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Within You Without You -- George Harrison

Guest poem submitted by Arun Simha:
(Poem #954) Within You Without You
 We were talking - about the space between us all
 And the people - who hide themselves behind a
   wall of illusion
 Never glimpse the truth - then it's far too late -
   when they pass away.

 We were talking - about the love we all could
   share - when we find it
 To try our best to hold it there - with our love
 With our love - we could save the world - if
   they only knew.

 Try to realise it's all within yourself no-one else
   can make you change
 And to see you're really only very small,
   and life flows on within you and without you.

 We were talking - about the love that's gone so
   cold and the people,
 Who gain the world and lose their soul -
   they don't know - they can't see - are you one
   of them?

 When you've seen beyond yourself - then you
   may find, peace of mind is waiting there -
 And the time will come when you see
   we're all one, and life flows on within you and
   without you.
-- George Harrison

Rec.: 15th/22nd March, 3rd/4th April 1967
Rel. UK: 1st June 1967 (LP Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Rel. US: 2nd June 1967 (LP Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Track No.: 8
Composer: Harrison
Vocals: George Harrison
Year: 1967

Instruments & additional info.:
Recording commenced in studio two at Abbey Road on March 22 1967.
Album version mixed from take two. Writer: George. Lead vocal:
George. Producer: George Martin. Recording engineer: Geoff Emerick.
Second engineer: Richard Lush.

Harrison: vocal, sitar, acoustic guitar, tambura
Uncredited Indian musicians: dilrubas, svarmandal, tabla, tambura
Erich Gruenberg, Alan Loveday, Julien Gaillard, Paul Scherman,
Ralph Elman, David Wolfsthal, Jack Rothstein, Jack Greene: violins
Reginald Kilbey, Allen Ford, Peter Beavan: cellos
Neil Aspinall: tambura


George Harrison  R.I.P

Tragic, isn't it?

I'm sure most people remember his music and its associated Indian influence

Those were the days when musicians looked eastwards for spiritual
inspiration. John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu) and Carlos Santana (Devadip)
became followers of Sri Chinmoy, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant spent a few
months in India and collected a great deal from Indian music for their
incredible Led Zeppelin  albums, and George...

 ...  who can forget 'Norwegian Wood', 'Something', 'Here Comes the Sun',
'Within You Without You' and many other immortal songs that will remain
forever etched in our minds and hearts?

He was the originator of the movement to connect music with humanitarian
aid. In 1971, Ravi Shankar informed him about the great poverty in
Bangladesh, which moved him to hold a concert which raised quite a lot of


[Minstrels Links]

Poem #631, Mean Mr Mustard / Polythene Pam -- John Lennon
Poem #112, Mr.Tambourine Man  -- Bob Dylan
Poem #227, Desolation Row  -- Bob Dylan
Poem #832, Love Minus Zero / No Limit -- Bob Dylan
Poem #890, All Along the Watchtower -- Bob Dylan
Poem #933, Mother's Little Helper -- Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Parable of the Madman -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Guest poem submitted by David Wright:
(Poem #953) Parable of the Madman
 Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning
 ran to the market place, and cried incessantly:
 "I seek God! I seek God!"
 As many of those who did not believe in God
 were standing around just then,
 he provoked much laughter.
 Has he got lost? asked one.
 Did he lose his way like a child? asked another.
 Or is he hiding?
 Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?
 Thus they yelled and laughed.

 The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes.
 "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you.
 We have killed him---you and I.
 All of us are his murderers.
 But how did we do this?
 How could we drink up the sea?
 Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?
 What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun?
 Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving?
 Away from all suns?
 Are we not plunging continually?
 Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions?
 Is there still any up or down?
 Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?
 Do we not feel the breath of empty space?
 Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us?
 Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning?
 Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers
 who are burying God?
 Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition?
 Gods, too, decompose.
 God is dead.
 God remains dead.
 And we have killed him.

 "How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
 What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled
to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?
 What water is there for us to clean ourselves?
 What festivals of atonement, what sacred gamesshall we have to invent?
 Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us?
 Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
 There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us -
 For the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all
history hitherto."

 Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners;
 and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment.
 At last he threw his lantern on the ground,
 and it broke into pieces and went out.
 "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet.
 This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering;
 it has not yet reached the ears of men.
 Lightning and thunder require time;
 the light of the stars requires time;
 deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard.
 This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars -
 and yet they have done it themselves.

 It has been related further that on the same day
 the madman forced his way into several churches
 and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo.
 Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing
 "What after all are these churches now
 if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter
Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

     Not long ago, a poetry group I participate in was looking at Yeats's
The Second Coming (Minstrels Poem #289) - an exploration that was deeply
tinted with recent tragedies and ongoing world events.  I was thinking of
that poem as a reflection on man without God, man after God.  This led to
thoughts of Nietzsche's most notorious statement: God is Dead, which
everybody knows, although few people know the full parable that it is taken

     Nietzsche has been much maligned in the popular mind as an atheist, a
nihilist, and a proto-fascist.  I think the passage is appropriate for the
Minstrels because Nietzsche was a true oet philosopher (Plato being the only
other example I can call to mind.)  I don't read German, but I understand
that he is one of the greatest of German stylists, and his background in
philology gave him a poet's feel for language.  And writing in the form of a
parable, he demands interpretation in the same way a lot of poets do.

     I find it a moving, frightening, telling mythos for our time - it just
about defines what is meant by 'postmodernism.'  Perhaps it is for all time,
or for certain times throughout history when mankind has felt the darkness
closing in, the meaning evaporating.  But even Ragnarok, the Norse doom of
the Gods in which the world was to be plunged into darkness and ice and
humankind was to be destroyed while the Gods killed each other, even that
dark vision was to be followed by a new Golden Age in which the triumphant
Gods returned.  For Nietzsche, the death of God is attended merely by decay
and worms.  And freedom, that dreaded freedom that Sartre addresses in his


[Minstrels Links]

The aforementioned Yeats poem:
Poem #289, The Second Coming  -- William Butler Yeats

For something completely different, see:
Poem #615, The Philosopher's Drinking Song -- Monty Python

Verity -- Drummond Allison

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul.
Who'd have thought the world would have so many cricket poems in it?
(Poem #952) Verity
 (In memory of Captain Hedley Verity, injured in Sicily, Taken POW, buried
at Caserta. Pre-war, Yorkshire and England slow left-arm bowler.)

 The ruth and truth you taught have come full-circle
 On that fell island all whose history lies,
 Far now from Bramhall Lane and far from Scarborough
 You recollect how foolish are the wise.

 On this great ground more marvellous than Lord's
 - Time takes more spin than nineteen thirty four -
 You face at last that vast that Bradman-shaming
 Batsman whose cuts obey no natural law.

 Run up again, as gravely smile as ever,
 Veer without fear your left unlucky arm
 In His so dark direction, but no length
 However lovely can disturb the harm
 That is His style, defer the winning drive
 Or shake the crowd from their uproarious calm.
-- Drummond Allison
 What I find wonderful about this poem is that it's perhaps the only poem
I've ever read which treats cricket as a sombre subject (witness the poems
run so far in this theme - all of which have an element of humour). The
starting, of course, is a bit weak, and the use of the sonnet form somewhat
unnecessary, but I truly love the last six lines, with their sense of heroic
determination - the sort of courage that makes a man give all he has against
an implacable foe and an unconcerned crowd. I know nothing of Verity (and am
not particularly fond of cricket) but reading this poem, I have no choice
but to admire him - as a cricketer and a human being.


