Archive for Poetry

Out in the Dark – by Edward Thomas / Killed in Action – by W.H. Davies

Posted in History, Poetry with tags , , , , on November 8, 2020 by telescoper

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe ;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when the lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned ;

And star and I and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together, – near,
Yet far, – and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.

by Edward Thomas (1878-1917).

Edward Thomas was killed in action at the Battle of Arras. His friend W.H. Davies was devastated by this and responded by writing this poem called Killed in Action (Edward Thomas):

Happy the man whose home is still
In Nature’s green and peaceful ways;
To wake and hear the birds so loud,
That scream for joy to see the sun
Is shouldering past a sullen cloud.

And we have known those days, when we
Would wait to hear the cuckoo first;
When you and I, with thoughtful mind,
Would help a bird to hide her nest,
For fear of other hands less kind.

But thou, my friend, art lying dead:
War, with its hell-born childishness,
Has claimed thy life, with many more:
The man that loved this England well,
And never left it once before.



The Evening Star – Louise Glück

Posted in Literature with tags , , , on October 9, 2020 by telescoper

The winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature is American poet Louise Glück (“for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”). I have only one book of her poems but it is excellent and I’m sure to explore more of them. Here is a poem of hers I like very much. It is called The Evening Star.

Tonight, for the first time in many years,
there appeared to me again
a vision of the earth’s splendor:

in the evening sky
the first star seemed
to increase in brilliance
as the earth darkened

until at last it could grow no darker.
And the light, which was the light of death,
seemed to restore to earth

its power to console. There were
no other stars. Only the one
whose name I knew

as in my other life I did her
injury: Venus,
star of the early evening,

to you I dedicate
my vision, since on this blank surface

you have cast enough light
to make my thought
visible again.

Threshold, by R.S. Thomas

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on September 30, 2020 by telescoper

I emerge from the mind’s
cave into the worse darkness
outside, where things pass and
the Lord is in none of them.

I have heard the still, small voice
and it was that of the bacteria
demolishing my cosmos. I
have lingered too long on

this threshold, but where can I go?
To look back is to lose the soul
I was leading upwards towards
the light. To look forward? Ah,

what balance is needed at
the edges of such an abyss.
I am alone on the surface
of a turning planet. What

to do but, like Michelangelo’s
Adam, put my hand
out into unknown space,
hoping for the reciprocating touch?

by Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000)


Further in Summer than the Birds – Emily Dickinson

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on August 31, 2020 by telescoper

Further in Summer than the Birds –
Pathetic from the Grass –
A minor Nation celebrates
It’s unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen –
So gradual the Grace
A gentle Custom it becomes –
Enlarging Loneliness –

Antiquest felt at Noon –
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify –

Remit as yet no Grace –
No furrow on the Glow,
But a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now –

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


The Mystery of Meaning

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 31, 2020 by telescoper

Contrary to the expectation I expressed yesterday when posting an obscure article about the chord changes in Duke Jordan’s Jordu, I got the following alert from WordPress:

Usually I get a bit nervous when there’s a spike in my stats. I tend to imagine I’ve posted something controversial and the people checking it out are all lawyers. As it turns out the destination of most of the traffic was not the piece I had just posted but an old post about a poem, Meaning by Czeslaw Milosz. Here is the poem:

When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
– And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?
– Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.

I have no idea why there was a sudden surge in interest yesterday – most of it from the USA – in this particular poem. I’d guess that it may have featured in a TV broadcast, as that sort of thing has in the past caused sudden increases in traffic to posts about music.

If anyone can solve the mystery of Meaning I’d be very grateful to hear through the comments box.

Update: Mystery solved. The poem was read by the Reverend James Lawson at the funeral of civil rights campaigner John Lewis. Many thanks to the commenter below for this information.

Poppies in July – Sylvia Plath

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 10, 2020 by telescoper

Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!

There are fumes I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

If I could bleed, or sleep! –
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.

But colorless. Colorless.

by Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)


June Thunder, by Louis Macneice

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on June 18, 2020 by telescoper

The Junes were free and full, driving through tiny
Roads, the mudguards brushing the cowparsley,
Through fields of mustard and under boldly embattled
Mays and chestnuts

Or between beeches verdurous and voluptuous
Or where broom and gorse beflagged the chalkland–
All the flare and gusto of the unenduring
Joys of a season

Now returned but I note as more appropriate
To the maturer mood impending thunder
With an indigo sky and the garden hushed except for
The treetops moving.

Then the curtains in my room blow suddenly inward,
The shrubbery rustles, birds fly heavily homeward,
The white flowers fade to nothing on the trees and rain comes
Down like a dropscene.

Now there comes catharsis, the cleansing downpour
Breaking the blossoms of our overdated fancies
Our old sentimentality and whimsicality
Loves of the morning.

Blackness at half-past eight, the night’s precursor,
Clouds like falling masonry and lightning’s lavish
Annunciation, the sword of the mad archangel
Flashed from the scabbard.

If only you would come and dare the crystal
Rampart of the rain and the bottomless moat of thunder,
If only now you would come I should be happy
Now if now only.

by Louis Macneice (1907-1963)


The Chameleon, by A.P. Herbert

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on June 11, 2020 by telescoper

A Chameleon, in Dublin Zoo.

The chameleon changes his colour;
He can look like a tree or a wall;
He is timid and shy and he hates to be seen,
So he simply sits down on the grass and grows green,
And pretends he is nothing at all.

I wish I could change my complexion
To purple or orange or red:
I wish I could look like the arm of a chair
So nobody ever would know I was there
When they wanted to put me to bed.

I wish I could be a chameleon
And look like a lily or rose;
I’d lie on the apples and peaches and pears,
But not on Aunt Margaret’s yellowy chairs—
I should have to be careful of those.

The chameleon’s life is confusing;
He is used to adventure and pain;
But if he ever sat on Aunt Maggie’s cretonne
And found what a curious color he’d gone,
I don’t think he’d do it again.

by A.P. Herbert (1890-1971)


The Trees, by Philip Larkin

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 31, 2020 by telescoper

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

by Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

#PoetryDayIRL: ‘Quarantine’, by Eavan Boland

Posted in History, Poetry with tags , , on April 30, 2020 by telescoper

It is a remarkable fact that when the poet Eavan Boland passed away a couple of days ago, the sad news of her passing led the main TV bulletin here in Ireland. I struggle to think of another country where the death of a poet would be deemed so important.

Anyway, today is National Poetry Day in Ireland so I decided to post a poem by Eavan Boland as a tribute on this day. This is Quarantine a moving contemplation of the tragedy of the Great Hunger.

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking — they were both walking — north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.