Poem



Poet's Corner

We should all make room for a little poetry in our lives . . . perhaps you have a favourite one to send us, or a poem you've written.

Send contributions to royeuser@gmail.com





52. APOLOGIES for an early reference to Christmas! However, we thought you might care to exercise your own creative flair - with a few lines on the coming festivities, or contribute a favourite seasonal poem by someone else. (Go to the Home page for our email address.) My own favourites are included below in abridged form at item 41. Just to get things rolling, I've composed a trifling ditty, as follows:

Now we're older, all of us
We don't care for lots of fuss,
No party games or kids who screech,
Just cocktails then the Queen's speech.


Gifts are fewer, but of more use;
Plates are charged and belts kept loose,
Turkey, trimmings, lots of gravy;
A snooze after then telly, maybe.


Early to bed for a welcome rest,
Next day a spot of fresh air's best;
Maybe even a pint or two . . .
Just to celebrate getting through.


* * * 


51. ANOTHER short poem from inspiring Victorian author and traveller Robert Louis Stevenson, this time celebrating the season now firmly upon us, a perfect time to settle down with a charged glass and good read! (See also item 48 below.)



Autumn Fires

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!





* * *

50. WE have finally made it to our half-century in poetic examples! In fact, my choice for this auspicious item is merely a single, short descriptive sentence, from the latest detective thriller by author Peter Robinson (see our Column/Memoir page). Peter's poetic observations add depth to those thrilling plots . . .

Diamonds danced upon the surface of the water.


* * *


49. THE Irish folk song Carrickfergus was originally printed in mid-19th Century Cork and first recorded in 1965 by Dominic Behan as The Kerry Boatman, on his album The Irish Rover. The poignant song, a hit later for The Dubliners, was a main inspiration for our fourth and latest Sam Stone novel, Waiting For The Ferryman, partly set in Ireland. Here is an abridged version of the lyrics.

I wish I was in Carrickfergus,
Only for nights in Ballygrand;
I would swim over the deepest ocean,
Only for nights in Ballygrand.
But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly;
I wish I had a handy boatman
To ferry me over my love and I.

My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy times there spent so long ago;
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all past on now with the melting snow.
So I'll spend my days in this endless roving,
Soft is the grass and shore, my bed is free;
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus,
On the long rode down to the salty sea.




 
* * *


48. VICTORIAN adventure author and great Scottish traveller, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote this popular and haunting poem as he prepared for his final journey. It was also an inspiration towards the Sam Stone novel, Waiting For The Ferryman, published this year. Stevenson died on December 3, 1894, at Vailima on the island of Samoa, where his grave, as directed, displays these lines.

Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill
.





* * *




47. HERE is another evocative and thought-provoking poem from one of our winter authors, Robert Frost. It seems to suit the New Year and an expectant but uncertain 2018.
This American Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet seems very English in style and his work was first published here. Frost spanned the modern age, living through perhaps the most diverse and dramatically changing of recent times, from the late 1800s to the middle 1960s. He left a literary legacy which gives us a taste of the past, but that still seems relevant to our future too.
Frost wrote this in 1915 while staying in England for a few years as a young man in his early 30s. It had been written as a joke for a walking friend but perhaps also speaks of the Great War that had just enveloped the world.

The Road Not Taken

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.




 * * *


 46. FOR a seasonal sense of spirit, take a look at our winter and Christmas poems at item 41 below, from which we quote here a few abridged line from perhaps the most English of all our poets . .

And is it true, and is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,

The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?




 * * *





45. THIS entry is not a poem as such but an extract from a hymn, referred to in Roy Edmonds' novel On The Dark Side set in autumn and expected to be published later this year. For poetic tributes to that season, you may enjoy items 13 and 14 below. Our hymn was written by Elizabeth E. White (born 1925).

Every day, every hour, every moment
have been blessed by the strength of his love.
At the turn of each tide he is there at my side,
and his touch is as gentle as silence.

There've been times when I've turned from his presence,
and I've walked other paths, other ways.
But I've called on his name in the dark of my shame,
and his mercy was gentle as silence.


* * *



44. THE Bard himself opens our spring/summer entries with his most famous 18th Sonnet . . .


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
 So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.



