Archive for Poetry

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)



Nothing, by Basil Bunting

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on September 4, 2017 by telescoper

I spent this weekend catching up with some old friends in London, and making the most of the opportunity to behave as a tourist. Most of my visits to the Capital are on business so it was nice to have the chance to wander around aimlessly. Anyway, when I got to Charing Cross I suddenly remembered I had a half-spent book token in my wallet, so popped into Foyles and bought this hefty tome, which had been on my list since I read about it when it was reviewed in TLS.

Basil Bunting was born in 1900 in the Scotswood area of Newcastle upon Tyne (i.e. not in the Midlands). His life story is fascinating. Imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War 1, Bunting worked for the intelligence services in Persia during World War 2, after which he remained as the Times Correspondent in Iran. Eventually, after much travelling, he returned to England, winding up as a journalist working for the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. Largely through a very long poem called Briggflats Bunting established a reputation as a very important modernist poet who some felt was a worthy successor to T.S. Eliot, though Eliot did not rate his work particularly highly and Bunting’s main poetic influence was clearly Ezra Pound.

One thing I particularly like about the poems of Basil Bunting is that they sound so great when read out loud. `Compose aloud. Poetry is a sound.’ is a famous quotation of his. Unlike many poets he was utterly compelling when reading his own work ; see here for an excerpt of him reading Briggflats. He has a wonderful voice, and there’s music in the way he speaks.

Briggflats  is too long to reproduce here, so here’s a shorter one called Nothing:

substance utters or time
stills and restrains
joins design and

supple measure deftly
as thought’s intricate polyphonic
score dovetails with the tread
sensuous things
keep in our consciousness.

Celebrate man’s craft
and the word spoken in shapeless night, the
sharp tool paring away
waste and the forms
cut out of mystery!

When taut string’s note
passes ears’ reach or red rays or violet
fade, strong over unseen
forces the word
ranks and enumerates…

mimes clouds condensed
and hewn hills and bristling forests,
steadfast corn in its season
and the seasons
in their due array,

life of man’s own body
and death…
The sound thins into melody,
discourse narrowing, craft
failing, design
petering out.

Ears heavy to breeze of speech and
thud of the ictus.


by Basil Bunting (1900-85).

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)


The Dead Statesman

Posted in Poetry, Politics with tags , , on July 21, 2017 by telescoper

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

It isn’t Time that’s passing

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on June 23, 2017 by telescoper

Remember the long ago when we lay together
In a pain of tenderness and counted
Our dreams: long summer afternoons
When the whistling-thrush released
A deep sweet secret on the trembling air;
Blackbird on the wing, bird of the forest shadows,
Black rose in the long ago summer,
This was your song:
It isn’t time that’s passing by,
It is you and I.

by Ruskin Bond (b. 1934)


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.

The Beautiful Sun, by William McGonagall

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on May 24, 2017 by telescoper

Beautiful Sun! with thy golden rays,
To God, the wise Creator, be all praise;
For thou nourisheth all the creation,
Wherever there is found to be animation.

Without thy heat we could not live,
Then praise to God we ought to give;
For thou makest the fruits and provisions to grow,
To nourish all creatures on earth below.

Thou makest the hearts of the old feel glad,
Likewise the young child and the lad,
And the face of Nature to look green and gay,
And the little children to sport and play.

Thou also givest light unto the Moon,
Which certainly is a very great boon
To all God’s creatures here below,
Throughout the world where’er they go.

How beautiful thou look’st on a summer morn,
When thou sheddest thy effulgence among the yellow corn,
Also upon lake, and river, and the mountain tops,
Whilst thou leavest behind the most lovely dewdrops!

How beautiful thou seem’st in the firmament above,
As I gaze upon thee, my heart fills with love
To God, the great Creator, Who has placed thee there,
Who watches all His creatures with an eye of care!

Thou makest the birds to sing on the tree,
Also by meadow, mountain, and lea;
And the lark high poised up in air,
Carolling its little song with its heart free from care.

Thou makest the heart of the shepherd feel gay
As he watches the little lambkins at their innocent play;
While he tends them on the hillside all day,
Taking care that none of them shall go astray.

Thou cheerest the weary traveller while on his way
During the livelong summer day,
As he admires the beautiful scenery while passing along,
And singing to himself a stave of a song.

Thou cheerest the tourist while amongst the Highland hills,
As he views their beautiful sparkling rills
Glittering like diamonds by the golden rays,
While the hills seem to offer up to God their praise.

While the bee from flower to flower does roam
To gather honey, and carry it home;
While it hums its little song in the beautiful sunshine,
And seemingly to thank the Creator divine —

For the honey it hath gathered during the day,
In the merry month of May,
When the flowers are in full bloom,
Also the sweet honeysuckle and the broom.

How beautiful thy appearance while setting in the west,
Whilst encircled with red and azure, ’tis then thou look’st best!
Then let us all thank God for thy golden light
In our prayers every morning and night!

by Wiliam Topaz McGonagall (1825-1902)