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Greensleeves -- Anonymous

Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #1027) Greensleeves
A new Courtly Sonet, of the Ladie Greensleeves.

 Chorus: Greensleeves was all my joy
         Greensleeves was my delight
         Greensleeves was my heart of gold
         And who but my Ladie Greensleeves

 Alas, my love, you do me wrong
 To cast me off discourteously
 And I have lov-ed you so long
 Delighting in your companie


 I have been ready at your hand
 To grant whatever you would crave,
 I have both waged life and land,
 Your love and good-will for to have.


 I bought thee kerchers to thy head,
 That were wrought fine and gallantly
 I kept thee both boord and bed
 Which cost my purse well favouredly


 I bought thee petticoats of the best,
 The cloth so fine as might be;
 I gave thee jewels for thy chest,
 And all this cost I spent on thee.


 Thy smock of silk, both fair and white,
 With gold embroidered gargeously;
 Thy petticoat of sendal right,
 And these I bought thee gladly


 Thy girdle of gold so red,
 With pearles bedecked sumptuously;
 The like no other lasses had,
 And yet thou wouldst not love me


 Thy purse and eke thy gay gilt knives,
 Thy pincase gallant to the eye;
 No better wore the Burgesse wives
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 Thy crimson stockings all of silk,
 With golde all wrought above the knee,
 Thy pumps as white as was the milk
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 Thy gown was of the grossie green,
 Thy sleeves of satten hanging by,
 Why made thee be our harvest Queen.
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 Thy garters fringed with the golde,
 And silver aglets hanging by,
 Which made thee blithe for to beholde
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 My gayest gelding I thee gave,
 To ride where ever liked thee,
 No Ladie ever was so brave
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 My men were clothed all in green,
 And they did ever wait on thee;
 All this was gallant to be seen
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 They set thee up, they took thee downe,
 They served thee with humilitie,
 Thy foote might not once touch the ground
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 For everie morning when thou rose,
 I sent thee dainties orderly;
 To cheare thy stomack from all woes
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
 But still thou hadst it readily;
 Thy musicke still to play and sing
 And yet thou wouldst not love me.


 And who did pay for all this geare,
 That thou didst spend when pleased thee,
 Even I that am rejected here
 And thou disdainst to love me.


 Well I will pray to God on high,
 That thou my constancy mayst see,
 And that yet once before I die
 Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.


 Greensleeves, now farewell! adieu!
 God I pray to prosper thee,
 For I am still thy lover true,
 Come once again and love me.

-- Anonymous
  sonet. Obs. rare. [a. OFr. sonet (sonnet), = Prov. sonet, f. son sound. ]
  Song, melody, music. -- OED

One of my favorite songs - a 16th century english ballad called
Greensleeves, by our old friend "Anon".  The song was first licensed
to a printer called Richard Jones, but several others have claimed

At least one version of this song's origin says that Henry VIII wrote
it about Anne Boleyn, but this is unlikely, as the style belongs to a
period after Henry's death, and the first printed version appeared
during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Since then, it became a popular ballad, carried over by the englishmen
to America, where it became one of the classic campfire ballads of the
old west.

The classic 1962 western "How the West Was Won" had a theme song set
to the "Greensleeves" tune - and "Ritchie Blackmore's Night" has a
beautiful cover of this old song (which I am listening to as I type

Blackmore's brilliant guitaring adds to the magic of this old song
(and sounds far better than the ringtone in my colleague's cellphone -
again "Greensleeves" ;)

A beautiful, haunting melody - and words which show the deep grief of
a jilted man who has been rejected by a woman he has showered love
and squandered his fortune on.


Martin adds:

  Greensleeves and Tolkien combine in the popular quote "Do not anger a bard,
  for thy name is silly, and scans to Greensleeves".

  And here's the hilarious Flanders and Swann sketch on the 'history' of
    [broken link]

The Prodigal Son -- Rudyard Kipling

(Poem #1026) The Prodigal Son
 Here come I to my own again,
 Fed, forgiven and known again,
 Claimed by bone of my bone again
 And cheered by flesh of my flesh.
 The fatted calf is dressed for me,
 But the husks have greater zest for me,
 I think my pigs will be best for me,
 So I'm off to the Yards afresh.

 I never was very refined, you see,
 (And it weighs on my brother's mind, you see)
 But there's no reproach among swine, d'you see,
 For being a bit of a swine.
 So I'm off with wallet and staff to eat
 The bread that is three parts chaff to wheat,
 But glory be! - there's a laugh to it,
 Which isn't the case when we dine.

 My father glooms and advises me,
 My brother sulks and despises me,
 And Mother catechises me
 Till I want to go out and swear.
 And, in spite of the butler's gravity,
 I know that the servants have it I
 Am a monster of moral depravity,
 And I'm damned if I think it's fair!

 I wasted my substance, I know I did,
 On riotous living, so I did,
 But there's nothing on record to show I did
 Worse than my betters have done.
 They talk of the money I spent out there -
 They hint at the pace that I went out there -
 But they all forget I was sent out there
 Alone as a rich man's son.

 So I was a mark for plunder at once,
 And lost my cash (can you wonder?) at once,
 But I didn't give up and knock under at once,
 I worked in the Yards, for a spell,
 Where I spent my nights and my days with hogs.
 And shared their milk and maize with hogs,
 Till, I guess, I have learned what pays with hogs
 And - I have that knowledge to sell!

 So back I go to my job again,
 Not so easy to rob again,
 Or quite so ready to sob again
 On any neck that's around.
 I'm leaving, Pater.  Good-bye to you!
 God bless you, Mater! I'll write to you!
 I wouldn't be impolite to you,
 But, Brother, you are a hound!
-- Rudyard Kipling
Notes: Based on the New Testament parable of the prodigal son (see links)
       Expanded version of a chapter heading from Kim

A delightfully original take on the Prodigal Son story - what I like is how
consistent it is with the original parable. All it does is present matters
from the son's point of view - sure, he asked his father for his share of
his inheritance, and squandered it all, but this is *his* story, and
underscores, as the Biblical one doesn't, that

     ... I didn't give up and knock under at once,
     I worked in the Yards, for a spell

Indeed, the poem highlights both Kipling's talent for presenting the other
point of view, and the delightfully picaresque characters he creates. For
such a short poem, the prodigal son's character is developed with surprising
vividness, and he's definitely someone the reader can sympathise with and
cheer for.

Formwise, the poem presents yet another approach to the triple rhyme,
repeating entire words at the end of consecutive lines. While this may seem
vaguely like 'cheating', it is a perfectly valid form of rhyming (indeed,
a pure rhyme requires that all syllables after the rhyming one be identical,
and what better way to accomplish that?), and quite a bit harder than it
appears. There's also a lot of variation on the basic form, including a run
of *quadruple* rhymes at one point - not something I can remember seeing
attempted elsewhere, though I'd be delighted to be corrected on that score.
Unusual here is Kipling's use of the triple rhyme in an essentially serious
poem - he gets away with it, true, but the cleverness of the rhymes does
obtrude itself upon the foreground in a manner a purist might balk at. The
rest of us can, however, feel free to be entertained and charmed - I
certainly was.


  The original Prodigal Son parable (King James Version):
    [broken link]

  Biography of Kipling:
    See Poem #17

  Possibly my favourite example of today's sort of rhyme scheme is
  'Reviewing the Situation', from 'Oliver!':
    [broken link]
  (No internal links; you'll have to scroll down the page)

  And the theme so far:
    Poem #1023, W. S. Gilbert, 'The Soldiers of our Queen'
    Poem #1025, Newman Levy, 'Thais'


Thais -- Newman Levy

Carrying on with the triple rhyme theme...
(Poem #1025) Thais
 One time in Alexandria, in wicked Alexandria
 Where nights were wild with revelry and life was but a game,
 There lived, so the report is, an adventuress and courtesan
 The pride of Alexandria, and Thais was her name.

