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English Monarchs -- Anonymous

Guest poem requested by Christie le Goy, and
almost simultaneously submitted by Christopher Martin:
(Poem #1361) English Monarchs
 Willie Willie Harry Stee
 Harry Dick John Harry three;
 One two three Neds, Richard two
 Harrys four five six... then who?
 Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
 Harrys (twain), Ned six (the lad);
 Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
 Then Charlie, Charlie, James again...
 Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
 Georges four, Will four, Victoria;
 Edward seven next, and then
 Came George the fifth in nineteen ten;
 Ned the eighth soon abdicated
 Then George six was coronated;
 After which Elizabeth
 And that's all folks until her death.
-- Anonymous
[Christopher's comments]

I first read a version of this in Alan Bennett's play "Forty Years On"
which however stopped at Victoria. This version I found on the web at
There are no doubt many others.

For those who aren't immediately reminded by it of their school years,
the scrap of verse is supposed to put you in mind of:

William the Conqueror
William II (Rufus)
Henry I (Beauclerc)
Stephen (of Blois)
Henry II (Curtmantle)
Richard I (Lionheart)
John (Lackland)
Henry III
Edward I (Longshanks)
Edward II
Edward III
Richard II
Henry IV (Bolingbroke)
Henry V
Henry VI
Edward IV
Edward V
Richard III (Crookback)
Henry VII (Tudor)
Henry VIII
Edward VI
Mary I (Queen of Scots)
Elizabeth I
James VI of Scotland and I of England
Charles I
Charles II
James II
William II
Mary II
Anne (dead)
George I
George II
George III
George IV
William IV
Edward VII
George V
Edward VIII (abdicated)
George VI
Elizabeth II

[Not mentioned in the list or the mnemonic are the Empress Matilda, only
surviving legitimate child of Henry I, and mother of Henry II, who was
deposed by her cousin Stephen; and Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for
nine days in 1553 - t.]

[Also omitted are the monarchs who ruled prior to the Battle of
Hastings, though looking at their names -- Egbert and Aethelwulf through
Eadwig and Svein to Hardicanute and Harold -- it's not hard to see why -

Untitled -- Donald Monat

Guest poem sent in by Mike Lynd , who writes:
(Poem #1360) Untitled
 Lying south of sweet Northumber,
 Lands of Westmor, Rut and Cumber,
 Nottingham for forest walks,
 Durham, Derby, Lancs and Yorks,
 Leicester, Warwick, Wilts ahead,
 Fords of Here, Staff and Bed,
 Shires of Lincoln, Shrop and Ches,
 Sexes - Middle, Sus and Es!
 Worcester, Gloucester, down the Severn
 South to Somerset and Devon,
 On to Dorset, Kent and Surrey
 Passing London in a hurry.
 Berkshire Thames where Oxford punts,
 Herts or Bucks for Cambridge Hunts,
 Hants and Northants, Norfolk, Suff,
 Cornwall, Monmouth - that's enough.
-- Donald Monat
You asked for it! [Indeed - see Poem #1358 - and I'm glad I did! - martin]

Here are the old counties of England as a mnemonic by someone called Donald
Monat, who, I think, won a competition with it in the magazine, the New

Notes:  Rutland has now gone as has Huntingdonshire.  Americans will need to
be reminded that Warwickshire is Worrick not war-wick and that
Leicestershire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire are lester, wuster and
gloster respectively.  Derbyshire is darby and Hertfordshire is hartford.
[And Here in line 6 has two syllables, as in 'Hereford' - martin]

Best wishes,

Mike Lynd

Dedication -- Salman Rushdie

Guest poem sent in by Nakul Krishna
(Poem #1359) Dedication
 Zembla, Zenda, Xanadu:
 All our dream-worlds may come true.
 Fairy lands are fearsome too.
 As I wander far from view
 Read, and bring me home to you.
-- Salman Rushdie
Driven into hiding by Khomeini's infamous fatwa, a lonely Salman Rushdie
wrote 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' -- an anti-censorship allegory set in
a fantastic quasi-Arabian-Nights world in danger of being destroyed by the
evil 'cult-master' Khattam-Shud, the enemy of all speech itself.

But part of Rushdie's intention in writing 'Haroun' was to explain the
situation to his then nine-year old son, Zafar, whose name is spelt out in
the lines of the above dedication. Clever, and touching, like the book
itself: highly recommended.

Cheers, Nakul.

PS. Possible theme for the Minstrels -- poems by writers better known for
their prose... [nice idea - will carry on with it - martin]

Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States -- Judith Viorst

(Poem #1358) Someday Someone Will Bet That You Can't Name All Fifty States
 California, Mississippi
 North and South Dakota.
 New York, Jersey, Mexico and
 Hampshire, Minnesota.
 Vermont, Wisconsin, Oregon,
 Connecticut and Maine.
 Hawaii, Georgia, Maryland.
 Virginia (West and plain).
 Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas,
 Illinois, Alaska.
 Colorado, Utah, Florida,
 Delaware, Nebraska.
 the Carolinas (North and South).
 Missouri, Idaho.
 Plus Alabama, Washington,
 And Indiana, O-
 Klahoma. Also Iowa,
 Arkansas, Montana,
 Pennsylvania, Arizona,
 And Louisiana.
 Ohio, Massachusetts, and
 Nevada, Michigan,
 Rhode Island, and Wyoming. That
 Makes forty-nine. You win
 As soon as you say ____________.
-- Judith Viorst
It should come as no surprise that I loved this poem. "Someday, Someone..." is
an unabashed piece of playful ingenuity that does for the states what Lehrer
for the Elements [Poem #490], and I loved it for the same reasons - the sheer
satisfaction of seeing a hodgepodge list of names organised into a neat series
of rhymes, and the pleasure of the rhymes themselves. Not to mention a
vicarious thrill at the *cleverness* of it all.