[Verity Bio]

A wonderfully gifted left-arm spin bowler, Hedley Verity was born in the
shadow of Headingley in 1905 and died from his wounds in a prisoner-of-war
hospital camp in Caserta, Italy, during the Second World War at the age of
38. It was a tragic end to a life that had given so much to the world of

It seems strange to think that Verity was originally turned down by
Yorkshire at trials in 1926, but he was eventually given a chance by the
county in 1930 and, of course, became a fixture until the start of the war.
He was the natural successor to that other great Yorkshire left-arm spinner,
Wilfred Rhodes, whose career drew to a close in 1930 after an amazing 883
games for the county. Verity was never going to get close - Hitler saw to
that - but he did turn out for Yorkshire 278 times and in that time he
produced some remarkable bowling analyses.

In 1931 he took ten for 36 off 18.4 overs against Warwickshire at Leeds, but
incredibly he bettered these figures the following season by taking ten for
ten in 19.4 overs against Nottinghamshire, also at Headingley. They remain
the county's best bowling figures for an innings while Verity's 17 for 91
against Essex at Leyton in 1933 remain Yorkshire's best bowling in a match.
Verity claimed nine wickets in an innings seven times for Yorkshire. He took
100 wickets in a season nine times and took 200 wickets in three consecutive
seasons between 1935-37. He ended with 1,956 first-class wickets at an
average of 14.9, took five wickets in an innings 164 times and ten wickets
in a match 54 times. On 1 September, 1939, in the last first-class match
before war was declared, he took seven for nine at Hove against Sussex.

The year after he first appeared for Yorkshire, Verity made his England
debut against New Zealand at The Oval, finishing the game with four wickets.
After that summer he was ignored until 1932/33, the Bodyline Series, in
which he took 11 wickets, including Bradman twice. By the time his career
was over, Verity had dismissed Bradman ten times, a figure matched only by
Grimmett. As with his domestic career, Verity's international performances
threw up some astonishing bowling figures. He took eight for 43 and finished
with match figures of 15 for 104 against Australia at Lord's in 1934. His
stamina was demonstrated during the 1938-39 tour of South Africa when he
bowled 95.6 eight-ball overs in an innings at Durban, taking four for 184.
By the time war arrived, Verity had taken 144 wickets at 24.37.

During the war he was a captain in the Green Howards. He sustained his
wounds in the battle of Catania in Sicily and died on 31 July, 1943. His
grave is at Caserta Military Cemetery, some 16 miles from Naples. (Copyright
CricInfo 2001)


Ironically, Drummond Allison was also killed in action during WW2...

Wife Poem -- Hayden Carruth

Guest poem submitted by Adam Gitner:
(Poem #951) Wife Poem
 And it's clear at last, she dropped
 down from the moon, not like some
 sylphy Cynthia at Delphi, after all she's
 not seventeen, but with the sexual
 grace and personal implacability
 of a goddess of our time; so he says to
 himself at night seeing the glow
 of her sleep in her half (two-thirds really)
 of their bed, the claire de lune of her shoulder
 and forehead behind the deep clouds
 of her hair. He drinks his wine
 and swallows more pills. The birds
 make their first aubade, little chirps and
 chitterings, and outside the first light
 mists their window. The day will be awful,
 nervy and dull and sullen. His last
 cigarette, his final gulp of chardonnay,
 and he presses against her warm glow,
 thinking of how he swam as a boy
 of twelve in the warm pond beyond
 the elms and hickories at the meadow's
 edge. He turned like a sleepy carp among
 the water lilies, under the dragonflies
 and hot clouds of the old days of summer.
-- Hayden Carruth
You've run Carruth before and here as usual is his particular New England
maturity. He's such a technician with the lines; one hand continually
pulling you forward, the other deftly assembling the landscape. In another
poem "Ray" he compares the poetic mind to a bucket of minnows. If they are
minnows he's slapping together on this poem, it's some shellac that holds
them together. Though there's no consistent meter I can tell, there's an
abiding if intangible sense of poetic rhythm. Lines tend to lapse into iambs
but slip out of hand too quickly to hold. Other lines have an elusive rhyme,
as in how the words "sylphy Cynthia at Delphi" echo back to each other
softly reduced. Reduction is a key to this poem, as is the weakness of an
echo. The narrator seems to live in a world with the lights set permanently
on dim. His only display of strength is in a few lines that end in strong
iambs, like "she dropped", "His last", "a boy", "beyond", and "among" that
carry you over the enjambment and onto the next line. Yet even this give the
impression of the narrator's ultimate weakness in the way it mimics the
sound of a lame foot dragging only intermittently, or the rasp of a labored
breath heaving in the lungs then falling silent on the next line. It begs
comparison with the resolution of the meter in Tennyson's "Ulysses".

The moon, Diana, Cynthia, or Selene as Keats called her, hangs in the
backdrop of this poem and is frequently contrasted with the day: in imagery,
surely Carruth was aware of the juxtaposition of Delphi the center of
worship of Apollo with Cynthia; in form, the way the first and last half of
the poem are consumed with dreaming while the middle displays a shift in
diction to the concrete (cigarette, gulp of chardonnay, chirps, birds, and
first light). His wife is consistently identified with the moon from the
initial simile, to the "claire de lune" of her shoulder, and the "clouds" of
her hair. I can only assume that the poet is familiar with Keats' previous
treatment of the Moon falling in love with the shepherd Endymion in his epic
of the same name. A quote from Bulfinch's _Mythology_ is relevant:

   "The story of Endymion has a peculiar charm from the human meaning which
it so thinly veils. We see in Endymion the young poet, his fancy and his
heart seeking in vain for that which can satisfy them, finding his favourite
hour in the quiet moonlight, and nursing there beneath the beams of the
bright and silent witness the melancholy and the ardour which consume him.
The story suggests aspiring and poetic love, a life spent more in dreams
than in reality, and an early and welcome death."
        -- ([broken link]

To the narrator the night is the soft echo of day just as the dream is the
embrace opposite "nervy" reality. Our narrator lives in this wistful cocoon
which is not a cocoon as should precede maturity but one that slips on long
after. It verges on inexpressible for me to describe how Carruth brings out
the similarities between dreamy adolescence and dreamy old age, moving
between night and day with the effort of a brushstroke or how the end comes
not with the ringing tone of a rhyming couplet or the beating finality of
consistent meter but with a simple, falling trochee.

 - Adam Gitner

[Minstrels Links]

Hayden Carruth:
Poem #684, Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey
Poem #774, Ray

John Keats:
Poem #12, On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer
Poem #182, La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Poem #316, Ode to a Nightingale
Poem #433, Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell
Poem #575, To Mrs Reynolds' Cat
Poem #696, Last Sonnet
Poem #770, A Thing of Beauty is a Joy for Ever
Poem #910, On the Grasshopper and the Cricket

Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Poem #15, The Eagle (a fragment)
Poem #31, Break, break, break
Poem #80, The Brook (excerpt)
Poem #121, Ulysses
Poem #355, Charge of the Light Brigade
Poem #653, Ring Out, Wild Bells
Poem #825, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, Now the White
Poem #852, Mariana in the Moated Grange
Poem #896, The Kraken

The cricket sang -- Emily Dickinson

Not cricket? You decide...
(Poem #950) The cricket sang
 The cricket sang,
 And set the sun,
 And workmen finished, one by one,
    Their seam the day upon.

