Archive for Poem

The Old Stoic – by Emily Jane Brontë

Posted in Literature, Poetry with tags , , , on July 30, 2018 by telescoper

Today, 30th July 2018, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Jane Brontë. There are many items celebrating her life in circulation on this day, most of them concentrating on her most famous work, her only novel Wuthering Heights, published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell in 1847. But Emily Brontë was also a fine poet, as indeed were her sisters Anne and Charlotte, so I thought I’d post a poem by her here. Much of her poetry is dominated by images of death and suffering, and her own health was affected by the harsh conditions in which she lived; she died of tuberculosis at the at the age of just 30.

Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream,
That vanished with the morn:

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal:
‘Tis all that I implore;
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.

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Thoughts Suggested by a College Examination – Byron

Posted in Literature with tags , , , on May 24, 2018 by telescoper

High in the midst, surrounded by his peers,
Magnus his ample front sublime uprears:
Plac’d on his chair of state, he seems a God,
While Sophs and Freshmen tremble at his nod;
As all around sit wrapt in speechless gloom,
His voice, in thunder, shakes the sounding dome;
Denouncing dire reproach to luckless fools,
Unskill’d to plod in mathematic rules.

Happy the youth! in Euclid’s axioms tried,
Though little vers’d in any art beside;
Who, scarcely skill’d an English line to pen,
Scans Attic metres with a critic’s ken.

What! though he knows not how his fathers bled,
When civil discord pil’d the fields with dead,
When Edward bade his conquering bands advance,
Or Henry trampled on the crest of France:
Though marvelling at the name of Magna Charta,
Yet well he recollects the laws of Sparta;
Can tell, what edicts sage Lycurgus made,
While Blackstone’s on the shelf, neglected laid;
Of Grecian dramas vaunts the deathless fame,
Of Avon’s bard, rememb’ring scarce the name.

Such is the youth whose scientific pate
Class-honours, medals, fellowships, await;
Or even, perhaps, the declamation prize,
If to such glorious height, he lifts his eyes.
But lo! no common orator can hope
The envied silver cup within his scope:
Not that our heads much eloquence require,
Th’ ATHENIAN’S glowing style, or TULLY’S fire.
A manner clear or warm is useless, since
We do not try by speaking to convince;
Be other orators of pleasing proud,—
We speak to please ourselves, not move the crowd:
Our gravity prefers the muttering tone,
A proper mixture of the squeak and groan:
No borrow’d grace of action must be seen,
The slightest motion would displease the Dean;
Whilst every staring Graduate would prate,
Against what—he could never imitate.

The man, who hopes t’ obtain the promis’d cup,
Must in one posture stand, and ne’er look up;
Nor stop, but rattle over every word—
No matter what, so it can not be heard:
Thus let him hurry on, nor think to rest:
Who speaks the fastest’s sure to speak the best;
Who utters most within the shortest space,
May, safely, hope to win the wordy race.

The Sons of Science these, who, thus repaid,
Linger in ease in Granta’s sluggish shade;
Where on Cam’s sedgy banks, supine, they lie,
Unknown, unhonour’d live—unwept for die:
Dull as the pictures, which adorn their halls,
They think all learning fix’d within their walls:
In manners rude, in foolish forms precise,
All modern arts affecting to despise;
Yet prizing Bentley’s, Brunck’s, or Porson’s note,
More than the verse on which the critic wrote:
Vain as their honours, heavy as their Ale,
Sad as their wit, and tedious as their tale;
To friendship dead, though not untaught to feel,
When Self and Church demand a Bigot zeal.
With eager haste they court the lord of power,
(Whether ’tis PITT or PETTY rules the hour;)
To him, with suppliant smiles, they bend the head,
While distant mitres to their eyes are spread;
But should a storm o’erwhelm him with disgrace,
They’d fly to seek the next, who fill’d his place.
Such are the men who learning’s treasures guard!
Such is their practice, such is their reward!
This much, at least, we may presume to say—
The premium can’t exceed the price they pay.

by George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)

 

May Day, by Phillis Levin

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 1, 2018 by telescoper

I’ve decided to waste my life again,
Like I used to: get drunk on
The light in the leaves, find a wall
Against which something can happen,

Whatever may have happened
Long ago—let a bullet hole echoing
The will of an executioner, a crevice
In which a love note was hidden,

Be a cell where a struggling tendril
Utters a few spare syllables at dawn.
I’ve decided to waste my life
In a new way, to forget whoever

Touched a hair on my head, because
It doesn’t matter what came to pass,
Only that it passed, because we repeat
Ourselves, we repeat ourselves.

