Archive for March, 2018

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Listen Mr Oxford Don by John Agard

Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate

But listen Mr Oxford don
I’m a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one

I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen’s English
is the story of my life

I don’t need no axe
to split/ up yu syntax
I don’t need no hammer
to mash/ up yu grammar

I warning you Mr. Oxford don
I’m a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one

Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary/
imagine a concise peaceful man like me/
dem want me serve time
for inciting rhyme to riot
but I tekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common

I’m not violent man Mr. Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon

So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary

I making de Queen’s English accessory/ to my offence

From: Agard, John, “Listen Mr Oxford Don” in Index on Censorship, Volume 35, 2006 – Issue 2, p. 100.

Date: 1985

By: John Agard (1949- )

Friday, 30 March 2018

You Who Created Everything by Anonymous

You who created everything,
My sweet Father, heavenly King,
Hear me, I your son implore,
For Man this flesh and bone I bore.

Clear and bright my breast and side,
Blood on the wideness gushing wide,
Holes in my body crucified.

Held stiff and stark my long arms rise,
And dim and dark fall on my eyes:
Like sculptured marble hang my thighs.

My feet are red with flowing blood,
Their holes washed over by the flood.
Show Man’s sins mercy, Father on high!
With all my wounds to you I cry!

From: Stone, Brian (ed. and transl.), Medieval English Verse, 1973, Penguin Books: London, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 14th century (original in Middle English); 1964 (translation in modern English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Brian Ernest Stone (1919-1995)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Grapes are Sour by Aesop and interpreted by Jefferys Taylor

A monkey some charming ripe grapes once espied,
Which how to obtain, was the query;
For up to a trellis so high they were tied,
That he jump’d till he made himself weary.

So finding, at last, they were out of his power,
Said he, “Let them have them who will:
I see that they’re green, and don’t doubt that they’re sour,
And fruit that’s unripe makes me ill.”


Those will ne’er be believed by the world, it is plain,
Who pretend to despise what they cannot obtain.

From: Taylor, Jefferys, Æesop in Rhyme, with Some Originals, The Third Edition, 1828, Baldwin and Cradock: London, p. 20.

Date: 6th century BCE (original in Greek); 1828 (interpretation in English)

By: Aesop (c620-564 BCE)

Interpreted by: Jefferys Taylor (1792-1853)

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Storm by Maureen Patricia Duffy

How you would have hated this storm, the lightning dash
and bomb-blast of thunder, and I would have hurried
home from school so you shouldn’t be alone
to find you crouched behind a door, in a corner
under the stairs. And it wasn’t a memory
of the latest thunderclap that had sent you
scuttling, not the one that buried us both
but that childhood strike of a bolt against
your 1890s’ workhouse style high brick
Board School when you fled over the wall
to Granny’s and were marked missing at roll-call
whose centenary I commemorate here
of never-to-be-forgotten terror for you
who were so brave every winter in the face
of that death that finally ran you down, when
every stifled cough might throw up your life’s blood.

And when the real bomb fell whispered to our
rescuers: “Take my little girl out first.”

From: “The Saturday Poem: Storm” in The Guardian, Saturday, 30 January 2016.

Date: 2016

By: Maureen Patricia Duffy (1933- )

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Naming the Star-Nosed Mole by Jean LeBlanc

We would have named ourselves
“astonishment,” could we have seen
our own faces, the first time one
burst up out of the earth, amidst
its little pile of trailings. Perhaps,
had we evolved looking downward
rather than up, we would have named
the sparkles in the night sky “moles,”
how they emerge from darkness,
sometimes dash across the sky
only to go under, or so it seems, again.
Instead, we named this singularity
for those distant fires. How wise of us,
we who do not do well at fathoming
the life beneath our feet, for all
our various underworlds. How good
to see this squirming, splay-faced,
wrinkled, raw, near-blind lump
peer up at us, and we think “star.”

From: LeBlanc, Jean, Skating in Concord, 2015, Anaphora Literary Press: Tucson, Arizona, p. 14.

Date: 2015

By: Jean LeBlanc (19??- )

Monday, 26 March 2018

Child’s Song by Leah McTavish Cohen

My mother was a harlot,
My father was a clerk;
My mother wore scarlet,
My father a coat dark.

They met once only.
Parted at morn —
But from that lone lie
Was I born.

When she grew bigger,
Mother in dread
Pinched in her figure,
Bore me dead.

They buried my body
Deep in a hole.
And prayed to God He
Would save my soul.

From: Sitwell, Edith (ed.), Wheels, 1920 (Fifth Cycle), 1920, B. H. Blackwell: Oxford, p. 43.

