Archive for ‘Historical’

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

The Answer Quhilk Schir David Lindesay Maid to the Kingis Flyting by David Lyndsay with rough rendering into more modern English and notes by flusteredduck

Redoutit roy, your ragment I have red,
Quhilk dois perturb my dull intendement:
From your flyting, wald God that I wer fred,
Or ellis sum tygerris toung wer to me lent.
Schir, pardone me thocht I be impacient,
Quhilk bene so with your prunyeand pen detractit,
And rude report, from Venus court dejectit.

Lustie ladyis, that your libellis lukis
My cumpanie dois hald abhominable,
Commandand me beir cumpanie to the cukis;
Moist lyke ane devill, thay hald me detestable.
Thay banis me, sayand I am nocht able
Thame to compleis, or preis to thare presence.
Apon your pen I cry ane loud vengeance!

Wer I ane poeit, I suld preis with my pen
To wreik me on your vennemous wryting.
Bot I man do as dog dois in his den —
Fald baith my feit, or fle fast frome your flyting.
The mekle devil may nocht indure your dyting.
Quharefor cor mundum crea in me I cry,
Proclamand yow the prince of poetry.

Schir, with my prince pertenit me nocht to pley.
Bot sen your grace hes gevin me sic command
To mak answer, it must neidis me obey.
Thocht ye be now strang lyke ane elephand,
And in till Venus werkis maist vailyeand,
The day wyll cum, and that within few yeiris,
That ye wyll draw at laiser with your feiris.

Quhat can ye say forther, bot I am failyeit
In Venus werkis, I grant schir, that is trew;
The tyme hes bene, I wes better artailyeit
Nor I am now, bot yit full sair I rew
That ever I did mouth thankles so persew.
Quharefor tak tent and your fyne powder spair,
And waist it nocht bot gyf ye wit weill quhair.

Thocht ye rin rudelie, lyke ane restles ram,
Schutand your bolt at mony sindrie schellis,
Beleif richt weill, it is ane bydand gam.
Quharefore bewar with dowbling of the bellis,
For many ane dois haist thair awin saule knellis,
And speciallie quhen that the well gois dry,
Syne can nocht get agane sic stufe to by.

I give your counsale to the feynd of hell
That wald nocht of ane princes yow provide,
Tholand yow rin schutand frome schell to schell,
Waistand your corps, lettand the tyme overslyde.6
For lyke ane boisteous bull ye rin and ryde
Royatouslie, lyke ane rude rubeatour,
Ay fukkand lyke ane furious fornicatour.

On ladronis for to loip ye wyll nocht lat,
Howbeit the caribaldis cry the corinoch.
Remember how, besyde the masking fat,
Ye caist ane quene overthort ane stinking troch?
That feynd, with fuffilling of hir roistit hoch,
Caist doun the fat, quharthrow drink, draf and juggis
Come rudely rinnand doun about your luggis.

Wald God the lady that luffit yow best
Had sene yow thair ly swetterand lyke twa swyne!
Bot to indyte how that duddroun wes drest —
Drowkit with dreggis, quhimperand with mony quhryne —
That proces to report, it wer ane pyne.
On your behalf, I thank God tymes ten score
That yow preservit from gut and frome grandgore.

Now schir, fairwell, because I can nocht flyte,
And thocht I could, I wer nocht tyll avance
Aganis your ornate meter to indyte.

Bot yit, be war with lawbouring of your lance:
Sum sayis thar cummis ane bukler furth of France,
Quhilk wyll indure your dintis, thocht thay be dour.
Fairweill, of flowand rethorik the flour!

Quod Lindesay in his flyting
Aganis the Kingis dyting.

The Answer which Sir David Lindsay made to the King’s Scolding

Redoubtable king, your composition I have read,
Which does perturb my dull understanding:
From your scolding, would God that I were freed,
Or else that a tiger’s tongue were to me lent.
Sir, pardon me though I be impatient,
Who is being with your sharpened pen detracted,
And rude report, from Venus’ court dejected.

Lovely ladies, that your letters consult
My company do hold abominable,
Commanding me bear company to the cooks;
Most like a devil, they hold me detestable.
They banish me, saying I am not able
Them to please, or hasten to their presence.
Upon your pen I cry a loud vengeance!

Were I a poet, I should strive with my pen
To avenge me on your venomous writing.
But I must do as a dog does in his den—
Fold both my feet, or flee fast from your scolding.
The great devil may not endure your writing.
Wherefore “cor mundum crea in me” I cry,
Proclaiming you the prince of poetry.

