 (original); 1918 (translated)

By: Su Tung-Po (Su Shi) (1037-1101)

Translated by Arthur Waley (1889-1966)

Monday, 28 December 2015

where the heart is streaming by Sophie Robinson

there are places in which the mind thrives like plankton, where jobs
are easy to come by & every apartment overlooks the park, where
the funeral has barely started & the heart is a mist that rises & clears
like a browser & streaming faster — a gapless surface of fake solids

& there are places in which love reproduces itself like a lizard’s tail, heeds
to no alarm or database.  places where the sun raises like a fat cunt
glowing in the sky.  places where the rats don’t race but rat out
their days in a waterlogged stupor.  places you can dive into from a height

there are places where a heart is megashared & its kitchens always full
of foods.  where babies name themselves.  a place you cannot unknow
& in some place from the past there is a bucket doubling as a womb, full
of infant newts & frogspawn.  in some place you cannot know is you

full to the brim with ungendered yearning.  & there are places that smell
of honey & decay, places where mistakes can be undone by pressing
a sequence of two or three keys.  places where the language flows uncoded,
where everybody understands each other.  there are places where people

burn money to keep warm, places where every shop window is broken & blood
makes patterns on the walls.  there are places where every building looks
the same & nothing can be bought or sold.  there are places through which
a tall fence runs with holes too small to kiss your opposite number

& there are places in which each citizen is tattooed, head to toe, with the face
& body of another citizen & everybody takes to the lakes naked, places
where public transport is free & police tip their hats to beggars on the streets
& nobody dies.  there are places where the dead rise from their graves

& avenge the living, places where the dead turn into doves just to peck
themselves dead again.  there are places in which bleeding takes the place
of talking, places with water in place of mirrors, with eyes instead of cameras,
patches of pure darkness on a google map, places you can’t arrive or leave

& there are places in which the lives of happy & boring people unfold
day after day, where nobody writes anything down & nobody suffers
from the damp & cold.  there are places you have been & will
never go again, where the yearning to visit stands in for the visiting

as though you could trick yourself out of death or labour for a second
go at being free.  there are places where the moon is god-blocked into
a pinprick, & places where it largens & honeys, places night never falls
& the citizens sleep with snakes across their eyes to block the light

& the heart itself a snake knotted into a place we can never see or fathom
a stupid fist raised in protest, shrinking by the minute, longing to be dropped
in steaming water, to expand to the size of a glass like a hybrid tea rose sewn
together in a factory in bangladesh & sold for eight hundred times its worth

& the workers streaming utopia their bodies dropping from the walls all night.


Date: 2014

By: Sophie Robinson (1985- )

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Owl by George Mann MacBeth

Is my favourite. Who flies
like a nothing through the night,
who-whoing. Is a feather
duster in leafy corners ring-a-rosy-ing
boles of mice. Twice

you hear him call. Who
is he looking for? You hear
him hoovering over the floor
of the wood. O would you be gold
rings in the driving skull

if you could? Hooded and
vulnerable by the winter suns
owl looks. Is the grain of bark
in the dark. Round beaks are at
work in the pellety nest,

working. Owl is an eye
in the barn. For a hole
in the trunk owl’s blood
is to blame. Black talons in the
petrified fur! Cold walnut hands

on the case of the brain! In the reign
of the chicken owl comes like
a god. Is a goad in
the rain to the pink eyes,
dripping. For a meal in the day

flew, killed, on the moor. Six
mouths are the seed of his
arc in the season. Torn meat
from the sky. Owl lives
by the claws of his brain. On the branch

in the sever of the hand’s
twigs owl is a backward look.
Flown wind in the skin. Fine
Rain in the bones. Owl breaks
Like the day. Am an owl, am an owl.


Date: 1963

By: George Mann MacBeth (1932-1992)

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Good King Wenceslas by John Mason Neale

Good King Wenceslas look’d out,
On the Feast of Stephen;
When the snow lay round about,
Deep, and crisp, and even:
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gath’ring winter fuel.

