Archive for June, 2017

Friday, 30 June 2017

XX by Terence Rogers Tiller

Lovers have wept and been afraid
because they found all beauty come
down to the biting of the spade
and the falling back of the loam.

But the wild blue-eyed unicorn
rages upon the heraldic air;
the brooding eyes within us mourn
there. You are burnt with beauty there.

The legend or the virgin dies;
the trembling beast beside her stands
watching the sun between her thighs
and the white garland of her hands.

Painted or dreamt her life and his,
her death and his, steady-starred:
they have two immortalities,
the chevron of a sudden bird.


Date: 1941

By: Terence Rogers Tiller (1916-1987)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Song of the Syren Parthenope by Anna Brownell Murphy Jameson

A Rhapsody, written at Naples.

Mine are these waves, and mine the twilight depths
O’er which they roll, and all these tufted isles
That lift their backs like dolphins from the deep,
And all these sunny shores that gird us round!

Listen! O listen to the Sea-maid’s shell!
Ye who have wander‘d hither from far climes,
(Where the coy summer yields but half her sweets,)
To breathe my bland luxurious airs, and drink
My sunbeams! and to revel in a land
Where Nature—deck’d out like a bride to meet
Her lover—lays forth all her charms, and smiles
Languidly bright, voluptuously gay,
Sweet to the sense, and tender to the heart.

Listen! O listen to the Sea-maid’s shell;
Ye who have fled your natal shores in hate
Or anger, urged by pale disease, or want,
Or grief, that clinging like the spectre bat,
Sucks drop by drop the life-blood from the heart,
And hither come to learn forgetfulness,
Or to prolong existence! ye shall find
Both—though the spring Lethean flow no more,
There is a power in these entrancing skies
And murmuring waters and delicious airs,
Felt in the dancing spirits and the blood,
And falling on the lacerated heart
Like balm, until that life becomes a boon,
Which elsewhere is a burthen and a curse.

Hear then—O hear the Sea-maid’s airy shell,
Listen, O listen! ’tis the Syren sings,
The spirit of the deep—Parthenope—
She who did once i’ the dreamy days of old
Sport on these golden sands beneath the moon,
Or pour’d the ravishing music of her song
Over the silent waters; and bequeath’d
To all these sunny capes and dazzling shores
Her own immortal beauty, and her name.

From: Jameson, Mrs., The Diary of an Ennuyée: A new edition, 1836, Baudry’s European Library: Paris, p. 98.

Date: 1826

By: Anna Brownell Murphy Jameson (1794-1860)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Character by Clara Reeve

A Quaker’s stiffness, with a tradesman’s grin;
A jesuit’s conscience, with an open mein;
A sailor’s breeding, with a courtier’s art;
A zealot’s fury, with an atheist’s heart;
These are thy honours! – Not thy wild expence,
Fed and supported by the public pence,
Pour’d forth in awkward, splendid, motly treats,
Where dirt with cleanness, want with fulness meets.
Devour’d by hungry parsons, sots, and fools,
All well-pick’d, servile, suppliant, fawning tools;
Who with dull flatt’ry, and admiring eyes,
Applaud thy bawdy, blasphemy, and lies.

From: C.R., Original Poems on Several Occasions, 1769, T. and J. W. Pasham for W. Harris: London, p. 23.

Date: 1769

By: Clara Reeve (1729-1807)

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

To William Drummond of Hawthornden by Mary Oxlie

I never rested on the Muses bed,
Nor dipt my Quill in the Thessalian Fountaine,
My rustick Muse was rudely fostered,
And flies too low to reach the double mountaine.

Then do not sparkes with your bright Suns compare,
Perfection in a Womans worke is rare;
From an untroubled mind should Verses flow;
My discontents makes mine too muddy show;
And hoarse encumbrances of houshold care
Where these remaine, the Muses ne’re repaire.