 The low grass loaded with the dew,
 The twilight stood as strangers do
 With hat in hand, polite and new,
    To stay as if, or go.

 A vastness, as a neighbor, came,--
 A wisdom without face or name,
 A peace, as hemispheres at home,--
    And so the night became.
-- Emily Dickinson
One of Dickinson's many impressive poetic talents is the ability to write in
a wonderfully and deliberately quirky style, and yet not have that
quirkiness become the focus of the poem, or overshadow its more 'poetic'
aspects. Today's poem doesn't *quite* succeed in that particular regard -
the convoluted syntax is obtrusive, and forces several readings of the poem,
but that is not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed, the poem itself is
quite beautiful, packing several layers of imagery into a few
precisely-chosen words.

The images themselves are original and evocative (and sometimes even both
<g>) - the cricket singing the sun into setting (compare Thomas's "wild men
who caught and sang the sun in flight"), the workmen seaming[1] up the day,
the startlingly apt comparison in the second verse, and the unoriginal but
very well executed last verse.

Note, too, the deceptively regular-seeming verse, both in terms of metrical
structure and rhyme. Particularly impressive is how well the short first
verse blends into the longer (by a whole line[2]) second and third verses,
though the varying rhyme scheme is handled perfectly too.

[1] though I am unable to decide quite what Dickinson intended here - there
is the obvious sense of stitching, but the OED also gives "Agric. A furrow,
(seed) drill.", and the more I think about it, the more appropriate a usage
it seems in context.
[2] if you count lines one and two as a single, broken line


  Set to music by Ernst Bacon:
    [broken link]

    Poem #92

  Dickinson poems on Minstrels:
    Poem #92, "There's a certain Slant of light"
    Poem #174, "A Route of Evanescence"
    Poem #341, "The Grass so little has to do -"
    Poem #458, "The Chariot"
    Poem #529, "If you were coming in the fall"
    Poem #580, "Split the Lark"
    Poem #687, "Success is counted sweetest"
    Poem #711, "I'm Nobody! Who are you?"
    Poem #829, "It dropped so low in my regard"
    Poem #871, "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain"
    Poem #891, "A Doubt If It Be Us"

  And the cricket theme:
    Poem #946, Sir Henry Newbolt, "Vitai Lampada"
    Poem #947, John Kendal, "Ballad of a Homeless Bat"
    Poem #948, Julia A. Moore, "Grand Rapids Cricket Club"
    Poem #949, Andrew Lang, "Brahma"


Brahma -- Andrew Lang

The poem that inspired this week's theme, suggested by Suresh
(Poem #949) Brahma
 If the wild bowler thinks he bowls,
   Or if the batsman thinks he's bowled,
 They know not, poor misguided souls,
   They too shall perish unconsoled.
 I am the batsman and the bat,
   I am the bowler and the ball,
 The umpire, the pavilion cat,
   The roller, pitch, and stumps, and all.
-- Andrew Lang
Here's the original:


 If the red slayer think he slays,
   Or if the slain think he is slain,
 They know not well the subtle ways
   I keep, and pass, and turn again.

 Far or forgot to me is near;
   Shadow and sunlight are the same;
 The vanish'd gods to me appear;
   And one to me are shame and fame.

 They reckon ill who leave me out;
   When me they fly, I am the wings;
 I am the doubter and the doubt,
   And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

 The strong gods pine for my abode,
   And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
 But thou, meek lover of the good!
   Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

        -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a kinder, gentler world, you might easily have seen Emerson's "Brahma"
featuring on the Minstrels in its own right. It's a fairly straightforward
meditation, phrased with a confidence worthy of an all-encompassing Being;
it captures the idea of Brahma succinctly, and with greater accuracy than
most philosophical treatises; and it has its share of memorable lines
(especially the first and sixth couplets).

Alas, it was not to be. Not after Andrew Lang worked his magic, at any rate.
The easiest poem to parody is one that takes itself too seriously [1], and
Emerson's "Brahma" falls headlong into this trap. It's a decent enough poem,
but it's unbearably pompous, and Lang skewers this pomposity with relish.
His "Brahma" is irreverent, surreal, and joyful; he transforms the original
from the sublime to the ridiculous, and then transcends it.


[1] Actually, most egregiously bad poems (whether or not they're susceptible
to parody) do tend to take themselves too seriously; it's their defining
feature. The unforgettable [2] works of Julia Moore and William McGonagall
are prime examples of this fact; their immortality stems as much from their
creators' earnestness as from their own ghastliness.

Of course, one must take care not to reverse the syllogism; it is entirely
possible for a poem to take itself seriously without being a crime against
the language. I would even go so far as to put "Brahma" (the original, that
is) into this category; it's not a bad poem per se; it's just that the
parody is so much better...

[2] Word chosen with the utmost of care :)

[Minstrels Links]

This week's theme is Cricket:
Poem #946, Vitai Lampada -- Sir Henry Newbolt
Poem #947, Ballad of a Homeless Bat -- John Kendal
Poem #948, Grand Rapids Cricket Club -- Julia A. Moore
Poem #949, Brahma -- Andrew Lang
Poem #686, Nicholas Cricket -- Joyce Maxner

Two wonderfully bad poets:
Poem #948, Grand Rapids Cricket Club -- Julia A. Moore
Poem #343, The Tay Bridge Disaster  -- William McGonagall

Grand Rapids Cricket Club -- Julia A Moore

Carrying on with the cricket theme...
(Poem #948) Grand Rapids Cricket Club
 In Grand Rapids is a handsome club,
      Of men that cricket play,
 As fine a set of skillful men
      That can their skill display.
 They are the champions of the West,
      They think they are quite fine,
 They've won a hundred honors well;
      It is their most cunning design.

 Brave Kelso, he's considered great,
      Chief of the club he is found;
 Great crowds he draws to see him bowl
      The ball upon the ground.
 And Mr. Follet is very brave,
      A lighter player than the rest,
 He got struck severe at the fair ground
      For which he took a rest.

 When Mr. Dennis does well play,
      His courage is full great,
 And accidents to him occur,
      But not much, though, of late.
 This ball play is a dangerous game,
      Brave knights to play it though;
 Those boys would be the nation's pride,
      If they to war would go.

 From Milwaukee their club did come,
      With thoughts of skill at play,
 But beat they was, and then went home --
      Had nothing more to say.
 Grand Rapids club that cricket play,
      Will soon be known afar,
 Much prouder do the members stand,
      Like many a noble star.
-- Julia A Moore
What can one say about a magnificent effort like today's?

    "Longfellow at his best wrote nothing like that."
    "I agree with you."

           -- Saki, "Reginald's Peace Poem"

Well, Moore herself has provided an apt description...

  All those which speak of being killed, died or drowned, are truthful
  songs; others are "more truth than poetry."

         -- Julia Moore, Preface to "The Sweet Singer of Michigan"

As have the editors of "The Stuffed Owl"...