 Nearby, in peace and piety, avoiding all society
 There dwelt a band of holy men who'd made their refuge there,
 And in the desert's solitude, they spurned all earthly folly to
 Devote their lives to holy works, to fasting and to prayer.

 Now one monk whom I solely mention of this band of holy men
 Was known as Athaneal, he was famous near and far.
 At fasting bouts and prayer, with him, none other could compare with him,
 At plain and fancy praying he could do the course in par.

 One day while sleeping heavily, from wresting with the Devil he
 Had gone to bed exhausted, though the sun was shining still
 He had a vision Freudian, and though he was annoyed, he an-
 Alyzed it in the well-known style of Doctors Jung and Brill.

 He dreamed of Alexandria, of wicked Alexandria.
 A crowd of men was cheering in a manner rather rude.
 And Athaneal glancing there at THAIS, who was dancing there
 Observed her do the shimmy, in what artists call The Nude!

 Said he,"This dream fantastical disturbs my thoughts monastical,
 Some unsuppressed desire, I fear, has found my monkish cell.
 I blushed up to the hat o' me to view that girl's anatomy
 I'll go to Alexandria and save her soul from Hell!"

 So, pausing not to wonder where he'd put his winter underwear
 He quickly packed his evening clothes, a toothbrush and a vest
 To guard against exposure he threw in some woolen hosiery
 And bidding all the boys Adieu, he started on his quest.

 The monk, though warned and fortified was deeply shocked and mortified,
 To find, on his  arrival, wild debauchery in sway.
 While some were in a stupor, sent by booze of more than two percent,
 The rest were all behaving in a most immoral way.

 Said he to Thais, "Pardon me. Although this job is hard on me,
 I've got to put you straight to what I came out here to tell:
 What's all this boozin' gettin' you? Cut out this pie-eyed retinue,
 Let's hit the road together, kid, and save your soul from Hell!"

 Although this bold admonishment caused Thais some astonishment,
 She quickly answered,"Say! You said a heaping mouthful, Bo!
 This burg's a frost, I'm telling you. The brand of hooch they're selling you
 Ain't like the stuff you used to get, so let's pack up and go!"

 So off from Alexandria, from wicked Alexandria
 Across the desert sands they go, beneath the burning sun.
 Till Thais, parched and sweltering, finds refuge in the sheltering
 Seclusion of a convent in the habit of a nun.

 And now the monk is terrified to find his fears are verified
 His holy vows of chastity have cracked beneath the strain!
 Like one who has a jag on, he cries out in grief and agony
 "I'd sell my soul to see her do the shimmy once again!"

 Alas! His pleadings amorous, though passionate and clamorous
 Have come too late. The courtesan has danced her final dance.
 Said he,"Now that's a joke on me, for that there dame to croak on me,
 I never should have passed her up the time I had a chance!"
-- Newman Levy
    (in Opera Guyed, 1923)

Note: Baed on the Massenet opera of the same name (see links)

Newman Levy is definitely near the top of my list of poets that deserve to
be famous but aren't - his verse is seldom short of brilliant, and often
hilarious. More to the point, it is extremely *accessible* - lack of
familiarity with the original is no drawback to appreciating his sparkling
parodies, nor have the eighty or so years since their writing dated them

'Thais' is probably Levy's most famous work, having apparently had the
dubious honour of being labelled "Traditional" in a few old songbooks. (It's
hard to see how that happened, actually - the lyrics certainly don't have a
trad flavour to them.) It definitely illustrates all the aforementioned
qualities - the verse is smooth and clever, the showiness of the rhymes
adding to the enjoyment of the poem. The story is told in a manner that
requires no knowledge of Massenet to follow it; indeed, unlike say "The
Three Cherry Sisters Karamazov"[1] it doesn't even make explicit reference
to the original, choosing to simply retell the story in a somewhat lighter
style. And the language certainly doesn't appear out of date or old
fashioned (or, rather, any datedness appears deliberately humorous, a happy
byproduct of the poem's blatant anachronism).
  [1] which contains a pun so awful that it alone would be worth the price
  of admission <g>

And a very pleasing style it is, too - the playful rhymes, the deliberate
dissonance between the poem's setting and its slangy dialogue, and the
smoothly pattering metre make 'Thais' an excellent example of how to tell a
humorous story in verse.

As far as patter verse and complicated triple rhymes go, comparisons with
Gilbert are inevitable. Despite a few superficial similarities, though, I
think Levy's verse has a very different flavour from Gilbert's. The pacing
is different, for one - in his more complicated pieces, Gilbert frequently
had distinct primary and secondary stresses that made the verse almost
paeonic (that is, with four syllables to a foot rather than two); this
speeds up their reading even when decoupled from the music. Levy's verse is
a lot more pronouncedly duple (though he follows the 'Major General' pattern
of triple rhymes superposed on a duple metre), so that it is flowing but not
tumbling. Also, Levy occasionally splits a word across lines for the rhyme[2],
a technique that I can't remember Gilbert using, and one which is definitely
noticeable when employed. I won't claim that Levy was uninfluenced by
Gilbert, but his poetry is definitely not Gilbertesque.

  [2] and vice versa, as exemplified respectively by

    He had a vision Freudian, and though he was annoyed, he an-
    Alyzed it in the well-known style of Doctors Jung and Brill.


    And in the desert's solitude, they spurned all earthly folly to
    Devote their lives to holy works, to fasting and to prayer.


  All about Massenet's "Thais":

  Several of Levy's poems, and a brief biography, are here:
  as are Stewart Hendrickson's musical settings to them.

  A hilarious series of instrumental breaks interspersed with the verses:
    [broken link]!!-song99.cfm?stuff=fall99+D+12012143

  And a few more Levy poems in the Digital Tradition archive:
    [broken link]!!-supersearch99.cfm?Command=Search&file=fall99&request=newman+levy&MaxHits=50&NumLines=1

  Another poet in much the same vein is Guy Wetmore Carryl; see, for
  example, the (triple rhymed, to boot)
    Poem #94, The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet

  Randall Garrett was influenced by Levy to write a series of very Levyesque
  verse synopses of science fiction novels; these are currently being
  reprinted in the filk magazine Xenofilkia:
  (main page:

  And the theme to date:
    Poem #1023, The Soldiers of our Queen


Faint Music -- Walter de la Mare

(Poem #1024) Faint Music
 The meteor's arc of quiet; a voiceless rain;
 The mist's mute communing with a stagnant moat;
 The sigh of a flower that has neglected lain;
      That bell's unuttered note;

 A hidden self rebels, its slumber broken;
 Love secret as crystal forms within the womb;
 The heart may as faithfully beat, the vow unspoken;
      All sounds to silence come.
-- Walter de la Mare
All good poetry is magical in some way, but de la Mare's poems have a
_specific_ kind of magic, instantly recognizable, yet near impossible to
paraphrase or even parody. Certainly the precise blend of delicate phrasing
and carefully-chosen subject material that characterizes his art may strike
one as repetitive [1], but as long as it works (and work it does, most of
the time), who am I to cavil?


[1] I'm not sure I could read an entire volume of de la Mare's poetry
uninterrupted, but I do enjoy dipping into his work every now and then.

[Minstrels Links]

Walter de la Mare:
Poem #2, The Listeners
Poem #272, Napoleon
Poem #483, Brueghel's Winter
Poem #725, Silver
Poem #1024, Faint Music

The Soldiers of our Queen -- W S Gilbert

This week's theme: the ever-popular triple rhyme. Contributions, as always,
(Poem #1023) The Soldiers of our Queen

  The soldiers of our Queen
      Are linked in friendly tether;
  Upon the battle scene
      They fight the foe together.