Sir, with my prince it befits me not to contend.
But since your grace has given me such a command,
To make answer, it must needs me to obey.
Though you be now strong like an elephant,
And in all Venus’ works most valiant,
The day will come, and that within a few years,
That you will be at leisure with your friends.

What can you say further, but I am a failure
In Venus’ works, I grant, sir, that is true;
The time has been, I was better armed
Nor I am now, but yet full sore I rue
That ever I did mouth thankless so pursue.
Wherefore take heed and your fine powder spare,
And waste it not but well you know where.

Though you run rudely, like a restless ram,
Shooting your bolt at many sundry targets,
Belief right well, it is a biding game.
Wherefore beware of the doubling of the bells,
For many a one hastens their own soul’s knell,
And specially when that the well goes dry,
Such stuff cannot again be bought.

I give your council to the fiend of hell
That would not of any princess you provide,
Suffering you to run shooting from target to target,
Wasting your body, letting the time pass by.
For like a roaring bull you run and ride
Riotously, like a rude scoundrel,
Always fucking like a furious fornicator.

On whores you will not cease leaping,
Although the bitches cry out,
Remember how, beside the mashing vat,
You cast a wench across the stinking trough?
That fiend, with the jerking about of the back of her thigh,
Cast down the vat, resulting in the drink, dregs, and swill
Came rudely running down about your ears.

Would God the lady that loved you best
Had seen you there, wallowing like two swine!
But to indite how that slut was dressed
(Drenched with dregs, whimpering with many whines),
That to describe and report it were a pain.
On your behalf, I thank God times ten score
That you were preserved from gout and syphilis.

Now sir, farewell, because I cannot scold,
And though I could, I would not advance
Against your ornate meter to indite.
But yet be wary with the labouring of your lance:
Some say there comes a shield out of France,
Which will endure your strokes, though they be hard.
Farewell, of flowing rhetoric the flower!

Said Lindsay in his scolding
Against the King’s writing.


Cor munum crea in me is from Psalm 50 and translates as “create in me a clean heart”.

This poem is full of sexual innuendo with only the very obvious innuendos translating easily. One innuendo that is probably very unclear is “mouth thankless” which is a reference to a vagina.

Some of the terms Lindsay has used to describe the women the king (James V of Scotland) was enjoying are of unclear and debated meaning, although the derogatory nature of them is clear. I have therefore used modern terms (like whores and bitches) in their stead.

A mashing vat was used in the creation of ales and beers.

At the time Lindsay was writing, gout was used as a term for a venereal disease. Syphilis was known to be a venereal disease and was considered separate to whatever disease was referred to as gout.

And, finally, as with all my attempts at putting very old English/Scots into a modern version, I have resisted the temptation to use less archaic words when the original word is still in use and have tried to retain the original syntax as much as possible even when a reordering or change of the words would improve the flow. I also resisted keeping “flyting” (and “dyting”) and used more modern equivalents even though some of the nuance was lost. I used the online Dictionaries of the Scots Language ( to confirm original word meanings.


Date: c1536

By: David Lyndsay (c1490-c1555)

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Pomegranate by Diane Gage

Every day on my walk I would touch
a pomegranate tree, think of Persephone
and Demeter and my own mother,
her mournful fondness for my girlhood.
Was my sunny husband, like Persephone’s,
a dark Lord? Not in manner, perhaps, but

in secrets held and guarded. And in my choice,
however natural, Demeter’s betrayal.
How I love the smooth burgundy leather
of a pomegranate! And the long slow work
of consuming its bright blood-red seeds.
How refuse such an offer, whatever the cost?

It’s been a long time since my life
was close to my mother’s. She died,
my husband and I divorced, someone
chopped down the pomegranate tree.
For years I have walked past the bare spot,
but this soft spring morning I saw shoots

with small leaves, new signs of life.
We’ve had a winter of remarkable rains.
I thought I had moved beyond that old story
but my daily rounds brought me back
to the place where its mystery emerges
trembling, again, on the brink of breath.


Date: 2014

By: Diane Gage (19??- )

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Healer, Healer, Witch by Sally Rosen Kindred

Katharina Kepler
is mother of Johannes—
astrologer, alchemist, keeper of planets

and their laws—and mother
of Heinrich, Margaretha, Christoph, matron
of Sun Inn, of candles and locks.

Married a mercenary
out the door in four years to Flanders, Corfu.
Dragged him back once to Weil, but he left again.

Married tough greens and a broom full of rain.
Is a healer. Is a healer.
Not a witch.