* * *




43. I WAS given a copy of Richard Picciotto's 2002 book Last Man Down about the New York Twin Towers disaster in 1997 and found the former fire chief's account riveting and humbling. It begins with an anonymous poem (see below) which amplifies the contrast between those who caused the horrific tragedy we all still suffer from today, and others who tried to save lives there. In the book this is followed by eight pages listing 343 selfless firefighters who died attempting to help strangers, their names suggesting origins as diverse as those who caused so much suffering to their own and countless other families.


The Fireman's Prayer

When I am called to duty, God,
Wherever flames may rage;
Give me strength to save some life,
Whatever be its age.

Help me embrace a little child,
Before it is too late;
Or save an older person,
From the horrors of that fate.

Enable me to be alert,
And hear the weakest shout;
And quickly and efficiently
Put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling,
And give the best in me;
To guard my every neighbour,
And protect his property.

And if, according to your will,
I am to give my life;
Please bless with your protecting hand,
My children and my wife.

Author unknown.


* * *


42. THIS is a lively, down-to-earth look at the contrasts of age we all, hopefully, experience. The poet is Charles Kingsley (1819–1875), a Devon man who was a contemporary and acquaintance of Dickens, Tennyson and Darwin. He was also a novelist (Westward Ho!), a brilliant scholar (King's, London, and Cambridge) and man of evident contrasts. Kingsley was professor of history at Cambridge before concentrating on being a Church of England clergyman of the 'broad church', where he rose to be a canon of Chester Cathedral then of Westminster Abbey and Queen Victoria's chaplain. He was tutor to the Prince of Wales yet he was also a keen social reformer. 



Young and Old

WHEN all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down:
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there
You loved when all was young.



 
 * * *



41. THESE two winter poems seem ages apart but catch a similar seasonal sentiment, of homecomings and festivities, with peace upon chilled landscapes and a joyfulness by lit fires . . .

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Christmas by John Betjeman (1906-84)  - abridged

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true, and is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?


 * * *


40.  THE pull of the ocean has long fascinated romantics, poets and more down-to-earth travellers alike. Perhaps the most popular tribute is from English poet and merchant seaman John Masefield (1878-1967).

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.




* * *


39. THIS famous 'meditation' was written by English poet John Donne in 1624 but is especially apt at the moment of posting . . .

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.




* * *


38. A FRIEND marking his 70th birthday told me he was still haunted, but also inspired, by an epitaph seen on a Victorian gravestone chanced upon many years before:


Stranger pause, as you pass by.
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, soon you will be,
So prepare yourself, to follow me!

Perhaps the following ditty from Fylde resident Pam Hawthornthwaite, spotted recently in our local paper's Births, Death, Marriages and Personal Announcements, will lift the spirits more . . .
Three score years and 10
 Is not an age to dread,
Just take your medication
And paint the zimmer red!



* * *





37. ONLY with a certain temerity do I follow Shakespeare with a muse of my own - and in good faith . . .

Of Faith

I was alone, when you met me.
I was in need, when you took me in.
I was in pain and you loved me.
Lord, what a time this has been!
Now you need me and I am here,
For this is where my life begins.


 * * *


36. IT seems appropriate, while celebrating both St. George's Day and the 400th year since the Bard's death, to publish the following:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,-
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
King Richard II
 


* * *



 35. THIS touching poem in local paper The Gazette's obituary pages was written by widow Maureen Monaghan, whose spirit in her loss of husband Patrick we sympathise with and admire.


The world's a different place now,
I will not see your face,
You will not hold me in your arms;
You will not keep me safe from harm,
You will not be here in our home,
You have gone and now I am alone.

There is never a right time to die,
Life goes on but inside I cry,
To see you smiling just once more
And talk with you like we did before;
No one knows the pain I bear,
But in my heart you are always there.



* * *



34. ONETIME 'angry young man' playwright Harold Pinter wrote the following short poem to his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, about 18 months before he died in 2007.

To A

I shall miss you so much when I'm dead,
The loveliest of smiles,
The softness of your body in our bed.
My everlasting bride,
Remember that when I am dead,
You are forever alive in my heart and my head. 




 *  *  *




33. HERE is our abridged version of a love poem from well travelled, Yorkshire-born scholar Andrew Marvell (1621-78), bringing a tempestuous spirit from those far off years of England's Civil War.


To His Coy Mistress

By Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
 But at my back I always hear
Time’s wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life.





