Archive for the Poetry Category

What would I do without this world – #PoetryDayIRL

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 28, 2022 by telescoper

what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

by Samuel Beckett (1906-89)

Asleep, by Wilfred Owen

Posted in Poetry on April 23, 2022 by telescoper

Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There was a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping …
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intrusive lead, like ants on track.

Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High pillowed on calm pillows of God’s making
Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead,
And these winds’ scimitars;
—Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more with the low mould,
His hair being one with the grey grass
And finished fields of autumns that are old …
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold
Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas

by Wilfred Owen (1897-1918)

I read this poem a few weeks ago. The phrase “in the happy no-time of his sleeping, Death took him by the heart” has been in my head ever sense. For a soldier in a terrible war like World War 1, or indeed that being waged right now in Ukraine, to die in your sleep must be one of the least bad ways to go.

I’ve often said that, when the time comes, I’d like to die during a seminar, peacefully in my sleep…

 

“March” by A.E. Housman

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on March 22, 2022 by telescoper

The Sun at noon to higher air,
Unharnessing the silver Pair
That late before his chariot swam,
Rides on the gold wool of the Ram.

So braver notes the storm-cock sings
To start the rusted wheel of things,
And brutes in field and brutes in pen
Leap that the world goes round again.

The boys are up the woods with day
To fetch the daffodils away,
And home at noonday from the hills
They bring no dearth of daffodils.

Afield for palms the girls repair,
And sure enough the palms are there,
And each will find by hedge or pond
Her waving silver-tufted wand.

In farm and field through all the shire
They eye beholds the heart’s desire;
Ah, let not only mine be vain,
For lovers should be loved again.

by Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936)

Calamity Again

Posted in Art, History, Maynooth, Poetry, Politics with tags , , on March 7, 2022 by telescoper

This lunchtime I attended a public vigil for Ukraine on Maynooth University campus. It was a moving experience, not least because of the presence of a Ukrainian PhD student, Oleg Chupryna, who addressed the gathering. Although he has lived in Ireland for over 20 years many members of his family are still in Ukraine. They were in Kharkiv when the invasion happened, having refused to leave because they didn’t think the Russians would actually invade, but then found themselves under relentless shelling by Russian artillery. His family managed to flee Kharkiv for the countryside a couple of days ago, but are still trapped in Ukraine, apart from one family member who has arrived safely in Dublin and who read the following poem (in Ukrainian) by Taras Shevchenko, followed by the English translation. you see below.

Shevchenko (who was a painter and illustrator as well as a poet) was born a serf, so the use of the word slavery is not metaphorical. Sales of artwork enabled him to be  bought out of his serfdom in 1838, but he spent a great deal of time imprisoned by the Russian authorities. He died in St Petersburg in 1861 at the age of 47.

The poem Calamity Again  was written in 1854, in the middle of the Crimean War, at which time Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire. The poem was written at Novopetrovsk Fortress, depicted in the above painting by Shevchenko himself.

Dear God, calamity again! …
It was so peaceful, so serene;
We but began to break the chains
That bind our folk in slavery …
When halt! … Again the people’s blood
Is streaming! Like rapacious dogs
About a bone, the royal thugs
Are at each other’s throat again.

 

Wind, by Ted Hughes

Posted in Poetry on February 18, 2022 by telescoper

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

by Ted Hughes (1930-98)

 

A Topical Nursery Rhyme

Posted in Poetry on February 17, 2022 by telescoper

I’ve always been fascinated by Nursery Rhymes. Some people think these are little more than nonsense but in fact they are full of interesting historical insights and offer important advice for the time in which they were written. One such poem, for example, delivers a stern warning against the consequences of placing sleeping babies in the upper branches of trees during windy weather.

In the light of recent events I thought I would continue this old tradition by posting a nursery rhyme of topical relevance. Here it is:

Verse:

The Grand Old Duke of York
He gave twelve million quid
To a girl he never met
For a thing he never did.

Chorus:

And when he was up he **censored**

R.I.P. Thomas Kinsella

Posted in Poetry on December 22, 2021 by telescoper

The renowned Irish Poet Thomas Kinsella has passed away at the age of 93. By way of a small tribute I thought I would post again a poem by him that I first posted about 7 years ago when I had no inkling that I would move to Ireland. Probably his most famous and definitely his most anthologised work Mirror in February gives us a reflection (in more ways than one) on the inexorable and irreversible process of ageing. Kinsella actually wrote this in May 1962 when he would have been just 34 years old and probably had no idea he would live almost another sixty years. Apart from everything else this poem confirms my opinion that shaving is to be avoided…

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 (1928-2021)

At Day-Close in November by Thomas Hardy

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on November 21, 2021 by telescoper

The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird wings across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.

And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
That none will in time be seen.

by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Unsolved, by John McCrae

Posted in History, Poetry with tags , , , , on November 11, 2021 by telescoper

The poet John McCrae served with distinction in the Canadian Field Artillery during the First World War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died in 1918, of pneumonia, shortly before the end of the conflict.
McCrae is best known for writing the poem In Flanders Fields, the imagery of which led to the adoption of the poppy as the emblem of Remembrance Day (11th November i.e. today). He wrote many other interesting poems, however, so I thought I’d share one here to celebrate his life.

Amid my books I lived the hurrying years,
Disdaining kinship with my fellow man;
Alike to me were human smiles and tears,
I cared not whither Earth’s great life-stream ran,
Till as I knelt before my mouldered shrine,
God made me look into a woman’s eyes;
And I, who thought all earthly wisdom mine,
Knew in a moment that the eternal skies
Were measured but in inches, to the quest
That lay before me in that mystic gaze.
“Surely I have been errant; it is best
That I should tread, with men their human ways.”
God took the teacher, ere the task was learned,
And to my lonely books again I turned.

by John McCrae (1872-1918)

 

A Day in Autumn, by R.S. Thomas

Posted in Maynooth, Poetry with tags , , on October 5, 2021 by telescoper

Tree-lined Avenue at Maynooth University

 

It will not always be like this,
The air windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening

In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up
From the day’s chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)