Thursday, October 27, 2016

Excerpt from Shelley's Adonais

       One from a lucid urn of starry dew 
       Wash'd his light limbs as if embalming them; 
       Another clipp'd her profuse locks, and threw 
       The wreath upon him, like an anadem, 
       Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem; 
       Another in her wilful grief would break 
       Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem 
       A greater loss with one which was more weak; 
And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

October by Hilaire Belloc

Look, how those steep woods on the mountain's face
Burn, burn against the sunset; now the cold
Invades our very noon: the year's grown old,
Mornings are dark, and evenings come apace.
The vines below have lost their purple grace,
And in Forreze the white wrack backward rolled,
Hangs to the hills tempestuous, fold on fold,
And moaning gusts make desolate all the place.

Mine host the month, at thy good hostelry,
Tired limbs I'll stretch and steaming beast I'll tether;
Pile on great logs with Gascon hand and free,
And pour the Gascon stuff that laughs at weather;
Swell your tough lungs, north wind, no whit care we,
Singing old songs and drinking wine together. 

A Song In October by Theodor Storm [trans. from his Oktoberlied]

One translation by Walter A. Aue [from here]:

The rising fog, the falling leaves:
to wine we are beholden!
The grayish day no longer grieves:
it's golden, yes, it's golden!

And if all madness be unfurled
(by church or temple polished),
this world, this most amazing world,
can never be demolished.

And even if the heart should smart
let glasses sound the meeting!
For all we know, a righteous heart
will never stop its beating.

The rising fog, the falling leaves:
to wine we are beholden!
The grayish day no longer grieves:
it's golden, yes, it's golden!

Though it is fall, wait just a while,
just wait and keep consuming!
The spring arrives, the sky is blue,
the violets are blooming.

The days of blue shall be at hand, 
and ere they all shall leave us, 
we'll let the wine, my noble friend, 
reprieve us, yes, reprieve us! 

Another translation:

Clouds gather, treetops toss and sway;
But pour us wine, an old one!
That we may turn this dreary day
To golden; yes, to golden!

What if the storm outside destroy
Alike Christian and heathen? 
Nature must sweep the old away 
To bring on a new season. 

What if some aching dread we feel?
Lift glasses, all, and ring them!
True hearts, we know, will never quail
Whatever fortune brings them!

Clouds gather, treetops toss and sway;
But pour us wine, an old one!
That we may turn this dreary day
To golden, yes, to golden!

Autumn has come, but never fear,
Wait but a little while yet,
Spring will be here, the skies will clear, 
And fields stand deep in violets.

The heavenly blue of fresh new days
Oh, friend, you must employ them
Before they pass away. Be brave!
Enjoy them; oh, enjoy them! 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Summer ending

End of Summer by Mark Turbyfill

 For that a great weariness has come upon me
Here in the remaining day of summer--
And the overgrown yard a stagnant mood,
Under the boughs the apples rotting,
And the fading grasses forgotten of cutting--
Suffer me to wag the tongue a little.

Even as leans on the fainting evening the foliage withering,
I am touched with a song of brown and of shadows,
And of colors lingering.
And I passed before a house of vines
To hear a myriad of birds therein
Crying, crying.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Léonie Adams

'Country Summer':

Now the rich cherry, whose sleek wood,  
And top with silver petals traced  
Like a strict box its gems encased,  
Has spilt from out that cunning lid,  
All in an innocent green round,  
Those melting rubies which it hid;  
With moss ripe-strawberry-encrusted,  
So birds get half, and minds lapse merry  
To taste that deep-red, lark’s-bite berry,  
And blackcap bloom is yellow-dusted. 

The wren that thieved it in the eaves  
A trailer of the rose could catch  
To her poor droopy sloven thatch, 
And side by side with the wren’s brood— 
O lovely time of beggar’s luck— 
Opens the quaint and hairy bud;  
And full and golden is the yield  
Of cows that never have to house,  
But all night nibble under boughs,  
Or cool their sides in the moist field. 

Into the rooms flow meadow airs, 
The warm farm baking smell’s blown round.  
Inside and out, and sky and ground  
Are much the same; the wishing star,  
Hesperus, kind and early born,  
Is risen only finger-far; 
All stars stand close in summer air, 
And tremble, and look mild as amber;  
When wicks are lighted in the chamber,  
They are like stars which settled there. 

