Archive for ‘Historical’

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

John Peel by John Woodcock Graves

D’ye ken John Peel, with his coat so gay?
D’ye ken John Peel at the break of the day?
D’ye ken John Peel, when he’s far far away,
With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed.
And the cry of the hounds which he oft times led,
Peel’s view hol-loo would awaken the dead,
Or his fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes, I ken John Peel, and Ruby too,
Ranter and Ringwood, Bell-man and True,
From a find to a check, from a check to a view.
From a view to a death in the morning.


Then here’s to John Peel, from my heart and soul.
Let’s drink to his health let’s finish the bowl,
We’ll follow John Peel thro’ fair thro’ foul.
If we want a good hunt in the morning.


D’ye ken John Peel, with his coat so gay,
He lived at Trout-beck once on a day,
Now he has gone far far away,
We shall ne’er hear his voice in the morning.



Date: 1824

By: John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Pandora: Lines 102-175 from “Works and Days” by Hesiod

Thus spake and laugh’d of Gods and Men the Sire,
And straight enjoin’d the famous God of Fire
To mingle, instantly, with water earth;
The voice and vigour of a human birth
Imposing in it, and so fair a face
As match’d th’ Immortal Goddesses in grace,
Her form presenting a most lovely maid.
Then on Minerva his command he laid
To make her work, and wield the witty loom.
And, for her beauty, such as might become
The golden Venus, he commanded her
Upon her brows and countenance to confer
Her own bewitchings; stuffing all her breast
With wild desires incapable of rest,
And cares that feed to all satiety
All human lineaments. The crafty Spy
And Messenger of Godheads, Mercury,
He charg’d t’ inform her with a dogged mind,
And thievish manners. All as he design’d
Was put in act. A creature straight had frame
Like to a virgin, mild and full of shame;
Which Jove’s suggestion made the Both-foot-lame
Form so deceitfully, and all of earth
To forge the living matter of her birth.
Grey-eyed Minerva put her girdle on,
And show’d how loose parts, well composed, shone.
The deified Graces, and the Dame that sets
Sweet words in chief form, golden carquenets
Embrac’d her neck withal. The fair-hair’d Hours
Her gracious temples crown’ d with fresh spring-flowers.
But of all these, employ’ d in several place,
Pallas gave order the impulsive grace.
Her bosom Hermes, the great God of spies,
With subtle fashions fill’d, fair words, and lies;
Jove prompting still. But all the voice she us’d
The vocal herald of the Gods infus’d,
And call’d her name Pandora, since on her
The Gods did all their several gifts confer;
Who made her such, in every moving strain,
To he the bane of curious-minded men.

Her harmful and inevitable frame
At all parts perfect, Jove dismiss’d the Dame
To Epimetheus, in his herald’s guide,
With all the Gods’ plagues in a box beside.
Nor Epimetheus kept one word in store
Of what Prometheus had advised before,
Which was: That Jove should fasten on his hand
No gift at all, but he his wile withstand,
And back return it, lest with instant ill
To mortal men he all the world did fill.
But he first took the gift, and after griev’d.
For first the families of mortals:
Without and free from ill: harsh labour then,
Nor sickness, hasting timeless age on men,
Their hard and wretched tasks impos’d on them
For manv years; but now a violent stream
Of all afflictions in an instant came,
And quench’d life’s light that shin’d before in flame.
For when the woman the unwieldy lid
Had once discover’d, all the miseries hid
In that curs’d cabinet dispers’d and flew
About the world; joys pined, and sorrows grew.
Hope only rested in the box’s brim,
And took not wing from thence. Jove prompted him
That ow’d the cabinet to clap it close
Before she parted; but unnumber’d woes
Besides encount’red men in all their ways;
Full were all shores of them, and full all seas.
Diseases, day and night, with natural wings
And silent entries stole on men their stings;
The great in counsels, Jove, their voices reft,
That not the truest might avoid their theft,
Nor any ‘scape the ill, in any kind,
Resolv’d at first in his almighty mind.