 *  *  *



 32. AS a New Year begins we need to muster fresh spiritual energy and many feel inspired from the most popular psalm in the Bible, a piece of poetry which fortifies. Below is the complete Psalm 23, from King David, in the King James Version of the text - our most beautiful.


THE Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.



 * * *




31. JOHN BETJEMAN (1906-84) shares a touch of wonder at the every day in his gentle and humorous, urban style. The Poet Laureate is a refreshing, uplifting read and no more so than in this seasonal example we abridge below.


Christmas



Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.





 * * *




30. SOME poems seem to evoke the child in us, who accepts a leap of imagination and understands a mood without needing explanations. One writer, who spanned two centuries and two world wars, had an outstanding romantic imagination, being chiefly remembered for his children's stories and a much-loved and thrilling poem which we have abridged below.
Perhaps that romanticism was also inspired by his last, long-term home in Montpelier Row, Twickenham, and its proximity to another great imagination - Alfred, Lord Tennyson - who lived there a century earlier.



The Listeners

By Walter de La Mare
 
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,   
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,   
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;   
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said. 
But no one descended to the Traveller;   
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners   
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight   
   To that voice from the world of men.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even   
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,   
   That I kept my word,’ he said. 
Never the least stir made the listeners,   
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,   
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,   
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

* * *




29. THIS short poem by Victorian traveller Percy Shelley was featured before (our fifth) with detailed notes. It  reminds us of those sands of time and that what seems important, or even omnipotent now, is only a passing trifle.


Ozymandias


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'



* * *



 

28. HERE is an abridged version of the UK's favourite poem If, from which a few wise words on Triumph and Disaster are displayed for competitors at the All England Club, Wimbledon. This is an abridged version of  If, written by Victorian writer and traveller Rudyard Kipling:


 IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;


If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!





 * * *




27. THIS popular poem, The Sunlight on the Garden, is by 1930s Irish poet Louis MacNeice, with reflections upon life as age advances.



The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.


And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden. 




* * *



26. SUMMER is officially just days away yet in Great Marton, Blackpool, on the Fylde today there are gales, writes Roy. Here's a poem I wrote soon after retiring, that's full of joy at sunshine and life.


Isn't It Grand!


It's grand to wake up in Great Marton on a summer morn,
Sunshine escaping at our curtains as she slumbers on,
While I stretch - content, healthy and retired - with a blissful yawn.
A bird clock sounds as, silently, into the bathroom I've gone.

Gargling, washing then brushing, I'm clear-headed again.
Our blackbird in the ivy hedge below sings fair,
While I creep downwards taking ever loving pains
Not to wake my darling, She Who Knows, asleep upstairs.

The cottage's cosy lounge greets me with a cuckoo's timely call
As I draw our blinds and look out upon that working world.
Inside it's hot buns for breakfast, marmalade and tea with all,
And She Who's Daily Mail, telling us what's happening elsewhere.

Up the stairs I return, bearing breakfast tray and tender smile
As I wake my dear and tell her it looks sunny again outside.
But there's no need to rush, we'll laze on in bed awhile,
Read the papers and chat, then this day's best plan decide.

Isn't it grand to be free 'n' easy and at last to feel at one with life?
The debts are all covered, our duties done and mortgage gone.
Now it's time to enjoy our blessings, with God's will and the wife's.
Peace to all men, I say, so let's give thanks - but also have fun!




* * *




25. SONG lyrics often make fine poetry, with touching reflections upon life. Here's one from Midlands singer-songwriter Peter McKenna, whom you can hear on YouTube.
Peter told me: "I worked in NHS counselling/psychotherapy and this song is about one of the kindest, most generous, caring women I was privileged to meet. Unfortunately, and she would agree, she had terrible taste in men! 
They would lie to her, steal from her, break her heart, then leave. In all the time we spent talking she always managed to pick herself up, dust herself down . . . and pick another scoundrel!"


I Can’t Believe

If I'd a penny for every time you said you loved me,
I’d have no money at all;
If I believed every word that came out of your mouth,
Every story would be tall.


And I can’t believe I fell in love with you
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;
I can’t believe I fell in love with you,
Only wished you’d have fallen in love with me too.

If I had a second for every hour I waited while you let me down,
I could start my life again;
If I’d have listened when all my friends all said you’ll just mess me round,
I’d know something about men.