  There ev'ry mother's son
      Prepared to fight and fall is;
  The enemy of one
      The enemy of all is!
  The enemy of one
      The enemy of all is!

 [On an order from the MAJOR they fall back.]

 [Enter the COLONEL. All salute.]


  If you want a receipt for that popular mystery,
      Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon,

 DRAGOONS: [saluting] Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!


  Take all the remarkable people in history,
      Rattle them off to a popular tune.

 DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

 The pluck of Lord Nelson on board of the Victory --
     Genius of Bismarck devising a plan --
 The humour of Fielding (which sounds contradictory) --
     Coolness of Paget about to trepan --
 The science of Jullien, the eminent musico --
     Wit of Macaulay, who wrote of Queen Anne --
 The pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault --
     Style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man --
 The dash of a D'Orsay, divested of quackery --
 Narrative powers of Dickens and Thackeray --
 Victor Emmanuel -- peak-haunting Peveril --
 Thomas Aquinas, and Doctor Sacheverell --
     Tupper and Tennyson -- Daniel Defoe --
     Anthony Trollope and Mister Guizot!  Ah!

 DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

 COLONEL                           DRAGOONS
  Take of these elements all       A Heavy Dragoon,
      that is fusible                a Heavy Dragoon,
  Melt them all down in a          A Heavy Dragoon,
      pipkin or crucible             a Heavy Dragoon,
  Set them to simmer,              A Heavy Dragoon
      and take off the scum,         a Heavy Dragoon,
  And a Heavy Dragoon              Is the residuum!
      is the residuum!

 If you want a receipt for this soldier-like paragon,
     Get at the wealth of the Czar (if you can) --
 The family pride of a Spaniard from Aragon --
     Force of Mephisto pronouncing a ban --
 A smack of Lord Waterford, reckless and rollicky --
     Swagger of Roderick, heading his clan --
 The keen penetration of Paddington Pollaky --
     Grace of an Odalisque on a divan --
 The genius strategic of Caesar or Hannibal --
 Skill of Sir Garnet in thrashing a cannibal --
 Flavour of Hamlet -- the Stranger, a touch of him --
 Little of Manfred (but not very much of him) --
     Beadle of Burlington -- Richardson's show --
     Mister Micawber and Madame Tussaud! Ah!

 DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

 COLONEL                           DRAGOONS
  Take of these elements all       A Heavy Dragoon,
      that is fusible                a Heavy Dragoon,
  Melt them all down in a          A Heavy Dragoon,
      pipkin or crucible             a Heavy Dragoon,
  Set them to simmer,              A Heavy Dragoon
      and take off the scum,         a Heavy Dragoon,
  And a Heavy Dragoon              Is the residuum!
      is the residuum!
-- W S Gilbert
Note: receipt: recipe, formula

The triple rhyme, as I'll be the first to admit, is not the most serious of
poetic devices. Indeed, the effect is, if not precisely silly, definitely
lighthearted, and the focus is as often as not on the cleverness of the
rhyme rather than on what it is actually saying. This, combined with the
relative difficulty of sustaining a good set of perfect triple rhymes, makes
it a rather rarely encountered device; however, when well done the effect is
seldom less than delightful.

Given the lighthearted air, and the focus on form as much as content, it is
almost natural that the chief examples of triple rhymes are in humorous
verse and in musicals, both of which lay a greater than usual stress on the
sound of the verse. And the two genres combine brilliantly in the operettas
of Gilbert and Sullivan, making it not at all surprising that they contain
several excellent triple-rhymed sequences.

Gilbert, of course, not only dabbles freely in the form, but handles it with
his usual flair throughout. The most famous example is undoubtedly the Major
General's song (which achieves the additional feat of imposing triple rhymes
on a duple metre), but for the sheer playful pleasure of rhyming, and for
the deft way in which it mixes single and triple rhymes, today's song is
just as noteworthy.

Like 'Modern Major General', 'Soldiers of Our Queen' is really little more
than a list of loosely connected lines strung together by sheer force of
rhyme and metre - and like the former, it succeeds brilliantly. Especially
when combined with Sullivan's music, the song is a joy to read, to sing and
to parody.

Postscript: 'fusible' doesn't quite rhyme with 'crucible' - does anyone know
whether it did in Gilbert's day, or if he was just allowing himself a little
give in the rhyme?

  The Patience homepage at has links
  to MIDI and RealAudio files of the tune

  An interesting discussion on updating the references in the song:

  And a slightly twisted take thereon by Tom Holt:

  My own sincere flattery of Gilbert:
    [broken link]

  Nor has the introductory verse escaped its share of attention:

  George Klawitter on the "scarce, and usually silly" triple rhyme:
    [broken link]

  Some other triply-rhymed pieces of G&S:
    The Major General's Song: Poem #88
    The Sorcerer's Song: Poem #900


Buckingham Palace -- A A Milne

(Poem #1022) Buckingham Palace
 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 Alice is marrying one of the guard.
 "A soldier's life is terrible hard,"
                                Says Alice.

 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 We saw a guard in a sentry-box.
 "One of the sergeants looks after their socks,"
                                Says Alice.

 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 We looked for the King, but he never came.
 "Well, God take care of him, all the same,"
                                Says Alice.

 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 They've great big parties inside the grounds.
 "I wouldn't be King for a hundred pounds,"
                                Says Alice.

 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 A face looked out, but it wasn't the King's.
 "He's much too busy a-signing things,"
                                Says Alice.

 They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace -
 Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
 "Do you think the King knows all about me?"
 "Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea,"
                                Says Alice.
-- A A Milne
The fashionably cynical will find plenty to mock at in A. A. Milne. There's
no denying that his poetry lacks depth: it's irritatingly self-satisfied,
determinedly insular, and above all, ineffably twee.

And yet...

There's a certain magic about Milne. His verse may not be Great Art, but
it's more than mere doggerel. It's charming, and assured, and
unselfconscious; it's invariably cheerful, often nostalgic and occasionally
subversively funny; it celebrates the Edwardian countryside and the English
experience with sincerity and honesty, and it does all these in words both
light-hearted and heartfelt. To criticise Milne's poetry for its lack of
depth is to miss the point entirely: simplicity can be a virtue. Especially
in these sophisticated days.


[Minstrels Links]

A. A. Milne:
Poem #91, Cottleston Pie
Poem #463, Disobedience
Poem #562, The King's Breakfast
Poem #576, Tra-la-la, tra-la-la

Matsushima -- Matsuo Basho

The story goes that back in the 17th century, a grand poetry contest was
held in Matsushima, one of the most scenic spots in all of Japan. Hundreds
of poets submitted entries praising Matsushima's sweeping bay, the islands
dotted with pine trees, and the mountains rising majestically in the
background. The winner, though, was the renowned Haiku master Basho, who
wrote this poem:
(Poem #1021) Matsushima
 O Matsushima!
 O Matsushima!
 O Matsushima!
-- Matsuo Basho
Sometimes, words are just not enough.


