Archive for Poetry

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)


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)

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)

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).

Mirror in February

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

The day dawns with scent of must and rain,
Of opened soil, dark trees, dry bedroom air.
Under the fading lamp, half dressed – my brain
Idling on some compulsive fantasy-
I towel my shaven jaw and stop, and stare,
Riveted by a dark exhausted eye,
A dry downturning mouth.

It seems again that it is time to learn,
In this untiring, crumbling place of growth
To which, for the time being, I return.
Now plainly in the mirror of my soul
I read that I have looked my last on youth
And little more; for they are not made whole
That reach the age of Christ.

Below my window the awakening trees,
Hacked clean for better bearing, stand defaced
Suffering their brute necessities,
And how should the flesh not quail that span for span
Is mutilated more? In slow distaste
I fold my towel with what grace I can,
Not young and not renewable, but man.

by Thomas Kinsella (b. 1928)



Posted in Literature with tags , , on January 22, 2014 by telescoper

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says no rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no-one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

by Philip Larkin (1922-1985).


Ivor Cutler: Walking to a Farm (past Jodrell Bank)

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , , , , on January 21, 2014 by telescoper

For reasons not necessary to explain I just found this little video someone made to go with a rendition of Walking to a Farm by Ivor Cutler, who accompanies himself on harmonium, and was quite surprised to see a few images of Jodrell Bank on the way. That tenuous connection with astronomy, and the fact that I’ve been too busy today to think of anything else, convinced me that I should post it on this here blog:



Cosmological Tanka

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 14, 2014 by telescoper

Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the form of Japanese poetry known as Haiku. I’ve even had a go at producing some cosmological Haiku myself. I suspect rather fewer will have come across another form known as Tanka. Being 31 syllables long rather than the 17 of Haiku, these are not quite as short but still quite a challenge to write.  They comprise 5 lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern of syllables. I’m told by Japanese friends that Tanka are specifically written to celebrate a special event or to capture the mood of a particular moment. Here is an exquisite example by a famous poet called Otomo No Yakamochi:

From outside my house,
only the faint distant sound
of gentle breezes
wandering through bamboo leaves
in the long evening silence.

I’ve had a go at composing a couple of Tanka to do with specific moments in cosmology. Here’s one about the epoch of recombination:

An electron finds
a proton and marries it;
they make hydrogen.
Simultaneous weddings
free light across the cosmos.

I was talking to some students about the spherical collapse model so here’s a Tanka for that:

I was more dense than
my surroundings, expanded
more slowly, then stopped.
Now I must start to collapse;
soon I shall virialize.

Further attempts welcome through the comments box!


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