Archive for the Poetry Category

White in the moon the long road lies

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 14, 2014 by telescoper

White in the moon the long road lies,
The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, ’twill all be well,
The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
That leads me from my love.

by A.E. Housman (1859-1936)

 

Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on April 9, 2014 by telescoper

Frederick Delius is by no means my favourite composer, but when I heard yesterday of the death of the fine English baritone John Shirley-Quirk, I immediately decided to post this piece as a tribute. It’s a sumptuous setting, by Delius, of Ernest Dowson‘s sensual and languid poem Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae which is named after a phrase from Horace but is actually, obviously, about the poet’s obsession with a lost love. I probably shouldn’t mention that the lost love in question was an eleven year old girl and he was 24.  Dowson pursued her unsuccessfully for eight years. When eventually, at the age of 19, she married someone else he drank himself to death at the age of 32. Oscar Wilde said of Dowson:

Poor wounded wonderful fellow that he was, a tragic reproduction of all tragic poetry, like a symbol, or a scene. I hope bay leaves will be laid on his tomb and rue and myrtle too for he knew what love was.

Anyway, the music and words are beautifully woven together and also beautifully sung.  RIP John Shirley-Quirk.

Here’s the text of the poem

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind,
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

Stanzas – April 1814

Posted in Poetry with tags , on April 7, 2014 by telescoper

Away! the moor is dark beneath the moon,
Rapid clouds have drank the last pale beam of even:
Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon,
And profoundest midnight shroud the serene lights of heaven.

Pause not! The time is past! Every voice cries, Away!
Tempt not with one last tear thy friend’s ungentle mood:
Thy lover’s eye, so glazed and cold, dares not entreat thy stay:
Duty and dereliction guide thee back to solitude.

Away, away! to thy sad and silent home;
Pour bitter tears on its desolated hearth;
Watch the dim shades as like ghosts they go and come,
And complicate strange webs of melancholy mirth.

The leaves of wasted autumn woods shall float around thine head:
The blooms of dewy spring shall gleam beneath thy feet:
But thy soul or this world must fade in the frost that binds the dead,
Ere midnight’s frown and morning’s smile, ere thou and peace may meet.

The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose,
For the weary winds are silent, or the moon is in the deep:
Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows;
Whatever moves, or toils, or grieves, hath its appointed sleep.

Thou in the grave shalt rest—yet till the phantoms flee
Which that house and heath and garden made dear to thee erewhile,
Thy remembrance, and repentance, and deep musings are not free
From the music of two voices and the light of one sweet smile.

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822); posted to mark the 200th anniversary of the poem’s composition.

 

A Well Worn Story

Posted in Poetry with tags , on April 2, 2014 by telescoper

In April, in April,
My one love came along,
And I ran the slope of my high hill
To follow a thread of song.

His eyes were hard as porphyry
With looking on cruel lands;
His voice went slipping over me
Like terrible silver hands.

Together we trod the secret lane
And walked the muttering town;
I wore my heart like a wet, red stain
On the breast of a velvet gown.

In April, in April,
My love went whistling by,
And I stumbled here to my high hill
Along the way of a lie.

Now what should I do in this place
But sit and count the chimes,
And splash cold water on my face,
And spoil a page with rhymes?

by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

 

 

A Character

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 29, 2014 by telescoper

I marvel how Nature could ever find space
For so many strange contrasts in one human face:
There’s thought and no thought, and there’s paleness and bloom
And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

There’s weakness, and strength both redundant and vain;
Such strength as, if ever affliction and pain
Could pierce through a temper that’s soft to disease,
Would be rational peace–a philosopher’s ease.

There’s indifference, alike when he fails or succeeds,
And attention full ten times as much as there needs;
Pride where there’s no envy, there’s so much of joy;
And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy.

There’s freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare
Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she’s there,
There’s virtue, the title it surely may claim,
Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name.

This picture from nature may seem to depart,
Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart;
And I for five centuries right gladly would be
Such an odd such a kind happy creature as he.

by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Spring Rain

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 22, 2014 by telescoper

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.

I remembered a darkened doorway
Where we stood while the storm swept by,
Thunder gripping the earth
And lightning scrawled on the sky.

The passing motor busses swayed,
For the street was a river of rain,
Lashed into little golden waves
In the lamp light’s stain.

With the wild spring rain and thunder
My heart was wild and gay;
Your eyes said more to me that night
Than your lips would ever say. . . .

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.

by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Ode on Solitude

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 16, 2014 by telescoper

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix’d; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

by Alexander Pope (1688-1744; he wrote this poem when he was 12 years old)

Spring Song, Meirionydd

Posted in Poetry with tags , on March 9, 2014 by telescoper

Spring Song, Meirionydd
A white combustion rules these fields,
and testifies to men, and rams;
the mind of winter thaws, and yields–
Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

The high grey stone is clean of snows,
the streams come tumbling, far from dams;
the wind is green, the day’s eye grows–
Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

The heart, gone light as all the ewes,
redounds with milk, and epigrams
that make no sense; except their news–
Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

In gold October, grown to size,
they’ll know the hook, and hang with hams,
but March is all their enterprise–
Great God, the world is drunk with lambs.

by John Dressel.

A Poem on St David’s Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 1, 2014 by telescoper

It’s St David’s Day today so Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! I’m in Cardiff and shortly heading to St David’s Hall for a gala concert being held to mark the occasion. As has become traditional on this blog, I thought I’d post a poem by the great Welsh poet R.S. Thomas. This is called Welsh History:

We were a people taut for war; the hills
Were no harder, the thin grass
Clothed them more warmly than the coarse
Shirts our small bones.
We fought, and were always in retreat,
Like snow thawing upon the slopes
Of Mynydd Mawr; and yet the stranger
Never found our ultimate stand
In the thick woods, declaiming verse
To the sharp prompting of the harp.
Our kings died, or they were slain
By the old treachery at the ford.
Our bards perished, driven from the halls
Of nobles by the thorn and bramble.
We were a people bred on legends,
Warming our hands at the red past.
The great were ashamed of our loose rags
Clinging stubbornly to the proud tree
Of blood and birth, our lean bellies
And mud houses were a proof
Of our ineptitude for life.
We were a people wasting ourselves
In fruitless battles for our masters,
In lands to which we had no claim,
With men for whom we felt no hatred.
We were a people, and are so yet.
When we have finished quarrelling for crumbs
Under the table, or gnawing the bones
Of a dead culture, we will arise
And greet each other in a new dawn.

Spring is like a perhaps hand

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on February 19, 2014 by telescoper

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

by e e cummings (1894-1962).

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