If thou dost extoll her Haire,
Or her Ivory Forehead faire,
Or those Stars whose bright reflection
Thrals thy heart in sweet subjection:
Or when to display thou seeks
The snow-mixt Roses on her Cheekes,
Or those Rubies soft and sweet,
Over those pretty Rows that meet.
The Chian Painter as asham’d
Hides his Picture so far fam’d;
And the Queen he carv’d it by.
With a blush her face doth dye,
Since those Lines do limne a Creature
That so far surpast her Feature.
When thou shew’st how fairest Flora
Prankt with pride the banks of Ora,
So thy Verse her streames doth honour,
Strangers grow enamoured on her,
All the Swans that swim in Po
Would their native brooks forgo,
And as loathing Phoebus beames,
Long to bath in cooler streames.
Tree-turn’d Daphne would be seen
In her Groves to flourish green,
And her Boughs would gladly spare
To frame a garland for thy haire,
That fairest Nymphs with finest fingers
May thee crown the best of singers.

But when thy Muse dissolv’d in show’rs,
Wailes that peerlesse Prince of ours,
Cropt by too untimely Fate,
Her mourning doth exasperate
Senselesse things to see thee moane,
Stones do weep, and Trees do groane,
Birds in aire, Fishes in flood,
Beasts in field forsake their food;
The Nymphs forgoing all their Bow’rs
Teare their Chaplets deckt with Flow’rs;
Sol himselfe with misty vapor
Hides from earth his glorious Tapor,
And as mov’d to heare thee plaine
Shews his griefe in show’rs of raine.


Date: 1616

By: Mary Oxlie (fl. 1616)

Monday, 26 June 2017

An Hymne of the State of All Adams Posteritie by Elizabeth Oxenbridge Tyrwhitt

I am the fruit of Adams hands, through sin lockt in satans bands,
Destined to deth, the child of ire, a flaming brand of infernall fire:
Borne I was naked and bare, and spend my time in sorowe and care,
And shall returne unto the dust, and be deprived of carnall lust.
Yet thou father didst Jesus send, to pardon them that did offend:
We laud him in the work of might, that we be blessed in his sight.


Date: 1574

By: Elizabeth Oxenbridge Tyrwhitt (c1519-1578)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Wanting to Preserve by Fujiwara no Tamekane (Kyōgoku Tamekane)

Wanting to preserve
the seeds of the human heart
for eternity,
we return to the deep past —
the source of words in Japanese.

From: Hamill, Sam, Only Companion: Japanese Poems of Love and Longing, 2013, Shambhala: Boston & London, p. [unnumbered].

Date: c1300 (original in Japanese); 1997 (translation in English)

By: Fujiwara no Tamekane (Kyōgoku Tamekane) (1254-1332)

Translated by: Sam Hamill (1943- )

Saturday, 24 June 2017

I Am He Whom I Love by Mansur al-Hallaj

I am He whom I love,
and He whom I love is I:
We are two spirits
dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me,
thou seest Him,
And if thou seest Him,
thou seest us both


Date: 9th century (original in Arabic); 1914 (translation in English)

By: Mansur al-Hallaj (c858-922)

Translated by: Reynold Alleyne Nicholson (1868-1945)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Save Water, Prodike by Rufinus

Save water, Prodike-
bath with a friend!
We’ll crown each other with foam,
and knock back some champagne.
We haven’t all that long
before our wrinkles mean
we’re past our shag-by date –
not just that the water is too hot.


Date: ?3rd century (original in Greek); 2005 (translation in English)

By: Rufinus (?3rd century)

Translated by: Neil Philip (19??-)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Midsummer by Louise Glück

On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off  the girls’ clothes
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones
leaping off  the high rocks — bodies crowding the water.

The nights were humid, still. The stone was cool and wet,
marble for  graveyards, for buildings that we never saw,
buildings in cities far away.

On cloudy nights, you were blind. Those nights the rocks were dangerous,
but in another way it was all dangerous, that was what we were after.
The summer started. Then the boys and girls began to pair off
but always there were a few left at the end — sometimes they’d keep watch,
sometimes they’d pretend to go off  with each other like the rest,
but what could they do there, in the woods? No one wanted to be them.
But they’d show up anyway, as though some night their luck would change,
fate would be a different fate.