[Minstrels Links]

Poem #23, Haiku - Old pond
Poem #57, Haiku - Scent of plum blossoms
Poem #802, Haiku - Snowy morning

Poem #277, Haiku - The winter river
Poem #712, Haiku - The seashore temple
Poem #908, Haiku - Departing spring

Poem #87, Two Tanka -- Otomo No Yakamochi
Poem #198, Japanese Jokes -- Peter Porter
Poem #982, What We Heard About the Japanese -- Rachel Rose

A Prayer For My Daughter -- William Butler Yeats

Guest poem submitted by Priya Chakravarthi:
(Poem #1020) A Prayer For My Daughter
 Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
 Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
 My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
 But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
 Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
 Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
 And for an hour I have walked and prayed
 Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

 I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
 And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
 And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
 In the elms above the flooded stream;
 Imagining in excited reverie
 That the future years had come,
 Dancing to a frenzied drum,
 Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

 May she be granted beauty and yet not
 Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
 Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
 Being made beautiful overmuch,
 Consider beauty a sufficient end,
 Lose natural kindness and maybe
 The heart-revealing intimacy
 That chooses right, and never find a friend.

 Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
 And later had much trouble from a fool,
 While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
 Being fatherless could have her way
 Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
 It's certain that fine women eat
 A crazy salad with their meat
 Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

 In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
 Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
 By those that are not entirely beautiful;
 Yet many, that have played the fool
 For beauty's very self, has charm made wise,
 And many a poor man that has roved,
 Loved and thought himself beloved,
 From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

 May she become a flourishing hidden tree
 That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
 And have no business but dispensing round
 Their magnanimities of sound,
 Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
 Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
 O may she live like some green laurel
 Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

 My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
 The sort of beauty that I have approved,
 Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
 Yet knows that to be choked with hate
 May well be of all evil chances chief.
 If there's no hatred in a mind
 Assault and battery of the wind
 Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

 An intellectual hatred is the worst,
 So let her think opinions are accursed.
 Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
 Out of the mouth of Plenty's horn,
 Because of her opinionated mind
 Barter that horn and every good
 By quiet natures understood
 For an old bellows full of angry wind?

 Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
 The soul recovers radical innocence
 And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
 Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
 And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
 She can, though every face should scowl
 And every windy quarter howl
 Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

 And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
 Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
 For arrogance and hatred are the wares
 Peddled in the thoroughfares.
 How but in custom and in ceremony
 Are innocence and beauty born?
 Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
 And custom for the spreading laurel tree.
-- William Butler Yeats
I was taught this poem in school and it remains one of my favourites.
Despite the seeming simplicity of its theme the poem has a deep political
undercurrent and Yeats' trademark cynicism.

Yeats was deeply involved in Irish politics, particularly the struggle for
freedom from England. His verse, even after Ireland's independence,
reflected pessimism about the political situation in his country and the
rest of Europe. In fact the howling storm with which the poem opens refers
to the gathering clouds in Ireland's political scene. In the course of his
political activities Yeats met an extremely beautiful rebel called Maud
Gonne and was influenced by her strength of character and political ideas.
Maud however chose to marry a man who Yeats considered to be an intellectual
pygmy. The "old bellows full of angry wind" is a scathing reference to this
man and the part about Helen and Venus is meant to refer to Maud. The
daughter in this poem is the product of his marriage with Georgie Hyde Lees
who was said to be rather plain.

So much of the ability to appreciate poetry depends on how it was taught in
one's formative years. When I learnt this poem in school I remember the
teacher analyzing every line and explaining the allegory to Irish folklore
in great detail.



"We all of us have or ought to have a group of poems we admire greatly but
dislike. There is so much high art in 'A Prayer for My Daughter', admirably
set forth by the Yeatsians, that the poem compels great respect. 'Under Ben
Bulben', and some other famous poems by Yeats, will be seen someday as
structures of cant and rant, but 'A Prayer for My Daughter" has the
ritualistic strength of Spenser at his strongest, no matter what it is that
here informs the ritualism. As a wholly coherent work, it disarms formalist
criticism, and further possesses an excellence rarely attained by any poem
of celebration, by providing an epitome of the values it praises and
desires. In its eighty lines we are given a complete map of Yeats' social
mind, at least of that mind in the act of idealization."

        -- Harold Bloom, "Yeats"

Bloom, for once, gets it absolutely right. I cannot bring myself to
sympathize with the social and moral philosophy this poem seems to espouse,
but I have to admit that it's beautifully written: Yeats at his fascinating


A Performance of Henry V at Stratford-upon-Avon -- Elizabeth Jennings

Guest poem sent in by Simon

The Aldrich (Poem #1018) prompts me to suggest this one (can't believe
you've only had one Elizabeth Jennings poem on Minstrels!)
(Poem #1019) A Performance of Henry V at Stratford-upon-Avon
 Nature teaches us our tongue again
 And the swift sentences came pat. I came
 Into cool night rescued from rainy dawn.
 And I seethed with language - Henry at
 Harfleur and Agincourt came apt for war
 In Ireland and the Middle East. Here was
 The riddling and right tongue, the feeling words
 Solid and dutiful. Aspiring hope
 Met purpose in "advantages" and "He
 That fights with me today shall be my brother."
 Say this is patriotic, out of date.
 But you are wrong. It never is too late

 For nights of stars and feet that move to an
 Iambic measure; all who clapped were linked,
 The theatre is our treasury and too,
 Our study, school-room, house where mercy is

 Dispensed with justice. Shakespeare has the mood
 And draws the music from the dullest heart.
 This is our birthright, speeches for the dumb
 And unaccomplished. Henry has the words
 For grief and we learn how to tell of death
 With dignity. "All was as cold" she said
 "As any stone" and so, we who lacked scope
 For big or little deaths, increase, grow up
 To purposes and means to face events
 Of cruelty, stupidity. I walked
 Fast under stars. The Avon wandered on
 "Tomorrow and tomorrow". Words aren't worn
 Out in this place but can renew our tongue,
 Flesh out our feeling, make us apt for life.
-- Elizabeth Jennings
I find this poem incredibly moving and evocative. Whenever I read it I
think of trips to Stratford, the little footbridge over the Avon and the
bright lights of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It also seems to me a
fitting tribute to Elizabeth Jennings herself, who died last year.

But (as with all of Jennings's poems) it also uses language in an
incredibly precise way. The frequent alliteration drives the rhythm of
the iambic pentameter and every word is perfectly chosen - "seethes with
language"; "The riddling and right tongue, the feeling words"; and that
fantastic final line, "Flesh out our feeling, make us apt for life."



Biography of Jennings:
[broken link]

The previous Jennings poem on Minstrels: Poem #249, 'Delay'

And yesterday's Aldrich poem: Poem #1018, 'At Stratford-Upon-Avon'

At Stratford-Upon-Avon -- Thomas Bailey Aldrich

(Poem #1018) At Stratford-Upon-Avon
 Thus spake his dust (so seemed it as I read
 The words): Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
 (Poor ghost!) To digg the dust enclosèd heare --
 Then came the malediction on the head
 Of whoso dare disturb the sacred dead.
 Outside the mavis whistled strong and clear,
 And, touched with the sweet glamour of the year,
 The winding Avon murmured in its bed,
 But in the solemn Stratford church the air
 Was chill and dank, and on the foot-worn tomb
 The evening shadows deepened momently.
 Then a great awe fell on me, standing there,
 As if some speechless presence in the gloom
 Was hovering, and fain would speak with me.
-- Thomas Bailey Aldrich
    (Sonnet XI from 'XXVIII Sonnets')

Note: The reference is to Shakespeare's self-penned epitaph:
      "Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare
       To digg the dust enclosèd heare;
       Blese be ye man yt spares these stones
       And curst be he yt moves my bones "

      mavis: The song-thrush

      Aldrich dedicated the poem to Edwin Booth (see links)

As a poet and writer, Shakespeare stands alone in the public estimation -
like Einstein, his name and image have acquired a mystique out of proportion
to even his towering achievements. It is this semimythical Shakespeare that
Aldrich addresses in "At Stratford-Upon-Avon" - the man whose spirit even
now pervades the town in which he lies buried, speechless and awe-inspiring.