  And she adds, defending herself against these evil men, that "Literary is
  a work very difficult to do," and that poetry from the heart has more
  power than poetry from the head.

         -- D. B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, "The Stuffed Owl: An
         Anthology of Bad Verse" on Moore

Though as Moore says

   And now kind friends, what I have wrote,
   I hope you will pass o'er,
   And not criticise as some have done,
   Hitherto herebefore

         -- Julia Moore, "The Author's Early Life"

However, criticism is what we are all about, so let us examine today's poem
in greater detail. And a most rewarding poem it is too - all the heroism and
the travails of the brave men of the Grand Rapids Cricket Club are brought
touchingly and vividly to life, and the well-deserved victory over the
upstarts from Milwaukee is passed over with masterful understatement. Note,
too, the bold use of syntactic inversions, daring eye-rhymes and charmingly
varied scansion. What from a lesser poet would be mere poetry gets turned in
Moore's hands into immortal Doggerel to which the word 'mere' doesn't even
begin to apply.


  Seamus Cooney has a wonderful Julia Moore site, which is well worth
  exploring, and from which all the quotations other than the Saki one were
    [broken link]

  And, incredible as it may seem, Moore is thoroughly eclipsed by the great
  William McGonagall:
    Poem #343, William McGonagall, "The Tay Bridge Disaster"

  Here's some more delightfully bad poetry:
    [broken link]

  And the Cricket theme thus far:
    Poem #946, Sir Henry Newbolt, "Vitaï Lampada"
    Poem #947, John Kendal, "Ballad of a Homeless Bat"


  'Tis an ill wind...

     [Nash's] rhymes are jarringly off or disconcertingly exact, and his
     ragged stanzas vary from lines of one word to lines that meander the
     length of a paragraph, often interrupted by inapposite digressions. He
     said he learned his prosody from the unintentional blunders of the
     notoriously slipshod poet Julia Moore, the "Sweet Singer of Michigan."

             -- EB on Ogden Nash


Ballad of a Homeless Bat -- John Kendal

Guest poem submitted by Frank O'Shea, as part of
our cricket theme:
(Poem #947) Ballad of a Homeless Bat
 The man was going in to bat;
 The bowler, flushed with joy,
 Stood waiting to complete his hat; [1]
 There came a village boy

 "Put off your gloves of rubber proof,
 Unguard each careful shin.
 The curse has fallen on your roof;
 Your house has tumbled in."

 White as his boots the batsman grew;
 He cast his pads away;
 His gauntlets to the winds he threw.
 The Captain cried, "I say,

 Go in, poor homeless one, and bat,
 Stem as the nether rock;
 E'en though that house of yours be flat,
 You'd better have your knock."

 "My little home," the batsman wept,
 "So trim it was and tight;
 I always had it nicely swept;
 It had electric light.

 And is there left no tiny shred
 Of the whole bag of tricks?"
 The boy with urchin relish said
 Laconically, "Nix."

 "Let me go hence; nay, hold me not."
 Then loud the Captain cried,
 "You, you alone can stay the rot;
 Think, batsman, of the side.

 Your kindling eye, your stubborn heart
 Alone can make things good;
 You would not land us in the cart";
 The victim said, "I would."

 Then spake a man of subtler mould:
 "A year ago, no more,
 Yon bowler, haughty man and cold,
 Had you out leg-before. [2]

 Did you not seal a solemn oath
 To clump him for that crime
 O'er yon tall tree, or tent, or both?
 You did. Then now's the time."

 Up sprang the batsman with a frown,
 And like a man he spoke:
 "Let every house come crashing down,
 The pub dissolve in smoke;

 I will not guard each careful shin;
 Give me my bat, no more;
 With knuckles bared will I go in
 And larn him leg-before."

 He seized his trusty bat and went
 A broken soul was he,
 But he lammed the blighter o'er the tent,
 The bounder o'er the tree.
-- John Kendal
Cricket, good.

Here's a real beauty by John Kendal. I know little about him except that he
wrote for Punch under the name Dum-Dum and published 11 books of verse. The
book from which the following is taken has a date of 1947 and contains the
WITH THE AUTHORISED ECONOMY STANDARDS." The book also contains the following
author's note: "I have been reproached before now, as one kindly reviewer
put it, for not 'making a frank bid as a serious poet.' Why on earth should
I? Nothing would make me one - I know that - and, thank goodness, I have had
no leanings in that direction. And I remain impenitent."


Frank O'Shea.

PS. For our American cousins:

[1] hat trick: a wicket taken with each of three successive balls. Extremely
[2] leg-before: a common and often controversial (in the sense of being open
to much discussion) way of getting a batsman out.

PPS. [thomas adds:] Sheer bloodymindedness is, of course, as good a reason
to play cricket as any other.

Vitaï Lampada -- Sir Henry Newbolt

(Poem #946) Vitaï Lampada
 There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
 Ten to make and the match to win --
 A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
 An hour to play and the last man in.
 And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
 Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
 But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote
 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"

 The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
 Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
 The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
 And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
 The river of death has brimmed his banks,
 And England's far, and Honour a name,
 But the voice of schoolboy rallies the ranks,
 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"

 This is the word that year by year
 While in her place the School is set
 Every one of her sons must hear,
 And none that hears it dare forget.
 This they all with a joyful mind
 Bear through life like a torch in flame,
 And falling fling to the host behind --
 "Play up! play up! and play the game!"
-- Sir Henry Newbolt
The glorious game of cricket has inspired its share of prose writers, from
Neville Cardus and P. G. Wodehouse to Woody Allen and Stephen Fry... but
poets? Oh yes; "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are
dreamt of in your philosophy" [1], and one of those things is this week's
Minstrels theme: poems about or inspired by or at least tangentially related
to those "flannelled fools at the wicket" [2], cricketers.

Newbolt is not, unfortunately, a poet with whose ideology I sympathize; he's
too much the imperialist, buying into the "white man's burden" argument
without displaying the sensitivity to other cultures of, say, Kipling or
even Tennyson. That said, he does have a knack of coining memorable phrases:
the refrain of today's poem, the opening lines of "Drake's Drum", the
entirety of "Ireland, Ireland". It's not enough to ever elevate him from
minor poet status (the third eleven, so to speak), but it's sufficient for
him to be remembered. And what more could anyone ask, really?


[1] Bill Shakespeare
[2] Ruddy Kipling

[Minstrels Links]

Sir Henry Newbolt:
Poem #731, A Ballad of John Nicholson
Poem #41, Ireland, Ireland
Poem #456, He Fell Among Thieves

O sweet spontaneous -- e e cummings

(Poem #945) O sweet spontaneous
 O sweet spontaneous
 earth how often have

           fingers of
 purient philosophers pinched

 ,has the naughty thumb
 of science prodded

       beauty      .how
 oftn have religions taken
 thee upon their scraggy knees
 squeezing and

 buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

 to the incomparable
 couch of death thy

           thou answerest

 them only with

-- e e cummings
While the main theme of today's poem is one that never fails to faintly
disappoint me, I must admit that it has produced some beautiful poems. The
disappointment is, of course, due to the persistent failure of a certain
class of poems to understand the sheer beauty of science, and the fact that
the scientist's appreciation of nature is undiminished by the desire for
understanding. "O sweet spontaneous" goes much further than "pity this busy
monster, manunkind" - Cummings makes almost literal the (common) metaphor of
the scientist raping the defenceless earth.