This is, indeed, more puzzle than poetry, a puzzle that Viorst does a
brilliant job of solving. Indeed, the brilliance is twofold, for first she
had to formulate the puzzle, to ask herself "would it be possible to...?".
The twist at the end was wonderful too, even if it did cause me to spend a
good fifteen minutes staring at the list and eliminating states in a
scattershot manner (yes, I did solve it. No, I'm not going to spoil the
answer :))


p.s. Some of you will doubtless be amused that my first thought on reading
line 8 was "West Virginia and just Virginia". I apologise to everyone else :)

p.p.s. If anyone knows of other poems in a similar vein, please do send them


 AAP site: [broken link]

Going to Sleep -- Hermann Hesse

Guest poem sent in by Vaibhav Puranik
(Poem #1357) Going to Sleep
 Now that the day wearies me,
 My yearning desire,
 will receive more kindly,
 like a tired child, the starry night

 Hence, leave off your deeds
 mind, forget all thoughts;
 All of my forces
 yearn only to sink into sleep.

 And my soul, unguarded,
 would soar on widespread wings,
 to live in a night's magical sphere
 More profoundly, more variously.
-- Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha is what made Mr. Hesse famous, but this poem is what endears him
to me!! I believe the original was in "Deutsch" and this is a translated
version, so there might be slightly different versions floating around.

Hesse's depiction of the drained condition (in the 1st two stanzas) is very
vivid. I usually work late, & going home at late hours; my only desire is to
get into my bed & continue the glorious things I do in my dreams...

Biography links:

Best Regards,

Vaibhav Puranik

Qingdao: December -- Vikram Seth

Guest poem submitted by H. K. Tang:
(Poem #1356) Qingdao: December
 Here by the sea this quiet night
 I see the moon through misted light.
 The water laps the rocks below.
 I hear it lap and swash and go.
 The pine-trees, dense and earthward-bent,
 Suffuse the air with resin-scent.
 A landward breeze combs through my hair
 And cools the earth with salted air.

 Here all attempt in life appears
 Irrelevant.  The erosive years
 That build the moon and the rock and tree
 Speak of a sweet futility
 And say that we who are from birth
 Caressed by unimpulsive earth
 Should yield our fever to the trees,
 The seaward light and the resined breeze.

 Here by the sea this quiet night
 Where my still spirit could take flight
 And nullify the heart's distress
 Into the peace of wordlessness,
 I see the light, I breathe the scent,
 I touch the insight, but a bent
 Of heart exacts its old designs
 And draws my hands to write these lines.
-- Vikram Seth
Vikram's poems remind me of poems from the Tang Dynasty.  It is hardly
surprising since he translated Tang poems.  "Qingdao: December" is taken
from his collection 'All You Who Sleep Tonight'.  The first few lines
immediately mesmerize with the tranquility of a seaside town on the
eastern coast of China.  The rhymes and measures fuse so naturally with
the surroundings being described that one hardly notices the clever
structure of the poem.  This I guess is the beauty of Vikram's art, it
soothes and hypnotizes.  The poem ends with a magical snap by referring
to a "bent of heart exacts its old designs and draws my hands to write
these lines".  It is a wonderful illustration of how rest and
relaxation, ironically one may say, stimulate the creative mind.

H. K. Tang

The Day That You Love Me -- Alfredo Lepera

Guest submission by
(Poem #1355) The Day That You Love Me
 It caresses my dream,
 the smooth murmur of your sighing.
 How life laughs,
 if your black eyes look at me.
 And if it is mine the shelter
 of your slight laughter
 that is like singing,
 it calms my wound,
 everything is forgotten.

 The day that you love me
 the rose that adorns,
 will dress in celebration
 with its best color
 And to the wind the church bells
 will say that already you are mine,
 and the crazy fountains
 will tell about their love.

 The night that you love me
 from the blue of the sky
 the jealous stars
 will watch us go by.
 And a mysterious ray
 will nest in your hair,
 inquisitive glow-worm that'll see
 that you are my consolation.

 The day that you love me
 there'll be nothing but harmony.
 The dawn will be clear
 and the water spring will be happy.
 The breeze will quietly bring
 a rumor of melody.
 And the fountains will give us
 their crystal song.

 The day that you love me
 the singing bird
 will sweeten its cords.
 Life will bloom
 pain will not exist.

 The night that you love me
 from the blue of the sky
 the jealous stars
 will watch us go by.
 And a mysterious ray
 will nest in your hair,
 inquisitive glow-worm that'll see
 that you are my consolation.
-- Alfredo Lepera
          (Translated by: Alberto Paz)

"The Day that You Love Me" is the English translation of "El Dia que Me
Quieras,"an exquisite love ballad from 1935 made popular in Latin America and
the Caribbean by the renowned Tango balladeer, Carlos Gardel.  Incidentally,
the legendary Gardel also wrote its music which even as a piano solo, has the
ability to make one transcend space, thought and circumstance.

The poetic lyrics of "El Dia" speak about the realization of a near alchemical
kind of love, and the sublime feelings and blissful experiences such a love
would engender.  These transformational feelings and experiences are best
understood through its highly romantic Spanish version. For though I love the
possibility in the union of most words of various languages, the words of some
languages are good for thinking and other linear activities, but sometimes, a
language like Spanish is best for FEELing "El Dia que Me Quieras."

Not succumbing to absolute, literal translations but prefering those which
remain authentic to the piece's orginal ideas yet contain space for subtle,
cultural nuances, following is my English version of "El Dia que Me Quieras" or
"The Day that You Love Me"  followed by the Castilian Spanish original.



It caresses my dreams,
the delicate murmur of your sighs.
How life would smile,
if your dark eyes would look my way.
And if mine would be the mercy
of your soft laughter--like a song--
it would soothe my wound
and all else would be forgotten.

The day that you love me,
the embellishing rose
would festively dress
in the loveliest of colour.
And to the wind,
the church bells would declare
that you are mine
while the foolish fountains
recount their love.

The evening that you love me,
from the blue of the sky,
the jealous stars,
will see us pass by.
And a mysterious bolt of light
will nest itself in your hair,
while a curious glow-worm finds
that you are my shelter.

The day that you love me,
there'll be naught but harmony.
Clear will be the dawn,
and happy the spring water.
The breeze will calmy bring
a rumour of a melody,
and the fountains will offer us
their crystal songs.