Aldrich captures this atmosphere admirably - the poem is evocative, and the
balance and development perfect. He also avoids the temptation to write in a
Shakespearean style[1] - an easy trap to fall into, given the subject, and
one that would likely have produced a far inferior poem.
  [1] or even to write a Shakespearean sonnet

The sonnet is developed beautifully, the octet setting up a quiet, almost
pastoral series of images which the sestet then builds upon and intensifies,
transforming 'quiet' into 'solemn' and (in the old sense of the word)
'awful'. All in all, one of the better tributes to the bard I've seen.



  I found today's poem on the HTI American Verse Project, a wonderful
  resource I recently discovered:

  There's a biography of Aldrich at Poem #236

  Edwin Booth: [broken link]

  and [broken link] has a lovely
  collection of pieces on and tributes to Shakespeare

Lines on and from "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" -- Franklin P Adams

Back in action - many thanks to Thomas for covering the while
(Poem #1017) Lines on and from "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations"
 ("Sir: For the first time in twenty-three years 'Bartlett's Familiar
 Quotations' has been revised and enlarged, and under a separate cover
 we are sending you a copy of the new edition. We would appreciate an
 expression of opinion from you of the value of this work after you have
 had an ample opportunity of examining it." --THE PUBLISHERS)

 Of making many books there is no end--
     So Sancho Panza said, and so say I.
 Thou wert my guide, philosopher and friend
     When only one is shining in the sky.

 Books cannot always please, however good;
     The good is oft interred with their bones.
 To be great is to be misunderstood,
     The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans.

 The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
     I never write as funny as I can.
 Remote, unfriendly, studious let me sit
     And say to all the world, "This was a man!"

 Go, lovely Rose, that lives its little hour!
     Go, little booke! and let who will be clever!
 Roll on! From yonder ivy-mantled tower
     The moon and I could keep this up forever.
-- Franklin P Adams
The title says it all <g>. Today's little gem has been stitched together -
and stitched together with nonchalant skill - from various fragments of
famous quotes, the whole dancing just on the other side of that misty
boundary between sense and nonsense. The idea is not new, of course, but it
is amusing nonetheless, and highly pleasing in its grouping into rhyming and
metrical stanzas. What makes the poem funny, though (as opposed to merely
random), is the fact that, while it is altogether incoherent on a large
scale, consecutive lines do follow on neatly from one another. The humour
lies both in the unexpectedness of the twists and their skewed but
undeniable logic (and, of course, the introductory text at the start).

The somewhat disjointed quotes are mostly one to a line, except towards the
end when the pace picks up slightly and lines break into quote-fragments.
And all the quotes are, except for one I couldn't find, all taken from
Bartlett's. (I've collected them at the end to save you the trouble of



  Biography of Adams: Poem #212

  Some poems along vaguely similar lines:
    Poem #211, 'The Oxford Hysteria of English Poetry'

    'Things are Seldom What They Seem',
      [broken link]

  The Dissociated Press is worth a look:
    [broken link]
    [broken link]


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is
no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. -- Ecclesiastes 12:12, KJV

"God bless the man who first invented sleep!"
So Sancho Panza said, and so say I. -- John Godfrey Saxe, 'Early Rising'

Thou wert my guide, philosopher, and friend. -- Alexander Pope, 'Essay on Man'

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye;
Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
  -- William Wordsworth, 'She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways'

Books cannot always please, however good;
Minds are not ever craving for their food.
  -- George Crabbe

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
  -- William Shakespeare, 'Julius Caesar'

To be great is to be misunderstood. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, Dan Cupid;
Regent of love-rhymes, lord of folded arms,
The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans,
Liege of all loiterers and malcontents.
  -- William Shakespeare, 'Love's Labour's Lost'

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
  -- Edward Fitzgerald, 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'
     (Bartlett's rather curiously attributes it to Khayyam instead, making
      no mention whatsoever of Fitzgerald)

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
As funny as I can
  -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, 'The Height of the Ridiculous'

Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld or wandering Po.
  -- Oliver Goldsmith, 'The Traveller'

There studious let me sit,
And hold high converse with the mighty dead.
  -- James Thomson, 'The Seasons, Winter'

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
  -- William Shakespeare, 'Julius Caesar'

Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
  -- Edmund Waller, 'Go Lovely Rose'

Loveliest of lovely things are they
On earth that soonest pass away.
The rose that lives its little hour
Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
  -- William Cullen Bryant 'A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson'

Go, little booke! go, my little tragedie!
  -- Geoffrey Chaucer, 'Troilus and Creseide'

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
One grand sweet song.
  -- Charles Kingsley, 'A Farewell'

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!
  -- George Gordon Noel Byron, Lord Byron, 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'

Roll on, thou ball, roll on
Through pathless realms of space,
Roll on!
  -- Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, 'To the Terrestrial Globe'

Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
  -- Thomas Gray, 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard'

Though I am anything but clever,
I could talk like that forever."
  -- W. S. Gilbert, 'HMS Pinafore'

Faces in the Street -- Henry Lawson

Guest poem submitted by Frank O'Shea:
(Poem #1016) Faces in the Street
 They lie, the men who tell us for reasons of their own
 That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown;
 For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
 My window-sill is level with the faces in the street
    Drifting past, drifting past,
    To the beat of weary feet
 While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

 And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
 To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
 I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
 In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street
    Drifting on, drifting on,
    To the scrape of restless feet;
 I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

 In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
 The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
 Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
 Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street
    Flowing in, flowing in,
    To the beat of hurried feet
 Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

 The human river dwindles when 'tis past the hour of eight,
 Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
 But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
 The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street
    Grinding body, grinding soul,
    Yielding scarce enough to eat
 Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

 And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
 Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
 Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street,
 Tells of the city's unemployed upon his weary beat
    Drifting round, drifting round,
    To the tread of listless feet
 Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.

 And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
 And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
 Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
 Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street
    Ebbing out, ebbing out,
    To the drag of tired feet,
 While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.

 And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day's sad pages end,
 For while the short `large hours' toward the longer `small hours'  trend,
 With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
 Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street
    Sinking down, sinking down,
    Battered wreck by tempests beat
 A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.

 But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
 For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
 Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
 And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street
    Rotting out, rotting out,
    For the lack of air and meat
 In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.

 I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
 Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
 Ah! Mammon's slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
 When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
    The wrong things and the bad things
    And the sad things that we meet
 In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.

 I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
 And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
 But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
 They haunted me  the shadows of those faces in the street,
    Flitting by, flitting by,
    Flitting by with noiseless feet,
 And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.

 Once I cried: `Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
 Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.'
 And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city's street,
 And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
    Coming near, coming near,
    To a drum's dull distant beat,
 And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.

 Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
 The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
 And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution's heat,
 And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
    Pouring on, pouring on,
    To a drum's loud threatening beat,
 And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.

 And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
 The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
 But not until a city feels Red Revolution's feet
 Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street
    The dreadful everlasting strife
    For scarcely clothes and meat
 In that pent track of living death  the city's cruel street.
-- Henry Lawson
Thank you for today's Robert Service poem. The metre and to a certain extent
the theme, reminded me very much of this classic by Henry Lawson.

The poem was written in 1888. Lawson had come to Sydney from the bush five
years earlier and met his mother's friends, many of them radical in their
politics  It is easy to see how a young man would look for the Red flag to
impose a form of equality. It would be exactly 100 years before the events
in Berlin finally killed off that aspiration. It would be many years before
Lawson descended into the hopeless drunk of his final years. He is still the
only Australian poet to be given a state funeral.


[1] "The March of the Dead", Minstrels Poem #980.