Wakes in the dark to tend the cows and clear their stalls.
Makes spelt-cakes on Fridays, makes cabbages and bread,
makes hay and carries it by hand

from the outer barn on her
own, because the children are always
small, pox-weak or off at school—

is a healer sleepless
during fever weeks, her thumbs on the town’s damp
lids, the pestle, the poultice, until a boy at the market

eats roots from her winter hands
and gets sicker.
Is a place on no one’s map

of the moon. Wants to weep
for the planets now, dangling as they must
from her son’s hard mind. Wants

to know what’s in the letter
he’s sent from university, but when
she begs the schoolmaster to read it

he says No.
Later he’ll say her voice burned ice,
then her breasts melted red through his door.

Wants to be called Daughter again, hear her common name.
Does not care anymore how the planets move,
though once she showed her sons the evening star,

once she worked beneath it in summer winds
picking up speed with the scythe as the fields went dark,
bent and swinging,

the children already in their beds.
Out of love she moved in the scythe’s lit song, believed
none of them would wander.

Katharina Kepler
dreams she does not dream.
Lies down on the prison stone in 1620,

chain at her wrist like snow. Lies
down at last and does not rise
for choleric cows or children. Tonight

she heals no one. Heinrich
has accused her to the court; Christoph gave
her up. Margaretha sweeps a far hearth, busy

with her family. Only Johannes
is awake somewhere, thinking of her, his mind
in the same stone dark. Let him think.

She has her hands on her own face,
can feel in sleep her skin buckle, harden, can feel
herself become the churchyard hill

she climbed once to see the comet—
dreams she wakes now cloud-furled,
dreams she flies

through space, finally a body burning ice.

Johannes stands far below on the hill, a boy again
lifting his hand to her, tender,
tipping his chin to her sky.

Does he hurt down there? She heals
no one—
she can only scorch and fly—

and now she is a girl, running through black grass
to a witch whose silk arms
stretch out to claim her:

in this ring of daisies flaring
under stars, she arrives into warm folds. They hold
each other and are held

in the cape of night, in a meadow made
from blooms and her own voice, from a cauldron of herbs and Mother air—
her song, her shroud, this nevertheless.


Date: 2018

By: Sally Rosen Kindred (19??- )

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Hurriedly, in Premature Celebration by Timur Kibirov

The roses bloom! Oh this is Paradise!
And we shall see the infant Christ!
– Andersen, ‘The Snow Queen’

Hurriedly, in premature celebration,
the little boy bursts again from the crowd
and says, once more: ‘But the king isn’t wearing…’

then he clams up,
as he sees
that not only the king,
but all his retinue

(the ministers, Life Guards, ladies-in-waiting,
even the two con-men tailors themselves…)

are all naked!
All of them literally
in their birthday suits!

He spins in confusion
back to the gathered crowd
and beholds only naked bodies,
the denuded
woeful flesh of humanity.

And now, confused and fearful,
he senses his own naked,
goose-fleshed, bluish,
little boy’s skin,

and sees leafless trees in the distance,
sees how the forest has been stripped,
how the fields are bare,
how the naked earth is a desert

and winter is on its way…

Now who, who will wrap us up warm,
us, who have been stripped of everything?
Who, who will protect us,
the little naked soldiers
of a naked king?

For our leader is bare,
and his queen is the snow queen;
darkness and impenetrable snow!
And as for standing against him:
ay, ay, ay!

Oh dear. Oh wow.
Go and lie in the snow.

Make your mind up,
silly little Kay.

Run along now,
stupid little Gerda.

There, ahead of you:
the kingdom of death.

There, behind you:
the roses are blooming.

Well, maybe they’re not…
Maybe they’ve withered…
So what?

You’ll find out soon enough.
If you can get that far.


Date: 2009 (original in Russian); 2017 (translation in English)

By: Timur Kibirov (1955- )

Translated by: James Womack (1979- )

Friday, 19 August 2022

A Hymn to Poverty by Edward Moore

O Poverty! thou source of human art,
Thou great inspirer of the poet’s song!
In vain Apollo dictates, and the Nine
Attend in vain, unless thy mighty hand
Direct the tuneful lyre. Without thy aid
The canvass breathes no longer. Musick’s charms
Uninfluenc’d by thee forget to please:
Thou giv’st the organ sound; by thee the flute
Breathes harmony; the tuneful viol owns
Thy pow’rful touch. The warbling voice is thine;
Thou gav’st to Nicolini ev’ry grace,
And ev’ry charm to Farinelli’s song.
By thee the lawyer pleads. The soldier’s arm
Is nerv’d by thee. Thy pow’r the gownman feels,
And urg’d by thee unfolds Heav’n’s mystick truths.
The haughty fair that swells with proud disdain,
And smiles at mischiefs which her eyes have made,
Thou humblest to submit and bless mankind.
Hail, Pow’r Omnipotent! me uninvok’d
Thou deign’st to visit, far alas! unfit
To bear thy awful presence. O retire!
At distance let me view thee, lest too nigh
I sink beneath the terrours of thy face.

