Archive for the Poetry Category

September’s Baccalaureate

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on September 28, 2015 by telescoper

September’s Baccalaureate
A combination is
Of Crickets – Crows – and Retrospects
And a dissembling Breeze

That hints without assuming –
An Innuendo sear
That makes the Heart put up its Fun
And turn Philosopher.

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


A Life – R.S. Thomas

Posted in Poetry with tags , on September 25, 2015 by telescoper

A Life

Lived long; much fear, less
courage. Bottom in love’s school
of his class; time’s reasons
too far back to be known.
Good on his knees, yielding,
vertical, to petty temptations.
A mouth thoughts escaped
from unfledged. Where two
were company, he the unwanted
third. A Narcissus tortured
by the whisperers behind
the mirror. Visionary only
in his perception of an horizon
beyond the horizon. Doubtful
of God, too pusillanimous
to deny him. Saving his face
in verse from the humiliations prose
inflicted on him. One of life’s
conscientious objectors, conceding
nothing to the propaganda of death
but a compulsion to volunteer.

An obituary of his own hand.

posted on the 15th anniversary of the death of R.S. Thomas (1913-2000).




A Botanic Garden of Planets

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff on September 19, 2015 by telescoper

I’ve been reading, with rapidly growing delight and astonishment, an amazing poem called The Botanic Garden , which was written by Erasmus Darwin in 1789. It is a truly wonderful work which depicts the Universe as a vast laboratory set up by a Divine Creator through verses that generate a thrilling sense of  momentum and vitality. Take this example, a passage from the First Canto, dealing with the creation of the stars and planets:

‘Let there be Light!’, proclaimed the Almighty Lord,
Astonish’d Chaos heard the potent word: – 
Through all his realms the kindly Ether runs,
And the mass starts into a million suns; 
Earths round each sun with quick explosions burst,
And second planets issue from the first; 
Bend, as they journey with projectile force, 
In bright ellipses bend their reluctant course; 
Orbs wheel in orbs, round centres centres roll, 
And form, self-balanced, one revolving Whole.

It doesn’t quite fit with modern theories of star and planet formation, but it’s certainly beautifully expressed!

September 1st, 1939

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 22, 2015 by telescoper

I have been out all day at an event that commemorates something that happened on September 1st 1939. No time to write about it tonight, but until I do it seems apt to post this poem By W.H. auden..

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Lock Me Away

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 14, 2015 by telescoper

In the NHS psychiatric test
For classifying the mentally ill
You have to spell ‘world’ backwards.
Since I heard this, I can’t stop doing it.
The first time I tried pronouncing the results
I got a sudden flaring picture
Of Danny La Rue in short pants
With his mouth full of marshmallows.
He was giving his initial and surname
To a new schoolteacher.
Now every time I read the Guardian
I find its columns populated
By a thousand mumbling drag queens.
Why, though, do I never think
Of a French film composer
(Georges Delerue, pupil of
Darius Milhaud, composed the waltz
In Hiroshima, Mon Amour)
Identifying himself to a policeman
After being beaten up?
But can I truly say I never think of it
After I’ve just thought of it?
Maybe I’m going stun:
Dam, dab and dangerous to wonk.
You realise this ward you’ve led me into
Spelled backwards is the cloudy draw
Of the ghost-riders in the sky?
Listen to this palindrome
And tell me that it’s not my ticket out.
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Do you know who I am, Dr La Rue?

by Clive James

The Ashes Regained!

Posted in Cricket, Poetry with tags , , , on August 8, 2015 by telescoper

Well, there you have it. England’s cricketers have won the Fourth Test of the Ashes series at Trent Bridge (in the Midlands) by an innings and 78 runs, to take an unassailable 3-1 lead with one game to play. When I settled down to watch the opening overs of the opening match in Cardiff I really did not think England had any chance of winning the series, and even after England won in Cardiff I felt that the Australians would come back strongly. That horrible defeat at Lord’s in the Second Test confirmed that opinion, but emphatic victories in the Third and Fourth Test have proved me wrong. The amazing first day at Trent Bridge, during which Australia were all out for a meagre total of 60 with Broad taking 8-15,  made an England victory and the Ashes virtually certain. It all just proves how little I know about cricket.

At one point it looked like the game would be wrapped up yesterday, inside two days, but Adam Voges and the remaining Australian tailenders clung on doggedly in the fading light of yesterday evening to end the day on 241-7 in response to England’s first innings total of 391-9 declared. The main question this morning was whether they could accumulate the 90 runs needed to make England bat again.

As it happened, neither Starc nor Hazlewood nor Lyon could cope with the swing of Wood and Stokes. Hazlewood in particular led a charmed life for 10 deliveries, during which he never really looked like putting bat to ball, before finally losing his middle stump to Wood. Moments later, Lyon fell in the same manner. In some ways it’s cruel sport when bowlers have to bat in a futile attempt to save a game that’s lost, but the end was mercifully swift.

Nevill battled well to end on 51 not out, but he might have tried a bit harder to protect his tailenders. No doubt he was hoping a not out score would improve his chances of continued selection.

Commiserations to Australian cricket fans. Their team just wasn’t as good as England, with bat or ball. They have a lot of rebuilding to do, and I think it won’t just be the Captain Michael Clarke who won’t be playing another Ashes series, but you can be sure they’ll be back challenging for the Ashes again before long.

And as for England, there are some interesting questions about the next Test at the Oval. Will Jimmy Anderson return, or should England rest him even if he is fit? Does Adam Lyth get another chance to establish hismelf with the pressure off, or do England try to blood another opener? And although Moeen Ali  is an excellent find as a batting all-rounder, he’s not the kind of bowler that’s likely to bowl a team out at Test level. Can we find a world-class spinner to balance the attack? Answers on a postcard, please.

It’s been an extraordinary series so far, consisting of four relatively one-sided matches (three to England and one to Australia). A far cry from the brilliant Ashes series of 2005 which had so many close games, so I guess it’s not been such a great series for the neutral. But then I’m not neutral, so I don’t mind at all..

The Small Window

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on July 28, 2015 by telescoper

In Wales there are jewels
To gather, but with the eye
Only. A hill lights up
Suddenly; a field trembles
With colour and goes out
In its turn; in one day
You can witness the extent
Of the spectrum and grow rich
With looking. Have a care;
The wealth is for the few
And chosen. Those who crowd
A small window dirty it
With their breathing, though sublime
And inexhaustible the view.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)


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