Henry Hertzberg Lawson was born on 17 June, 1867 on the goldfields at
Grenfell, New South Wales. His father was originally a Norwegian sailor
whose name was Neils Larsen. He changed his name to Peter Lawson and became
a gold miner. His mother, Louisa (nee Albury) was a very independent lady
and she had a great influence on Henry's life. Peter and Louisa had four
other children besides Henry - Charles, Peter, Getrude and Henrietta (who
died from an illness, in 1879). Henry went to school at Eurunderee and
Mudgee but during the few years he was there, he was often picked on by the
other children. At the age of nine, he developed an ear infection and became
partially deaf. By the time he was fourteen, he was totally deaf. He had a
very difficult childhood as the family were very poor. After leaving school
early, Lawson helped his father on building projects. His first employment
came as an apprentice railway coach painter in 1887, and he was often
worried about missing work because he could not hear the alarm to go to work
because of his deafness.

His parents separated in 1883 and Lawson moved to Sydney with his mother. In
1887, Louisa bought a newspaper called the Republican and it was here that
Lawson's first writing was published. That same year, the Bulletin published
Lawson's first poem and in 1888, it published his first short story, "His
Father's Mate". On New Year's Eve, 1888, Lawson's father died. In 1890,
Lawson travelled to Albany, WA where he wrote for the Albany Observer but
returned in September, 1890 and travelled to Brisbane where he accepted a
position on the Brisbane newspaper, the Boomerang, in 1891.

Between 1888 and 1892, Lawson published many of his most famous poems like
"Andy's Gone with Cattle", "The Roaring Days" and 'The Drover's Wife". In
1892, Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back and it was during
this time that he came to be very conscious of the hardships of bush life.
Also in 1892, Lawson met up with Banjo Patterson, another famous Australian
writer, to debate their views of life in the bush.

Lawson also worked as a shearer and lived with the other workers. He
travelled to New Zealand for seven months where he also worked as a shearer.
Offered a position with the Worker, Lawson returned to Sydney. When the
Worker reverted to a weekly newspaper, he became first a provincial editor
and then a contributor. In 1894 his first collection was published and
Lawson met Bertha Bredt who became his wife in 1896. Bertha Bredt was the
step daughter of Sydney bookseller and radical, W.H. McNamara as well as the
sister-in-law of the politician Jack Lang. Lawson and Bertha had two
children, their son Jim, was born 10 February, 1898 and baby Bertha in 1899.
They travelled again to New Zealand where both Lawson and Bertha worked as
school teachers at a Maori school at Mangamaunu near Kaikoura, in the South

Lawson, always a heavy drinker, had struggled with alchoholism since 1888
but was not troubled by it during his stay in New Zealand despite the
solitude. After his return from New Zealand in 1898 however, his alchoholism
recurred. Lawson published two more prose collections but was becoming more
disenchanted with Australia and in 1900, the family travelled to England,
helped financially by Earl Beauchamp, the governor of NSW, David Scott
Mitchell and the publisher, George Robertson. They rented a house at
Harpeden, 40 km north of London. Lawson continued to write some of his best
work in England but by 1902 decided to return to Australia because of
financial problems and illness.

After his return from England on 21 May, 1902, Lawson and his wife separated
and Lawson became increasingly unstable. Bertha and the two children moved
into Bertha's mother's place when he failed to pay the maintenance to her
and Bertha issued a summons for him because she was afraid of Lawson's
behaviour. On 31 December, the magistrate ordered Henry to pay Bertha 2
pounds weekly. His mother Louisa also suffered mental problems after her
publication "Dawn", a woman's magazine with a strong suffragette bias,
finally closed in 1905. She died in the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane
on 12 August, 1920.

Between 1905 and 1910, Lawson was regularly in prison for non-payment of
maintenance and inebriation. He was also in mental and rehabilitation
sanatoriums and gradually progressed into a pathetic, dissolute, alcoholic
wandering the Sydney streets, begging for money for alchohol. He even tried
to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff but survived despite serious
injuries. His friends, J. Le Gay Brereton, E.J. Brady and George Robertson,
came to his rescue and helped him financially.

Mrs Isabel Byers, who was twenty years older than Lawson, befriended him and
constantly provided shelter and food for him from 1904. In 1916, his friends
found him a position at Leeton, providing data for the Murrumbidgee
Irrigation Area. Lawson continued to produce his works during the First
World War and was well received. On 14 July, 1921, Lawson had a stroke but
continued to write about his travels to London. Between 1920 and 1922, the
government provided a pension for Lawson. On September 2, 1922, at age 55,
Lawson finally died peacefully in his sleep while still writing and was
given a state funeral on 4 September, the first writer to be given one.
Henry Lawson remains one of Australia's most famous writers and his portrait
is on our ten dollar note.

During his life, Lawson lived and wrote in widely different environments and
had known life as a bush worker, house painter, telegraph linesman,
journalist and rouseabout. Much of what he saw and experienced went into his
short stories but his deepest feelings are revealed in his verse. Even in
his earliest life, he was haunted by the impermanence of life and his poetry
in his day was often criticised as being too melancholy. Lawson did not
shrink from reminding people that they must face and endure their lives,
although Lawson himself never lost hope.

        -- [broken link]

(As always, leads to

[Minstrels Links]

Antipodean poems:
Poem #566, Clancy of the Overflow -- A. B. "Banjo" Paterson
Poem #569, The Great Grey Plain -- Henry Lawson
Poem #573, At a Fishing Settlement -- Alistair Campbell

Corsica -- Gerard Bacher

Guest poem submitted by Frank Maher:
(Poem #1015) Corsica
 (Before the Walk)

 Curtains fluttering by an open window
 The coffee is already steaming downstairs
 Looking out at the mountains
 Light brown yellow and high
 In the early sun
 It's the end of the summer
 All the tourists are gone
 You stir on the bed
 And that annoys me
 Prettier than the morning
 I can't remember why I
 Don't want you anymore.

 (After the Walk)

 Soaking in the bath
 The mirror is dripping
 The door  half closed
 All I can see is your toe
 Resting on the silver tap

 Your body is sunk
 I imagine
 A shipwreck
 In shallow (warm) waters
 Arms of soft (wet) wood
 Thighs to hang
 Flags from
 And breasts that float
 Like buoys
 Waiting for the tide to turn
 The moon is in
 A low see saw arch
 Over the mountains
 Spilling milk
 On the slopes
 Comforting a cow
 With a bell around its neck

 Lying on the bed
 Looking at a brochure
 You ask me to join you

 Two alligators
 The door is half open
 The window is closed
 I see a hair
 Under your chin
 Bubbles on your shoulder
 You smile and that annoys me
 Prettier than before
 I can't remember why I
 Don't want you anymore
-- Gerard Bacher
I'd love you to post this poem by the Irish poet Gerard Bacher. Compared
with Heaney and Yeats he is not widely known but he is well respected in
Ireland. He was born in Cork in 1957 and achieved his first public notice
with the publication of a volume of poems entitled "The Western Star" in
1978. His subsequent battle with The University College Press in Cork  over
his next volume "Ulan Ude" led to his move to Achill Island off the west
coast of Ireland where he lived until his untimely death in 1995 after a car

As a student in Cork I had the pleasure of attending his English classes. He
recited "Corsica" at the start of my first term and it made me stick with
the English course. I felt warm in those words, the rest of the day was
spent thinking of that bathroom in Corsica. I think I  skipped biology and
went to the old college bar instead... one of those poems...


A Sea Dirge -- Lewis Carroll

Guest poem submitted by Erin Mansell , in response to our
"Sea Poems" theme from a few weeks ago:
(Poem #1014) A Sea Dirge
 There are certain things--as, a spider, a ghost,
   The income-tax, gout, an umbrella for three--
 That I hate, but the thing that I hate the most
      Is a thing they call the Sea.