Now straightening from the flowery hay,  
Down the still light the mowers look,  
Or turn, because their dreaming shook,  
And they waked half to other days,  
When left alone in the yellow stubble  
The rusty-coated mare would graze.  
Yet thick the lazy dreams are born,  
Another thought can come to mind,  
But like the shivering of the wind,  
Morning and evening in the corn.

Louise Glück

An interesting piece called 'Vespers [In your extended absence, you permit me]':

In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating 
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants. 
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt 
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf, 
the red leaves of the maple falling 
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.

Seamus Heaney

The summer classic 'Blackberry-Picking':

Late August, given heavy rain and sun 
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen. 
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot 
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot. 
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet 
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it 
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for 
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger 
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots 
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. 
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills 
We trekked and picked until the cans were full, 
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered 
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned 
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered 
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's. 

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. 
But when the bath was filled we found a fur, 
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. 
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush 
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. 
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair 
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. 
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book rec: adventure and gothic

The famous female writer Ann Radcliffe's [1764-1823] seminal book The Mysteries of Udolpho is an incredible, very long piece that is great to try. You get sucked in easily by her descriptive writing and the soft touches of the macabre and eerie. Of course, it was written in 1794, so you need to expect over-dramatization, over the top emotional, and antiquated gender roles. As a famous early gothic novel, there is a damsel in distress and quite a sense of fear, confusion and worry.

It's as fun as Balzac, and much more exciting. It's also very poetic, so be prepared. People have reported it can give you a chill even in the hot sun of Capri. Begin fast by starting at a random early page to just dive in quick. If you love it, you can go back and read those pages.

Here are a few quotes:

“Towards evening, they wound down precipices, black with forest of cypress, pine and cedar, into a glen so savage and secluded, that, if Solicitude ever had local habitation, this might have been "her place of dearest residence” 

“Groves of orange and lemon perfumed the air, their ripe fruit glowing among the foliage; while, sloping to the plains, extensive vineyards spread their treasures. Beyond these, woods and pastures, and mingled towns and hamlets stretched towards the sea, on whose bright surface gleamed many a distant sail; while, over the whole scene was diffused the purple glow of evening.” 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire is a breakout poet recently -- most infamously featured in Beyonce's Lemonade film.

One great section of her piece "Intuition" is this:

I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Milton and Stevenson

Milton's "Sonnet 7" 

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, 
       Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! 
       My hasting days fly on with full career, 
       But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th. 
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth 
       That I to manhood am arriv'd so near; 
       And inward ripeness doth much less appear, 
       That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th. 
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow, 
       It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n 
       To that same lot, however mean or high, 
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n: 
       All is, if I have grace to use it so 
       As ever in my great Task-Master's eye.

"Spring Carol" by Robert Louis Stevenson

WHEN loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.

Straightway my olden heart returns
And dances with the dancing burns;
It sings with the sparrows;
To the rain and the (grimy) barrows
Sings my heart aloud -
To the silver-bellied cloud,
To the silver rainy arrows.

It bears the song of the skylark down,
And it hears the singing of the town;
And youth on the highways
And lovers in byways
Follows and sees:
And hearkens the song of the leas
And sings the songs of the highways.

So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Milne and Hopkins

'Daffodowndilly' by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet, 
She wore her greenest gown; 
She turned to the south wind 
And curtsied up and down. 
She turned to the sunlight 
And shook her yellow head, 
And whispered to her neighbour: "Winter is dead." 

'Spring' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring— 
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; 
  Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush 
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring 
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 
  The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush 
  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush 
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.   
What is all this juice and all this joy? 
  A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy, 
  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning, 
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy, 
  Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

W. Carlos Williams

Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital]


By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind.  Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter.  All about them
the cold, familiar wind-

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens:  clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them:  rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

DH Lawrence

The Enkindled Spring
This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration 
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


One of the big 'must read' blogs is AnthonyWilson'sPoetry site, but I find I rarely agree with the poems he's chosen/enjoys. This one is an exception--It's the Russian [b. 1933] Yevgeny Yevtushenko's "damp white imprints..." if only because it seems to have come from Last year at Marienbad [1961], the infamous modern cinema classic:

Damp white imprints dog the feet;
snowbound trolley, snowbound street.
Her tip of glove to lip and cheek,
“Goodbye.” Go.
Deathly, into soaring snow
and stillness, as expected, go.
A turn:
    the plunge to the metro.
A blare of lights. A melting hat.
I stand, am spun in drafts, see black
take the tunnel, train, and track,
sit and wait as others sat,
touch cold marble, chill my hand
and, heavy-hearted, understand
that nothing ever really happened,
ever would, ever can.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Anthony Kahn, from Stolen Apples (Doubleday, 1971)

Spring Song by Robert Louis Stevenson

THE air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather? 