The day that you love me,
the singing bird
will sweeten it's song.
Life will bloom,
and pain will cease.

The evening that you love me,
from the blue of the sky,
the jealous stars,
will see us pass by.
And a mysterious bolt of light
will nest itself in your hair,
while a curious glow-worm finds
that you are my shelter.


Acaricia mi ensueño
el suave murmullo de tu suspirar.
Como rie la vida
si tus ojos negros me quieren mirar.
Y si es mio el amparo
de tu risa leve
que es como un cantar,
ella aquieta mi herida,
todo todo se olvida.

El día que me quieras
la rosa que engalana,
se vestirá de fiesta
con su mejor color.
Y al viento las campanas
dirán que ya eres mía,
y locas las fontanas
se contaran su amor.

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterioso
hara nido en tu pelo,
luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

El día que me quieras
no habra más que armonía.
Será clara la aurora
y alegre el manantial.
Traerá quieta la brisa
rumor de melodía.
Y nos daran las fuentes
su canto de cristal.

El día que me quieras
endulzara sus cuerdas
el pajaro cantor.
Florecerá la vida
no existira el dolor

La noche que me quieras
desde el azul del cielo,
las estrellas celosas
nos mirarán pasar.
Y un rayo misterios
hará nido en tu pelo.
Luciernaga curiosa que veras
que eres mi consuelo.

Ah, Love! Could Thou and I with Fate Conspire -- Omar Khayyam

Guest poem sent in by Nitesh Dixit
(Poem #1354) Ah, Love! Could Thou and I with Fate Conspire
 Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
 To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire!
 Would not we shatter it to bits - and then
 Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
-- Omar Khayyam
          (trans. Edward Fitzgerald)

I came across this Rubai almost a year back where it was scribbled to the
door of a friend's hostel room, by some previous occupant. And I recall these
lines to this day mainly because I kept on searching for the author and/or
the complete verse. I found them only yesterday when I again gave a google
search after so many days.

Somehow I felt it had to have more to it. Well, it doesn't and it is still
complete. Brings to mind the words of my literature professor: "A poem should
not mean but be". This one is.


[Martin adds]

I almost envy Nitesh the thrill of discovering the Rubaiyat for the first
time, and his wonderful observation that no, there isn't any more to the
quatrain, but that it is nonetheless complete (in itself a sentiment that
would not be out of place in Khayyam's opus).


Things I miss the most -- Steely Dan

Guest poem submitted by Prashanth Pappu:
(Poem #1353) Things I miss the most
 I don't mind the quiet
 Or the lonely nights
 I don't miss the funky attitudes
 And I don't miss the fights
 I lie on the couch till suppertime
 And hunker down and read the Post
 And that's when I remember the things I miss the most:

 The talk
 The sex
 Somebody to trust
 The Audi TT
 The house on the Vineyard
 The house on the gulf coast
 These are the things I miss the most

 I kinda like frying up
 My sad cuisine
 Gettin' in bed and curling up with a girlie magazine
 But sometimes in the corner of my eye
 I see that adorable ghost
 And then ba-boom I remember the things I miss the most

 The talk
 The sex
 Somebody to trust
 The comfy Eames chair
 The good copper pans
 The '54 Strat
 These are the things I miss the most

 I had a little birdy friend
 By morning she was gone
 Birdy good-bye
 Birdy bye-bye

 I'm learning how to meditate
 So far so good
 I'm building the Andrea Doria out of balsa wood
 The days really don't last forever
 But it's getting pretty damn close
 And that's when I remember the things I miss the most:

 The talk
 The sex
 Somebody to trust
 The Audi TT
 The house on the Vineyard
 The house on the gulf coast
 These are the things I miss the most.
-- Steely Dan
The minstrels poem on September 16th ("Things I Didn't Know I Loved")
reminded me of this Steely Dan song from their new album ("Everything
Must Go"). I was a little unsure about sending in the lyrics of a Steely
Dan song. But then, I found two other songs by Steely Dan - "Charlie
Freak" (Poem #921) and "Chain Lighting" (Poem #965) on Minstrels.

Steely Dan's songs more often than not are misty stories of scheming
husbands ("Gaslighting Abbie"), divorcees ("Things I miss the most"),
stalkers ("Lunch with Gina") and voyeurs ("Cousin Dupree"). The lyrics
unapologetically twine the banal and the personal to create cheerless
imagery and are replete with dark humour, cryptic innuendo, verbal
sophism and even cheap wisecracks. The duo (Donald Fagen and Walter
Becker) of Steely Dan are themselves the epitome of unflappable cool,
the wisecracking losers who in spite of their affected stance endear
themselves to their fans because of the genuine lack of artifice in
their works.

Every new Steely Dan song is clinically dissected and examined by their
devoted minions at

- Prashanth

The Sea -- Barry Cornwall

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1352) The Sea
 The sea! the sea! the open sea!
 The blue, the fresh, the ever free!
 Without a mark, without a bound,
 It runneth the earth's wide regions round!
 It plays with the clouds; it mocks the skies;
 Or like a cradled creature lies.

 I'm on the sea! I'm on the sea!
 I am where I would ever be;
 With the blue above, and the blue below,
 And silence wheresoe'er I go;
 If a storm should come and awake the deep,
 What matter? I shall ride and sleep.

 I love, oh, how I love to ride
 On the fierce, foaming, bursting tide,
 When every mad wave drowns the moon,
 Or whistles aloft his tempest tune,
 And tells how goeth the world below,
 And why the sou'west blasts do blow.

 I never was on the dull, tame shore,
 But I loved the great sea more and more,
 And backward flew to her billowy breast,
 Like a bird that seeketh its mother's nest;
 And a mother she was, and is, to me;
 For I was born on the open sea!

 The waves were white, and red the morn,
 In the noisy hour when I was born;
 And the whale it whistled, the porpoise rolled,
 And the dolphins bared their backs of gold;
 And never was heard such an outcry wild
 As welcomed to life the ocean-child!