“Hither page and stand by me,
If thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence.
Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh,and bring me wine,
Bring me pine-logs hither:
Thouand I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament,
And the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know now how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page;
Tread thou in them boldly;
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.


Date: 1853

By: John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Friday, 25 December 2015

Hymn for Christmas Day by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

Why doth the sun re-orient take
A wider range, his limits break?
Lo! Christ is born, and o’er earth’s night
Shineth from more to more the light!

Too swiftly did the radiant day
Her brief course run and pass away:
She scarce her kindly torch had fired
Ere slowly fading it expired.

Now let the sky more brightly beam,
The earth take up the joyous theme:
The orb a broadening pathway gains
And with its erstwhile splendour reigns.

Sweet babe, of chastity the flower,
A virgin’s blest mysterious dower!
Rise in Thy twofold nature’s might:
Rise, God and man to reunite!

Though by the Father’s will above
Thou wert begot, the Son of Love,
Yet in His bosom Thou didst dwell,
Of Wisdom the eternal Well;

Wisdom, whereby the heavens were made
And light’s foundations first were laid:
Creative Word! all flows from Thee!
The Word is God eternally.

For though with process of the suns
The ordered whole harmonious runs,
Still the Artificer Divine
Leaves not the Father’s inmost shrine.

The rolling wheels of Time had passed
O’er their millennial journey vast,
Before in judgment clad He came
Unto the world long steeped in shame.

The purblind souls of mortals crass
Had trusted gods of stone and brass,
To things of nought their worship paid
And senseless blocks of wood obeyed.

And thus employed, they fell below
The sway of man’s perfidious foe:
Plunged in the smoky sheer abyss
They sank bereft of their true bliss.

But that sore plight of ruined man
Christ’s pity could not lightly scan:
Nor let God’s building nobly wrought
Ingloriously be brought to nought.

He wrapped Him in our fleshly guise,
That from the tomb He might arise,
And man released from death’s grim snare
Home to His Father’s bosom bear.

This is the day of Thy dear birth,
The bridal of the heaven and earth,
When the Creator breathed on Thee
The breath of pure humanity.

Ah! glorious Maid, dost thou not guess
What guerdon thy chaste soul shall bless,
How by thy ripening pangs is bought
An honour greater than all thought?

O what a load of joy untold
Thy womb inviolate doth hold!
Of thee a golden age is born,
The brightness of the earth’s new morn!

Hearken! doth not the infant’s wail
The universal springtide hail?
For now the world re-born lays by
Its gloomy, frost-bound apathy.

Methinks in all her rustic bowers
The earth is spread with clustering flowers:
Odours of nard and nectar sweet
E’en o’er the sands of Syrtes fleet.

All places rough and deserts wild
Have felt from far Thy coming, Child:
Rocks to Thy gentle empire bow
And verdure clothes the mountain brow.

Sweet honey from the boulder leaps:
The sere and leafless oak-bough weeps
A strange rich attar: tamarisks too
Of balsam pure distil the dew.

Blessed for ever, cradle dear,
The lowly stall, the cavern drear!
Men to this shrine, Eternal King,
With dumb brutes adoration bring.

The ox and ass in homage low
Obedient to their Maker bow:
Bows too the unlearn’d heartless crowd
Whose minds the sensual feast doth cloud.

Though, by the faithful Spirit impelled,
Shepherds and brutes, unreasoning held,
Yea, folk that did in darkness dwell
Discern their God in His poor cell:

Yet children of the sacred race
Blindly abhor the Incarnate grace:
By philtres you might deem them lulled
Or by some bacchic phrenzy dulled.

Why headlong thus to ruin stride?
If aught of soundness in you bide,
Behold in Him the Lord divine
Of all your patriarchal line.

Mark you the dim-lit cave, the Maid,
The humble nurse, the cradle laid,
The helpless infancy forlorn:
Yet thus the Gentiles’ King was born!

