Archive for ‘Historical’

Monday, 30 December 2019

What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Reflections of an African-American Mother) by (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs


What shall I tell my children who are black
Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin
What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb,
Of how beautiful they are when everywhere they turn
They are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black.
Villains are black with black hearts.
A black cow gives no milk. A black hen lays no eggs.
Bad news comes bordered in black, black is evil
And evil is black and devils’ food is black…

What shall I tell my dear ones raised in a white world
A place where white has been made to represent
All that is good and pure and fine and decent.
Where clouds are white, and dolls, and heaven
Surely is a white, white place with angels
Robed in white, and cotton candy and ice cream
and milk and ruffled Sunday dresses
And dream houses and long sleek cadillacs
And angel’s food is white…all, all…white.

What can I say therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears because a playmate
Has called him black, big lipped, flatnosed
and nappy headed? What will he think
When I dry his tears and whisper, “Yes, that’s true.
But no less beautiful and dear.”
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
His shoulders, look his adversaries in the eye,
Confident of the knowledge of his worth,
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

What can I do to give him strength
That he may come through life’s adversities
As a whole human being unwarped and human in a world
Of biased laws and inhuman practices, that he might
Survive. And survive he must! For who knows?
Perhaps this black child here bears the genius
To discover the cure for…Cancer
Or to chart the course for exploration of the universe.
So, he must survive for the good of all humanity.
He must and will survive.
I have drunk deeply of late from the foundation
Of my black culture, sat at the knee and learned
From Mother Africa, discovered the truth of my heritage,
The truth, so often obscured and omitted.
And I find I have much to say to my black children.

I will lift up their heads in proud blackness
With the story of their fathers and their fathers
Fathers. And I shall take them into a way back time
of Kings and Queens who ruled the Nile,
And measured the stars and discovered the
Laws of mathematics. Upon whose backs have been built
The wealth of continents. I will tell him
This and more. And his heritage shall be his weapon
And his armor; will make him strong enough to win
Any battle he may face. And since this story is
Often obscured, I must sacrifice to find it
For my children, even as I sacrificed to feed,
Clothe and shelter them. So this I will do for them
If I love them. None will do it for me.
I must find the truth of heritage for myself
And pass it on to them. In years to come I believe
Because I have armed them with the truth, my children
And my children’s children will venerate me.
For it is the truth that will make us free!


Date: 1968

From: (Victoria) Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs (1915-2010)

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

After Reading J. T. Gilbert’s “The History of Dublin” by Denis Florence MacCarthy

Long have I loved the beauty of thy streets,
Fair Dublin: long, with unavailing vows,
Sigh’d to all guardian deities who rouse
The spirits of dead nations to new heats
Of life and triumph:–vain the fond conceits,
Nestling like eaves-warmed doves ‘neath patriot brows!
Vain as the “Hope,” that from thy Custom-House
Looks o’er the vacant bay in vain for fleets.
Genius alone brings back the days of yore:
Look! look, what life is in these quaint old shops–
The loneliest lanes are rattling with the roar
of coach and chair; fans, feathers, flambeaus, fops,
Flutter and flicker through yon open door,
Where Handel’s hand moves the great organ stops*.

March 11th, 1856.

*It is stated that the “Messiah” was first publicly performed in Dublin.

From: MacCarthy, Denis Florence, Poems, 1882, M. H. Gill and Son: Dublin, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1856

From: Denis Florence MacCarthy (1817-1882)

Friday, 29 November 2019

Stomackes by Albert Goldbarth

We know far more about the philosophical underpinnings of Puritanism than we do about what its practitioners consumed at countless meals.
—James Deetz


Yes. So we must reconnect
ideas of God, and the definitions of “liberty,”
and the psychology of our earliest models of governance, with
oyster peeces in barley beer & wheet,
chopt cod & venyson seethed in a blood broth,
hominy pottage, also squirell.
Their heads might well have brimmed with heaven
and its airborne personnel, but still their mouths were a mash
of white meat [cheese] and a motley collation
of eel leavings, a fine samp, and a roast Fowl.
Worshipp first, then after—butter Biskuits!
David Ignatow:
“seeking transcendence
but loving bread”


And it is too easy to get lost in abstraction,
as if smoke, and dream, and quantum ersatz-states
are our proper environment… it’s easy to conceptualize in “politics”
and not in the clack of the black or white dried bean
we drop in the voting bowl. In some tribes, there’s a designated
“reminderer,” and when the shaman novitiate—or sometimes
simply a mournful family member—follows the star trail
into the country of ghosts, and lingers there, this person tugs
the wanderer back home: perhaps a light thwack
with a broom-shock, or the rising steam of a broth that one
can hungrily shinny down to Earth like a rope.
In the Mesopotamian Inanna myth, it’s water and bread
that resurrect the goddess and allow her
to begin the long ascent out from the craters of Hell.