Date: 1920

By: Leah McTavish Cohen (fl. 1920)

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Phoenix by William Gerald Golding

The phoenix rose again and flew
With crest and plume and pinion
In splendour from grey ashes flashing
Like a jewel turned beneath the sun

In cities and in palaces,
Or toiling through the hot dumb sand
Bare-footed in the barren hills,
Men saw – and would not understand.

But some there were among the fields
That let the swerving plough jolt on
And stood and gazed against the light
Through wide eyes filled with tears as bright,
Until the burning bird was gone.

Oh Phoenix! did they hear as I
The agony, the lonely cry
Of mateless, mateless, mateless Beauty,
Echoing in the desert sky?

From: “Contemporary Poetry” in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld), Saturday, 15 December 1934, p. 12.

Date: 1934

By: William Gerald Golding (1911-1993)

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Waiting for the Dentist by Henry Thomas Mackenzie Bell

Though many dismal years I’ve been
To dull old Care apprenticed,
The worst of the small woes I’ve seen
Is — waiting for the dentist!

How dreary is the cheerless room
In which you bide his pleasure,
The very chairs seemed steeped in gloom,
And sorrow without measure.

As if so wild mute-molar grief,
So uncontrolled its swelling, —
That its fierce tide had sought relief
By deluging the dwelling.

What though of literature a store
Is lying on the table,
You only think the books a bore;
To read you are unable.

What from the window, though, perchance,
You see forms full of graces.
They merely make you look askance,
And think how sore your face is.

On many chairs and sofas, too,
More martyrs round you languish.
You glance at them, they glance at you,
And give a groan of anguish.

You deem it hard, their turn arrives
Before you in rotation.
Or they wax wroth that your’s deprives
Their case of consolation.

You muse upon the ruthless wrench
Which buys a tooth’s departing —
Or how the stopping-pangs to quench,
In which you may be starting;

Or haply on these ivory chips
Harsh Nature may deny you, —
But which the ‘golden key’ equips
Man’s genius to supply you.

No words your mood of mind express,
‘Tis a state devoid of quiet, —
In which pain, pleasure, and distress
Mingle in hopeless riot.

Yes, though much sorrow one must know.
While to old Care apprenticed,
The greatest unheroic woe
Is — waiting for the dentist.

From: Bell, H. T. Mackenzie, Verses of Varied Life, 1882, Elliot Stock: London, pp. 19-21.

Date: 1882

By: Henry Thomas Mackenzie Bell (1856-1930)

Friday, 23 March 2018

A Poor Man’s Queries. Addressed to his Friend by George Saville Carey

Our betters seem to make a rout,
To find the cause of famine out,
Pretend the myst’ry is too great,
To tell us why we have no meat;
Nor can our ablest St—s—n’s head,
Find out the cause we have no bread.
The reason’s plain, I tell you why,
I don’t believe they ever try.

But should they want to lay a tax
Upon our heavy-laden backs,
There is not one but knows the way,
To do it for us any day.

Like dog i’the fair they shift about,
To-day in place, to-morrow out,
Nor shall you find the best resign,
Without some motive or design
To wriggle into better bread;—
Then can you think he’ll plague his head
About such things as you or I,
Who were but born to starve and die?

Were they like you and I to feel
An appetite, without a meal;
Say, would they not soon find the way,
To move this obstacle away?

Would forestallers and regrators
Until now have ‘scap’d their betters,
If some great rogue ‘tween you and I,
Had not giv’n them authority?
Thieves are seldom hang’d for stealing,
Where my Lord’s a fellow feeling.

If one knave should chance to swing,
O that wou’d be a happy thing.
In such a case, ’tis ten to four,
But he’d impeach a hundred more;
And then I’d lay you nine to ten,
That half of them were N—n,
Or such to whom we give the name,
For they by birth assume the claim,
And have not in reality
The smallest claim to quality.
Titles that once were bravely won,
That have thro’ generations run,
May grace at last a worthless fool,
Perhaps some haughty fav’rite’s tool,
In some base office exercis’d,
And by his countrymen despis’d.

From: Carey, George Saville, The Hills of Hybla: being a collection of original poems, 2008, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 30-32.