 Pour some salt water over the floor--
   Ugly I'm sure you'll allow it to be:
 Suppose it extended a mile or more,
      That's very like the Sea.

 Beat a dog till it howls outright--
   Cruel, but all very well for a spree:
 Suppose that he did so day and night,
      That would be like the Sea.

 I had a vision of nursery-maids;
   Tens of thousands passed by me--
 All leading children with wooden spades,
      And this was by the Sea.

 Who invented those spades of wood?
   Who was it cut them out of the tree?
 None, I think, but an idiot could--
      Or one that loved the Sea.

 It is pleasant and dreamy, no doubt, to float
   With "thoughts as boundless, and souls as free":
 But, suppose you are very unwell in the boat,
      How do you like the Sea?

 There is an insect that people avoid
   (Whence is derived the verb "to flee").
 Where have you been by it most annoyed?
      In lodgings by the Sea.

 If you like your coffee with sand for dregs,
   A decided hint of salt in your tea,
 And a fishy taste in the very eggs--
      By all means choose the Sea.

 And if, with these dainties to drink and eat,
   You prefer not a vestige of grass or tree,
 And a chronic state of wet in your feet,
      Then--I recommend the Sea.

 For I have friends who dwell by the coast--
   Pleasant friends they are to me!
 It is when I am with them I wonder most
      That anyone likes the Sea.

 They take me a walk: though tired and stiff,
   To climb the heights I madly agree;
 And, after a tumble or so from the cliff,
      They kindly suggest the Sea.

 I try the rocks, and I think it cool
   That they laugh with such an excess of glee,
 As I heavily slip into every pool
      That skirts the cold cold Sea.
-- Lewis Carroll
I have been cursing for the last week or so this stint on the sea so I went
in search of some levity on the subject and feel compelled to forward this
to you. I could find very little information on this particular poem but I
felt if I had to see one more line on the sea it had better be funny. Enjoy!


[Minstrels Links]

Lewis Carroll:
Poem #52, Jabberwocky
Poem #265, The Mad Gardener's Song
Poem #347, The Walrus and the Carpenter
Poem #409, Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur
Poem #600, The Mouse's Tale
Poem #935, The Lobster Quadrille
Poem #964, How Doth the Little Crocodile

The cold cold Sea:
Poem #27, Sea Fever  -- John Masefield
Poem #29, The Sea and the Hills  -- Rudyard Kipling
Poem #31, Break, break, break  -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Poem #74, Cargoes  -- John Masefield
Poem #93, Eärendil was a mariner  -- J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #109, The Viking Terror  -- Anon. (Irish, 9th century)
Poem #114, The Soul Cages  -- Gordon Matthew 'Sting' Sumner
Poem #140, By The Sea  -- Christina Rossetti
Poem #141, The City in the Sea  -- Edgar Allan Poe
Poem #143, Harp Song of the Dane Women  -- Rudyard Kipling
Poem #145, Ice  -- Anon. (Old English, 10th century)
Poem #161, The Yarn of the Nancy Bell  -- W. S. Gilbert
Poem #326, The Seafarer  -- Anon. (Old English, pre-10th century
Poem #431, Sea Love  -- Charlotte Mew
Poem #522, In Harbor  -- Constantine Cavafy
Poem #657, The Dark and Turbulent Sea -- Stephen Dobyns
Poem #717, The Wreck of the Hesperus -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poem #758, Sea-Change -- John Masefield
Poem #775, The Maldive Shark -- Herman Melville
Poem #896, The Kraken -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Poem #903, Leviathan -- Anon.
Poem #935, The Lobster Quadrille -- Lewis Carroll
Poem #984, On the Beach at Night -- Walt Whitman
Poem #985, Once by the Pacific -- Robert Frost
Poem #986, A Grave -- Marianne Moore
Poem #987, Prayer -- Carol Ann Duffy
Poem #988, The Idea of Order at Key West -- Wallace Stevens
Poem #989, The Lotos-Eaters -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Poem #990, Sea Calm -- Langston Hughes
Poem #991, Seascape -- Stephen Spender

Carentan O Carentan -- Louis Simpson

(Poem #1013) Carentan O Carentan
 Trees in the old days used to stand
 And shape a shady lane
 Where lovers wandered hand in hand
 Who came from Carentan.

 This was the shining green canal
 Where we came two by two
 Walking at combat-interval.
 Such trees we never knew.

 The day was early June, the ground
 Was soft and bright with dew.
 Far away the guns did sound,
 But here the sky was blue.

 The sky was blue, but there a smoke
 Hung still above the sea
 Where the ships together spoke
 To towns we could not see.

 Could you have seen us through a glass
 You would have said a walk
 Of farmers out to turn the grass,
 Each with his own hay-fork.

 The watchers in their leopard suits
 Waited till it was time,
 And aimed between the belt and boot
 And let the barrel climb.

 I must lie down at once, there is
 A hammer at my knee.
 And call it death or cowardice,
 Don't count again on me.

 Everything's all right, Mother,
 Everyone gets the same
 At one time or another.
 It's all in the game.

 I never strolled, nor ever shall,
 Down such a leafy lane.
 I never drank in a canal,
 Nor ever shall again.

 There is a whistling in the leaves
 And it is not the wind,
 The twigs are falling from the knives
 That cut men to the ground.

 Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
 The way to turn and shoot.
 But the Sergeant's silent
 That taught me how to do it.

 O Captain, show us quickly
 Our place upon the map.
 But the Captain's sickly
 And taking a long nap.

 Lieutenant, what's my duty,
 My place in the platoon?
 He too's a sleeping beauty,
 Charmed by that strange tune.

 Carentan O Carentan
 Before we met with you
 We never yet had lost a man
 Or known what death could do.
-- Louis Simpson
This is a poem of contrasts. Some of these are made explicit, such as that
between lovers walking hand in hand and soldiers patrolling in pairs, or
that between the peace of the countryside and the fury of aerial bombardment
[1]. More subtle and powerful, though, are the contrasts left implicit, and
the most important of these is the contrast between the language of the poem
and its topic. The former is simple, almost naive; the syntax is childlike,
the words used elementary. The repetitive pattern of the last few verses,
the apostrophes to the narrator's mother and various commanding officers
(figures of (compassionate) authority all), the occasionally juvenile
prosody - all these contribute to a 'nursery-rhyme' kind of feeling. And
it's precisely this which gives the poem its power: by inverting the usual
relationship between form and content, the narrator invests the poem with a
peculiarly nightmarish quality. Here simplicity does not imply ease; here
innocence does not imply deliverance; here euphemism, far from degrading or
downplaying the enormity of the events being depicted, adds to their horror.

And oh, the horror. The last stanza easily ranks as one of the most poignant
pieces of verse I've ever read. Wilfred Owen once wrote, "The Poetry is in
the Pity"; today's poem testifies to the truth of that statement.


[1] I thought this phrase was original to me, but a quick Google search
reveals that it's actually the title of a fairly celebrated poem by one
Richard Eberhart. I _thought_ it sounded familiar.


Louis Simpson was born in Jamaica, West Indies, in 1923, the son of a lawyer
of Scottish descent and a Russian mother. He emigrated to the United States
at the age of seventeen, studied at Columbia University, then served in the
Second World War with the 101st Airborne Division on active duty in France,
Holland, Belgium, and Germany. After the war he continued his studies at
Columbia and at the University of Paris. While living in France he published
his first book of poems, The Arrivistes (1949). He worked as an editor in a
publishing house in New York, then earned a Ph.D. at Columbia and went on to
teach at Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, and the State
University of New York at Stony Brook.