We can spend all day, and many days, and years, in theorizing.
“A Computer Recreation of Proto-Hominid Dietary Intake:
An Analysis”
… we’ll float off, through these foggy lands of argot,
in the way that someone else might dissolve in the blue cloud
of an opium den… no wonder there’s such pleasure in uncovering
the solid fossil record of those appetites, and in emptying out
its evidence grain by grain, a stone piñata. How often
the stories bring us back to that grounding! In 1620,
a first exploratory party from the Mayflower went ashore
on the northern Cape Cod coast. The weather was bad
and disorienting: a half a foot of snow, in air
so thick as to be directionless. But we sense they recouped
their spirits that night, from three fat Geese
and six Ducks whitch we ate with Soldiers stomackes.


And it is too easy to lose ourselves in cyberthink,
untethered from the touchable, from even the cohesive force
suffusing through one atom. “What we keep,”
reports an archivist at the New York Times, “is the information,
not the paper”… everything e-storaged now.
A thousand years of pages, pffft: dismissiveness
as obliterative as a bonfire, in the long run. Oh, yes,
easy to cease to exist as an actual shape, inside the huge,
occluding mists of legalese: we say “repatriation
of native archeological remains,” and we mean
human bones, that’s what we mean: hard and dear
and contested. We say “ritual signifier of threat,” but
what the Narragansetts sent to the colonists at Plymouth
was a bundl of thair Arrows tyed about in a mightie Snake skin.

I died. And I was stolen
into a land of strangers—of not-the-People.
I floated all day, many days. And here
the ribs of my cage were empty: always
I was hungry, for the things that People need.
But this was not the sun, and this was not the soil,
of the People; and I was restless, I had no one
for between my legs, and no drum in my chest.
There was much war from this: the People
desired me back, they said “this one
is part of many-ones,” and after words and words,
their word was so. One day the breezes sent the fishes
and savory beaver parts, and I knew at last
that I was home: my mouth of my skull watered.


“When hegemonic identity-structures systemize cognition—” whoa.
There are times I think my friends might flimmer away in that
high-minded mush… and I concentrate, then, on the names
of those people from 1621, names that are true, specific
labor and specific, beautiful common things. Cooper.
Fletcher. Glover. Miller. Glazer. Mason. Carpenter.
Cheerfull Winter.
Oceanus Hopkins.
Lydia Fish, Nathaniel Fish and Steadfast Fish, of Sandwich.
Zachariah Field, father, and daughter Dutiful Field.
Pandora Sparrow.
Who wouldn’t care to meet Peregrine Soule?
And who could wish to let go of this life
when faced by Countenance Bountie?


Date: 2006

By: Albert Goldbarth (1948- )

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

As Concerning Man by Alexander Radcliffe

To what intent or purpose was Man made,
Who is by Birth to misery betray’d?
Man in his tedeous course of life runs through
More Plagues than all the Land of Egypt knew.
Doctors, Divines, grave Disputations, Puns,
Ill looking Citizens and scurvy Duns;
Insipid Squires, fat Bishops, Deans and Chapters,
Enthusiasts, Prophecies, new Rants and Raptures;
Pox, Gout, Catarrhs, old Sores, Cramps, Rheums and Aches;
Half witted Lords, double chinn’d Bawds with Patches;
Illiterate Courtiers, Chancery Suits for Life,
A teazing Whore, and a more tedeous Wife;
Raw Inns of Court men, empty Fops, Buffoons,
Bullies robust, round Aldermen, and Clowns;
Gown-men which argue, and discuss, and prate,
And vent dull Notions of a future State;
Sure of another World, yet do not know
Whether they shall be sav’d, or damn’d, or how.
‘Twere better then that Man had never been,
Than thus to be perplex’d: God save the Queen.

From: Radcliffe, Alexander, The ramble an anti-heroick poem : together with some terrestrial hymms and carnal ejaculations, 1682, Walter Davis: London, p. 9.