Le Testament: Ballade: Pour Robert d’Estouteville

At dawn of day, when falcon shakes his wing,
Mainly from pleasure, and from noble usage,
Blackbirds too shake theirs then as they sing,
Receiving their mates, mingling their plumage,
O, as the desires it lights in me now rage,
I’d offer you, joyously, what befits the lover.
See how Love has written this very page:
Even for this end are we come together.
Doubtless, as my heart’s lady you’ll have being,
Entirely now, till death consumes my age.
Laurel, so sweet, for my cause now fighting,
Olive, so noble, removing all bitter foliage,
Reason does not wish me unused to owing,
Even as I’m to agree with this wish, forever,
Duty to you, but rather grow used to serving:
Even for this end are we come together.
And, what’s more, when sorrow’s beating
Down on me, through Fate’s incessant rage,
Your sweet glance its malice is assuaging,
Nor more or less than wind blows smoke away.
As, in your field, I plant I lose no grain,
For the harvest resembles me, and ever
God orders me to plough, and sow again:
Even for this end are we come together.
Princess, listen to this I now maintain:
That my heart and yours will not dissever:
So much I presume of you, and claim:
Even for this end are we come together.

Spring Pools by Robert Frost

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on. 

The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods -
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday. 

To Spring by William Blake

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro' the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.

Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee. 

Spring In New Hampshire by Jamaican-American Claude McKay

Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors. 

Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping. 

“Feuerzauber” [1936] by Louis Untermeyer

This excellent piece is by a New Yorker who loved the literary world of the 1920s and 1930s:

I never knew the earth had so much gold—
   The fields run over with it, and this hill
Hoary and old,
   Is young with buoyant blooms that flame and thrill.

Such golden fires, such yellow—lo, how good 
   This spendthrift world, and what a lavish God! 
This fringe of wood,
   Blazing with buttercup and goldenrod.

You too, beloved, are changed. Again I see 
   Your face grow mystical, as on that night 
You turned to me,
   And all the trembling world—and you—were white.

Aye, you are touched; your singing lips grow dumb; 
   The fields absorb you, color you entire . . .
And you become
   A goddess standing in a world of fire!


This excellent, concise 'haiku'-mood/tone poem is by the Austrian poetess Elfriede Jelinek [2007], trans. by Michael Hofmann. 

april breath 
of  boyish red 
the tongue crushes 
strawberry dreams 

                                  hack away wound 
                                  and wound the fountain 

and on the mouth 
perspiration white 
from someone's neck 

a little tooth   
has bit the finger 
of  the bride the 
                                  tabby yellow and sere 

the red boy   
from the gable flies 
an animal hearkens 
in his white throat 
                                  his juice runs down 
                                  pigeon thighs 

a pale sweet spike 
still sticks 
in woman white 

an april breath 
of  boyish red

Penumbrae by John Updike

The shadows have their seasons, too. 

The feathery web the budding maples 
cast down upon the sullen lawn

bears but a faint relation to
high summer's umbrageous weight 
and tunnellike continuum—

black leached from green, deep pools 
wherein a globe of gnats revolves 
as airy as an astrolabe.

The thinning shade of autumn is 
an inherited Oriental,
red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.

Shadows on snow look blue. The skier, 
exultant at the summit, sees his poles 
elongate toward the valley: thus

each blade of grass projects another 
opposite the sun, and in marshes 
the mesh is infinite,

as the winged eclipse an eagle in flight 
drags across the desert floor 
is infinitesimal.

And shadows on water!—
the beech bough bent to the speckled lake 
where silt motes flicker gold,

or the steel dock underslung 
with a submarine that trembles, 
its ladder stiffened by air.

And loveliest, because least looked-for, 
gray on gray, the stripes 
the pearl-white winter sun

hung low beneath the leafless wood
draws out from trunk to trunk across the road 
like a stairway that does not rise.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dickinson and C. Rossetti

 "It sifts..." by Emily Dickinson:

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.
It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.
It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil
On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer's empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.
It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

Rossetti's poem 'One Sea-Side Grave' :
Unmindful of the roses,
Unmindful of the thorn,
A reaper tired reposes
Among his gathered corn:
So might I, till the morn!
Cold as the cold Decembers,
Past as the days that set,
While only one remembers
And all the rest forget, –
But one remembers yet.