 I've lived since then, in calm and strife,
 Full fifty summers, a sailor's life,
 With wealth to spend and a power to range,
 But never have sought nor sighed for change;
 And Death, whenever he comes to me,
 Shall come on the wild, unbounded sea!
-- Barry Cornwall
          (Bryan Waller Proctor)

Another gem from schooldays. No need to say more - except
a disagreement about the "outcry wild". My teacher insisted
it was the child's first cry, but I like to think it was the
sea creatures welcoming him.

Oil tankers and whalers have since taken their toll of the sea,
but Nature has a way of having the last word.


London Airport -- Christopher Logue

Guest poem submitted by Jayanth Srinivasan:
(Poem #1351) London Airport
 Last night in London Airport
 I saw a wooden bin
 So I wrote a poem
 and popped it in.
-- Christopher Logue
I found this pearl in the ninth edition of "Poems of the Underground". I
found the book at a used book sale and it's one of the best books I've

This particular poem is amazing in that's it's so small and simple and
yet so pleasing. You can interpret the poem in so many different ways. A
witty pun, perhaps, and nothing more? Or a peek into the insecurities of
the poet? Either way, you can't help but smile.


Things I Didn't Know I Loved -- Nazim Hikmet

Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1350) Things I Didn't Know I Loved
 it's 1962 March 28th
 I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
 night is falling
 I never knew I liked
 night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
 I don't like
 comparing nightfall to a tired bird

 I didn't know I loved the earth
 can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
 I've never worked the earth
 it must be my only Platonic love

 and here I've loved rivers all this time
 whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
 European hills crowned with chateaus
 or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
 I know you can't wash in the same river even once
 I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
 I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
 I know this has troubled people before
 and will trouble those after me
 I know all this has been said a thousand times before
 and will be said after me

 I didn't know I loved the sky
 cloudy or clear
 the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
 in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
 I hear voices
 not from the blue vault but from the yard
 the guards are beating someone again
 I didn't know I loved trees
 bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
 they come upon me in winter noble and modest
 beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
 "the poplars of Izmir
 losing their leaves. . .
 they call me The Knife. . .
 lover like a young tree. . .
 I blow stately mansions sky-high"
 in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
 to a pine bough for luck

 I never knew I loved roads
 even the asphalt kind
 Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
 formerly "Goktepili" in Turkish
 the two of us inside a closed box
 the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
 I was never so close to anyone in my life
 bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Gered(&
 when I was eighteen
 apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take
 and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
 I've written this somewhere before
 wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
 Ramazan night
 a paper lantern leading the way
 maybe nothing like this ever happened
 maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
 going to the shadow play
 Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand
 his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
 with a sable collar over his robe
 and there's a lantern in the servant's hand
 and I can't contain myself for joy
 flowers come to mind for some reason
 poppies cactuses jonquils
 in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
 fresh almonds on her breath
 I was seventeen
 my heart on a swing touched the sky
 I didn't know I loved flowers
 friends sent me three red carnations in prison

 I just remembered the stars
 I love them too
 whether I'm floored watching them from below
 or whether I'm flying at their side

 I have some questions for the cosmonauts
 were the stars much bigger
 did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
 or apricots on orange
 did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
 I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't
 be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
 well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
 say they were terribly figurative and concrete
 my heart was in my mouth looking at them
 they are our endless desire to grasp things
 seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
 I never knew I loved the cosmos

 snow flashes in front of my eyes
 both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
 I didn't know I liked snow

 I never knew I loved the sun
 even when setting cherry-red as now
 in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
 but you aren't about to paint it that way
 I didn't know I loved the sea
 except the Sea of Azov
 or how much

 I didn't know I loved clouds
 whether I'm under or up above them
 whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

 moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
 strikes me
 I like it

 I didn't know I liked rain
 whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
 heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
 and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
 rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
 by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
 is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
 one alone could kill me
 is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
 her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

 the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
 I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
 sparks fly from the engine
 I didn't know I loved sparks
 I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
 to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
 watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return
-- Nazim Hikmet
           19 April 1962, Moscow
           Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)


Justice's poem [Poem #1343] was triggered by, as William wrote, something on
the periphery; a light at a window. This brings to my mind a whole slew of
poems that triggered by visions and sightings like that. We have Pasternak's
Winter Night [Poem #45] and that super incantaion "and a candle burned on the
table". This is linked to one of the early scenes of the novel, Dr.  Zhivago,
where he watches a candle burning at a window. We also have Seth's Protocols,
where the narrator is walking past a house and writes "May the sun burn these
footprints on the lawn".

This brings us to this lyrical monolouge of Hikmet in which he lists all
those peripheral things that he had experienced (and which I suppose all
of us have or will experience) in his life and brings to each of those
recollections, a sweet ache of finally talking about them and acknowleding
those experiences. While Justice's poem deals with just a single incident
this poem is almost autobiographical in sweep, making it more "sumptous".

I first came upon a snippet of this poem in the New York Times Book Review
and just loved those lines:

"I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass "

And since it had been raining off and on, here in Atlanta, these lines
have been on my periphery in the recent days.


The Icelandic Language -- Bill Holm

(Poem #1349) The Icelandic Language
 In this language, no industrial revolution;
 no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
 only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
 The middle class can hardly speak it.

 In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
 through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
 The door groans; the old smell comes
 up from under the earth to meet you.

 But this language believes in ghosts;
 chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
 neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
 at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

 The woman with marble hands whispers
 this language to you in your sleep; faces
 come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
 wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

 In this language, you can't chit-chat
 holding a highball in your hand, can't
 even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
 all your grief and failure come clear at last.

 Old inflections move from case to case,
 gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
 vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
 icebergs back and forth in its mouth.
-- Bill Holm
Icelanders are very protective of their culture: of their literature and
language in particular. It used to be (and possibly still is) the law in
Iceland that babies have to be given traditional Icelandic names;
immigrants, likewise, are required to change their names to Icelandic
ones [1]. New concepts and imports are not described using modified
forms of foreign words (the way Japanese, for instance, has 'terebi' for
television and 'hochikisu' for stapler [2]).

No wonder, then, that speaking (or reading) Icelandic can seem like
stepping back in time. This is what Bill Holm is talking about in
today's poem, and a marvellous job he does of it, too. I especially like
the last stanza, wherein the progression of what is and isn't possible
in the Icelandic language comes to a magnificent and stirring climax.


[1] an exception - the only one - was made for Vladimir Ashkenazy.

[2] from the name of Connecticut manufacturer E. H. Hotchkiss, who
invented the modern stapler.

[Links and stuff]

Here's a nice oveview of the Icelandic language:

Pico Iyer's "Falling Off The Map" captures the beauty and mystery of
Iceland very, ermm, evocatively. Also strongly recommended is his "Video
Night in Kathmandu" (not about Iceland).

The Icelandic sagas are masterpieces of world literature. Penguin
recently published a compulsively readable edition of the entire corpus
(edited by Ornolfur Thorsson, with a preface by Jane Smiley). Various
translations of the Elder Edda and the Prose Edda are also available.

Bill Holm has written a travel book, "Eccentric Islands", in which he
describes his journeys to and through five islands. Iceland is one of
them. Mr Holm, though born in Minnesota, is of Icelandic ancestry; the
name "Holm" actually means 'island' in Icelandic. I haven't read the
book itself, but online reviews seem mostly positive.

Incidentally, "The Icelandic Language" forms an interesting companion
piece to my previous post to the list, David Huddle's "Ooly Pop a Cow".
The former depicts the majesty and power (and yes, occasional
impracticality) of a language that has refused to be swept along in the
current of modernity; the latter captures the joy and energy (and yes,
occasional shallow vulgarity) of a language that's constantly changing,
mutating, evolving. A lovely contrast, and a though-provoking one.

Polterguest, My Polterguest -- Ogden Nash

Guest poem sent in by atheos
(Poem #1348) Polterguest, My Polterguest
 I've put Miss Hopper upon the train,
 And I hope to do so never again,
 For must I do so, I shouldn't wonder
 If, instead of upon it, I put her under.

 Never has host encountered a visitor
 Less desirable, less exquisiter,
 Or experienced such a tangy zest
 In beholding the back of a parting guest.

 Hoitful-toitful Hecate Hopper
 Haunted our house and haunted it proper,
 Hecate Hopper left the property
 Irredeemably Hecate Hopperty.

 The morning paper was her monopoly
 She read it first, and Hecate Hopperly,
 Handing on to the old subscriber
 A wad of Dorothy Dix and fiber.

 Shall we coin a phrase for "to unco-operate"?
 How about trying "to Hecate Hopperate"?
 On the maid's days off she found it fun
 To breakfast in bed at quarter to one.

 Not only was Hecate on a diet,
 She insisted that all the family try it,
 And all one week end we gobbled like pigs
 On rutabagas and salted figs.

 She clogged the pipes and she blew the fuses,
 She broke the rocker that Grandma uses,
 And she ran amok in the medicine chest,
 Hecate Hopper, the Polterguest.

 Hecate Hopper, the Polterguest
 Left stuff to be posted or expressed,
 And absconded, her suavity undiminished,
 With a mystery story I hadn't finished.

 If I pushed Miss Hopper under the train
 I'd probably have to do it again,
 For the time that I pushed her off the boat
 I regretfully found Miss Hopper could float.
-- Ogden Nash
I think there's something about Nash that's irresistible. He just
sweeps you up and away with him.

This one is my absolute favourite. You find yourself in sympathy
with his - even if only in jest - homicidal tendencies. Everybody
has met one of these irritating people. Heck, it could even be
ourselves... Grin.


From The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash, with an introduction by Louis
Untermeyer (I personally think Untermeyer gushes too much, but I thought I
should type everything out because it has some rather nice lines
interspersed between the longwinded prose.):

 "There seem to be at least three Ogden Nashes. There are, for
 example: 1. the experimental craftsman 2. the social critic 3. the
 skylarking humourist. Sometimes Nash keeps these three selves
 fairly well segregated. But, more often than not, he lets down the
 bars and allows 1. the innovator, 3. the philosopher, and 3. the
 funny fellow to kick up their heels in happy unison. This volume
 is chiefly given over to the best of those tripartite romps.

 It was Nash in the role of experimental craftsman who first made
 readers aware that something new had happened to light verse in
 America. Accustomed to smoothly paired rhymes and neatly measured
 stanzas, readers were suddenly stopped by the impact of lines

 I sit in an office at 244 Madison Avenue
 And say to myself you have a responsible job, havenue?

 Cajoled by talk of babies, even parents were startled to find:

 A bit of talcum
 Is always walcum.

 The reader of Nash learned his lessons in a new school; he learned
 of too much affection which:

 .. leads to breaches of promise
 If you go lavishing it around on red hot momise.

 He pondered the theatrical reflection that:

 In the Vanities
 No one wears panities.

 He learned to decipher the weird but comforting axiom that:

 A girl who is bespectacled,
 She may not get her necktacled;
 But safety pins and bassinets
 Await the girl who fassinets.

 Here and elsewhere Nash invents lines that run blithely on without
 benefit of metre and rhymes so madcap as to be irresponsible.
 Instead of pleasing the reader with the customary niceties, Nash
 assaults him with a series of breathless outrages. One or two
 fanatical source-hunters claim to have found the origin of Nash's
 eccentric lines in W.S. Gilbert's "Lost Mr. Blake". But an
 unprejudiced comparison will show that the two styles have little
 in common and that, whereas Gilbert made the experiment just once,
 Nash uses it so freely and so efficiently that he has put his
 trademark upon it.

 So with the rhymes. Nash is the master of surprising words that
 nearly but do-not-quite match, words which rhyme reluctantly,
 words which never before had any relation with each other and
 which will never be on rhyming terms again.
 Here are those apparently improvised monologues in which the
 distortions are more lively - and more quotable - than any
 prepared accuracy.

 What would you do if you were up a dark alley with Caesar Borgia
 And he was coming torgia...

 But the slightly lunatic manner is deceptive. Disguised as a
 buffoon who cannot resist a parody and a pun, there is the social
 critic. Here again Nash has a fresh set of surprises up his ample
 sleeve... Even without his unique bag of technical tricks, Nash
 creates the deftest light verse being written today. The longer
 and more elaborately contrived poems are topical and timely; but
 there is something timeless in the nimble gallantry of "To a Lady
 Passing Time Better Left Unpassed". the whimsical appeal of
 "Complaint to Four Angels", the submerged but not too supressed
 anger of "To a Small Boy Standing on My Shoes While I Am Wearing
 Them", the affable sentiment of "An Introduction To Dogs". and the
 merry malice in what is perhaps the most philosophic and certainly
 the funniest poem in the collection, "The Seven Spritual Ages of
 Mrs. Marmaduke Moore".

 Nash the rhyming clown may win us first, but it is Nash the
 laughing philosopher who holds us longest. Only Nash could have
 combined the tones of banter and burlesque to tell us:

 Our daily diet grows odder and odder-
 It's a wise child that knows its fodder.

 Finally there emerges from this collection a portrait of Nash
 himself, the whole person not quite concealed by the poet. We are
 made aware of his intimate dislikes or (since most of them begin
 with a "p") his prejudices; they include politicians and people's
 names and parsley ("parsley is gharsley") and poems by Edgar A.
 Guest and professors and parties next door. We see him leaping
 about without effort from childlike fancy to mature irony; a crazy
 storyteller one moment, a satirist the next, a wry clown and a
 chuckling critic. It is then that we recognize how rounded the man
 really is, how much more than the haphazard rhymer he reveals. His
 is an inspired method which has just the right measure of madness
 in it, a recklessness that is never without reason. In other and
 flatter words, Nash is our greatest combiner of common sense and
 uncommon nonsense, the undisputed American heir of Edward Lear,
 Lewis Carroll and W. S. Gilbert.

        -- Louis Untermeyer

In a Library -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem sent in by Sutirth Dey
(Poem #1347) In a Library
 A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
 To meet an antique book,
 In just the dress his century wore;
 A privilege, I think,

 His venerable hand to take,
 And warming in our own,
 A passage back, or two, to make
 To times when he was young.

 His quaint opinions to inspect,
 His knowledge to unfold
 On what concerns our mutual mind,
 The literature of old;

 What interested scholars most,
 What competitions ran
 When Plato was a certainty.
 And Sophocles a man;

 When Sappho was a living girl,
 And Beatrice wore
 The gown that Dante deified.
 Facts, centuries before,

 He traverses familiar,
 As one should come to town
 And tell you all your dreams were true;
 He lived where dreams were sown.

 His presence is enchantment,
 You beg him not to go;
 Old volumes shake their vellum heads
 And tantalize, just so.
-- Emily Dickinson
I love to collect books. Recently my quest led me to a dingy shop in
Bangalore that is famous all over India for its collection of old and rare
books. I was in a hurry and intended to spend no more than 10-15 minutes
there. Ended up spending approximately three hours and during almost the
entire duration, this poem kept on going through my mind. I had read this
poem several times before, but that day I felt it!!

As far as the poem goes, I hardly find any need for comments. The
personification of the old book, the 'time machine'-like ability of the book
to transport the readers to its own era and finally the crash back to the
reader's own time- is entirely magical. Anyone who has read an old,
musty-smelling, slightly tattered volume will vouch for whatever is
expressed here. Obviously, this feeling is lacking entirely when you read
poems/books over the internet!!!

Sutirth Dey

[Martin adds]

I liked Sutirth's commentary, since I have often had the same experience - a
poem, or perhaps a single line, attaches itself to a particular occasion,
and my experience of both the poem and the occasion are enhanced thereby.
Poetry truly is a collaborative effort between the writer and the reader, a
fact that overly analytical critics often forget.

Sutirth also asked
>  Can you tell me what happened to the site:
>      [broken link]
> The site has been removed and I can not find its new location. It is a great
> loss to the entire poetry reading community of the world.

Since the answer is of general interest, here's the new location:


Ooly Pop a Cow -- David Huddle

(Poem #1346) Ooly Pop a Cow
     for Bess and Molly

 My brother Charles
 brought home the news
 the kids were saying
 take a flying leap
 and eat me raw
 and be bop a lula.

 Forty miles he rode
 the bus there and back.
 The dog and I met him
 at the door, panting
 for hoke poke, hoke
 de waddy waddy hoke poke.

 In Cu Chi, Vietnam,
 I heard tapes somebody's
 sister sent of wild thing,
 I think I love you
 and hey now, what's that
 sound, everybody look what's ...

 Now it's my daughters
 bringing home no-duh,
 rock out, whatever,
 like I totally
 paused, and like
 I'm like ...

 I'm like Mother, her hands
 in biscuit dough,
 her ears turning red
 from ain't nothing butta,
 blue monday, and
 tutti frutti, aw rooty!
-- David Huddle
David Huddle, (b. 1942, Ivanhoe, VA) was a parachutist in Vietnam. He
lives in Vermont, where he writes fiction and essays as well as poetry.
Today's poem is from "Summer Lake", published in 1999. It's a simple and
direct offering that uses language and popular music to personalize the
passage of time, in just five short stanzas. Nothing spectacular, but
nice nonetheless.


PS. Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, the
Troggs, Buffalo Springfield... yeah.

Remembrance -- Emily Bronte

Guest poem sent in by "Maid Stone"
(Poem #1345) Remembrance
 Cold in the earth and the deep snow piled above thee!
 Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
 Have I forgot, my Only Love, to love thee,
 Severed at last by Time's all wearing wave?

 Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
 Over the mountains on Angora's shore;
 Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
 That noble heart for ever, ever more?
 Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers
 From those brown hills have melted into Spring -
 Faithful indeed is the spirit that remembers
 After such years of change and suffering!

 Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee
 While the World's tide is bearing me along:
 Sterner desires and darker hopes beset me,
 Hopes which obscure but cannot do thee wrong.

 No other sun has lightened up my heaven;
 No other star has ever shone for me:
 All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given -
 All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.

 But when the days of golden dreams had perished
 And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
 Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
 Strengthened and fed without the aid of joy;

 Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
 Weaned my young soulfrom yearning after thine;
 Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
 Down to that tomb already more than mine!

 And even yet, I dare not let it languish,
 Dare not indulge in Memory's rapturous pain,
 Once drinking deep of the divinest anguish
 How could I seek the empty world again.
-- Emily Bronte
Emily's poetry is often overshadowed by her undeniable materpiece, Wuthering
Heights.  This poem is an astonishing example of the imaginative powers of a
woman who grew up in the shletered environment of a small village in
Yorkshire, daughter of a minister.  I love the use of punctuation in this
poem - see the use of capitals and of exclamation points?  And who could
failed to be moved by the stanza:

"No other sun has lightened up my heaven;
No other star has ever shone for me:
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given -
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee."

The reference to Angora's shore suggests this poem formed part of the
imaginary world she created with her sister Anne.


Please Fire Me -- Deborah Garrison

Guest poem sent in by Katherine Woolfitt
(Poem #1344) Please Fire Me
 Here comes another alpha male,
 and all the other alphas
 are snorting and pawing,
 kicking up puffs of acrid dust

 while the silly little hens
 clatter back and forth
 on quivering claws and raise
 a titter about the fuss.

 Here comes another alpha male--
 a man's man, a dealmaker,
 holds tanks of liquor,
 charms them pantsless at lunch:

 I've never been sicker.
 Do I have to stare into his eyes
 and sympathize? If I want my job
 I do. Well I think I'm through

 with the working world,
 through with warming eggs
 and being Zenlike in my detachment
 from all things Ego.

 I'd like to go
 somewhere else entirely,
 and I don't mean
-- Deborah Garrison
I've been quite behind on reading Minstrels, and I just today got to the
math poems of late July.  They reminded me of graduate school & what it's
like to do philosophy professionally, which in turn reminded me of one of
the more unpleasant aspects of analytic research, viz. the all-too-frequent
sexism.  And that in turn reminded me of this poem by Deborah Garrison (who I
think hasn't appeared on the list yet?) that I've always liked, for
capturing exactly what it's like to deal with this sort of thing.


[Martin adds]

Perfect ending (I do love those) - beautifully timed, and eliciting almost
unbidden that audible "ah" of surprise and gratification. I wasn't really
getting into the poem until the last stanza, but that pulled it all together
for me. (I wonder if there's a deliberate reference to Cummings's "listen:
there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go", but either way, it's
fully as satisfying a line).

  Brief biography and some poems:

  Academy of American Poets page:
    [broken link]

Poem to be read at 3 a.m. -- Donald Justice

This poem was submitted independently by two readers in response to
yesterday's offering (statius' 'to sleep'): Howard Weinberg
and William Schubert :
(Poem #1343) Poem to be read at 3 a.m.
 Excepting the diner
 On the outskirts.
 The town of Ladora
 At 3 a.m.
 Was dark but
 For my headlights
 And up in
 One second-story room
 A single light
 Where someone
 Was sick or
 Perhaps reading
 As I drove past
 At seventy
 Not thinking.
 This poem
 Is for whoever
 Had the light on
-- Donald Justice
 from "Night Light".

[Howard's comments]

Two things I like about this poem: the way it acknowledges the
brotherhood of those who are not asleep; and the way it captures that
midwestern gothic feeling, which is not at all about dentists with
pitchforks, pace Grant Wood, but is about frail cones of light
shimmering in the prairie darkness.

It is plain, elegant, spare, devastating and, somehow, redemptive. Read
it again.

[William's comments]

I am not an insomniac.  My brain typically shuts down around 9pm and I
get up for meditation around 4:15 so I have little understanding of
insomnia however grateful I am that I don't suffer it.  My social life
has always been a bit truncated by my lack of enjoyment of anything that
happens after 10pm.

But, I feel the voices in this poem.  I think it is because something in
me travels in the night.  I've been on the road through Ladora.
Otherwise how could I so readily recognize the landscape of this simple
poem.  My life (all of our lives) zip along at 70 and it is so difficult
to be aware in the present tense of that single light we passed, that
single person who was by the roadside, that single soul existing in the
periphery of our vision.  Except in memory and regret at having not been
sufficiently in the moment to connect with that other sentient
inhabitant of our world.

I read this poem for the first time in high school. It touched me then
and has haunted me ever since.  I've heard the sound of those tires on
the streets of Ladora in the back of my mind for thirty five years.  And
I have more than once looked up and seen a lighted window and sent a
thought there.  Not alone.  Not alone.

To Sleep -- Statius

Guest poem submitted by Dave Fortin:
(Poem #1342) To Sleep
 What is the charge, young god, what have I done
 Alone to be denied, in desperate straits,
 Epitome of Calm, your treasure, Sleep?
 Hush holds enmeshed each herd, fowl, prowling beast;
 The trees, capitulating, nod to aching sleep;
 The raging floods relinquish their firm roar;
 The heavy sea has ceased and the oceans curl
 Upon the lap of land to sink and rest.
 The moon has now in seven visits seen
 My wild eyes staring; seven stars of dawn
 And twilight have returned to me
 And sunrise, transient witness of distress,
 Has in compassion sprayed dew from her whip.
 Where is the strength I need?  It would defeat
 The consecrated Argus, thousand-eyed
 Despite the watch that one part of him keeps,
 Nerves taut, on guard relentlessly.
 Oh Sleep, some couple, bodies interlocked,
 Must shut you from their night-long ecstasy;
 So come to me.  I issue no demand
 That you enfold mine eyes with your wings--
 Let all the world, more fortunate, beg that.
 Your wand-tip's mere caress, your hovering form
 Poised lightly on tiptoe: that is enough.
-- Statius
Statius (Publius Papinius Statius) was born in Naples around the year 45
AD. Very little is recorded about his life and most of what is known is
gleaned from his own writings. He lived in Rome most of his life and was
a court poet under the emperor Domitian.  He enjoyed some success in
public recitations and poetic contests in Rome, winning the poetry prize
at one of Domitian's annual festivals around 83 A.D.  However, in 94
A.D. he complains of being unsuccessful at the Capitoline contest,
considered the greatest of the declamatory contests in Rome.  His
disappointment at failing to win the coveted oak wreath, combined with
ill health, lead to his return to Naples where he died around 96 A.D.

As an insomniac, I love this poem. It is one of the few poetic
representations I have seen that conveys the feelings of one who cannot
sleep. The belief that such lack of sleep is against the natural order
of things (lines 4-8); the desperation of the want of sleep (lines 1-3,
8-10); the belief that even a supernatural being would not be able to
withstand the sleeplessness experienced by the insomniac (lines 15-17)
all ring true.  The appeal to the lost sleep of lovers to come the poet
is particularly appealing.

Dave Fortin
At 11:50 PM, with several hours to go before retiring...

Carpe Diem Baby -- James Hetfield

Guest poem sent in by Ajit Narayanan
(Poem #1341) Carpe Diem Baby
 Hit dirt
 Shake tree
 Split sky
 Part sea

 Strip smile
 Lose cool
 Bleed the day
 And break the rule

 Live win
 Dare fail
 Eat the dirt
 And bite the nail

 Then make me miss you…
 Then make me miss you…

 So wash your face away with dirt
 It don't feel good until it hurts
 So take this world and shake it
 Come squeeze and suck the day
 Come carpe diem, baby

 Draw Lead
 Piss wine
 Sink teeth
 All mine

 Stoke fire
 Break neck
 Suffer through this
 Cheat on death

 Hug the curve
 Lose the time
 Tear the map
 And shoot the sign

 Then make me miss you…
 Then make me miss you…

 So wash your face away with dirt
 It don't feel good until it hurts
 So take this world and shake it
 Come squeeze and suck the day
 Come carpe diem, baby

 Live win
 Dare fail
 Eat dirt
 Bite the nail

 Strip smile
 Lose cool
 Bleed the day
 And break the rule

 Hug the curve
 Lose the time
 Tear the map
 And shoot the sign

 Then make me miss you…
 Then make me miss you…

 So wash your face away with dirt
 It don't feel good until it hurts
 So take this world and shake it
 Come squeeze and suck the day

 Come make me miss you…
 Come carpe diem baby
 Come carpe diem baby
-- James Hetfield

It has become unfashionable to like Metallica these days, but nonetheless,
of all the hard-rock and heavy-metal groups that I have heard, I think
Metallica would rank very high indeed for the power and beauty of their
lyrics. Indeed, they are one of the few bands that I started listening to
because I was very powerfully moved by the _poetry_ of songs like 'Sad But
True', 'Holier Than Thou', 'Fade To Black', 'Sanatarium' etc. 'Carpe Diem
Baby' is one of my favourites -- short lines, chosen and brought together
with a mastery that gives the whole song tremendous coherence and meaning.

In suggesting that you run this song on Minstrels, my judgment is clouded by
the fact that, having listened to the song before having read the lyrics, I
cannot imagine what the words sound like when read as poetry -- despite my
best attempts at self-control, whenever I read it out loud, I lapse into the
languid drawled-out melody of the song. However, reading it, one cannot
under any circumstances mistake it for the scribblings of an illiterate or
unskilled man. Metallica, for all the trappings of the genre that they
chose, still project an image of _culture_, and for that reason, I do think
their work deserves a place among the greats.

- Ajitq

[Martin adds]

Interestingly, until I got to the "then make me miss you..." bit, I didn't
realise it was a song at all. I was even more surprised to hear that the
music was languid and drawled-out; read in isolation the lyrics project a
sort of intense, driven energy, and a rhythm reminiscent of Hood's "No!"
[Poem #251] with its short, choppy and tightly rhymed lines. I ought to hunt
up the song sometime.


A Strike Among the Poets -- Anonymous

(Poem #1340) A Strike Among the Poets
 In his chamber, weak and dying,
   While the Norman Baron lay,
 Loud, without, his men were crying,
   'Shorter hours and better pay.'

 Know you why the ploughman, fretting,
   Homeward plods his weary way
 Ere his time?  He's after getting
   Shorter hours and better pay.

 See! the Hesperus is swinging
   Idle in the wintry bay,
 And the skipper's daughter's singing,
   'Shorter hours and better pay.'

 Where's the minstrel boy? I've found him
   Joining in the labour fray
 With his placards slung about him,
   'Shorter hours and better pay.'

 Oh, young Lochinvar is coming;
   Though his hair is getting grey,
 Yet I'm glad to hear him humming,
   'Shorter hours and better pay.'

 E'en the boy upon the burning
   Deck has got a word to say,
 Something rather cross concerning
   Shorter hours and better pay.

 Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make as much as they,
 Work no more, until they find us
   Shorter hours and better pay.

 Hail to thee, blithe spirit! (Shelley)
   Wilt thou be a blackleg? Nay.
 Soaring, sing above the mêlée,
   'Shorter hours and better pay.'
-- Anonymous
Ah, shorter hours and better pay. What we all wish for.



To make up for the lack of insightful commentary (really, what would you
expect, except for the obvious statement that I love the conceit :)),
here's a list of sources:

Stanza #1: "The Norman Baron" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

        In his chamber, weak and dying,
          Was the Norman baron lying;
        Loud, without, the tempest thundered
          And the castle-turret shook,

Stanza #2: "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" -- Thomas Gray

        The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
          The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea;
        The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
          And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Stanza #3: "The Wreck of the Hesperus" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

        It was the schooner Hesperus,
          That sailed the wintry sea;
        And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
          To bear him company.

Stanza #4: I have no idea where this comes from. Any pointers, gentle

Stanza #5: "Lochinvar" -- Sir Walter Scott

        O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
        Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;

Stanza #6: "Casabianca" -- Felicia Hemans

        The boy stod on the burning deck,
          Whence all but him had fled;
        The flame that lit the battle's wreck
          Shone round him o'er the dead.

Stanza #7: "A Psalm of Life" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

        Lives of great men all remind us
          We can make our lives sublime,
        And, departing, leave behind us
          Footprints on the sands of time;

Stanza #8: "To a Skylark" -- Percy Byshhe Shelley

        Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
           Bird thou never wert,
        That from heaven, or near it,
           Pourest thy full heart
   In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

And finally, 'blackleg' : "A name of opprobrium for a workman willing to
work for a master whose men are on strike" (OED).