And I can’t believe I fell in love with you
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;
I can’t believe I fell in love with you,
Only wished you’d have fallen in love with me too.

If I knew then what I know now
I know I’d do it all again.

And I can’t believe I fell in love with you
If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;
I can’t believe I fell in love with you,
Only wished you’d have fallen in love with me too.



* * *




24. HERE's a poem written half a lifetime ago that still has a refreshing taste-  like freshly delivered milk! Ray Brookes writes and performs at folk clubs. In the 1970s he worked in insurance in Birmingham, then his firm offered a vacancy in Uganda and Ray was the only applicant. Upon his return to Blighty, Ray found job satisfaction as a milkman.


Birmingham Blues

Cream buses stream
Into the city of money and sin

Blacks drive, whites thrive

Who will be first to give in

As a country boy it's hard to heed

This racist talk and ruthless greed

It's rivers of blood and send them back

They are all the same because they're black

I long to leave this awful place

But times are hard I have to wait

A reprieve then comes from a far off land

Kampala calls they need a hand

To train their boys and I'm their man

The office staff just laugh and jeer

You must be mad to go out there

But Churchill said it's Africa's pearl

So off I go and give it a whirl

I soon forget those Birmingham blues

And if I had the chance to choose

To be a different man

In my mind there is no doubt

I would be an African



* * *




23. WE continue our spring theme with an abridged version of a wry but popular poem by Henry Reed, from the Midlands of England (1914-86).





 Naming of Parts
(from Lessons of the War)


Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards; we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring. It is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb; like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.

 


* * *




22.

WE in Britain may moan at times over its unpredictable and changing weather. However, few who travel and live away from it do not miss at times those gentle seasons. So it is here, with this famous first stanza of the Robert Browning (1812-89) poem:

Home-Thoughts, From Abroad


Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!



* * *



21.

Here is our abridged version of the famous lines by Doctor Faustus, in the play of that name by Christopher Marlowe (c.1564–1593). A restless Faustus has sold his soul to the Devil for supernatural powers and, using them, meets legendary beauty of Ancient Greece, Helen of Troy.
The doomed Faustus speaks these words upon first seeing her face. However, this passage also reveals the passion of our tempestuous playwright Marlowe who, after a gilded start in life, died tragically young in an Elizabethan tavern brawl . . .

Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.

O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear'd to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa's azur'd arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!



* * *



20.

American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-86) wrote this short piece called 'Fame Is A Fickle Food', which has a salutary message for those attending this month's Oscars Ceremony in Hollywood.



Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer’s Corn –
Men eat of it and die.



* * *




19.

THIS short poem by aptly named Robert Frost captures the stillness of snow on countryside; past and quieter times, along with a New-Year sense of journeys yet to take. Surprisingly, Frost (1874-1963) was American but his work was published first in Britain.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

 


Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.



* * *



18.

IN our abridged version of his popular poem 'Christmas', John Betjeman (1906-1984) captures the marvelous mixture of magic and mystery that makes this time so special, in his dear England.


The holly in the windy hedge
And around the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
 
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.




* * *


17.


HERE are a few lines of revelry from a 14th Century Persian poet from Shiraz, who wrote under the pen-name of Hafez. Today they say every Iranian home has a copy of his works, while his passion for life's pleasures bridges centuries and cultures. Hafez lauded the joys of love and wine, while targeting religious hypocrisy. His home, synonymous with wine today, is a popular place of pilgrimage for kindred spirits. These lines come from his Ode 44, available in full on the internet from the Poetry Foundation.

Last night, as half asleep I dreaming lay,

    Half naked came she in her little shift,

         With tilted glass, and verses on her lips;

Narcissus-eyes all shining for the fray,

         Filled full of frolic to her wine-red lips,

         Warm as a dewy rose, sudden she slips

    Into my bed – just in her little shift. 


* * *


16.

THIS short but striking poem, by an English woman in the 1950s, reminds us we all need help - even those who might always seem to be larking about . . . but are perhaps reaching out. Let us, then, reach back in return - and help each other.


 

Not Waving but Drowning

By Stevie Smith
Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.




 * * *



15.