Date: 1682

By: Alexander Radcliffe (fl. 1669-1696)

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The New Roof: A Song for Federal Mechanics by Francis Hopkinson

Come muster, my lads, your mechanical tools,
Your saws and your axes, your hammers and rules;
Bring your mallets and planes, your level and line,
And plenty of pins1 of American pine:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
Our government firm, and our citizens free.

Come, up with the plates2, lay them firm on the wall,
Like the people at large, they’re the ground work of all;
Examine them well, and see that they’re sound,
Let no rotten parts in our building be found:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
A government firm, and our citizens free.

Now hand up the girders3; lay each in his place,
Between them the joists4, must divide all the space;
Like assemblymen, these should lie level along,
Like girders, our senate prove loyal and strong:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
A government firm, over citizens free.

The rafters now frame—your king-posts5 and braces6,
And drive your pins home, to keep all in their places;
Let wisdom and strength in the fabric combine,
And your pins be all made of American pine:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
A government firm, over citizens free.

Our king-posts are judges—how upright they stand,
Supporting the braces, the laws of the land;
The laws of the land, which divide right from wrong,
And strengthen the weak, by weak’ning the strong:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
Laws equal and just, for a people that’s free.

Up! Up with the rafters7—each frame is a state;
How nobly they rise! their span, too, how great!
From the north to the south, o’er the whole they extend,
And rest on the walls, whilst the walls they defend:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be
Combined in strength, yet as citizens free.

Now enter the purlins8,
and drive your pins through,
And see that your joints are drawn home, and all true.
The purlins will bind all the rafters together;
The strength of the whole shall defy wind and weather:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
United as states, but as citizens free.

Come, raise up the turret9—our glory and pride;
In the center it stands, o’er the whole to preside:
The sons of Columbia10 shall view with delight
Its pillars and arches, and towering height:
Our roof is now rais’d, and our song still shall be,
A federal head, o’er a people still free.

Huzza! my brave boys, our work is complete,
The world shall admire Columbia’s fair seat;
Its strength against tempest and time shall be proof,
And thousands shall come to dwell under our ROOF.
Whilst we drain the deep bowl, our toast still shall be
Our government firm, and our citizens free.

1.         Pins – nails.
2.         Plates – horizontal structural load-bearing members of a frame wall supporting ceiling joits, rafters or other members.
3.         Girders – Large or principal beams of wood or steel used to support concentrated loads at isolated points along its length.
4.         Joists – wooden planks that run parallel to one another and support a floor or ceiling, and supported in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.
5.         King-posts – Vertical framing members usually designed to carry beams.
6.         Braces – inclined pieces of framing lumber applied to wall of floor to strengthen the structure.
7.         Rafters – lumber used to support the roof sheeting and roof loads.
8.         Purlins – support for rafters.
9.         Turret – tower.
10.       Columbia – USA.
(building terms from
Dictionary of Construction Terminology –


Date: 1787

By: Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)

Thursday, 14 November 2019

On the Folly of Scribbling for Fame by John Winstanley

To my very good Friend F. G. at Glasnevin.

Some, anxious for Immortal Fame,
For times to come would raise a Name,
Fearing when Flesh and Bones are rotten ,
Their Memory may be forgotten:
So waste a deal of precious Time,
In placing Words in Prose or Rhyme,
To form a Thing, compos’d of Pages,
To live for them in after Ages.
‘Tis done in many a tedious Day,
While Life fleets unenjoy’d away;
Is call’d a Book—oft, soon as read,
Condemn’d, thrown by, before them, dead.
Can ought be more absurd than this?
To barter present real Bliss,
For future, fancy’d Happiness.
Give me, while Life’s short Race I run,
Days free from Scandal, Pain,—or Dun,
Some Sense, to serve an honest End,
A little Wit, to please my Friend,
With Modicum of Mirth and Laughter,
A Fig for empty Fame hereafter.

There’s something more I would have yet,
To make my Happiness compleat;
Because I’d not be plagu’d for Rent,
A little Freehold Tenement,
A House, that I my own may call,
Neither too spacious, nor too small,
A pleasant, quite Rural Seat,
From noisy Town, a calm Retreat,
Like that you’ve built, but not so great.
Some Friends I’d have too, very few,
Good-natur’d, Rational, and True.
Such Friends alas! Too rare to find,
Candid like you, sincere and Kind.
And, lest a Woman I should crave,
For fear of worse, the Wife I have.
Thus, blest in quiet, happy State,
I’d envy neither Rich, nor Great.

From: Winstanley, John, Poems Written Occasionally, 1742, S. Powell: Dublin, pp. 1-3.

