Archive for the Literature Category

January, by R.S. Thomas

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on January 16, 2020 by telescoper

The fox drags its wounded belly
Over the snow, the crimson seeds
Of blood burst with a mild explosion,
Soft as excrement, bold as roses.

Over the snow that feels no pity,
Whose white hands can give no healing,
The fox drags its wounded belly.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)


Classics in the Russell Library

Posted in History, Literature, Maynooth, Uncategorized with tags on January 9, 2020 by telescoper

Here’s a taster of the wonderful collection of books and manuscripts in the Russell Library at Maynooth University..

MU Library Treasures

Ruth O’Hara, Collections and Content

Ruth pic 1

Study of the classical world has been a staple of this University for centuries. The Russell Library’s classic’s collection, which was amassed largely by the early professors of St. Patrick’s College, is eclectic covering all areas of the ancient world and indeed it transcends disciplines. So, besides Homer and Virgil, for example, sit the poems of Catullus, the theological tracts of Ambrose of Milan, and the philosophical musings of Aristotle. One blog can’t hope to capture the extent and range of such a collection so, instead, I just want to look at some of the ways that we in the Russell Library continue to foster interest in this diverse subject area by integrating it into the research, teaching and life of the University.

We have found our classics collection to be a really useful resource for postgraduate students, for example, who engage with primary source…

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Experience, by Emily Dickinson

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on December 29, 2019 by telescoper

I stepped from plank to plank
So slow and cautiously;
The stars about my head I felt,
About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch, —
This gave me that precarious gait
Some call experience.

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

R.I.P. Clive James (1939-2019) – Japanese Maple

Posted in Poetry with tags , on November 28, 2019 by telescoper

More sad news arrived yesterday with the announcement of the death at the age of 80 of broadcaster, writer and critic Clive James. Clive James had been gravely ill for some time and had longer than many people to come to terms with his own mortality. In addition to the other things I mentioned above, he was an accomplished poet as he demonstrated in this reflection on his own end in the farewell poem Japanese Maple which he wrote about five years ago:

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

And here is the man himself reading it. It’s very moving to hear him read this verse, his voice recognisable with its Australian accent and characteristic vocal mannerisms, but it is the voice of an invalid, of a dying man, thin and fading.

R.I.P. Clive James (1939-2019)

Because I could not stop for Death

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on November 10, 2019 by telescoper

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)



The Bush, by R.S. Thomas

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on October 15, 2019 by telescoper

I know that bush,
Moses; there are many of them
in Wales in the autumn, braziers
where the imagination
warms itself. I have put off
pride and, knowing the ground
holy, lingered to wonder
how it is that I do not burn
and yet am consumed.

And in this country
of failure, the rain
falling out of a black
cloud in gold pieces
there are none to gather,
I have thought often
of the fountain of my people
that played beautifully here
once in the sun’s light
like a tree undressing.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)



A Reminiscence of Cricket

Posted in Cricket, Literature, Poetry with tags , , , , on August 19, 2019 by telescoper

W.G. Grace, photographed in 1902

Not a lot of people know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a keen amateur cricketer who played ten first-class matches (for the MCC). He was an occasional bowler who only took one wicket in a first-class game, that of W.G. Grace, which was such a momentous event for him that he wrote this poem about it:

Once in my heyday of cricket,
One day I shall ever recall!
I captured that glorious wicket,
The greatest, the grandest of all.

Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down.

A statue from Thebes or from Knossos,
A Hercules shrouded in white,
Assyrian bull-like colossus,
He stands in his might.

With the beard of a Goth or a Vandal,
His bat hanging ready and free,
His great hairy hands on the handle,
And his menacing eyes upon me.

And I – I had tricks for the rabbits,
The feeble of mind or eye,
I could see all the duffer’s bad habits
And where his ruin might lie.

The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like one horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.

Well, here goes! Good Lord, what a rotter!
Such a sitter as never was dreamt;
It was clay in the hands of the potter,
But he tapped it with quiet contempt.

The second was better – a leetle;
It was low, but was nearly long-hop;
As the housemaid comes down on the beetle
So down came the bat with a chop.

He was sizing me up with some wonder,
My broken-kneed action and ways;
I could see the grim menace from under
The striped peak that shaded his gaze.

The third was a gift or it looked it-
A foot off the wicket or so;
His huge figure swooped as he hooked it,
His great body swung to the blow.

Still when my dreams are night-marish,
I picture that terrible smite,
It was meant for a neighboring parish,
Or any place out of sight.

But – yes, there’s a but to the story –
The blade swished a trifle too low;
Oh wonder, and vision of glory!
It was up like a shaft from a bow.

Up, up like a towering game bird,
Up, up to a speck in the blue,
And then coming down like the same bird,
Dead straight on the line that it flew.

Good Lord, it was mine! Such a soarer
Would call for a safe pair of hands;
None safer than Derbyshire Storer,
And there, face uplifted, he stands

Wicket keep Storer, the knowing,
Wary and steady of nerve,
Watching it falling and growing
Marking the pace and curve.

I stood with my two eyes fixed on it,
Paralysed, helpless, inert;
There was ‘plunk’ as the gloves shut upon it,
And he cuddled it up to his shirt.

Out – beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch!
His bat was tucked up at an angle,
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.

Walking he rumbled and grumbled,
Scolding himself and not me;
One glove was off, and he fumbled,
Twisting the other hand free

Did I give Storer the credit
The thanks he so splendidly earned?
It was mere empty talk if I said it,
For Grace had already returned.

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).