AS we prepare for British Winter Time, when the clocks go back one hour in Europe and we wake, as well as go to bed, in darkness, let's cheer ourselves with a couple of verses of' 'The Darkling Thrush', from great English country writer Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Reading these last two verses, we can imagine Hardy pausing on a chill evening's walk in Dorset countryside and his spirit being lifted by the birdsong. It shows the power of words to draw us together and bridge time as well as distance.


At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.





 * * *




14.


AFTER our whimsical sample from Irishman W.B.Yeats (see below) here is another ode to autumn. This is earlier and more decidedly English, from the delicate and romantic John Keats. It is an abridged version of his still highly popular poem 'To Autumn'.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run . . .

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor.
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind . . .

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
The red-breast whistles from a garden croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.




* * *




13.


RETIRING and autumnal thoughts echo through this beautiful poem I had not heard before, but which is rightly amongst the most popular in the land.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

By William Butler Yeats
 
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.



* * *



12.


LIGHTS were going out through Europe - something next from those incomparable soldier poets whose experience still speaks loudly to us today, a century after the Great War.
The following two poems come from a new book just available (click on link http://www.feedaread.com/books/Words-from-the-Wounded-9781784077013.aspx) for £4.50 entitled Words From The Wounded by Lancashire journalist David Boderke.
It's a collection of verses and messages written by wounded soldiers during their stay at military and auxiliary hospitals in and near Blackburn, Lancashire. The book also contains memories of two former Royal Army Medical Corps men, and those of private individuals. It also contains numerous photographs and illustrations.

We are all happy in the trenches,
We are all happy as can be,
We are all sitting round the old coke fire,
Some smoking fags and some briar,
Up to our knees in mud and water,
All as happy as can be,
But when I’m dressed up in my nighty,
And back in Dear Blighty that will be,
The most happy time for me.
 
Won’t you come over to our trench,
Won’t you come over and play,
We’ve got some playthings, a rifle or two,
And we live in the trench o’er the way,
We’ll give you biscuits and bully,
We’ll mend your clothes if they are torn,

So won’t you come over in our trench,

And say you won’t fight any more.
(by Rfn F. Hackett
2nd Batt Rifle Brigade
Wounded at La Basse, Feb 14th, 1915
Invalided home Feb 19th, 1915)
A little wet home in the trench
I’ve a little wet home in a trench,
Where the rainstorms continually drench,
There’s a dead cow close by,
With her hoofs towards the sky,
And she gives of a beautiful stench.
Underneath, in the place of a floor,
There’s a mass of wet mud and some straw,
And the Jack Johnstons tear,
Through the rain sodden air,
O’er my little wet home in the trench.
There are snipers who keep on the go,
So you must keep your napper down low,
And their star shells at night,
Make a deuce of a light,
Which causes the language to flow,
Then bully and his biscuits we chew,
For it’s days since we tasted a stew,
But with shells dropping there,
There’s no place to compare,
With my little wet home in the trench.
(By No 6817 Pte T. Woof,
D Coy 2nd Yorks Lancaster Regt.
Active Service.)



* * *




11.



HERE are three contributions from local man Dave Simpson. Like the retired bricklayer himself, they are short, whimsical and romantic.



For Eileen


I took your hand
For a slow dance together.
The old king looked down
And said: "This is forever."

Eyes that shone under moonlight
Will remain in my heart.
The old King Bran knows
We will never part.


then in similar sentiment . . .



I always knew we had dream to share,
And keep it for what it may seem,
Hearts of love to share together
And what may seem a dream,
Is not but real, with each other forever.




and also . . .


I should have walked you down the aisle,
To gaze upon your sparkling smile,
Auburn hair and gentle perfume,
Hands to hold together,
Your tender touch is all I need,
Now and forever.






* * *



10.


A CHANCE meeting in my local pub, Blackpool's oldest inn The Saddle, has prompted this contribution. It comes from Peter McGreever, who is enjoying living in the resort again after many years in South Africa. The poem, which is modern in style but reflects a traditional regard for words, is powerful and heartfelt as, Peter tells me, it was written following the death of his father.




                                                         TRANSITIONS


I drink, i bleed and weep,
For all that has gone,
And all that still remains.

I have no substance in this life,
I have no strength to carry on,
Through this desolate land.

If deep travail be my lot,
If i must persevere through futile tasks to no avail,
Then i would be released.

This life, so short, these mortal chains,
This flesh and blood,
I would be released.