At the beginning and at the end, though, we were all together.
After the evening chores, after the smaller children were in bed,
then we were free. Nobody said anything, but we knew the nights we’d meet
and the nights we wouldn’t. Once or twice, at the end of summer,
we could see a baby was going to come out of all that kissing.

And for those two, it was terrible, as terrible as being alone.
The game was over. We’d sit on the rocks smoking cigarettes,
worrying about the ones who weren’t there.

And then finally walk home through the fields,
because there was always work the next day.
And the next day, we were kids again, sitting on the front steps in the morning,
eating a peach.  Just that, but it seemed an honor to have a mouth.
And then going to work, which meant helping out in the fields.
One boy worked for an old lady, building shelves.
The house was very old, maybe built when the mountain was built.

And then the day faded. We were dreaming, waiting for night.
Standing at the front door at twilight, watching the shadows lengthen.
And a voice in the kitchen was always complaining about the heat,
wanting the heat to break.

Then the heat broke, the night was clear.
And you thought of  the boy or girl you’d be meeting later.
And you thought of  walking into the woods and lying down,
practicing all those things you were learning in the water.
And though sometimes you couldn’t see the person you were with,
there was no substitute for that person.

The summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending messages:
You will leave the village where you were born
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something you left behind, even though
you can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it.


Date: 2008

By: Louise Glück (1943- )

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Garland for the Winter Solstice by Ruthven Campbell Todd

The sun stands still and flowers
Are all withdrawn, but memories
Give back cardinal lobelia, tall
Scarlet fountains for the humming-bird—
Vined, broken with blue and liver apios—
Beside hanging horns of jewelweed,
With pods which pop when prodded
By the idle or enquiring finger.

Also remain those favourite swamps
Where calopogon, butterfly-winged orchid,
Flaunted its magenta above pink-
Tinged sphagnum and crimson sundew,
Black water in the mind has purple spires
Of pickerelweed, and sweetly odoured
Lilies, richly scattered, and yellow cups
Of spatter-dock stemmed on the mud.

Orange pompons of butterfly-weed
Brighten the bare expanse of memory,
Where also grow the milkweed,
With rubbery white sap and knobbly pods,
Short-flowering stars of blue-eyed grass,
And rather more persistent amaryllis—
Golden stargrass on untravelled roads—
and the too seldom glory of wood-lily.

Asters and goldenrod for autumn equinox,
With the blue wheels of chicory, and,
At all times, the dandelion, that plant
Which, having become perfect for purpose,
Has forsaken sex and can evolve no more;
Also, little ladies’-tresses in the tawny fields,
And, under various trees, the last red-flushed
Indian-pipe—ghost-flower or fairy-smoke.

Before next solstice, I shall see once more
The arethusa by the woodland paths,
The galaxy of violets, and wintergreen,
Round-leaved and creamy belled,
Skunk-cabbage poke up beside a stream,
Bluets, whose masses make up for lack
Of size, and meadows staring white
With ox-eye daisies, untamed chrysanthemums.

There will be slender blue flag by the swamp,
And saffron-stamened deergrass,
Lambkill and lady’s-slippers in the wood,
And the wild rose with fragile petals.
The yellow thistle will rule sandy banks,
And the devil’s-paint-brush will be obvious
Among the tombstones, a curious irony;
Swamps will have candles, Linnaeus’ mistaken mistletoe.

Now, perched on this polar height
When all sap lies quiet and does not climb,
When all seems dead, I cultivate
The wild garden rioting in my memory,
Count in advance the treasures which
The sleeping sap contains, knowing that
Both alien and native will surely reappear
Regardless of my attentions and delight.

I see also that this deathlike sleep
Is only for a while. All is not interred
For bright scarlet partridge-berries
Shine among the green and polished leather leaves,
And through the snow emerge
Umbrellas and spikes of strange club-moss,
And winter runs from now toward
The waking of the sap and spring.


Date: 1955

By: Ruthven Campbell Todd (1914-1978)