Date: 1742

By: John Winstanley (?1678-1750)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Spiders by Ethel Talbot Scheffauer

(To All Munitions Profiteers)

The lean grey spiders sat in their den
And they were starved and cold—
They said—Let there be strife among men
That we may gather gold.

The young men at their toil were brothers
Over all the earth;
The proud eyes of all their mothers
Praised them with equal worth.

There came a word in the ears of the young men,
And they believed and heard,
And there was fire in the eyes of the young men
Because of that word.

Give yourselves to be shattered and broken,
Said the spiders aloud;
And know your enemy by this token
Out of the spider-crowd.

He that has in his eyes a flame,
And in his hands a trust!—
Him shall ye smite in Heaven’s name—
And they played with their yellow dust.

And over the world from morn till even
The young men awoke and heard,
And slew their like by seventy and seven
Because of the word.

And every one that died of the young men
Cried with the same voice
And the spiders at the fall of the young men
Crided from their dens—Rejoice—

And every mother of all the mothers
Bled from the same heart;
Yet cried to the young men that were brothers,
“In God’s name depart.”

And the spiders sat in their lighted palace
And feasted no more a-cold—
And redly, out of a burning chalice,
Gathered their minted gold.

From: Newman, Vivien, Tumult and Tears: The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of its Women Poets, 2016, Pen & Sword History: Barnsley, South Yorkshire, pp. 28-29.

Date: 1927

By: Edith Talbot Scheffauer (1888-1976)

Friday, 8 November 2019

To My Most Honored Cosen, Mrs Somerset, On the Unjust Censure Past Upon My Poore Marcelia* by Frances Boothby

Sigh not, Parthenia, that I’me doom’d to dye,
Since a false scandal’s made the reason why.
Fortune I ever found my rigid foe,
And did not hope she now would milder grow.
A small weake barke by a rough tempest tost,
Can raise noe wonder when we heare ’tis lost;
When powerfull enemys resolve to kill,
They heed not justice, strength can do their will;
Ruled by self interest their foes confine,
And word their judgments to their owne designe.
This byas made that injuring blow be given,
That thy Arcasia had prophan’d gainst heaven.
But why this furious hurricane did rise
Where by detracting zeale I’m made a sacrifice,
I cannot reach; for sure a woman’s pen
Is not (like comets,) ominous to men:
Nor could my clouded braine, (wrapt up in night,)
Destroy in all my sex their sunshine light:
The basalisk’s poison lys not in my head,
To strike the wits of other women dead,
If my dull ignorance could blast them all,
Then should I justly as their victim fall.

*The poet’s play, Marcelia, or, The Treacherous Friend, was performed in 1669 in London. It was the first play by a woman produced in London.

From: Clifford, Arthur (ed.), Tixall Poetry; with Notes and Illustrations, 1813, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London and John Ballantyne and Co.: Edinburgh, pp. 228-229.

Date: 1670

By: Frances Boothby (fl. 1669-1670)

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Canto 1: Summer from Rtusamhāram (The Gathering of the Seasons) by Kālidasa

The sun blazing fiercely,
the moon longed for eagerly,
deep waters inviting
to plunge in continually,
days drawing to a close in quiet beauty,
the tide of desire running low:
scorching Summer is now here, my love.

Night’s indigo-masses rent by the moon,
wondrous mansions built on water,
cooled by fountains; various gems
cool to the touch; liquid sandal;
the world seeks relief in these
in Summer’s scorching heat, my love.

Palace-terraces perfumed, luring the senses,
wine trembling beneath the beloved’s breath,
sweet melodies on finely-tuned lutes:
lovers enjoy tese passion-kindling things
at midnight in Summer, my love.

Curving hips, their beauty enhanced
by fine silks and jewelled belts;
sandal-scented breasts caressed by necklaces of pearls,
fragrant tresses bathed in perfumed water:
with these women soothe their loves
in burning Summer, my love.

Swaying hips; soles tinted deep rose;
anklets with tinkling bells
imitating at each step the cry of the wild goose:
men’s hearts are churned by desire.

Breasts rubbed smooth with liquid sandal,
crowned by strings of pearls lustrous as dewdrops,
hips encircled by golden belts—
whose heart will not yearn restless?

High-breasted women in the flush of youth,
limbs shining with beads of sweat, throw off
heavy garments and put on thin stoles
right for the season to cover their breasts.