I have served my master well,
Through endless day
And endless night.

From murky depths and starry heights,
Through joy, and pain,
And bitter tears.

I hear the sound of distant drums,
As you bid me come,
From this life to the next,

I see your smile,
I feel your touch,
Take me now.

And let me rest,
Leave me in peace,
Until it is time to go.




* * *



9.


HERE are a few poignant lines written around this time of year but in Berlin back in 1912, by Great War poet Rupert Brooke, in our abridged appreciation of his epic poem, 'The Old Vicarage, Grantchester'.



Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink;
And down the borders, well I know,
The poppy and the pansy blow -

I only know that you may lie
Day-long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester -

Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? - oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?



* * *





8.


HERE'S a short 'blank verse' I wrote one previous spring. It came from the heart that day - after a long, chilled winter. Now it might inspire more of you to send us contributions - you can't do worse!



 


The Cricket Club


It's Saturday afternoon and time to stroll for my innings

At Blackpool Cricket Club, beside grand Stanley Park.

Even the walk is uplifting, with prospects of cold beer

And friends, to share the week's tidings on the sun terrace.

Trees stand tall, silent sentinels to unlimited sky beyond

With scattered gems of daisies in their dappled shade.

What a joy it is to walk and savour my coming innings,

At Blackpool Cricket Club, beside grand Stanley Park.




 * * *




7.


AFTER 'Stop All The Clocks' we move on to British Summer Time and uplifting spring. Here are a couple of short ditties to lift the heart and make you smile.


From Anonymous . . .

I eat my peas with honey,

I've done it all my life;

It makes the peas taste funny

but it keeps them on the knife.



 And an extract from . . .

 
 
The Famous Pig Song
(Clarke Van Ness, music by F. Henri Klickmann)
 
 
 'Twas an evening in October, I'll confess I wasn't sober,
 I was carting home a load with manly pride,
 When my feet began to stutter and I fell into the gutter,
 And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
 Then I lay there in the gutter and my heart was all a-flutter,
 Till a lady, passing by, did chance to say:
 "You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses,"
 Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.





* * *



6.

A WINTERY poem entitled 'Stop All The Clocks', by W.H.Auden is our final choice before spring lifts our spirits toward summer's sunshine and holidays. It's about loss but also a reminder to treasure what we have.


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.




5.


THE short but popular poem below about a 'King of Kings', called Ozymandias, was really about Egypt's greatest ruler, Ramesses II.
It reminds us that, however mighty, men are mortal and so doomed to similar fates.
The poet was Victorian adventurer Percy Shelley. He was inspired by the British Museum's acquisition of a few crumbling remains from a huge statue to the Pharoah.
Incidentally, Rameses II's mummy is in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, protected now behind locked doors from the elements and prying foreign eyes. However, museum officials have been known to let visitors in to see the frail remains, for a discreet backhander. Such is life, and eternity. Only God retains his glory.

 

Ozymandias


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'




* * *





4.


THIS ditty was handwritten on an envelope around 1925 and found in a visitors' book at a stately home in Kent. Its author was poet and hymn writer Dorothy Frances Gurney (1858-1932). She had been inspired by the gardens there. The full poem's title is 'God's Garden' and, like Miss Gurney, is little known. However, the second to last verse, printed below, can often be seen on garden plaques and ornaments.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth.

 


 * * *





3.

BE inspired by our abbreviated version of England's most popular poem, If, by Victorian writer and traveller Rudyard Kipling:



 IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;


If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!






 * * *




2.

THE poem below was penned and contributed by David Simpson, a retired bricklayer and sometime musician with a buccaneering spirit. Dave also put the words to music as lyrics.
We consider that his creation has a gentle, haunting charm. The poem is also admirably brief!



Dawn's Grey Light

 
You know I'll always need you dear - although away, you are right here.

I close my eyes and hold you near, till dawn's grey light comes breaking.

With corsairs I sometimes roam, they shall not keep me from home.

Home, I mean, is in your heart - where love is in the making.





* * *



1. 

ROMANTICALLY minded expatriate Ed Black selected this popular English poem called 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies (1871-1940). Ed learned it at school in Cheshire and remembered the words wistfully when working in high-rise Hong Kong. It still reminds him of England's green and pleasant countryside when baking under the sun of his adopted Greek island home.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.



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