I’ve decided to walk a long way
Out of the way, to allow something
Dreaded to waken for no good reason,
Let it go without saying,

Let it go as it will to the place
It will go without saying: a wall
Against which a body was pressed
For no good reason, other than this.

 

by Phillis Levin

I Grant You Ample Leave

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on September 28, 2017 by telescoper

“I grant you ample leave
To use the hoary formula ‘I am’
Naming the emptiness where thought is not;
But fill the void with definition, ‘I’
Will be no more a datum than the words
You link false inference with, the ‘Since’ & ‘so’
That, true or not, make up the atom-whirl.
Resolve your ‘Ego’, it is all one web
With vibrant ether clotted into worlds:
Your subject, self, or self-assertive ‘I’
Turns nought but object, melts to molecules,
Is stripped from naked Being with the rest
Of those rag-garments named the Universe.
Or if, in strife to keep your ‘Ego’ strong
You make it weaver of the etherial light,
Space, motion, solids & the dream of Time–
Why, still ’tis Being looking from the dark,
The core, the centre of your consciousness,
That notes your bubble-world: sense, pleasure, pain,
What are they but a shifting otherness,
Phantasmal flux of moments?–“

by George Eliot (1819-1880)

 

August, a poem by Viggo Stuckenberg

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on August 1, 2017 by telescoper

Hr. Preben pusler i Skovens Bryn,
fæster Doner, binder Bær, Bær saa rosenrøde,
bryder et Blad og bøjer en Kvist,
at liflig de Bær kunne gløde.

‘Kramsfugl! Kramsfugl! nu er det Tid!
Falder Havren, synger Segl over alle Agre,
bliver ej større en eneste Blomst,
ej Lundene mere fagre!

Gunild! Gunild! nu gulnes goldt
alle Løfter, al Lokken, al Leg fra Skærsommer!
Viger den Haand, som ikke jeg greb,
og aldrig vi sammen kommer!

Thi længst er leden den lyse Vaar,
levnet Nætter i Mulm, levnet flygtende Fugle!
Den, som ved det, maa sidde kvær
og skogre som gammel Ugle!’

Hr. Preben pusler i Skovens Bryn,
fæster Doner, binder Bær, Bær saa lifligt røde:
‘Kramsfugl! Dig sender jeg hende kvalt
og ler stor Elskov til Døde!’

by Viggo Stuckenberg (1863-1905)

 

June 1915, by Charlotte Mew

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on June 16, 2017 by telescoper

Who thinks of June’s first rose today?
Only some child, perhaps, with shining eyes and
rough bright hair will reach it down.
In a green sunny lane, to us almost as far away
As are the fearless stars from these veiled lamps of town.
What’s little June to a great broken world with eyes gone dim
From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread?
Or what’s the broken world to June and him
Of the small eager hand, the shining eyes, the rough bright head?

by Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)

 

The Bright Field, by R.S. Thomas

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on May 31, 2017 by telescoper

I heard this recording of R.S. Thomas reading one of his most famous poems on Private Passions on BBC Radio 3 this Sunday. It was only later that I realised that although I’ve posted quite a few poems by R.S. Thomas over the years, I’ve never posted this one so I’m correcting that omission now. The poem is called The Bright Field:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Here is R.S. Thomas himself reading it. The comments made about this reading on the radio programme weren’t entirely complimentary, but I rather like it. Notice, however, that in the spoken version he adds a `the’ between `had’ and `treasure’, which isn’t there in my printed copy of the poem.