The sexual imagery is underscored by the fact that Cummings changed
'philosophies' to 'philosophers'[1][2] - he sets not just Science, but Man up
in direct opposition to the 'sweet, spontaneous earth' (bleh!).

Annoyance aside, though, this is a wonderful poem. I may not agree with
Cummings' sentiments, but he makes them beautifully, with a vivid sequence of
images culminating in the exquisite

           ... the incomparable
           couch of death thy

In one short phrase, the scope of the poem is expanded dizzyingly - indeed,
the 'pace' and density of the poem increase sharply towards the end, until it
levels off gently, almost quietly in the last 'verse'. The almost concrete
nature of the layout helps here, with the multiple blank lines being used to
very good effect.

[1] see the first link
[2] maybe the new US version should read 'sorcerers' <g>

Links: has a bit of the
  poem's revision history in the notes

  Biography of Cummings: See Poem #57

  Some other poems on Science:

    Poem #54, Walt Whitman, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"
    Poem #57, E. E. Cummings, "pity this busy monster manunkind"
    Poem #795, Harold P. Furth, "The Perils of Modern Living"
    Poem #797, Lewis F. Richardson, "Big Whorls Have Little Whorls"
    Poem #798, John Updike, "V.B. Nimble, V.B. Quick"
    Poem #800, Miroslav Holub, "In the Microscope"
    Poem #801, D. D. Perrin, "A mosquito was heard to complain"
    Poem #803, Catherine Faber, "The Word of God"


Rioupéroux -- James Elroy Flecker

(Poem #944) Rioupéroux
 High and solemn mountains guard Rioupéroux
 --Small untidy village where the river drives a mill --
 Frail as wood anemones, white and frail were you,
 And drooping a little, like the slender daffodil.

 O I will go to France again, and tramp the valley through,
 And I will change these gentle clothes for clog and corduroy,
 And work with the mill-hands of black Rioupéroux,
 And walk with you, and talk with you, like any other boy.
-- James Elroy Flecker
Flecker's poetry is consistently delightful, and today's poem is no
exception - the "small untidy village" of Rioupéroux is brought to life with
the same magical touch which first drew me to poems like "The Gates of
Damascus" and "The Golden Road to Samarkand".

Here, despite it's exotic sounding[1] name, Rioupéroux represents a more
down-to-earth retreat, almost the antithesis, with its 'rough' images of
"clog and corduroy" and "tramp the valley", of the evocative dreams of
distant and long-ago Samarkand and Damascus. More to the point, the
roughness in the second verse stands in antithesis to the delicate imagery
in the first, an inversion that does not (despite a superficial tendency to
do so) descend into bathos, but rather combines the two images into a
coherent whole, so that the memory of the 'slender daffodil' superposes
itself upon the girl the narrator wishes to walk with and talk with "like
any other boy". The last line does not shatter the magic of the first verse;
rather, it leaves it intact to gently colour a more immediate present.

Not unexpectedly, Flecker demonstrates once again a superb feel for the
sound and structure of his verse. The poem has a wonderfully musical quality
(somewhat reminiscent of Masefield's "Cargoes") that enhances both the
slightly dreamlike atmosphere of the first verse and the more purposeful
rhythm of the second, and, indeed, serves in some measure to unify them.

[1] at least to my ears - possibly not to those of Flecker's contemporaries


 A biography of Flecker:

 For another interesting treatment of rural France, compare Belloc's
   "October": Poem #226

 Masefield's "Cargoes": Poem #74

 Flecker's poems on Minstrels:
   Poem #509, "The Golden Road to Samarkand"
   Poem #518, "The Gates of Damascus"
   Poem #685, "The Old Ships"


So is it not with me as with that Muse (Sonnets XXI) -- William Shakespeare

(Poem #943) So is it not with me as with that Muse (Sonnets XXI)
 So is it not with me as with that Muse
 Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
 Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
 And every fair with his fair doth rehearse
 Making a couplement of proud compare
 With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,
 With April's first-born flowers and all things rare
 That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.
 O let me true in love but truly write,
 And then believe me: my love is as fair
 As any mother's child, though not so bright
 As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air:
   Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
   I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.
-- William Shakespeare

1. "that Muse": metonym for "the poet inspired by that Muse".
5. "couplement": the act (or fact) of coupling.
2. "this huge rondure": this great sphere of earth and heaven, from Fr.


One thing I'm always struck by while reading the Sonnets is the confidence
of Shakespeare's opening lines. They're not always "poetic" in the
traditional sense; indeed, they often seem exactly the opposite, using
inverted syntax and unusual images to capture the reader's attention [1].
This, it goes without saying, is a high-risk approach; fortunately,
Shakespeare is, well, Shakespeare, and carries it off with the utmost of
ease. He sets never a foot [2] wrong; his tone is calm and utterly assured,
while retaining a depth of feeling, an immediacy which reaches out over the
centuries to touch readers even today.

Today's poem is (in a neat little bit of self-reference) about the Sonnets
themselves. It "rejects the conceits of poets who habitually make
extravagant comparisons with stars, jewels and flowers, in favour of
truthful (and private?) cogency" [3]. The obvious parallel is, of course,
Sonnet CXXX, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" (Minstrels
Poem #44), but the methods used in the two poems are sufficiently
disparate for (the less-celebrated) Sonnet XXI to possess a distinct
character of its own. Note especially the the interplay of language and
meaning: when describing the poetry of bad sonneteers, Shakespeare
rather self-consciously uses pretentious words like "couplement" and
"rondure" [4]; when it comes time to describe his own, more
down-to-earth feelings for his beloved, he is content with everday
phrases like "any mother's child". Self-reference within self-reference
- yum!


[1] See, for instance, the titles of the Sonnets that we've run on the
[2] Pun fully intended :)
[3] Katherine Duncan-Jones, in the third Arden edition of the Sonnets - a
recent (and highly recommended) addition to my library.
[4] Ms Duncan-Jones informs me that this word appears nowhere else in
Shakespeare's oeuvre [5].
[5] I've always wanted to use that word - oeuvre - in a Minstrels commentary

[Minstrels Links]

The Sonnets:
Poem #44, My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnets CXXX)
Poem #71, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnets XVIII)
Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII)
Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI)
Poem #808, Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck (Sonnets XIV)
Poem #943, So is it not with me as with that Muse (Sonnets XXI)

Death the Leveller -- James Shirley

(Poem #942) Death the Leveller
 The glories of our blood and state
   Are shadows, not substantial things;
 There is no armour against Fate;
   Death lays his icy hand on kings:
         Sceptre and Crown
         Must tumble down,
   And in the dust be equal made
 With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

 Some men with swords may reap the field,
   And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
 But their strong nerves at last must yield;
   They tame but one another still:
         Early or late
         They stoop to fate,
 And must give up their murmuring breath
 When they, pale captives, creep to death.

