National Poetry Day

In case you hadn’t realised, today is National Poetry Day. I sometimes post poems on here whenever I have the urge – either because they’re favourites of mine or because they seem topical. For a change, and to celebrate the special nature of today, I thought I’d try to solicit some from my friends and colleagues via Facebook or Twitter.

This, Welsh Landscape by R.S. Thomas, was suggested by Rhodri Evans.

To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went into the making of the wild sky,
Dyeing the immaculate rivers
In all their courses.
It is to be aware,
Above the noisy tractor
And hum of the machine
Of strife in the strung woods,
Vibrant with sped arrows.
You cannot live in the present,
At least not in Wales.
There is the language for instance,
The soft consonants
Strange to the ear.
There are cries in the dark at night
As owls answer the moon,
And thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed at the fields’ corners.
There is no present in Wales,
And no future;
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song.


This one, Beauty, by Edward Thomas was suggested by Steve Eales.

WHAT does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph–
“Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one.” Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening when it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, hapily
Floats through a window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale;
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unanswering to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there


Here’s one from me. I learnt it at school where I studied German for one year before giving it up. I had a rather eccentric teacher who thought the best way to learn a language was to read poetry rather than learning how to say banal things like “Please can you direct me to the railway station?”. It wasn’t a very good idea, but at least it left me with bits of German poetry still in my head over 30 years later. I can still remember every word of this wonderful poem by Goethe

Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen Blühn,
Im dunklen Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn,
Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht,
Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht,
Kennst du es wohl?
Dahin! Dahin,
Möcht ich mit dir, o mein Geliebter, ziehn.

Kennst du das Haus? Auf Säulen ruht sein Dach,
Es glänzt der Saal, es schimmert das Gemach,
Und Marmorbilder stehn und sehn mich an:
Was hat man dir, du armes Kind getan?
Kennst du es wohl?
Dahin! Dahin
Möcht ich mit dir, o mein Beschützer, ziehn!

Kennst du den Berg und seinen Wolkensteg?
Das Maultier sucht im Nebel seinen weg:
In Höhlen wohnt der Drachen alte Brut;
Es stürzt der Fels und über ihn die Flut,
Kennst du ihn wohl?
Dahin! Dahin
Geht unser weg! o Vater, laß uns ziehn!

If you have a favourite of your own you’d like to suggest, please let me know through the suggestions box…

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12 Responses to “National Poetry Day”

  1. astrofairy Says:

    Won’t be complete without some Dylan Thomas. Here’s a recording of him reading: In my craft or sullen art

    http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=7091

  2. telescoper Says:

    I posted that poem already, in fact, along with a clip from Youtube. It appears here:

    http://telescoper.wordpress.com/2009/03/07/starless-and-bible-black/

    Perhaps we could have a suggestion from a poet whose surname isn’t Thomas?

  3. Rhodri Evans Says:

    I could suggest some in Welsh if you like :) e.g R Williiams Parry “Y Llwynog” or Waldo Williams “Cofio”.

  4. Rhodri Evans Says:

    What about Leonard Cohen’s “The Partisan” or something by e..e cummings?

  5. I love this poem:

    http://dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm

    The second verse is the most famous. The words and imagery are so beautiful and remind me so much of home – it never fails to bring tears to my eyes!

  6. does any one have any idea why he would use the word ‘spilled’ in the poem ” Welsh landscape ” rather than use ‘ dripped or trickled’ ?

    • telescoper Says:

      Why wouldn’t he use “spilled”? It’s a familiar word to be used in conjunction with “blood”.

    • I think Stacey that R.S. Thomas used the word “spilled” because he is referring to blood lost in battle against the English. But, that is only my interpretation, unfortunately we cannot ask the poet and I am not aware of any comment he’s made on why he chose that particular verb.

  7. For the scientific/mathematically minded, you may find my recent blog on the strict Welsh meter form of cynghanedd interesting:

    http://thecuriousastronomer.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/a-balancing-act/

  8. [...] called Mignon’s Song, which is actually a reminiscence about Italy.  I’ve actually posted the verse before;  I learned it at school, where I studied German for one year before giving it up to concentrate [...]

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