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A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover -- John Wilmot

Guest poem submitted by Nick Blackburn:
(Poem #1058) A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover
 Ancient Person, for whom I
 All the flattering youth defy,
 Long be it e'er thou grow old,
 Aching, shaking, crazy cold;
 But still continue as thou art,
 Ancient Person of my heart.

 On thy withered lips and dry,
 Which like barren furrows lie,
 Brooding kisses I will pour,
 Shall thy youthful heart restore,
 Such kind show'rs in autumn fall,
 And a second spring recall;
 Nor from thee will ever part,
 Ancient Person of my heart.

 Thy nobler parts, which but to name
 In our sex would be counted shame,
 By ages frozen grasp possest,
 From their ice shall be released,
 And, soothed by my reviving hand,
 In former warmth and vigour stand.
 All a lover's wish can reach,
 For thy joy my love shall teach;
 And for thy pleasure shall improve
 All that art can add to love.
 Yet still I love thee without art,
 Ancient Person of my heart.
-- John Wilmot
A fine poem from from my second best source (it's not the Minstrels, so it
must be the BBC's Something Understood). A fine compliment to Shakespeare's
sonnet CXXX ("My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun") and extremely


[Minstrels Links]

Just the one Wilmot poem so far:
Poem #669, Epigram on Charles II -- John Wilmot

Here's old Bill Shakespeare:
Poem #16, Full Fathom Five
Poem #44, My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnets CXXX)
Poem #48, Pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth
Poem #71, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? (Sonnets XVIII)
Poem #126, Our revels now are ended
Poem #200, Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks
Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII)
Poem #229, To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Poem #243, When that I was and a little tiny boy
Poem #312, Where the bee sucks
Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI)
Poem #413, Admired Miranda!
Poem #477, Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Poem #570, Come, Night; Come, Romeo
Poem #611, Winter
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)

Atavism -- William Stafford

Guest poem submitted by Joyce Heon:
(Poem #1057) Atavism
 Sometimes in the open you look up
 where birds go by, or just nothing,
 and wait.  A dim feeling comes
 you were like this once, there was air,
 and quiet; it was by a lake, or
 maybe a river  you were alert
 as an otter and were suddenly born
 like the evening star into wide
 still worlds like this one you have found
 again, for a moment, in the open.

 Something is being told in the woods:  aisles of
 shadow lead away; a branch waves;
 a pencil of sunlight slowly travels its
 path.  A withheld presence almost
 speaks, but then retreats, rustles
 a patch of brush.  You can feel
 the centuries ripple  generations
 of wandering, discovering, being lost
 and found, eating, dying, being born.
 A walk through the forest strokes your fur,
 the fur you no longer have.  And your gaze
 down a forest aisle is a strange, long
 plunge, dark eyes looking for home.
 For delicious minutes you can feel your whiskers
 wider than your mind, away out over everything.
-- William Stafford
No matter how often I read this poem, I feel the fur I no longer have lift,
something creeps my skin, more primeval than thought.  The space of it
recreates my youthful forays onto forest paths, where light becomes defined
by the upright tree and angle of the sun, where it comes like jaguar spots
to the skin.  Every trip into the forest makes you more than yourself and so
much less.

Archibald MacLeish advises that a poem lies less in what is said than what
is not, what is communally recognized, but is just shy of being put in
words, possibly cannot be put in words.  It is more feeling than thought,
something that fits in between lines and images, and that is eternally true.
Atavism takes you from the common experience into the uncommon, the
recognition that we have a long history of forest and field, clearing and
thicket, that beneath our skin lies the caution of hunter and hunted.  It
speaks to where we live and die.  If you pause, you sense that you are just
about to come upon the most revealing truth of your life, some secret,
perhaps there in that shadow.

Stafford leaves you in that moment of expectation, unlike Mary Oliver, whose
fox leaps from hiding like flame across your mind.  She paints the image,
the experience, and resolves it with photo-realism.  For all the fire, the
mystery is smothered.  You are left having seen a fox.  But Stafford only
suggests what you might have seen, and thereby reveals some places within
you that you didn't know.