From: Chapman, George (transl.) and Hooper, Richard (ed.), Homer’s Batrachomyomachia, Hymns and Epigrams. Hesiod’s Works and Days. Musæus’ Hero and Leander. Juvenal’s Fifth Satire, 1858, John Russell Smith: London, pp. 153-157.

Date: c700 BCE (original in Greek); 1618 (translation in English)

By: Hesiod (c750 BCE-c650 BCE)

Translated by: George Chapman (c1559-1634)

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The Colour of Massacre by Jeanine Leane

As a new century dawned white Australians were urged
to feel comfortable and relaxed about their history.
‘Shake off that irksome black arm band – legacy of radical
lefties who can’t leave well enough alone – and their
tiresome chant that white Australia has a Black history and
we all have blood on our hands.
We’ve got a new song to sing now!’

Right wing historians hummed the new tune
and set about to write Aboriginal massacres out
of the record, out of the history books, out of the classroom.

There weren’t really fifteen thousand Palawa people
in Van Diemen’s Land before the arrival of
white Christians. They said.
There weren’t even five thousand!
Only a few hundred naked savages roamed here
and a meagre hundred or so killed –
in self defence – of course.
Or perhaps they were stealing?
On the darker side – they were cannibals –
weren’t they ? Think about it!
What happened to the rest? Who knows?
Nobody wrote it down – no history of
massacres here.
Perhaps they were saved by Christian charity
and blended in with the rest of us – or
maybe they died of natural causes
or just perished because they couldn’t adapt.
The rest is mere hearsay – oral history –
words in the air!
Nothing on paper – so who remembers?
The Aborigines didn’t count in numbers –
so why bother now?

Nobody recorded those other syllables in time –
full of sound and fury, punctuated by
blows, blood and screams.

But wasn’t their blood red?
And didn’t their loved ones cry?

Late in the twentieth century, with a population
of eighteen million the shootings of
thirty-five settlers went down in Australian history
as the Port Arthur Massacre prompting a
Prime Minister who denied Black massacres
to buy back the nation’s firearms to minimise
the chance of another white one.

But wasn’t their blood red too?
And didn’t their loved ones still cry?
What is the colour of massacre?


Date: 2016

By: Jeanine Leane (196?- )

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Recollections by Fidelia Savage Thornton Munkhouse Hill

Yes, South Australia! three years have elapsed
Of dreary banishment, since I became
In thee a sojourner; nor can I choose
But sometimes think on thee; and tho’ thou art
A fertile source of unavailing woe,
Thou dost awaken deepest interest still. —
Our voyage past, we anchor’d in that port
Of our New Colony, styled Holdfast Bay:
In part surrounded by the range sublime
Of mountains, with Mount Lofty in their centre: —
Beautiful mountains, which at even-tide
I oft have gazed upon with raptur’d sense,
Watching their rose-light hues, as fleeting fast
Like fairy shadows o’er their verdant sides
They mock’d the painter’s art, and to pourtray
Defied the utmost reach of poet’s skill! —
The new year open’d on a novel scene, —
New cares, new expectations, a new land! —

Then toil was cheer’d, and labour render’d light,
Privations welcom’d, every hardship brav’d,
In the blest anticipation of reward: —
(Which some indeed deserv’d, but ne’er obtain’d)
Some who unceasingly, had lent their aid,
And time, and information, to promote
The interests of the rising Colony —
Still flattering hope on the dark future smil’d,
Gilding each object with fallacious dyes,
And picturing pleasure, that was not to be!
They bore me to the future Capitol,
Ere yet ’twas more than desart — a few tents,
Scatter’d at intervals, ‘mid forest trees,
Marked the abode of men. ‘Twas a wide waste,
But beauteous in its wildness. — Park-like scenery
Burst on the astonish’d sight; for it did seem
As tho’ the hand of art, had nature aided,
Where the broad level walks — and verdant lawns,
And vistas grae’d that splendid wilderness!
‘Twas then they hail’d me as the first white lady
That ever yet had enter’d Adelaide. —
Cap time e’er teach me to forget the sound,
Or gratulations that assail’d me then,
And cheer’d me at the moment, or efface
The welcome bland of the distinguish’d one —
Who fix’d the site, and form’d the extensive plan
Of that young City? — He hath pass’d away
To the dark cheerless chambers of the tomb!
But Adelaide if crown’d with fortune, shall
To after age perpetuate his name! —