From: Edward, Moore, The Poetical Works of Edward Moore. With the life of the author, 1781, Apollo Press: Edinburgh, pp. 154-155.

Date: 1781 (published)

By: Edward Moore (1712-1757)

Monday, 18 July 2022

Audubon’s Peewees by Dave Smith

I fixed a slight silver thread to the leg of each.
—J.J. Audubon

for Jeddie and Jed Smith

He sat with them until the baby birds took him
for one of them, his hairless hand
a mothering none resisted, the sighing
French hum of homesickness their ordinary
when he came, treats of worms, grubs,
a drop of goat milk for the dying one. Useless.

Silver threads, light as moon slip on night weeds,
they plucked and picked at until freed.
Life being a game, he attached them, then
dark-riddled, one by one, they removed themselves.
Blended into the nest, invisible but for eye-gleam,
all but one lost when winter drove them away.

Then, they return! Ice-morning, on his palm the male,
his female hovering back, juddering, cocked
peeps of fear, him squinting his blue eye.
His hat swallowed both, settling, as if in his brain.
A silver ribbon, ratty in the end, pennant.
What far flight! Hadn’t they been everywhere together!

But where? A dream. With the moon sliding
past snow’s patches old nests welcome.
Father oaks wailed in wind, monstrous shadows.
Dear little fellow, waking him, he would ask.
Half-closed, black eye blinking until it stopped.
What path? By what water? How to prepare?

The frayed silver flag it bore quickening,
the would-be artist leaned close.
And held his breath, and drew it so.


Date: 2021

By: Dave Smith (1942- )

Sunday, 17 July 2022

The Skylark by Bernart de Ventadorn

Now when I see the skylark lift
His wings for joy in dawn’s first ray
Then let himself, oblivious, drift
For all his heart is glad and gay,
Ay! such great envies seize my thought
To see the rapture that others find,
I marvel that desire does not
Consume away this heart of mine.

Alas, I thought I’d grown so wise;
In love I had so much to learn:
I can’t control this heart that flies
To her who pays love no return.
Ay! now she steals, through love’s sweet theft,
My heart, my self, my world entire;
She steals herself and I am left
Only this longing and desire.

Losing control, I’ve lost all right
To rule my life; my life’s her prize
Since first she showed me true delight
In those bright mirrors, her two eyes.
Ay! once I’d caught myself inside
Her glances, I’ve been drowned in sighs,
Dying as fair Narcissus died
In streams that mirror captive skies.

Deep in despair, I’ll place no trust
In women though I did before;
I’ve been their champion so it’s just
That I renounce them evermore;
When none will lift me from my fall
When she has cast me down in shame,
Now I distrust them, one and all,
I’ve learned too wee they’re all the same.

She acts as any woman would—
No wonder I’m dissatisfied;
She’ll never do the things she should;
She only wants all that’s denied.
Ay! now I fall in deep disgrace,
A fool upon love’s bridge am I;
No one knows how that could take place
Unless I dared to climb too high.

All mercy’s gone, all pity lost—
Though at the best I still knew none—
Since she who should yield mercy most
Shows me the least of anyone.
Wrongful it seems, now, in my view,
To see a creature love’s betrayed
Who’d seek no other good but you,
Then let him die without your aid.

Since she, my Lady, shows no care
To earn my thanks, nor pays Love’s rights
Since she’ll not hear my constant prayer
And my love yields her no delights,
I say no more; I silent go;
She gives me death; let death reply.
My Lady won’t embrace me so
I leave, exiled to pain for aye.

Tristan, you’ll hear no more from me:
I leave to wander, none knows where;
Henceforth all joys in love I’ll flee
And all my songs I Now forswear.

From: Kehew, Robert (ed.), Lark in the Morning: The verses of the Troubadours. A Bilingual Edition, 2005, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, pp. 75-77.

Date: 12th century (original in Occitan); 1998 (translation in English)

By: Bernart de Ventadorn (c1135-c1195)

Translated by: William De Witt Snodgrass (1926-2009)

Friday, 24 June 2022

Fragrant Harbor* by Miho Nonaka

To be Lord to the four seas of China
a man must let men make verses
he must let people play comedies
and historians write down the facts . . .
—Ezra Pound, Canto LIII

You are determined to stay. The last
persimmon hanging on the top branch
against the winter sky.