Ah sinner, thou shalt one day see
This Child in dreadful majesty,
See Him in glorious clouds descend,
While thou thy guilty heart shalt rend.

Vain all thy tears, when loud shall sound
The trump, when flames shall scorch the ground,
When from its hinge the cloven world
Is loosed, in horrid tumult hurled.

Then throned on high, the Judge of all
Shall mortals to their reckoning call:
To these shall grant the prize of light,
To those Gehenna’s gloomy night.

Then, Israel, shalt thou learn at length
The Cross hath, as the lightning, strength:
Doomed by thy wrath, He now is Lord,
Whom Death once grasped but soon restored.

From: Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens and Pope, R. Martin, The Hymns of Prudentius, 2005, Gutenberg Project: Salt Lake City.

Date: c390 (original in Latin); 1905 (translated in English)

By: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-c405)

Translated by: Robert Martin Pope (1865-1944)

Thursday, 24 December 2015

“Your Luck Is About To Change” by Susan Elizabeth Howe

(A fortune cookie)

Ominous inscrutable Chinese news
to get just before Christmas,
considering my reasonable health,
marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,
career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.
Not bad, considering what can go wrong:
the bony finger of Uncle Sam
might point out my husband,
my own national guard,
and set him in Afghanistan;
my boss could take a personal interest;
the pain in my left knee could spread to my right.
Still, as the old year tips into the new,
I insist on the infant hope, gooing and kicking
his legs in the air. I won’t give in
to the dark, the sub-zero weather, the fog,
or even the neighbors’ Nativity.
Their four-year-old has arranged
his whole legion of dinosaurs
so they, too, worship the child,
joining the cow and sheep. Or else,
ultimate mortals, they’ve come to eat
ox and camel, Mary and Joseph,
then savor the newborn babe.


Date: 2002

By: Susan Elizabeth Howe (1949- )

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Millworker by James Vernon Taylor

Now my grandfather was a sailor
He blew in off the water
My father was a farmer
And I, his only daughter
Took up with a no good millworking man
From Massachusetts
Who dies from too much whiskey
And leaves me these three faces to feed

Millwork ain’t easy
Millwork ain’t hard
Millwork it ain’t nothing
But an awful boring job
I’m waiting (on) a daydream
To take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break
Where I can have a sandwich
And remember

Then it’s me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
(and) the rest of the afternoon
And the rest of my life

Now my mind begins to wander
To the days back on the farm
I can see my father smiling at me
Swinging on his arm
I can hear my granddad’s stories
Of the storms out on Lake Eerie
Where vessels and cargos and fortunes
And sailors’ lives were lost

(Yeah), but it’s my life has been wasted
And I have been the fool
To let this manufacturer
Use my body for a tool
(I’ll) ride home in the evening
Staring at my hands
Swearing by my sorrow that a young girl
Ought to stand a better chance

So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
And never meet the man whose name is on the label

(Still it’s) me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
And the rest of the afternoon (and on and on and on…)
For the rest of my life.


Date: 1979

By: James Vernon Taylor (1948- )

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Dream-Love by Louisa Sarah Bevington

I always seem to love you in my dreams
Of force, and right, and nature, full and free;
Sleep after sleep, the very self of me
Lost in the nearest of your spirit seems.
Yet, as the grey of real daylight streams
Across the bright deep of my passion’s sea,
There crawls a chill, a cloud up lingeringly
To sap the glow from night’s divinest gleams.

Which take for truth? Why are you ever twain?
Awake, my intellect’s serenest friend;
Asleep, my being’s sovereign, meaning, end,—
My heart’s desire, delight, possession, pain?
Ah! might I, dreaming, drive my love away;
Or better, wake to find I love by day.

From: Bevington, L. S., Poems, Lyrics, and Sonnets, 1882, Eliot Stock: London, p. 151.

Date: 1882

By: Louisa Sarah Bevington (1845-1895)