* * * * *

One tent was pitch’d upon the sloping bank
Of the stream Torrens, in whose lucid wave
Dipp’d flow’ring shrubs — the sweet mimosa there
Wav’d its rich blossoms to the perfum’d breeze,
High o’er our heads — amid the stately boughs.
Of the tall gum tree — birds of brightest hues
Or built their nests, or tun’d ‘their wood-notes wild,
Reposing on the rushes, fresh and cool,
Which a lov’d hand had for my comfort strew’d: —
This, this methought shall be my happy home!
Here may I dwell, and by experience prove,
That tents with love, yield more substantial bliss
Than Palaces without it, can bestow.

From: Hill, Fidelia S.T., Poems and Recollections of the Past, 2003, University of Sydney Library: Sydney, pp. 53-54.

Date: 1840

By: Fidelia Savage Thornton Munkhouse Hill (1794-1854)

Monday, 22 January 2018

Terra Australis Incognita* by Nicola Easthope

The bay opens with inland promise. We haul our wind
and stand in for it. Smoke ascends from the shore –
I think this a favourable opportunity.

Two canoes coming in from the sea: one under sail
and the other worked with paddles. The ocean
is like a millpond – trust me, you will come to no hurt.

Beneath these cliffs of such looming –
first to be touched by light –
work your paddles alongside us.

I order a musket to be fired over your head.
You do not deserve a bullet through the heart.
You do not deserve to be unhappily

killed but you trust your paddles rather
than our promises. The cliffs are crumbling, the Indian lies
dead upon the ground. Terra australis incognita –

the subject of much eager conversation.
At Young Nick’s Head
there is no access without permission.

The Marines march carrying
a Jack before them.
I want you in my possession.

*Poet’s Note: This “found” poem was inspired by an exhibition, Possession, by Jean Loomis, a New Zealand printmaker (Pataka Gallery, Porirua, 15 December 2011 – 26 January 2012). Possession visually comments on events that have taken place since Captain James Cook’s visit in 1769 to Turanganui a Kiwa – renamed “Poverty Bay” by Cook.

Most of the excerpts for the poem come from two of the prints, entitled “The Marines marched carrying a Jack before them” and “Is this Terra australis incognita?”, which in turn originated in Cook’s diaries of 1769. Two of the phrases come from the artist herself. I have changed the tense from past to present.


Date: 2012

By: Nicola Easthope (19??- )

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Excerpt from “Lamiyat al-Ajam (The L-Poem of the Foreigner)” by Abu Esmail Moayed-o-din Hosein-ebn-e-ali Esfahani Togharayi

No kind supporting hand I meet,
But Fortitude shall stay my feet;
No borrowed splendours round me shine,
But Virtue’s lustre all is mine:
A fame unsullied still I boast,
Obscured, concealed, but never lost —
The same bright orb that led the day
Pours from the west his mellowed ray.

Zaura, farewell! No more I see
Within thy walls a home for me;
Deserted, spurned, aside I’m tossed,
As an old sword whose scabbard’s lost:
Around thy walls I seek in vain,
Some bosom that will soothe my pain —
No friend is near to breathe relief,
Or brother to partake my grief.

For many a melancholy day
Through desert vales I’ve wound my way;
The faithful beast whose back I press
In groans laments her lord’s distress;
In every quivering of my spear
A sympathetic sigh I hear;
The camel, bending with his load,
And struggling through the thorny road,
Midst the fatigues that bear him down,
In Hassan’s woes forgets his own; —
Yet cruel friends my wanderings chide,
My sufferings slight, my toils deride.

Once wealth, I own, engrossed each thought;
There was a moment when I sought
The glittering stores Ambition claims
To feed the wants his fancy frames;
But now ’tis past: the changing day
Has snatched my high-built hopes away,
And bade this wish my labours close, —
Give me not riches, but repose.