A city, an ocean of colors dazzle
bird brains, lure them toward
lit surfaces, where they crash

headlong. Larger bodies, beaten to
death, are thrown into the sea, ruled
suicides. The new normal, don’t

dress in black, keep a voluntary curfew.
You need multiple cell phones
for separate contact lists. No more

crossing borders. Your old teacher
shot point-blank in the eye
for halting on the pavement.

The police are still after anyone
who holds up a blank sheet of paper.
At dusk or dawn, the city looks

beautiful from Sky Lounge,
the water reflecting pink, yellow, blue,
opalescent lights like bolts of fabric:

There have been a lot of such
suicides since July.
So you ask,
What is home? A cool hand

on the forehead when you awake,
suddenly a child and sweating
from fever and dreams. The only

light you notice in the middle
of dark plains from the train window,
because your companion, whom

you won’t see again after he gets off,
suddenly turns and speaks to you
in a soft voice, That’s my home. Look.

*Literal meaning of the name, Hong Kong (香港 ) in Chinese.


Date: 2021

By: Miho Nonaka (19??- )

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Dirck Hartog’s Island by Cedric “Peter” Hopegood (Peter Lecky)

(News item:—A metal plate placed on Dirck Hartog Island, Western Australia, in 1697, is being brought to Canberra.)

There was a plate in Eendracht’s lazaret,
An Amsterdam ships’ chandler’s platter,
Taken and set,
Afar from galley reek and clatter,
Where ocean’s winds with panting breezes met
Upon that isle where first the white man trod
This lost primeval land,
A fabled strand,
Hid ever jealously within the sleeve of God.
Twice forty seasons’ rout, nailed to its picket stout,
Grilled by the savage heat,
Singing to flailing gusts and scuttering sands,
Bold eyes again to greet and ready hands.
It told its gallant tale:
Though wild the wave and lone the grave,
Man’s curious feet shall tread the longest trail.
There, where the osprey hangs on high to hurl,
‘Mid skirlings demon-shrill.
Down on the mew’s salt, kill,
Barren of life withdrew the arid, soil,
Though savage monsters set the seas a-boil
With flying shoals a-swirl.
No echo reached those men of mustered flocks.
No hanging dust proclaimed the driven herd.
Only the wurlies’ devil’s-funnels stirred,
And lizards drowsed between the roasted rocks.
What dragons lurked upon
Those mirage-haunted sands of this, the last of lands?
What wizard-empire of what Prester John
Might not some hardy men despoil anon?
What El Dorado,
Where wretched hodmandods should be constrained
To moil for gems, souls saved but bodies chained
Respectively by priest and desperado?

Man’s dauntless heart—his sateless greed, as well—
Seeking yet richer Thules, all may spell
Behind the weathered glyphs upon a plate,
Logging the ship, authorities, and date.
Yet fortune here decreed
Another ruling race, a homelier fate.
And Jason’s fabled fleece in sober deed.

From: Hopegood, Peter, “Dirck Hartog’s Island” in The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 1 March 1947, p. 9.

Date: 1947

By: Cedric “Peter” Hopegood (Peter Lecky) (1891-1967)

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Rouse Thee, Wes’tralia: Proclamation Song by Henry Ebenezer Clay

Rouse thee, Wes’tralia! Awake
From thy “Swan’s nest among the reeds;”
Cast thy broad shadow on the lake,
And strongly glide where Fortune leads!

Chorus: Onward! Onward, Wes’tralia!

Let eaglets o’er their quarry scream,—
The vulture’s brood may tear and slay,—
Thou wakest from prophetic dream
Of offspring goodlier than they!


Thy sturdy cygnets from thy side
With glancing feet scull fast and far;
They press their bosoms to the tide,
And stretch bold wings beyond the bar.


Their pennons with the breezes float
And follow fast where Fortune leads;
Till by green holms and bays remote
Are found new nests among the reeds.


Their song (for onset, not for dirge)
Shall flood the creeks of broader ways,
And, with the music of the surge,
Swell the full chant of better days.


Thy seas have pearls; from reef and mine
Flash jewels and the pride of gold:
But goodlier far those sons of thine,
Famous in story yet untold.


God and the Right thy watchword be;
Patient, yet strong to do and dare;
And thine assessors, brave and free,
Labour and Vigilance and Prayer!

Chorus: Onward! Onward, Wes’tralia!

From: H.E.C., Rouse Thee, Wes’tralia: Proclamation Song, 1890, Sands & McDougall: Perth.

Date: 1890

By: Henry Ebenezer Clay (1844-1896)