In 1975 the publication of Three on the Tower, a study of Ezra Pound, T. S.
Eliot, and William Carlos Williams, brought Simpson wide acclaim as a
literary critic. His other books of criticism include Ships Going Into the
Blue: Essays and Notes on Poetry (1994), The Character of the Poet (1986), A
Company of Poets (1981), and A Revolution in Taste: Studies of Dylan Thomas,
Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Lowell (1978).

Louis Simpson has published seventeen books of original poetry, including
Nombres et poussière (Atelier La Feugraie, 1996); There You Are (Story Line,
1995); In the Room We Share (1990); Collected Poems (1988); People Live
Here: Selected Poems 1949-83 (1983); The Best Hour of the Night (1983);
Caviare at the Funeral (1980); Armidale (1979); Searching for the Ox (1976);
Adventures of the Letter I (1971); Selected Poems (1965); At the End of the
Open Road, Poems (1963), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize; and A Dream of
Governors (1959). He is also the author of a memoir, The King My Father's
Wreck (Story Line, 1995), and published a volume entitled Selected Prose in
1989. His Modern Poets of France: A Bilingual Anthology (Story Line Press)
won the Academy's 1998 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. Among his
many other honors are the Prix de Rome, fellowships from the Guggenheim
Foundation, and the Columbia Medal for Excellence. Louis Simpson lives in
Setauket, New York.


Easter, 1916 -- William Butler Yeats

(Poem #1011) Easter, 1916
 I have met them at close of day
 Coming with vivid faces
 From counter or desk among grey
 Eighteenth-century houses.
 I have passed with a nod of the head
 Or polite meaningless words,
 Or have lingered awhile and said
 Polite meaningless words,
 And thought before I had done
 Of a mocking tale or a gibe
 To please a companion
 Around the fire at the club,
 Being certain that they and I
 But lived where motley is worn:
 All changed, changed utterly:
 A terrible beauty is born.

 That woman's days were spent
 In ignorant good will,
 Her nights in argument
 Until her voice grew shrill.
 What voice more sweet than hers
 When young and beautiful,
 She rode to harriers?
 This man had kept a school
 And rode our winged horse.
 This other his helper and friend
 Was coming into his force;
 He might have won fame in the end,
 So sensitive his nature seemed,
 So daring and sweet his thought.
 This other man I had dreamed
 A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
 He had done most bitter wrong
 To some who are near my heart,
 Yet I number him in the song;
 He, too, has resigned his part
 In the casual comedy;
 He, too, has been changed in his turn,
 Transformed utterly:
 A terrible beauty is born.

 Hearts with one purpose alone
 Through summer and winter seem
 Enchanted to a stone
 To trouble the living stream.
 The horse that comes from the road.
 The rider, the birds that range
 From cloud to tumbling cloud,
 Minute by minute change;
 A shadow of cloud on the stream
 Changes minute by minute;
 A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
 And a horse plashes within it
 Where long-legged moor-hens dive,
 And hens to moor-cocks call.
 Minute by minute they live:
 The stone's in the midst of all.

 Too long a sacrifice
 Can make a stone of the heart.
 O when may it suffice?
 That is heaven's part, our part
 To murmur name upon name,
 As a mother names her child
 When sleep at last has come
 On limbs that had run wild.
 What is it but nightfall?
 No, no, not night but death;
 Was it needless death after all?
 For England may keep faith
 For all that is done and said.
 We know their dream; enough
 To know they dreamed and are dead.
 And what if excess of love
 Bewildered them till they died?
 I write it out in a verse --
 MacDonagh and MacBride
 And Connolly and Pearse
 Now and in time to be,
 Wherever green is worn,
 Are changed, changed utterly:
 A terrible beauty is born.
-- William Butler Yeats
[Historical Note]

"[This poem] celebrates the Easter Rising of 1916, in which a group of Irish
insurgents captured the General Post Office in Dublin and held out for
several days before surrendering. Sixteen of them, including the two
leaders, Pearse and Connolly, were executed. Yeats was clearly fascinated
and at the same time troubled by this heroic and yet in some ways pointless
sacrifice. He later returned to the theme in poem after poem."
        -- George MacBeth, "Poetry 1900 to 1975"


Great Poets (tm) have (indeed, are defined by) an ability to find the
universal in the specific, to seize upon particular incidents and use them
to explore and illuminate the human condition. So what sets Yeats apart? And
what explains the lasting power of such highly topical poems as "Easter
1916", which one might expect to contain little or no relevance to modern

The answer, gentle reader, lies not in the specifics, nor even in the
universalizations drawn therefrom, but in the language used to handle both
of these. Yeats has, and has always had, a majestic command of form, a
subtle yet powerful control of word and phrase that seems effortless because
it is so absolute. Michael Schmidt, in his magisterial study 'he Lives of
the Poets' puts it thus: "This is not the huge competence of Auden, at play
in the toy shop of poetic form, but _mastery_, the possession of a unique
rhetoric for use on a real but limited range of themes".

"Real but limited" is a fair assessment of Yeats' poetic materiel, but
that's not necessarily a criticism. Here's George MacBeth again: "Irish
politics and Irish history came alive to Yeats through the doings of people
he know and loved. His best work is a commentary on the history of a whole
country at the establishment of its freedom, a period of agonising crisis
sees through the eyes of a particularly sensitive and involved member of it.
Ireland  was still small enough in the early twentieth century for one man
to feel its problems personally and would great peotry out of them. No
English poet has been able during the last fifty or sixty years to do this
for more than one particular region. This more than anything else
establishes Yeats' pre-eminence".



William Butler Yeats on the Minstrels:
Poem #1, The Song of Wandering Aengus
Poem #21, Sailing to Byzantium
Poem #32, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Poem #60, Byzantium
Poem #79, Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland
Poem #160, The Realists
Poem #237, The Ballad of Father Gilligan
Poem #289, The Second Coming
Poem #309, The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Poem #324, Three Movements
Poem #407, Solomon and the Witch
Poem #436, When You Are Old
Poem #451, Leda and the Swan
Poem #511, Beautiful Lofty Things
Poem #577, The Cat and the Moon
Poem #597, He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
Poem #641, The Road at My Door
Poem #655, No Second Troy
Poem #918, John Kinsella's Lament for Mrs Mary Moore

Poems from and about Ireland:
Poem #41, Ireland, Ireland  -- Sir Henry Newbolt
Poem #109, The Viking Terror  -- Anon. (Irish, 9th century)
Poem #167, Pangur Ban  -- Anon. (Irish, 8th century)
Poem #185, A Glass of Beer  -- David O'Bruadair
Poem #372, Icham of Irlaunde  -- Anon. (14th century)

Here's a nice article on today's poem:

Nothing Gold Can Stay -- Robert Frost

Guest poem submitted by Gopal Shenoy:
(Poem #1012) Nothing Gold Can Stay
 Nature's first green is gold,
 Her hardest hue to hold.
 Her early leaf's a flower;
 But only so an hour.
 Then leaf subsides to leaf.
 So Eden sank to grief,
 So dawn goes down to day.
 Nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost
I love this poem. This poem not only applies to nature as can be seen in the
lines, but also to life in general. It describes the ups and downs in life
pretty well.

This poem was used very effectively in the movie 'The Outsiders', based on a
book by S.E. Hinton. If you get a chance, get hold of the song 'Stay Gold'
and its lyrics, by Stevie Wonder from the soundtrack to this movie. It
complements the poem very well.


[Minstrels Links]

Robert Frost:
Poem #51, The Road Not Taken
Poem #155, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Poem #170, The Need of Being Versed in Country Things
Poem #336, A Patch of Old Snow
Poem #681, The Secret Sits
Poem #730, Mending Wall
Poem #779, Fire and Ice
Poem #917, A Considerable Speck
Poem #985, Once by the Pacific
Poem #994, The Gift Outright