From: Clouston, W.A., Arabian Poetry for English Readers, 1881, Privately Printed: Glasgow, pp. 153-154.

Date: 11th century (original in Persian); 1796 (translation in English)

By: Abu Esmail Moayed-o-din Hosein-ebn-e-ali Esfahani Togharayi (1045-1105)

Translated by: Joseph Dacre Carlyle (1758-1804)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Flight of the Earls* by Aindrais MacMarcuis

This night sees Eire desolate,
Her chiefs are cast out of their state;
Her men, her maidens weep to see
Her desolate that should peopled be.

How desolate is Connla’s plain,
Though aliens swarm in her domain;
Her rich bright soil had joy in these
That now are scattered overseas.

Man after man, day after day
Her noblest princes pass away
And leave to all the rabble rest
A land dispeopled of her best.

O’Donnell goes. In that stern strait
Sore-stricken Ulster mourns her fate,
And all the northern shore makes moan
To hear that Aodh of Annagh’s gone.

Men smile at childhood’s play no more
Music and song, their day is o’er;
At wine, at Mass the kingdom’s heirs
Are seen no more; changed hearts are theirs.

They feast no more, they gamble not,
All goodly pastime is forgot,
They barter not, they race no steeds,
They take no joy in stirring deeds.

No praise in builded song expressed
They hear, no tales before they rest;
None care for books and none take glee
To hear the long-traced pedigree.

The packs are silent, there’s no sound
Of the old strain on Bregian ground.
A foreign flood holds all the shore,
And the great wolf-dog barks no more.

Woe to the Gael in this sore plight!
Hence forth they shall not know delight.
No tidings now their woe relieves,
Too close the gnawing sorrow cleaves.

These the examples of their woe:
Israel in Egypt long ago,
Troy that the Greek hosts set on flame,
And Babylon that to ruin came.

Sundered from hope, what friendly hand
Can save the sea-surrounded land?
The clan of Conn no Moses see
To lead them from captivity.

Her chiefs are gone. There’s none to bear
Her cross or lift her from despair;
The grieving lords take ship. With these
Our very souls pass overseas.

*Note: The Flight of the Earls occurred in 1607 when the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tyrconnell left Ireland following the end of the Nine Years’ War and the English victory under King James I. It is considered the end of Gaelic Ireland.

From: Green, David H. (ed.), An Anthology of Irish Literature, Volume I, 1985, New York University Press: New York, pp.197-199.

Date: 1608 (original in Gaelic); 1947 (translation in English)

By: Aindrais MacMarcuis (fl. 1608)

Translated by: Robin Ernest William Flower (1881-1946)

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Ode to the Comet by Iolo Goch

Which appeared in the Month of March, A.D. 1402*.

’Bout the stars’ nature and their hue
Much has been said, both false and true;
They’re wondrous through their countenance—
Signs to us in the blue expanse.
The first that came, to merit praise,
Was that great star of splendid rays,
From a fair country seen of old
High in the East, a mark of gold;
Conveying to the sons of Earth
News of the King of glory’s birth.
In the advantage I had share,
Though some to doubt the event will dare,
That Christ was born from Mary maid,
A merciful and timely aid,
With his veins’ blood to save on high
The righteous from the enemy.
The second, a right glorious lamp,
Of yore went over Uther’s camp.
There as it flam’d distinct in view
Merddin amongst the warrior crew
Standing, with tears of anguish, thought
Of the dire act on Emrys wrought,
And he caus’d Uther back to turn,
The victory o’er the foe to earn;
From anger to revenge to spring
Is with the frank a common thing.
Arthur the generous, bold and good,
Was by that comet understood.
Man to be cherish’d well and long,
Foretold through ancient Bardic song:
With ashen shafted lance’s thrust
He shed his foe’s blood on the dust.
The third to Gwynedd’s hills was born
By time and tempest-fury worn,
Similar to the rest it came,
In origin and look the same,
Powerfully lustrous, yellow, red
Both, both as to its beam and head.
The wicked far about and near
Enquire of me, who feel no fear,
For where it comes there luck shall fall,
What means the hot and starry ball?
I know and can expound aright
The meaning of the thing of light:
To the son of the prophecy
Its ray doth steel or fire imply;
There has not been for long, long time
A fitting star to Gwynedd’s clime,
Except the star this year appearing,
Intelligence unto us bearing;
Gem to denote we’re reconcil’d
At length with God the undefil’d.
How beauteous is that present sheen,
Of the excessive heat the queen;
A fire upmounting ’fore our face,
Shining on us God’s bounteous grace;
For where they sank shall rise once more
The diadem and laws of yore.
’Tis high ’bove Mona in the skies,
In the angelic squadron’s eyes;
A golden pillar hangs it there,
A waxen column of the air.
We a fair gift shall gain ere long,
Either a pope or Sovereign strong;
A King, who wine and mead will give,
From Gwynedd’s land we shall receive;
The Lord shall cease incens’d to be,
And happy times cause Gwynedd see,
Fame to obtain by dint of sword,
Till be fulfill’d the olden word.