 The garlands wither on your brow,
   Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
 Upon Death's purple altar now
   See where the victor-victim bleeds.
         Your heads must come
         To the cold tomb:
 Only the actions of the just
 Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.
-- James Shirley
Note: Calchas' Hymn at the Funeral of Ajax, excerpted from "The Contention
  of Ajax and Ulysses"

Like Henley's "Invictus", "Death the Leveller" is a poem that, were it
written today, would probably have been criticised for its emphatic tone,
and for its tendency towards grandiloquence. This is not, however, a failing
in the poem - Shirley's subject is a weighty one, and the poem's tone is
altogether appropriate, the more so in its role as a funeral hymn. It does
lack a certain depth of emotion, however, that one would have expected in a
threnody - the poem works rather better when considered as a dispassionate
reminder that "Death lays his icy hand on kings" then it does as a dirge.



  The Columbia Encyclopedia on Calchas:
  and Ajax:

  Today's poem finds strong echoes in Kipling's "Recessional":
    Minstrels Poem #151

  And the two previous poems in a rather post hoc theme:
    Poem #938, Cicely Herbert, "Everything Changes"
    Poem #940, Rudyard Kipling, "The Palace"


Clenched Soul -- Pablo Neruda

Guest poem submitted by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous:
(Poem #941) Clenched Soul
 We have lost even this twilight.
 No one saw us this evening hand in hand
 while the blue night dropped on the world.

 I have seen from my window
 the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

 Sometimes a piece of sun
 burned like a coin in my hand.

 I remembered you with my soul clenched
 in that sadness of mine that you know.

 Where were you then?
 Who else was there?
 Saying what?
 Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
 when I am sad and feel you are far away?

 The book fell that always closed at twilight
 and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

 Always, always you recede through the evenings
 toward the twilight erasing statues.
-- Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda is one of my favourite poets. His poetry has a curious ethereal
quality to it, a haunting sadnesss. This is one of his most brilliant poems,
conveying the wistfulness ever so tenderly. In a way I would call him the
Van Gogh of poetry -- a brilliant artist drawing on the most poignant of
pictures and capturing them in a web of words. His poetry lives, lives in
the true sense of the word.

[Minstrels Links]

Pablo Neruda:
Poem #164, Bird
Poem #422, Sonnet XVII: Love
Poem #605, The Saddest Poem
Poem #816, I'm Explaining a Few Things

The Palace -- Rudyard Kipling

Brought to mind by Sunday's poem (Poem #938)...
(Poem #940) The Palace
When I was a King and a Mason -- a Master proven and skilled --
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.

There was no worth in the fashion -- there was no wit in the plan --
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran --
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
"After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known."

Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.

Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder's heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.

            *   *   *   *   *

When I was a King and a Mason -- in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.
They said -- "The end is forbidden." They said -- "Thy use is fulfilled.
"Thy Palace shall stand as that other's -- the spoil of a King who shall build."

I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber -- only I carved on the stone:
"After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!"
-- Rudyard Kipling

 quoin: An external angle of a wall or building; also, one of the stones
    or bricks serving to form the angle; a corner-stone
 ashlar: A square hewn stone for building purposes or for pavement
 sheer: The fore-and-aft upward curvature or rise of the deck or bulwarks of
   a vessel [Anything more appropriate? That's all I could get out of the
   OED - m.]

Man's relationship with Time has ever been an uneasy one, and all the more so
for its essentially one-sided nature - time sweeps on heedless of man or his
works, of whether he "goes gentle into that good night" or "rage[s] against
the dying of the light".

And with Time come its attendant evils - entropy, decay, and, of course,
Death, making the vain bid for immortality one of the most poignant of human
impulses. (On the other hand, it is the same impulse that gave us the pyramids
and Shakespeare's sonnets, so perhaps 'vain' is not quite accurate).

Today's poem is an interesting look at that relationship. The king's tone is a
curious mixture of pride, cool efficiency, and a genuine sympathy for the
dream of the deceased builder, and his reaction to the "Word From the
Darkness" is wonderfully philosophical, particularly for a king in the "open
noon of his pride".

Gratifyingly if not unexpectedly, Kipling's verse proves equal to the
(somewhat weighty) subject. The language is consistent and nicely balanced,
and there are several lines that made me shiver (still, despite all I have
learnt of criticism, one of my primary criteria in deeming a poem 'good'). One
phrase seems slightly out of place ("I cleared me ground for a palace"), but
that's most likely due to a minor difference in dialect.


  Kipling Biography: See Poem #17

  Other Kipling poems on Minstrels:
    [broken link]


Channel Firing -- Thomas Hardy

Armistice Day guest poem sent in by Reed C Bowman

[We received this a little too late to run it for the 11th, but I felt it
was worth posting anyway - martin]
(Poem #939) Channel Firing
 That night your great guns, unawares,
 Shook all our coffins as we lay,
 And broke the chancel window-squares,
 We thought it was the Judgment-day

 And sat upright. While drearisome
 Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
 The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
 The worms drew back into the mounds,

 The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, "No;
 It's gunnery practice out at sea
 Just as before you went below;
 The world is as it used to be:

 "All nations striving strong to make
 Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
 They do no more for Christés sake
 Than you who are helpless in such matters.

 "That this is not the judgment-hour
 For some of them's a blessed thing,
 For if it were they'd have to scour
 Hell's floor for so much threatening ....

 "Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
 I blow the trumpet (if indeed
 I ever do; for you are men,
 And rest eternal sorely need)."

 So down we lay again. "I wonder,
 Will the world ever saner be,"
 Said one, "than when He sent us under
 In our indifferent century!"

 And many a skeleton shook his head.
 "Instead of preaching forty year,"
 My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
 "I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer."

 Again the guns disturbed the hour,
 Roaring their readiness to avenge,
 As far inland as Stourton Tower,
 And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.
-- Thomas Hardy
           (April 1914)

I got this text from
They provide these explanations (among others):
  glebe cow: cow put out to pasture on church land for the vicar
  Stourton Tower: in Wiltshire, a tower built to honour Alfred the Great's
    victory over the Danes

This poem was written in April 1914, and beautifully expresses the
feeling of gloomy foreboding that some, at least, felt in the months
before the First World War. Though it's relieved by some oddly light
touches, in a time when across Europe huge masses, especially among the
young men, were looking forward to the war all knew was coming, Hardy
injects a recollection of  what war was to those who fought and died in
bygone years under the thunder of other guns, and how much worse it
might be this time. Probably at the time only by describing the unquiet
of the honored dead at the sound of more guns could a message of gloom
and hesitation be heard. Hardy (1840-1928) was old enough in 1914 to
have perspective on this, was fully adult for the news of the last big
European war in 1870, and in his youth might easily have met or seen
veterans of the Napoleonic wars. I don't know if the gunfire of the land
forces of the Franco-Prussian War was ever heard across the Channel, as
most certainly the guns of the Great War would be in coming months and
years, but big guns by night communicate their threat effectively  both
to the young abed in England who've never heard them, and to the future
enemies and allies listening upon the continent.

The poem effectively evokes the broken quiet of a country churchyard on
a dark night. I was going to say it also effectively described the
bleak, menacing sound of distant naval gunfire coming far over the water
and inland by night, but on rereading it I was surprised to find there's
no description of the sound at all - that is supplied by my own
recollection (as in this poem, it is only the Navy's practice firing
that I've ever heard) and by the description of the reaction of the
nocturnal beasts and the buried dead. But that reaction does clearly
call up the way you feel the gunnery in your spine and muscles, and the
way your body responds to the urgency of its threat, however distant.

