Monday, 4 December 2017

War Commemoration 1925 by Walter Sherard Vines

Today we must recall abysmal follies
That have bequeathed out friends to flies and sour clay
That bent the air with groaning flights of steel
Or sweetened it with a shell’s livid breath,
Turned wholesome plains and gentle lakes to filth,
Tore up our continent in unscavenged belts
Through cross-edged meadows and afforested heights
Where the guns crouched in pits and shouted
Lunatic judgement in dull obedience.

We must remember the weary stand-to
Of millions, pale in corpse-infected mist,
The mad, and those turned monsters, or castrated
In one red, hideous moment; and how, unseen
Dark Mania sat in offices and designed
New schemes for shambles, learning year by year,
Painfully, secretly, to degrade the world.


Date: 1926

By: Walter Sherard Vines (1890-1974)

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Parrot by Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell

The parrot’s voice snaps out–
No good to contradict–
What he says he’ll say again:
Dry facts, like biscuits,–

His voice and vivid colours
Of his breast and wings
Are immemoriably old;
Old dowagers dressed in crimpèd satin
Boxed in their rooms
Like specimens beneath a glass
Inviolate–and never changing,
Their memory of emotions dead;
The ardour of their summers
Sprayed like camphor
On their silken parasols
Entissued in a cupboard.

Reflective, but with never a new thought
The parrot sways upon his ivory perch–
Then gravely turns a somersault
Through rings nailed in the roof–
Much as the sun performs his antics
As he climbs the aerial bridge
We only see
Through crystal prisms in a falling rain.


Date:  1922

By: Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell (1897-1988)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Pagan Year by Aldous Leonard Huxley

December’s eyes are shut, but cannot kill
The colors out of the world. They live, suppressed
Yet strong, shining in secret, live and still
With brooding sables, with cinder and plum attest
The absent light, who with his longed re-birth
Unclots the world to an airy dream of leaves,
That June once more must curdle into earth,
Till the huge elms hang dark above the sheaves.

Magical autumn! all the woods are foxes,
Dozing outstretched in the almost silvery sun.
Oh, bright sad woods and melancholy sky,
Is there no cure for Beauty but to run
Yet faster as faster flee hours, flowers and doxies
And dying music, till we also die?


Date: 1930

By: Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963)

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Annunciation by Samuel Menashe

She bows her head
Submissive, yet
Her downcast glance
Asks the angel, “Why
For this romance,
Do I qualify?”


Date: 2008

By: Samuel Menashe (1925-2011)

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Master and the Disciple by Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani

The master turned
my night into broad daylight
with proofs as clear as
radiant sunlight.

Since he made me
drink from the water of life,
death has become quite
insignificant to me.

When I looked
from the corner of his eye,
I saw the earth rotating
beneath my feet.

He showed me
the visible and hidden worlds,
both located in one place,
my own body.

I saw the two
guardians of paradise and hell
inhabiting the same place,
my own breast.

He pointed to one
who is the keeper of paradise
and said to me: “I am
his disciple.”

I saw eight gates,
closed in the same place,
and seven other gates open,
one above the other.

He said to me:
“If you wish to enter a gate,
you have to obtain his
permission first.”

When I asked him
to explain the secret to me,
he recited its story from
beginning to end.

The master said:
“He is the lord of the time,
chosen by God from
men and jinns.”


Date: 11th century (original in Persian); 1997 (translation in English)

By: Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani (1004-1088)

Translated by: Faquir Muhammad Hunzai (19??- )

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Hard of Hearing by Alan Porter

Once in April ways
I heard the cuckoo call.
Among more withering days
Haulms twitched and clicked with heat.
I heard the bumping fall
Of yellow plums. My feet
Drew bickerings from the grass
Like thunder-rain on roofs,
Or clattered arms of brass.
Horses’ battering hoofs
Ring no louder now
Than once a distant stream.
The grasshopper’s old-hussif row
Dies to remembered dream.

In bygone days I heard
The swinging dewberry scratch
To the flurried flight of a bird,
Nor found it hard to catch
The plashy drop when a trout
Came bowbent leaping out.
I heard from pools and bogs
The little, barking frogs.
Clapping water-weeds,
The hiss of sand-wasps’ wings,
Wind-brattled campion seeds,
Were close familiar things.
Now nature’s musics half are fled;
And half my heart is dead.

From: Porter, Alan, “Hard of Hearing”, Wheels, 1920 (Fifth Cycle), 1920, pp. 39-40.

Date: 1920

By: Alan Porter (1899-1942)

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Term by William Stanley Merwin

At the last minute a word is waiting
not heard that way before and not to be
repeated or ever be remembered
one that always had been a household word
used in speaking of the ordinary
everyday recurrences of living
not newly chosen or long considered
or a matter for comment afterward
who would ever have thought it was the one
saying itself from the beginning through
all its uses and circumstances to
utter at last that meaning of its own
for which it had long been the only word
though it seems now that any word would do.


Date: 2009

By: William Stanley Merwin (1927- )

Monday, 27 November 2017

Summer Doggerel by Elizabeth Heaton

One day down-sitting in the purple sun
That green with orange cloves stood in my eyes,
Beside the smell of meadow-sweet and weeds,
Platform for zebraed insect and blue fly
And green, and gold; sitting in cotton dress
All pink and billowy and girlish-garden,
I heard a clatter in the yard behind,
The clump of hob-nailed boots, and starting, saw
A staring sweep, with windmill brushes cocked
Like feathery One o’clocks, upon his shoulder.
So black he looked and grim, I’d rather
Daun Pluto, his father.