*Translator’s Note: This piece appears to have been written at the period when Glendower had nearly attained the summit of his greatness; the insurrection which he commenced in September, 1400, by sacking and burning the town of Ruthin, having hitherto sustained no check whatever. In the present poem his bard hails the appearance of the Comet as a divine prognostic of the eventual success of the Welsh Hero, and of his elevation to the throne of Britain.

From: Borrow, George, Welsh Poems and Ballads, 1915, Jarrold & Sons: London, pp. 34-36.

Date: c1402 (original in Welsh); c1860 (translation in English)

By: Iolo Goch (c1320-c1402)

Translated by: George Henry Borrow (1803-1881)

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Eagle and the Crow: A Dialogue by Abul Qasim Hassan Unsuri Balkhi

A dialogue occurred, I happen to know,
Betwixt the white eagle and the crow.

Birds we are, said the crow, in the main,
Friends we are, and thus we shall remain.

Birds we are, agreed the eagle, only in name,
Our temperaments, alas, are not the same.

My leftovers are a king’s feast,
Carrion you devour, to say the least.

My perch’s the king’s arm, his palace my bed,
You haunt the ruins, mingle with the dead.

My color is heavenly, as everyone can tell,
Your color inflicts pain, like news from hell.

Kings tend to choose me rather than you,
Good attracts good, that goes for evil too.


Date: 11th century (original in Persian); 2000 (translation in English)

By: Abul Qasim Hassan Unsuri Balkhi (980-1039/40)

Translated by: Iraj Bashiri (1940- )

Friday, 12 January 2018

Wynter Wakeneth Al My Care (Art. 52) by Unknown with a translation into modern English by Susanna Greer Fein

Wynter wakeneth al my care;
Nou this leves waxeth bare.
Ofte Y sike ant mourne sare
When hit cometh in my thoht
Of this worldes joie:
Hou hit geth al to noht!

Nou hit is, ant nou hit nys,
Also hit ner nere, ywys!
That moni mon seith, soth hit ys:
Al goth bote Godes wille;
Alle we shule deye,
Thath us like ylle.

Al that gren me graveth grene;
Nou hit faleweth al bydene.
Jesu, help that hit be sene,
Ant shild us from helle,
For Y not whider Y shal,
Ne hou longe her duelle.

Winter awakens all my sorrow;
Now these leaves grow barren.
Often I sigh and sadly mourn
When it enters into my thought
Regarding this world’s joy:
How it goes all to nought!

Now it is, and now it isn’t,
As if it had never been, indeed!
What many a man says, true it is:
All passes except God’s will;
We all shall die,
Though we dislike it.

All that seed men bury unripe;
Now it withers all at once.
Jesus, help that this be known,
And shield us from hell,
For I know not whither I’ll go,
Nor how long here dwell.


Date: 14th century (original in Middle English); 2014 (translation in modern English)

By: Unknown

Translated by: Susanna Greer Fein (1950- )