The last stanza, taken out of context, or with only a vague reading of
the rest of the poem, might seem like an affirmation that the guns were
being trusted in as guardians, "Roaring their readiness to _avenge_,"
but the fifth stanza shatters this illusion. Having already said the
nations are "striving strong to make/Red war yet redder", he condemns
the threatening fire of the gunnery practice just offshore (where the
Continental powers are sure to hear as well), going so far as to put
words in God's mouth saying that Hell awaits the warriors for their

Overall this is a good poem to remind people, in time of slowly igniting
war, that the last time a war was begun to put an end to war and punish
warmongers it merely ushered in a new century of bloodier conflicts than
any in history. Now it is the dead of that same (the twentieth) century's
wars that may stir at the rise of a new century's same old war, and
wonder if their descendents for whose future and way of life they fought
will ever live in a saner world than theirs.



  Biography: See Poem #96

  Thomas Hardy on Minstrels:
    [broken link]

Everything Changes -- Cicely Herbert

(Poem #938) Everything Changes
        after Brecht, 'Alles wandelt sich'

 Everything changes. We plant
 trees for those born later
 but what's happened has happened,
 and poisons poured into the seas
 cannot be drained out again.

 What's happened has happened
 poisons poured into the seas
 cannot be drained out again, but
 everything changes. We plant
 trees for those born later.
-- Cicely Herbert
 A gem of a poem, clever without being pretentious, sincere without being
sentimental, and quietly optimistic without being irritatingly warm and
fuzzy. It's that last point which matters most to me, I suppose: heaven
knows the world could do with a bit more optimism, yet there are times when
I have nothing but impatience for the way people cheapen even this simple
emotion. Optimism is not the mindless repetition of twee platitudes. It is
not the blind rejection of the perversity of the world, or the unthinking
refusal to accept that "the best laid plans o' mice an' men / gang aft
a-gley". It is not a creation of that most insidious of beasts, political
correctness. No, it's something much deeper - it's a taking up of the
challenge of life, the joy and the terror, the laughter and the tears. It's
a way of accepting the world, and coming to face with it on equal terms.
It's a philosophy of life, and let's be thankful that we have poets like Ms
Herbert to remind us of this fact.


[Sort of Biography and Stuff]

 Of Cicely Herbert I know nothing, except the fact that she was one of the
three people behind 'Poems on the Underground'. Here are her own words on
the subject:

 "When we began to scatter poems about in public, we had so idea how people
would respond; it was all a bit reminiscent of the lovesick youth in the
Forest of Arden, hanging "odes upon hawthorns and elegies on brambles". Not
that the London Underground is anything like the Forest of Arden; on the
contrary, it is the ultimate expression of the modern urban working world.
But poetry thrives on paradox, and the poems seemed to take on new and
surprising life when they were removed from books and set amongst the
adverts. Commuters enjoyed the idea of reading Keats' "Much have I travell'd
in the realms of gold" on a crowded Central Line train, or trying to
memorise a sonnet between Leicester Square and Hammersmith. Just as we had
hoped, the poems provided relief, caused smiles, offered refreshment to the
soul -- and all in a place where one would least expect to find anything
remotely poetic."

 -- Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik, Cicely Herbert
 -- Introduction to "Poems on the Underground (print anthology)"

 The back cover of the book has this potted biography:

 "Cicely Herbert is a writer, a member of the Barrow Poets, and an adult
education teacher. She has written several performance pieces with music by
Jim Parker. These include, for BBC TW, "Petticoat Lane", and two concert
pieces commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, "Scenes from Victorian London" and
"La Comedie Humaine". Her poetry includes "In Hospital", 1992."

 -- "Poems on the Underground (print anthology)"

[Minstrels Links]

Yes, poetry can be wonderfully uplifting. Read the following:
Poem #177, Where The Mind is Without Fear  -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #218, Psalm 23  -- David
Poem #337, Jimmy Giuffre Plays 'The Easy Way'  -- Adrian Mitchell
Poem #392, Good  -- R. S. Thomas
Poem #874, Sometimes -- Sheenagh Pugh
Poem #103, Jenny Kissed Me  -- James Leigh Hunt
Poem #14, Prologue  -- Dylan Thomas

Incidentally, the Burns quote I used above is from
Poem #776, To A Mouse -- Robert Burns

The Look -- Sara Teasdale

(Poem #937) The Look
 Strephon kissed me in the spring,
   Robin in the fall,
 But Colin only looked at me
   And never kissed at all.

 Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
   Robin's lost in play,
 But the kiss in Colin's eyes
   Haunts me night and day.
-- Sara Teasdale
A delicately beautiful little poem - I love both the central image, and the
light, sure touch with which Teasdale develops it. And, as usual with
Teasdale's poetry, the combination of quietness and power, both masked by an
apparent simplicity, is nothing short of impressive.

There is, however (and unusually enough that I wonder if I'm misscanning the
poem), a slight roughness to the seventh line - I keep wanting to insert an
'oh,' after the 'but' to restore the regular iambic pattern. Comments?


 Biography: See Poem #113

 Teasdale poems on Minstrels:
   Poem #464, "Central Park at Dusk"
   Poem #113, "Morning"
   Poem #223, "There Will Come Soft Rains"
   Poem #430, "Wild Asters"


Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part (Idea: LXI) -- Michael Drayton

(Poem #936) Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part (Idea: LXI)
 Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
 Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
 And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
 That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
 Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
 And when we meet at any time again
 Be it not seen in either of our brows
 That we one jot of former love retain.
 Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
 When his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
 When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
 And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
    Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
    From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.
-- Michael Drayton
 Source: the "Idea" sonnets, LXI (published 1619; date of composition
 Form: Shakespearean sonnet.
 Metre: 14 lines of iambic pentameter.
 Rhyme: ababcdcd efefgg.

   Like "Citizen Kane", or "Pet Sounds", today's poem springs from a happy
confluence of time, chance and circumstance. Masterpieces like this are not
written every day, nor even every decade; the alignment of planets that
produced today's sonnet is nothing short of miraculous. Witness: without
this poem, Michael Drayton would be just another obscure Renaissance poet,
of interest only to academics and enthusiasts. With its writing, however,
his immortality was assured. "Since there's no help" is the peer of anything
Shakespeare ever wrote; indeed, the peer of any sonnet ever written.

   The poem is magnificent. The phrasing is perfect, evenly balanced between
sincere simplicity and high-flown rhetoric. The same effortless balance
extends to the subject material, which bridges the personifications and
apostrophes of the Pastoral with the passion and directness of Elizabethan
love poetry. There's even a hint of the Metaphysicals in the elaboration of
one theme (the deaths of Love, Passion, Faith and Innocence) and its
subsequent (almost paradoxical) inversion in the couplet [1].


[1] This inversion reminds me of Millay's wonderful sonnet "Love Is Not
All", Minstrels Poem #860.