Date: 1767

By: George Saville Carey (1743-1807)

Thursday, 22 March 2018

A Farewel to Wine by Richard Ames

By a Quondam Friend to the Bottle

Tempt me no more, I swear I will not go;
As soon you may in Winters deepest Snow,
Perswade me Tenariff to climb,
Or into Aetna’s scorching flame,
My Mortal Carcass throw,
As to a Tavern go—I hate the Name.
There was indeed my Friend, there was a time,
When to avoid the hurry, noise, and strife,
With the tumultuous Cares of Life,
We in an Evening o’re a Bottle met,
And while the tempting flowing Glass,
Did round about in order pass,
Conferr’d we Notes of Pleasure, Love and Wit,
The Wine then was—would a dull Muse inspire,
Make Blockheads witty, Cowards bold;
And in the bloodless, wither’d, old
Men of Threescore blow up a youthful fire.

But now—with what regret the Now I name,
The Wine we drink is now no more the same,
In former happy days it was,
Than can a Man of Ninety Nine be said,
With Withered Limbs and hoary Head,
To be the self-same Creature as,
He was at Fourteen Years of Age.
No, no, the vigorous Heat, the Spirit’s gone:
The Wine with which we now engage,
Has not that body, taste, or age,
It had before the War began,
It either chills the blood—or puts it in a flame.

What arts my friend you have? What tricks you use?
My easy Temper to seduce.
Methinks a Tavern Door I enter in,
With such unwillingness as when a Maid,
By Oaths and Promises betraid,
Does venture on the Pleasing Sin.
But here most solemnly I vow,
Not to exceed a Glass or two:
No Bumpers shall your Friendship fill me,
One Glass, if Aqua fortis, would not kill me.

Some Claret Boy—Indeed Sir we have none.
Claret Sir—Lord there’s not a Drop in Town;
But we’ve the best Red Port—What’s that you call
Red Port?—a Wine Sir comes from Portugal,
I’ll fetch a Pint Sir,—Do make haste you Slave,
In things of sence what mighty faith some have,
To give their healths up to a Vintners Boy,
Who with one Dash perhaps can it destroy:
And when the threatning Gout or Fever comes,
To Quack in Velvet Coat,
Who all his Learning has by roat,
To purchase Health again give lib’ral Sums.

Pray taste your Wine Sir,—Sir, by your good favor,
I’ll view it first, and nose its flavor;
Is this the Wine you so commend?
Pray look upon’t my dearest Friend,
It looks almost as brown and yellow,
As is the face of warlike Fellow,
Who has for seven Campaigns in Flanders lain,
Observe, observe it once again;
See how Ten Thousand Attoms dance about the Glass;
Of Eggs, and Lime, and Iseinglass:
Mark how it smells, methinks a real pain,
Is by its odor thrown upon my brain.
I’ve tasted it—’tis spiritless and flat,
And has as many different tastes,
As can be found in Compound pastes,
In Lumber Pye, or soporifrous Methridate.

Sir, If you please, I’ll a fresh Hogshead peirce.
Peirce your own head you Dog—which now contains,
Maggots and Lies, instead of Brains.
What other Wines you brewing Ass,
Have you, you would for Clarets pass?
Speak quickly come their names rehearse.
Sir, We defy all London to compare,
A Glass of Wine with our Navarre,
And then for Barcelona, Syracuse,
Or Carcavella now so much in use,
With rich Gallicia Wine a mighty Store,
Florence and—hold you prating Whelp, no more,
But fetch us up a Pint of any sort,
Navarre, Galicia, any thing but Port.
Yes Sir—These nimble Rogues of Flippant Talk,
How merrily their Tongues can walk.
As sure as Moral Certainty,
The Vintners have some needy Spark in Fee,
T’ invent hard names for all their Wines, that so,
They off more quick, and currantly may go.

Come Boy the Wine—I hope ’twill please you Sir,
No question on’t—Come of all Saints to th’ Mother,
A Health—Pox take it, this is worse than t’ other:
From this Floors Center may I never stir,
If ’tis not sweet, and sowre, and hot, and smells
Of Brimstone, or of something else.
Wine do you call this poys’nous Drink,
They’r quite besides their wits I think;
‘Tis Florence, Port, Navarre, and all together,
For Bacchus Boys, is not this lovely weather?
Here, take your Money for your (Stuff call’d) Wine,
Which from this time I utterly decline.

You see my Friend, these Rogues by their pretences,
How they impose upon our very Sences:
And we a Price extravagant allow,
For that Damn’d Stuff which in their Vaults they brew,
Which Mystery if we but throughly knew,
Sooner we’d leap into the Thames or Severn,
Than Venture on the Wine in any Tavern.

From: Ames, Richard, The bacchanalian sessions, or, The contention of liquors with a farewel to wine / by the author of the Search after claret, &c. ; to which is added, a satyrical poem on one who had injur’d his memory, by a friend, 2005, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 1693

By: Richard Ames (c1660-1693)