The breeze of moist sandal-scented fans,
the touch of flower-garlands on the beloved’s breast,
the lute’s exquisite murmuring sound:
these now awaken sleeping Love.

Gazing all night longingly
on the faces of lovely women sleeping happy
on terraces of sparkling white mansions,
the moon pales at dawn struck by guilty shame.

Hearts burning in the fire of separation,
men far from home can scarcely bear to see
the swirling clouds of dust tossed up
from the earth burnt by the sun’s fierce heat.

Antelopes suffering from Summer’s savage heat,
race with parched throats towards the distant sky
the colour of smooth-blended collyrium, thinking:
—‘there’s water there in another forest.’

As enchanting twilights jewelled by the moon
instantly kindle desire in pleasure-seeker’s minds,
so do the graceful movements, subtle smiles
and wayward glances of amorous women.

In an agony of pain from the sun’s fierce rays,
scorched by dust on his path, a snake with drooping hood
creeps on his tortuous course, repeatedly hissing,
to find shelther under a peacock’s shade.

The king of beasts suffering intense thirst, pants
with wide open jaws, lolling tongue, quivering mane;
powerless to attack he does not kill
elephants though they are not beyond his reach.

Dry-throated, foaming at the mouth,
maddened by the sun’s sizzling rays,
tuskers in an agony of growing thirst,
seeking water, do not fear even the lion.

Peacocks, exhausted by the flame-rays of the sun
blazing like numerous sacrificial fires,
lack the will to strike at the hooded snake
thrusting its head under their circle of plumes.

By the hot sun tormented a herd of wild boars
rooting with the round tips of their long snouts
in the caked mud of ponds with swamp-grass overgrown,
appear as if descending deep into the earth.

Burning under the sun’s fiery wreath of rays,
a frog leaps up from the muddy pond
to sit under the parasol hood
of a deadly cobra that is thirsty and tired.

A whole host of fragile lotus plants uprotted,
fish lying dead, sarus cranes flown away in fear,
the lack is one thick mass of mire, pounded
by a packed elephant-herd pushing and shoving.

A cobra overcome by thirst darts his forked tongue out
to lick the breeze; the iridescence of his crest-jewel
flashes struck by brilliant sunbeams; burning
from Summer’s heat and his own fiery poison
he does not attack the assemblage of frogs.

A herd of female buffaloes frenzied by thirst
emerges from the hill’s caves, heads lifted up
sniffing for water, spittle overflowing from cavernous jaws
and frothing round their lips, pink tongus hanging out.

A raging forest fire burns tender shoots to a cinder;
cruel words hurl shrivelled leaves high up with impetuous force;
all around waters shrink to the bottom in the sizzling heat;
O what a scene of horror the woodland’s outskirts present!

Birds sit panting on trees shorn of leaves;
lean monkeys troop into caves overgrown with bushes;
wild bulls roam around looking for water;
elephant cubs diligently draw up water from a well.

Relentlessly driven by the force of violent winds,
the fire, brilliant as the vermilion petals
of the mallow rose unfolding,
speeds in every direction, smitten with longing to clasp
the tops of trees, bushes and creepers, and burns the earth.

Springing up at the skirts of the woodland,
the fire’s glare tires the creatures of the woodland;
it blazes in the glens fanned by the winds,
crackles and bursts through dry bamboo thickets
and spreads in the grass, waxing each moment.

Incited by the winds, the wild fire roams
all around the woodland, seeking to assume
multiple forms in the bright silk-cotton groves;
it glitters, burnished gold, in the hollows of trees
and springs up tall trees, to branches whose leaves are singed.

With their bodies burning in the fire’s fierce heat,
elephants, wild bulls, lions, lay aside their enmity,
and come quickly out of grasslands scorched by fire, together,
like friends, to rest on the river’s wide, sandy banks.

O lady, whose singing flows so sweet
in the night over moonlit terraces,
may Summer waited upon by lovely women,
when pools are strewn thick with lotuses
and the air scented by pāṭala flowers,
when waters are pleasant to laze in
and garlands of pearls cool with their touch,
pass in greatest delight and ease for you.

From: Kālidasa and Rajan, Chandra (ed.), The Complete Works of Kālidasa: In three volumes, Volume 1, 2005, Sahitya Akademi:  New Delhi, pp. 77-82.

Date: c4th-5th century BCE (original in Sanskrit); 1997 (translanted in English)

By: Kālidasa (c4th-5th century BCE)

Translated by: Chandra Rajan (19??- )