From: Heaton, Elizabeth, “Summer Doggerel”, New Verse, No. 3, May 1933, p. 15.

Date: 1933

By: Elizabeth Heaton (?-?)

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Light by Charles Kenneth (C.K.) Williams

Another drought morning after a too brief dawn downpour,
unaccountable silvery glitterings on the leaves of the withering maples—

I think of a troop of the blissful blessed approaching Dante,
“a hundred spheres shining,” he rhapsodizes, “the purest pearls…”

then of the frightening brilliants myriad gleam in my lamp
of the eyes of the vast swarm of bats I found once in a cave,

a chamber whose walls seethed with a spaceless carpet of creatures,
their cacophonous, keen, insistent, incessant squeakings and squealings

churning the warm, rank, cloying air; of how one,
perfectly still among all the fitfully twitching others,

was looking straight at me, gazing solemnly, thoughtfully up
from beneath the intricate furl of its leathery wings

as though it couldn’t believe I was there, or were trying to place me,
to situate me in the gnarl we’d evolved from, and now,

the trees still heartrendingly asparkle, Dante again,
this time the way he’ll refer to a figure he meets as “the life of…”

not the soul, or person, the life, and once more the bat, and I,
our lives in that moment together, our lives, our lives,

his with no vision of celestial splendor, no poem,
mine with no flight, no unblundering dash through the dark,

his without realizing it would, so soon, no longer exist,
mine having to know for us both that everything ends,

world, after-world, even their memory, steamed away
like the film of uncertain vapor of the last of the luscious rain.


Date: 2006

By: Charles Kenneth (C.K.) Williams (1936-2015)

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Royal-Buss by John Freke

As in the days of yore were ods
Betwixt the Giants and the Gods,
So now is rife a fearful Brawl
Between the Parliament and Whitehal;
But, blest be Iove, these Gods of ours
Are greater in their Guilt than Pow’rs.
Tho then the Heathens were such Fools,
Yet they made Gods of better Tools.
No Altars then to Plackets were,
Nor Majesty by Buss would swear.
They’d hang a Tippet at his Door,
Should break a Parliament to please a Whore;
And further to oblige him to it,
Would swear by Portsm—h‘s C—t he’d do it,
And by Contents of th’ Oath he had took,
Kneel’d down in zeal and kist the Book.
They’d think the Faith too much amiss
That such Defenders had as this,
And that Religion look’d too poor,
Whose Head of th’ Church kist A—se of W—re.
But this he did, much good may’t do him,
And then the Quean held forth unto him.
The Devil take her for a Whore:
Wou’d he had kist ten years before,
Before our City had been burn’d,
And all our Wealth to Plagues had turn’d;
Before she had ruin’d (pox upon her)
Our English Name, Blood, Wealth and Honor.
Whilst Parliaments too flippant gave,
And Courtiers would but ask and have.
Whilst they are making English, French,
And Money vote to keep the Wench,
And the Buffoons and Pimps to pay,
The devil a bit prorogu’d were they.
The kiss of T—t, instead had stood,
And might have done three Nations good.
But when the Commons would no more
Raise Taxes to maintain the Whore.
When they would not abide the Aw
Of standing Force instead of Law.
Then Law, Religion Property
They’d force ‘gainst Will and Popery.
When they provide that all shall be
From Slavery and Oppession free.
That a Writ of Habeas Corpus come,
And none in Prison be undone.
That English men should not, like Beast,
To war by Sea or Land be prest.
That Peace with Holland should be made,
When War had spoil’d our Men and Trade.
That Treason it should be for any,
Without a Parliament to raise a Peny.
That no Courtier should be sent
To sit and vote in Parliament.
That when an end to this was gave,
A yearly Parliament we should have,
According to the antient Law,
That mighty Knaves might live in aw.
That King nor Council should commit
An English man for wealth or wit.
Prerogative being ty’d thus tight,
That it could neither scratch nor bite.
When Whores began to be afeard,
Like Armies, they should be cashier’d.
Then Portsm — th, the incestous Punk,
Made our most gracious Sov’raign drunk.
And drunk she made him give that Buss
That all the Kingdom’s bound to curse,
And so red hot with Wine and Whore,
He kickt the Commons out of door.

Note: The subject of this satire is Louise de Kérouaille (sometimes anglicised to Carwell), Duchess of Portsmouth, one of the many mistresses of the British king, Charles II, and the mother of the last of his acknowledged illegitimate children (Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond). She was feared for her nationality (French), her religion (Catholic) and her political influence over the king.

From: Prior, Matthew and Rochester, John Wilmot, State-poems; continued from the time of O. Cromwel, to this present year 1697. Written by the greatest wits of the age, viz. The Lord Rochester, the Lord D-t, the Lord V-n, the hon. Mr. M-ue, Sir F. S-d, Mr. Milton, Mr. Prior, Mr. Stepney, Mr. Ayloffe, &c. With several poems in praise of Oliver Cromwel, in Latin and English, by D. South, D. Locke, Sir W. G-n, D. Crew, Mr. Busby, &c. Also some miscellany poems by the same, never before printed, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, pp. 41-43.

Date: 1675

By: John Freke (1652-1717)