  There's a Michael Drayton biography at Luminarium:


   The only other Elizabethan of high poetic rank, apart from Shakespeare,
who prominently associated himself with the sonneteering movement, was
Michael Drayton. In one effort, Drayton reached the highest level of poetic
feeling and expression. His familiar quatorzain opening "Since there 's no
help, come let us kiss and part" is the one sonnet by a contemporary which
deserves to rank with some of Shakespeare's best. It is curious to note that
Drayton's triumphant poem was first printed in 1619, just a quarter of a
century after he first sought the suffrages of the Elizabethan public as a
sonneteer. The editio princeps of his sonnet-sequence, called Ideas Mirrour:
Amours in Quatorzains, included fifty-two sonnets, and was reprinted no less
than eight times, with much revision, omission and addition, before the
final version came forth in 1619.
   Drayton's sonneteering labours constitute a microcosm of the whole
sonneteering movement in Elizabethan England. He borrows ideas and speech
from all available sources at home and abroad. Yet, like many contemporary
offenders, he deprecates the charge that he is "a thief" of the "wit" of
Petrarch or Desportes. With equal vigour of language he disclaims
pretensions to tell the story of his own heart:
     Into these loves who but for passion looks:
     At this first sight, here let him lay them by!
     And seek elsewhere in turning other books,
     Which better may his labour satisfy.
   For the most part, Drayton is a sonneteer on the normal Elizabethan
pattern, and his sonnets are rarely distinguished by poetic elevation.
Occasionally, a thin rivulet of natural sentiment winds its way through the
fantastic conceits which his wide reading suggests to him. But only in his
famous sonnet did his genius find in that poetic form full scope.

        -- Sidney Lee, "The Cambridge History of English and American

  Lemuel Whitaker, "The Sonnets of Michael Drayton"

[Minstrels Links]

William Shakespeare's sonnets:
Poem #44, My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnets CXXX)
Poem #71, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? (Sonnets XVIII)
Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII)
Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI)
Poem #808, Not From The Stars Do I My Judgment Pluck (Sonnets XIV)

Works by other Renaissance poets:
Poem #565, Now Winter Nights Enlarge -- Thomas Campion
Poem #328, from The Faerie Queen  -- Edmund Spenser
Poem #75, The face that launch'd a thousand ships  -- Christopher Marlowe
Poem #506, Lament for Zenocrate  -- Christopher Marlowe

An excellent web resource:

The Lobster Quadrille -- Lewis Carroll

(Poem #935) The Lobster Quadrille
 "Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail.
 "There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
 See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
 They are waiting on the shingle - will you come and join the dance?
   Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
   Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?

 "You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
 When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!"
 But the snail replied "Too far, too far!" and gave a look askance -
 Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
   Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.
   Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.

 "What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied.
 "There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
 The further off from England the nearer is to France -
 Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
   Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
   Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?"
-- Lewis Carroll
Note: A parody of Mary Howitt's "The Spider and the Fly"

Today's poem is another of those wonderful pieces that practically sing
themselves. Of course, this is due in part to the fact that Howitt's
original has picked up an associated melody that naturally attaches itself
to Carroll's parody too, but even without taking that into consideration,
Caroll's words and rhythms have a musicality that far improves upon "The
Spider and the Fly".

The poem is also a lovely example of Carroll's rather whimsical sense of
humour - the images are not just funny but delightfully individual. Less
clear is why he picked on Howitt - most of the other parodies in Alice
target poems that by their sheer sententiousness are 'asking for it'.
Perhaps it was Howitt's annoying addition of a moral to the tale, or
perhaps, for once, he just liked the rhythm of the piece :)


  Biography: [broken link]

  "The Spider and the Fly":

  A list of Carroll's parodies (incomplete - today's poem is one of the
    [broken link]

  The Poets' Corner parody index:
    [broken link]

  Carroll on Minstrels:
    Poem #52, "Jabberwocky"
    Poem #265, "The Mad Gardener's Song"
    Poem #347, "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
    Poem #409, "Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur"
    Poem #600, "The Mouse's Tale"


Blackberry-picking -- Seamus Heaney

Guest poem submitted by Aamir Ansari:
(Poem #934) Blackberry-picking
 Late August, given heavy rain and sun
 For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
 At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
 Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
 You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
 Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
 Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
 Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
 Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
 Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
 Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
 We trekked and picked until the cans were full
 Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
 With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
 Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
 With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
 We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
 But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
 A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
 The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
 The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
 I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
 That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
 Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
-- Seamus Heaney
In a lecture given to students at Oxford University, Seamus Heaney compared
the writing of poetry to the creation of a labyrinth, one that mirrors the
gruesome contortions our own world assumes at times. The difference is,
however, that the poet's labyrinth, the poem, has the power to restore us,
to reset the balance.

Heaney displays those restorative powers wonderfully in this poem. The
arrival of joy and the subsequent convulsive preparations to capture every
last drop of it ("...with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots") are honest to the
rich sensations of childhood experience. The poem itself is laden with
strange rich fruit, sweet clammy experience ready to be tasted and stored.
This, finally, is art true to life.


[Minstrels Links]

Poems by Seamus Heaney:
Poem #61, Song
Poem #883, Personal Helicon
Poem #934, Blackberry-picking

Poems on related topics:
Poem #827, Strawberries -- Edwin Morgan
Poem #274, This Is Just To Say  -- William Carlos Williams
Poem #377, Loveliest of trees, the cherry now  -- A. E. Housman
Poem #430, Wild Asters  -- Sara Teasdale
Poem #417, Thistles  -- Ted Hughes
Poem #63, Daffodils  -- William Wordsworth

Mother's Little Helper -- Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Guest poem submitted by Amit Chakrabarti, the
final one in his guest theme:
(Poem #933) Mother's Little Helper
 What a drag it is getting old!

 "Kids are different today,"
 I hear ev'ry mother say
 Mother needs something today to calm her down.
 And though she's not really ill
 There's a little yellow pill
 She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
 And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day.

 "Things are different today,"
 I hear ev'ry mother say
 Cooking fresh food for a husband's just a drag.
 So she buys an instant cake
 And she burns her frozen steak
 And goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
 And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day.

 "Doctor please, some more of these!"
 Outside the door, she took four more.

 "Men just aren't the same today,"
 I hear ev'ry mother say
 They just don't appreciate that you get tired.
 They're so hard to satisfy,
 You can tranquilize your mind
 So go running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
 And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight.

 "Life's just much too hard today,"
 I hear ev'ry mother say
 The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore.
 And if you take more of those
 You will get an overdose
 No more running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
 They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day.
-- Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Whoa! Did you expect to see Jagger/Richards lyrics in this forum someday?
Well, why not? Tightness of form, good scansion, internal rhymes, plus
biting commentary on then-modern (i.e., 1960's) middle- class society...
it's all here. And the topic is original to boot. What other songs, or for
that matter, poems, do you know of about the sixties anti-depressant drug
craze? The craze has still not ended, afaik. There are any number of poems
and songs about drug addiction in general but this highlights not just one
(overlooked) kind of addiction but its association with basic middle class
boredom. If I were feeling lofty, I might have said "existential angst" but
I'm not, so I won't.

Anyway, this one almost needed to be written.



Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were the main songwriting force of the
British rock group "The Rolling Stones". Also, five times two equals ten.



The song is from the 1966 album "Aftermath". Unfortunately for the American
consumer, the album released under this name in the U.S. lacks this song.


Here are two websites about those anti-depressant drugs (Prozac and its
relatives), if you want to learn more about the topic.
    [broken link]


Hey everybody, Sitaram's redesigned the Minstrels website! Check it out: