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Moses' Poem -- Anonymous

Guest poem sent in by Dale Rosenberg
(Poem #1783) Moses' Poem
 Give ear, O heavens, let me speak;
 Let the earth hear the words I utter!
 May my discourse come down as the rain,
 My speech distill as the dew,
 Like showers on young growth,
 Like droplets on the grass.
 For the name of the Lord I proclaim;
 Give glory to our God!

 The Rock! -- His deeds are perfect,
 Yea, all His ways are just;
 A faithful God, never false,
 True and upright is He.
 Children unworthy of Him --
 That crooked, perverse generation --
 Their baseness has played Him false.
 Do you thus requite the Lord,
 O dull and witless people?
 Is not He the Father who created you,
 Fashioned you and made you endure!

 Remember the days of old,
 Consider the years of ages past;
 Ask your father, he will inform you,
 Your elders, they will tell you:
 When the Most High gave nations their homes
 And set the divisions of man,
 He fixed the boundaries of peoples
 In relation to Israel's numbers.
 For the Lord's portion is His people,
 Jacob His own allotment.

 He found him in a desert region,
 In an empty howling waste.
 He engirded him, watched over him,
 Guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
 Like an eagle who rouses his nestlings,
 Gliding down to his young,
 So did He spread His wings and take him,
 Bear him along on His pinions;
 The Lord alone did guide him,
 No alien god at His side.

 He set him atop the highlands,
 To feast on the yield of the earth;
 He fed him honey from the crag,
 And oil from the flinty rock,
 Curd of kine and milk of flocks;
 With the best of lambs,
 And rams of Bashan, and he-goats;
 With the very finest wheat --
 And foaming grape-blood was your drink.

 So Jeshurun grew fat and kicked --
 You grew fat and gross and coarse --
 He forsook the God who made him
 And spurned the Rock of his support.
 They incensed Him with alien things,
 Vexed Him with abominations.
 They sacrificed to demons, no-gods,
 Gods they had never known,
 New ones, who came but lately,
 Who stirred not your fathers' fears.
 You neglected the Rock that begot you,
 Forgot the God who brought you forth.

 The Lord saw and was vexed
 And spurned His sons and His daughters.
 He said:
 I will hide My countenance from them,
 And see how they fare in the end.
 For they are a treacherous breed,
 Children with no loyalty in them.
 They incensed Me with no-gods,
 Vexed Me with their futilities;
 I'll incense them with a no-folk,
 Vex them with a nation of fools.
 For a fire has flared in My wrath
 And burned to the bottom of Sheol,
 Has consumed the earth and its increase,
 Eaten down to the base of the hills.
 I will sweep misfortunes on them,
 Use up My arrows on them:
 Wasting famine, ravaging plague,
 Dedly pestilence, nd fanged beasts
 Will I let loose against them,
 With venomous creepers in dust.

 The sword shall deal death without,
 As shall the terror within,
 To youth and maiden alike,
 The suckling as well as the aged.
 I might have reduced them to naught,
 Made their memory cease among men,
 But for fear of the taunts of the foe,
 Their enemies who might misjudge
 And say, "Our own hand has prevailed;
 None of this was wrought by the Lord!"
 For they are a folk void of sense,
 Lacking in all discernment.
 Were they wise, they would think upon this,
 Gain insight into their future:
 "How could one have routed a thousand,
 Or two put ten thousand to flight,
 Unless their Rock had sold them,
 The Lord had given them up?"
 For their rock is not like our Rock,
 In our enemies' own estimation.

 Ah! The vine for them is from Sodom,
 From the vineyards of Gomorrah;
 The grapes for them are poison,
 A bitter growth their clusters.
 Their wine is the venom of asps,
 The pitiless poison of vipers.
 Lo, I have it all put away,
 Sealed up in My storehouses,
 To be My vengeance and recompense,
 At the time that their foot falters.
 Yea, their day of disaster is near,
 And destiny rushes upon them.

 For the Lord will vindicate His people
 And take revenge for His servants,
 When He sees that their might is gone,
 And neither bond nor free is left.
 He will say: Where are their gods,
 The rock in whom they sought refuge,
 Who ate the fat of their offerings
 And drank their libation wine?
 Let them rise up to your help,
 And let them be a shield unto you!
 See, then, that I, I am He;
 There is no god beside Me.
 I deal death and give life;
 I wounded and I will heal:
 None can deliver from My hand.
 Lo, I raise My hand to heaven
 And say: As I live forever,
 When I whet My flashing blade
 And My hand lays hold on judgment,
 Vengeance will I wreak on My foes,
 Will I deal to those who reject Me.
 I will make My arrows drunk with blood --
 As My sword devours flesh --
 Blood of the slain and the captive
 From the long-haired enemy chiefs.

 O nations, acclaim His people!
 For He'll avenge the blood of His servants,
 Wreak vengeance on His foes,
 And cleanse the land of His people.
-- Anonymous
(translation provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary)

Much of the Torah (Jewish bible) is poetic, but very little is explicitly
identified as poetry and laid out on the page or scroll as such.  Moses'
poem is one of those exceptions.  I love the vividness of the imagery, even
as I cringe at the vindictiveness of this view of G-d.  G-d is often
portrayed as a parent, but the kind of parenting shown in the middle of the
poem is what I and I believe most loving parents try never to fall into. The
poem does, at least, end with some hope.

I'm fifty years old and will be leyning (chanting in Hebrew directly from
the Torah) for the first time on this coming Saturday on the occasion of my
daughter's bat mitzvah.  It's not easy to do, since the Torah scroll has no
vowels, no punctuation and no musical notes in it, and you're not allowed to
use cheat sheets.  Kendra, my daughter, has been studying for a long time
for her bat mitzvah.  She will also be leyning for the first time this
Saturday, as well as chanting haftarah, leading a service and giving a Dvar
Torah (speech about Torah).

When I was Kendra's age girls were not allowed to leyn, so I never learned,
but I always wanted to.  I decided I'd learn to leyn in time to be part of
her celebration.

I love that my first time I got poetry to read! I also luckily got the first
6 verses of the poem, with the beautiful words but before the


A Place To Be -- Nick Drake

Guest poem sent in by Janice
(Poem #1782) A Place To Be
  When I was younger, younger than before
  I never saw the truth hanging from the door
  And now I'm older see it face to face
  And now I'm older gotta get up clean the place.

  And I was green, greener than the hill
  Where the flowers grew and the sun shone still
  Now I'm darker than the deepest sea
  Just hand me down, give me a place to be.

  And I was strong, strong in the sun
  I thought I'd see when day is done
  Now I'm weaker than the palest blue
  Oh, so weak in this need for you.
-- Nick Drake
All of Drake's songs have this touch of melancholy, a very strong sense of
loss and beauty all at the same time. With this poem, simple yet powerful,
there is a feeling that the poet/songwriter is seeking yet looking back, of
knowing where he is and being lost at the same time.  'Now I'm darker that
the deepest sea' much better can anyone else put it.

Nick Drake was a artist in the late 60's, often called England's Best Kept
Secret, he produced only three albums before dying at the age of 26 from an
accidental(?) overdose of sleeping pills. Suffering from clinical
depression, he was a Keatsian figure who never found a wide audience during
his lifetime. He is known for his gentle, lyrical songs and great plucking
on the guitar. He was depressed because he thought he could not write well

I do hope you enjoy this poem...and if you do please do listen to his




To Autumn -- John Keats

Guest poem submitted by Bill Whiteford
(Poem #1781) To Autumn
 Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
 Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
 Conspiring with him how to load and bless
 With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
 To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
 And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
 To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
 With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
 And still more, later flowers for the bees,
 Until they think warm days will never cease,
 For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

 Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
 Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
 Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
 Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
 Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
 Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
 Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
 And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
 Steady thy laden head across a brook;
 Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
 Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

 Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
 Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
 While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
 And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
 Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
 Among the river sallows, borne aloft
 Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
 And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
 Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
 The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
 And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
-- John Keats
I'm not a great fan of the romantic poets, but was struck that colleagues
didn't know where the phrase "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" came
from . I think quite a lot of Keats is not great, but some of the images
here are memorable. Here in Scotland the twittering swallows are long gone,
but the barred clouds sometimes bloom the soft-dying day. There's lots of
other analysis you could do here (the erotic language of the second verse,
the sense of impending loss of the third), but mainly I would just enjoy the
turn of phrase and the images.

Bill Whiteford.

The Fish -- Elizabeth Bishop

Guest poem sent in by Melanie Albrecht
(Poem #1780) The Fish
 I caught a tremendous fish
 and held him beside the boat
 half out of water, with my hook
 fast in a corner of its mouth.
 He didn't fight.
 He hadn't fought at all.
 He hung a grunting weight,
 battered and venerable
 and homely. Here and there
 his brown skin hung in strips
 like ancient wallpaper,
 and its pattern of darker brown
 was like wallpaper:
 shapes like full-blown roses
 stained and lost through age.
 He was speckled with barnacles,
 fine rosettes of lime,
 and infested
 with tiny white sea-lice,
 and underneath two or three
 rags of green weed hung down.
 While his gills were breathing in
 the terrible oxygen
 --- the frightening gills,
 fresh and crisp with blood,
 that can cut so badly ---
 I thought of the coarse white flesh
 packed in like feathers,
 the big bones and the little bones,
 the dramatic reds and blacks
 of his shiny entrails,
 and the pink swim-bladder
 like a big peony.
 I looked into his eyes
 which were far larger than mine
 but shallower, and yellowed,
 the irises backed and packed
 with tarnished tinfoil
 seen through the lenses
 of old scratched isinglass.
 They shifted a little, but not
 to return my stare.
 --- It was more like the tipping
 of an object toward the light.
 I admired his sullen face,
 the mechanism of his jaw,
 and then I saw
 that from his lower lip
 --- if you could call it a lip ---
 grim, wet, and weaponlike,
 hung five old pieces of fish-line,
 or four and a wire leader
 with the swivel still attached,
 with all their five big hooks
 grown firmly in his mouth.
 A green line, frayed at the end
 where he broke it, two heavier lines,
 and a fine black thread
 still crimped from the strain and snap
 when it broke and he got away.
 Like medals with their ribbons
 frayed and wavering,
 a five-haired beard of wisdom
 trailing from his aching jaw.
 I stared and stared
 and victory filled up
 the little rented boat,
 from the pool of bilge
 where oil had spread a rainbow
 around the rusted engine
 to the bailer rusted orange,
 the sun-cracked thwarts,
 the oarlocks on their strings,
 the gunnels --- until everything
 was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
 And I let the fish go.
-- Elizabeth Bishop
I just love this poem. I love how she describes the fish without overt
romanticism, but it comes across as beautiful anyway. The fish is homely,
his skin hangs in strips, and he is infested with sea-lice. His eyes turn
towards her, but she doesn't anthropomorphise it: it's just like tipping an
"object toward the light". But still, his ugly skin is like wallpaper with
roses, and his eyes are backed with tinfoil! Lovely.

Through the poem, she moves from describing the fish's physical presence to
seeing human-like virtues in him. The fish is venerable, sullen, grim, wise,
and victorious. His victory over circumstance fills the nasty rented boat
with rainbow - how can she *not* let him go?

Regards, Melanie

You -- Carol Ann Duffy

Guest poem submitted by Jennifer Cushion :
(Poem #1779) You
 Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head,
 so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name,
 like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables
 like a charm, like a spell.

                                    Falling in love
 is glamorous hell; the crouched, parched heart
 like a tiger ready to kill; a flame's fierce licks under the skin.
 Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.
 I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine,
 in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze,
 staring back from anyone's face, from the shape of a cloud,
 from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me

 and I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are
 on the bed, like a gift, like a touchable dream.
-- Carol Ann Duffy
I feel this poem captures the initial stages of resistance people go through
when they fall in love.  It is so much easier to pretend it isn't happening,
to immerse yourself in "ordinary days".  Yet, despite all the efforts, the
person invades your every thought.  The first verse in particular conveys

Jennifer Cushion.

When First We Faced -- Philip Larkin

Guest poem submitted by Amulya Gopalakrishnan:
(Poem #1778) When First We Faced
 When first we faced, and touching showed
 How well we knew the early moves,
 Behind the moonlight and the frost,
 The excitement and the gratitude,
 There stood how much our meeting owed
 To other meetings, other loves.

 The decades of a different life
 That opened past your inch-close eyes
 Belonged to others, lavished, lost;
 Nor could I hold you hard enough
 To call my years of hunger-strife
 Back for your mouth to colonise.

 Admitted: and the pain is real.
 But when did love not try to change
 The world back to itself--no cost,
 No past, no people else at all--
 Only what meeting made us feel,
 So new, and gentle-sharp, and strange?
-- Philip Larkin
In evaluating this poem, all I have to say that it feels exactly true to the
scraped clean and hopeful beginnings of things. 'When did love not try to
change the world back to itself'?


Vacana #105 -- Basavanna

Guest poem submitted by Deepak Ramachandran:
(Poem #1777) Vacana #105
 A snake-charmer and his noseless wife,
 snake in hand, walk carefully
 trying to read omens
 for a son's wedding,

 but they meet head-on
 a noseless woman
 and her snake-charming husband,
 and cry 'The omens are bad!'

 His own wife has no nose;
 there's a snake in his hand.
 What shall I call such fools
 who do not know themselves

 and see only the others,

             O lord
             of the meeting
-- Basavanna
      (Translated from Kannada by A. K. Ramanujan)


1. Vacana: A religous lyric in Kannada free verse; vacana literally means
"saying, thing said". Kannada is a Dravidian language, spoken today in the
south indian state of Karnataka by nearly 20 million people.
2. Snake-charmers are bad omens if met on the way. The noseless wife may
either mean a dumb woman or a deformed one, another bad omen.
3. Lord of the meeting rivers: Kudalasangamadeva, an appellation for Shiva.


This delightful poem is from "Speaking of Shiva", A. K. Ramanujan's book of
Vacanas  by the four major Virasaiva saints of the 11th and 12th century:
Dasimayya, Basavanna, Allama, and Mahadeviyakka.  They are a part of what
the anthropologist Milton Singer calls the 'little tradition' in Indian
civilization: the panoply of regional cultures and languages that stand
opposed to the 'great' tradition that is inter-regional and has Sanskrit as
its vehicle.

The Virasaivas rejected many of the conventions of their time such as the
caste system and the complex rituals and religous ceremonies governing daily
life. Religion was a personal matter for them. The vacanas are verses of
devotion to a god, often a particular form of the god. (like the 'lord of
the meeting rivers' above). In Ramanujan's words "the incandescence of
Virasaiva poetry is the white heat of truth-seeing and truth saying in a
dark deluded world."


Basavanna was born in AD 1106 in the village of Manigavalli. By the age of
16 he decided to spend his life in the worship and service of Shiva. Finding
the caste-system of his society and the ritualism of his home shackling and
senseless he tore off the sacred thread that binds a Brahmin to his past
life's deeds.  Travelling to Kudalasangama, he studied the Vedas and other
religious texts. He soon became a trusted friend of King Bijjala and rose in
his court. As his devotion grew from strength to strength, he managed to
convert many to Siva-worship by the fire of his zeal. He founded a new
egalitarian Virasaiva community that began to raise the ire of
traditionalists and sparked a political crisis in the kingdom. Unable to
prevent the ensuing violent conflict, he left the court of King Bijjala,
returning to his hometown where he died soon after in 1167.


Talk -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Guest poem submitted by Rama Rao:
(Poem #1776) Talk
 You're a brave man they tell me.
                                     I'm not.
 Courage has never been my quality.
 Only I thought it disproportionate
 so to degrade myself as others did.
 No foundations trembled. My voice
 no more than laughed at pompous falsity;
 I did no more than write, never denounced,
 I left out nothing I had thought about,
 defended who deserved it, put a brand
 on the untalented, the ersatz writers
 (doing what anyhow had to be done).
 And now they press to tell me that I'm brave.
 How sharply our children will be ashamed
 taking at last their vengeance for these horrors
 remembering how in so strange a time
 common integrity could look like courage.
-- Yevgeny Yevtushenko
        Translated by Robin Milner-Galland and Peter Levi.

What can be more representative of the times we live in than these lines?
Although perhaps referring to the pre-Khruschev times of the Soviet Union,
the poem is equally valid when we face the distortion and humbug prevalent
in so many places. And nothing is more powerful than the last line:
 "common integrity could look like courage".

Yevtushenko is already on the Minstrels and profiled also [see Poem #850,
Poem #1532, Poem #1561 for examples -ed.].

Rama Rao.

The Wasp -- John Kendall

Guest poem submitted by Philip Watson:
(Poem #1775) The Wasp
 Of those uncertain creatures
   Who take a simple joy
 In swelling up one's features
   On purpose to annoy,
 Things void of natural sweetness,
   Aggressive and inhosp.
 (Pardon the incompleteness)
   You are the first, O wasp.

 There is no place we visit
   In England's pleasant land
 (It isn't your place, is it?)
   But you must take a hand;
 You set the nerves a-jangle,
   You turn the tan to chalk
 Of anglers when they angle,
   Of walkers when they walk.

 In no uncertain manner
   You bid the bather flee;
 You foil the caravanner
   Who merely wants his tea;
 You raid the earnest hopper,
   You break upon our sports,
 And are, I'm told, improper
   To river girls in shorts.

 We slap at you and swat you;
   We fell you as we may
 (The rapture when we've got you
   Is more than words can say);
 One may see great deeds daily
   When men unused to strife
 Brave you, albeit palely,
   For screaming child or wife.

 And we have learnt to fashion
   A lure that cannot fail,
 Born of a lasting passion
   That you confess for ale;
 An artful jar that cozens
   You in and, when you're tight,
 Drowns you in drink by dozens,
   A most immoral sight.

 But when the day is sinking
   And you retire to rest
 That, to my private thinking,
   Is where man comes out best;
 Armed with his apparatus
   He tracks you to the comb
 Whence you come forth to bait us;
   Then, when the last wasp's home,

 Bring forth, O man, your funnel;
   With oil and poison come;
 Take heed lest haply one'll
   Pass down a warning hum;
 Insert with care the former;
   Pour down the latter thick;
 That should have made things warmer;
   That will have done the trick.

 Thus with discreet defiance
   We tackle you, and yet,
 For all the arts of science,
   You don't seem much upset;
 Alert and undiminished
   You still appear to prosp.;
 I leave the word unfinished
   To rhyme with you, O wasp.
-- John Kendall
Listening to the wireless the other day, I heard an item wherein the BBC
told us that this had been 'a bad year for wasps'.

I thought this a somewhat ambiguous statement.  For instance, if one were to
hear that it had been a 'bad year for cholera', it would be logical to
assume that there was a lot of it about lately, to the detriment of
humanity.  This was not, it transpired, what they meant.  Instead, after a
cold snap in the springtime, the wasps themselves has suffered a serious
decline in numbers.  To my way of thinking (which I grant may be criticised
as selfish), that made it an entirely splendid year for wasps.

Lest any of your English readers fail to appreciate the alleviation of our
torment this year, I thought that the following would be apposite.  The poem
was written by Captain John Kendall under the pen name Dum-Dum.  It appears
in an anthology of his work entitled 'Short Doses', published in London by
Constable & Co Ltd in 1932: it may have appeared previously in the
periodical 'Punch'.

I believe that you have only one other of Kendall's works posted on your
site, which drought I hope the above may help to remedy.

A critical reviewer must, I think, question whether such material would
still amuse a contemporary audience.  Given that humour is so very much
embedded in its original cultural context, it frequently neither travels nor
ages well.  For, if 'the past is another country', then the England of 1932
must seem to today's English reader, as altogether another planet.  The more
humour is culturally specific, the more ephemeral its appeal; and I suppose
vice versa (whence the continuing popularity of a large body of execrable

With kind regards, and much appreciation of your excellent work,
Philip Watson.
Luppitt, Devonshire, England

The Invaders -- A D Hope

Guest poem sent in by William Grey
(Poem #1774) The Invaders
 Coming by night, furtively, one by one
 They infiltrate according to the Plan,
 Their orders memorized and their disguise
 Impenetrable. With the rising sun
 Our citizens welcome them. Nobody can
 Think that such charming creatures might be spies.

 So feeble, so helpless, no one could suspect
 They come to make this commonwealth their prey;
 So few, they pose no threat; their cohort grows
 So imperceptibly that we neglect
 To notice how it musters day by day
 And, unalarmed, we watch as they impose

 Themselves, make friends in all directions, take
 Impressions of all keys. They gain access
 To all our secrets; learn to speak our tongue
 Like natives; profit by each false move we make;
 Work on our weaknesses; observe and guess
 The sources of power and study them to be strong.

 And when it happens, there will be no fuss,
 No streets running with blood, no barricade.
 We shall simply wake one morning to discover,
 As those who ruled this city before us
 Found by each door a headstone and a spade,
 That a new generation has taken over.
-- A D Hope
This poem by Australian poet A.D. Hope (1907-2000) is based on an utterly
simple idea, with an underlying tension (even menace) beautifully developed,
and brilliantly resolved in the final line. Like Hope's "Ode on the Death of
Pius the Twelfth" [1] this poem deals with the issue of age and death, which
are recurrent themes for Hope (see also [2]) -- as they are, of course, for
many poets.

The poem is from A.D. Hope, A Late Picking: Poems 1965-1974. (Sydney: Angus
& Robertson, 1975)

William Grey

[1] Poem #1764, Ode on the Death of Pius the Twelfth -- A.D. Hope
[2] Poem #571, The Death of the Bird -- A.D. Hope

Introduction To Poetry -- Billy Collins

Guest poem submitted by Carl Beck:
(Poem #1773) Introduction To Poetry
 I ask them to take a poem
 and hold it up to the light
 like a color slide

 or press an ear against its hive.

 I say drop a mouse into a poem
 and watch him probe his way out,

 or walk inside the poem's room
 and feel the walls for a light switch.

 I want them to waterski
 across the surface of a poem
 waving at the author's name on the shore.

 But all they want to do
 is tie the poem to a chair with rope
 and torture a confession out of it.

 They begin beating it with a hose
 to find out what it really means.
-- Billy Collins
This poem makes me smile, only because it wasn't until I stopped trying to
understand poetry that I was able to open the gate to the wonderful
playground that poetry can be.

Gitanjali (excerpt) -- Rabindranath Tagore

Guest poem sent in by Firdaus Janoos
(Poem #1772) Gitanjali (excerpt)
 The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
 I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument.
 The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
 only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.
 The blossom has not opened; only the wind is sighing by.
 I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice; only I have
 heard his gentle footsteps on the road before my house.
 The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor; but the lamp
 has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.
 I live in the hope of meeting with him; but this meeting is not yet.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
       from the Gitanjali (1923)

Cloying is not the first epithet that springs to mind when reading
Tagore.[1] Re-reading the Gitanjali (song offerings), one begins to realize
an intriguing profundity underlying its apparent simplicity. It is not
without good reason that this work won the 1923 Nobel prize for literature.
This poem is just an example of the textured, layered quality that permeates
the Gitanjali. At first it seems like the pensive song sung by a lover
cleaving for her beloved. But one becomes aware of an ineffable mysticism to
it - a yearning for a re-uniting with God, but without the morbidity that is
the usual adjunct of fatalism.


Doggerel by a Senior Citizen -- W H Auden

Guest poem submitted by William Grey:
(Poem #1771) Doggerel by a Senior Citizen
 Our earth in 1969
 Is not the planet I call mine,
 The world, I mean, that gives me strength
 To hold off chaos at arm's length.

 My Eden landscapes and their climes
 Are constructs from Edwardian times,
 When bath-rooms took up lots of space,
 And, before eating, one said Grace.

 The automobile, the aeroplane,
 Are useful gadgets, but profane:
 The enginry of which I dream
 Is moved by water or by steam.

 Reason requires that I approve
 The light-bulb which I cannot love:
 To me more reverence-commanding
 A fish-tail burner on the landing.

 My family ghosts I fought and routed,
 Their values, though, I never doubted:
 I thought the Protestant Work-Ethic
 Both practical and sympathetic.

 When couples played or sang duets,
 It was immoral to have debts:
 I shall continue till I die
 To pay in cash for what I buy.

 The Book of Common Prayer we knew
 Was that of 1662:
 Though with-it sermons may be well,
 Liturgical reforms are hell.

 Sex was of course -- it always is --
 The most enticing of mysteries,
 But news-stands did not then supply
 Manichean pornography.

 Then Speech was mannerly, an Art,
 Like learning not to belch or fart:
 I cannot settle which is worse,
 The Anti-Novel or Free Verse.

 Nor are those Ph.D's my kith,
 Who dig the symbol and the myth:
 I count myself a man of letters
 Who writes, or hopes to, for his betters.

 Dare any call Permissiveness
 An educational success?
 Saner those class-rooms which I sat in,
 Compelled to study Greek and Latin.

 Though I suspect the term is crap,
 There is a Generation Gap,
 Who is to blame? Those, old or young,
 Who will not learn their Mother-Tongue.

 But Love, at least, is not a state
 Either en vogue or out-of-date,
 And I've true friends, I will allow,
 To talk and eat with here and now.

 Me alienated? Bosh! It's just
 As a sworn citizen who must
 Skirmish with it that I feel
 Most at home with what is Real.
-- W H Auden
This poem is a lot of fun. It was written by Auden (1907-1973), for Robert
Lederer, when he was getting old and curmudgeonly, and it's about getting
old and curmudgeonly. Writing engaging doggerel is more challenging than it
seems. Auden often expresses his values by dialectical opposition --
Arcadian versus Utopian ('Vespers'), or Hermetic versus Apollonian ('Under
Which Lyre', Poem #1082) -- in this one his prejudices are articulated
simply and directly.

William Grey.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall -- Bob Dylan

Guest poem sent in by "Aseem"
(Poem #1770) A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
 Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
 Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
 I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
 I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
 I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
 I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
 I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
 And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
 And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

 Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
 Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
 I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
 I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
 I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
 I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
 I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
 I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
 I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
 And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
 And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

 And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
 And what did you hear, my darling young one?
 I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
 Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
 Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
 Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
 Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
 Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
 Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
 And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
 And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

 Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
 Who did you meet, my darling young one?
 I met a young child beside a dead pony,
 I met a white man who walked a black dog,
 I met a young woman whose body was burning,
 I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
 I met one man who was wounded in love,
 I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
 And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
 It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

 Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
 Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
 I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
 I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
 Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
 Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
 Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
 Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
 Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
 Where black is the color, where none is the number,
 And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
 And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
 Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
 But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
 And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
 It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
-- Bob Dylan
As the death toll from the recent flooding of Bombay climbed higher each
day, and I sat half way across the world, surfing the images of tragedy and
despair (feeling strangely guilty, somehow, for not being there) this is the
song that kept playing in my head.

There are many stories that came out of that fateful day - indeed, as
someone said, everyone has a story to tell. There are many different
emotions in these stories - some are filled with hope, others with despair;
some speak of small miracles, others of senseless misfortune; some allow us
to celebrate the brotherhood, the fundamental decency of man towards man,
others highlight the world's indifference to the plight of the victims.

Dylan's song captures perfectly that sense of a fractured world, the
reduction of the truth into a series of images, the impossibility of taking
in exactly what has happened. At one level this is a confused, restless
song. It moves from phrase to phrase, vision to vision, leaving you with the
sense of some sweeping, momentous message, combined with a sense of dread.
But it is also a song of great courage - a song that grits its jaw and braces
itself for the devastation it knows is coming. There are some beautiful phrases

here - lines that demonstrate how true, how fine a poet the young Dylan really
was - but the overall message of this song is that we shall face the whole of
our sorrow and not be defeated by it.