William Stafford is one of my favorite accessible poets.  How can you not
admire a man who on the day he died in fragile hand wrote a poem so
incredibly affecting as "Are you Mr. William Stafford?" without the least
trace of soppy self-pity?  You read it with the certainty that he faced
dying with his whiskers way out over everything.


[Links] has the text of "Are You
Mr. William Stafford?", along with a facsimile of the (dying) poet's
handwritten draft of the poem.

[broken link] is a comprehensive Stafford

Minstrels poems/poets mentioned in the commentary:
Poem #188, Ars Poetica  -- Archibald MacLeish
Poem #457, The End of the World  -- Archibald MacLeish
Poem #426, Wild Geese  -- Mary Oliver

Waiting for the Barbarians -- Constantine Cavafy

Guest poem submitted by Zubaer Mahboob:
(Poem #1056) Waiting for the Barbarians
 What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

      The barbarians are due here today.

 Why isn't anything happening in the senate?
 Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

      Because the barbarians are coming today.
      What laws can the senators make now?
      Once the barbarians are here, they'll do the legislating.

 Why did our emperor get up so early,
 and why is he sitting at the city's main gate
 on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
      He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
      replete with titles, with imposing names.

 Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
 wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
 Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
 and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
 Why are they carrying elegant canes
 beautifully worked in silver and gold?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

 Why don't our distinguished orators come forward as usual
 to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

      Because the barbarians are coming today
      and they're bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

 Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
 (How serious people's faces have become.)
 Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
 everyone going home so lost in thought?

      Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
      And some who have just returned from the border say
      there are no barbarians any longer.

 And now, what's going to happen to us without barbarians?
 They were, those people, a kind of solution.
-- Constantine Cavafy
Translated by Edmund Keeley.

An empire awaits its end, its ruling class awash in all the trappings of
opulence but rudderless without a guiding moral compass, and dissipating
under the weight of boredom and finery. Cavafy's poem tells hauntingly of
the ultimate hollowness of tyranny - an apt theme for our times. The
novelist JM Coetzee adopted the title of this poem for his 1982 novel
"Waiting for the Barbarians", a scantily-veiled denunciation of the
apartheid regime. If you enjoy the mythical landscape of this poem, you
might also enjoy the vivid imaginary empire created in that book.


[Minstrels Links]

Constantine Cavafy:
Poem #217, Ithaka
Poem #296, Footsteps
Poem #522, In Harbor

Bleezer's Ice Cream -- Jack Prelutsky

Once again, posting on Martin's behalf:
(Poem #1055) Bleezer's Ice Cream
 I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
 there are flavors in my freezer
 you have never seen before,
 twenty-eight divine creations
 too delicious to resist,
 why not do yourself a favor,
 try the flavors on my list:


 I am Ebenezer Bleezer,
 taste a flavor from my freezer,
 you will surely ask for more.
-- Jack Prelutsky
"Bleezer's Ice Cream" is one of those rare, perfect children's poems that it
is my occasional pleasure to stumble across. It's not too hard to see why it
works so well. The name "Ebenezer Bleezer" is both nicely comical and nicely
euphonious, so "I am Ebenezer Bleezer" gets the poem off to a good start
right away. The whole first verse, though, is nothing more than a prologue,
an introduction to the real meat of the poem. I refer, of course, to the
wonderfully zany list of twenty-eight "flavours", a catalogue of food
combinations whose appeal lies in their grossness as much as in their
playful metre and rhymes. I'll leave you to look up some of the weirder
foods on your own :)



  Here's a biography of Prelutsky:
    [broken link]

  I am reminded of the Centipede's song from Dahl's 'James and the Giant

  And from the credit-where-due department, I discovered the poem in the
  following, well-chosen collection:

Barmaid -- William Ernest Henley

Once again, posting on Martin's behalf:
(Poem #1054) Barmaid
 Though, if you ask her name, she says Elise,
 Being plain Elizabeth, e'en let it pass,
 And own that, if her aspirates take their ease,
 She ever makes a point, in washing glass,
 Handling the engine, turning taps for tots,
 And countering change, and scorning what men say,
 Of posing as a dove among the pots,
 Nor often gives her dignity away.
 Her head's a work of art, and, if her eyes
 Be tired and ignorant, she has a waist;
 Cheaply the Mode she shadows; and she tries
 From penny novels to amend her taste;
 And, having mopped the zinc for certain years,
 And faced the gas, she fades and disappears.
-- William Ernest Henley
Today's poem belongs to a fairly small, but interesting, genre of poems that
combine aspects of biography, character sketch and synecdoche and explore an
entire class of people by suitable focus on one of its members. Perhaps the
best-known writer of such poems is Edward Arlington Robinson, though there
have been several others (John Betjeman comes to mind).

'Barmaid' is an excellent example of the genre. Note that the barmaid is
wonderfully developed as an individual, Henley achieving an enviable density
of description in fourteen short lines. The opening lines set the tone right
away - "she says 'Elise', being plain Elizabeth", writes Henley, and the
sense of recognition is almost automatic - we know exactly the kind of
person he's talking about.

The progression of the poem is interesting. Having established the barmaid's
working-class background, Henley goes on to build her up as a dignified,
self-contained person, until he undercuts the description with "her eyes be
tired and ignorant". From then on, the portrait is irretrievably pathetic,
and, indeed, the next few lines merely underscore that. And then the final
couplet steps back a pace to suggest that Elise made very little impression
on the world - she "mopped the zinc for certain years" (certainly not a
phrase to suggest any great accomplishment), and then faded and disappeared.
And in doing so, she suddenly becomes as much a symbol as a person - every
barmaid, shop girl or what-have-you who has lived in grey and tired
anonymity and disappeared as silently as she appeared.



  Henley on Minstrels:
    Poem #117, 'The Rain and the Wind' (biography attached)
    Poem #221, 'Invictus'

  Some other character sketches:
    Poem #234, Edwin Arlington Robinson, 'Miniver Cheevy'
    Poem #516, Nissim Ezekiel, 'The Patriot'
    Poem #543, John Betjeman, 'Executive'
    Poem #636, Edwin Arlington Robinson, 'Aaron Stark'
    Poem #798, John Updike, 'V.B. Nimble, V.B. Quick'

Tears of a Clown -- William 'Smokey' Robinson

Guest poem submitted by Gerry Rowe:
(Poem #1053) Tears of a Clown
 Now if there's a smile on my face
 it's only there tryin' to fool the public
 but when it comes down to foolin' you;
 Now honey, that's quite a different subject

 But don't let my glad expression
 give you the wrong impression
 Really I'm sad
 I'm sadder than sad
 You're gone and I'm hurtin' so bad
 Like a clown I pretend to be glad

 Now there's some sad things known to man
 but ain't too much sadder than the tears of a clown
 when there's no one around

 Now if I appear to be carefree
 it's only to camouflage my sadness
 In order to keep my pride I try
 to cover the hurt with a show of gladness

 But don't let my show convince you
 that I've been happy since you decided to go
 Oh, I need you so
 I'm hurt and I want you to know

 Now there's some sad things known to man
 but ain't too much sadder than
 the tears of a clown
 when there's no one around

 Just like Pagliacci did
 I try to keep my sadness hid
 Smiling in the public eye
 But in my lonely room I cry
 the tears of a clown
 when there's no one around

 Now if there's a smile on my face
 Don't let my glad expression
 Give you the wrong impression.
 Don't let this smile I wear
 Make you think that I don't care
 Really I'm sad
 Hurtin' so bad...
-- William 'Smokey' Robinson
(Song credited to W. Robinson/H. Cosby/S. Wonder)

Why Smokey Robinson on the Minstrels? It's not a reason, but Bob Dylan
allegedly once referred to Robinson as America's Greatest Living poet. When
allegedly queried about this he allegedly said that he had in fact meant to
say Arthur Rimbaud! Also, Smokey Robinson is definitely a minstrel and this
is a minstrel's song!

Stevie Wonder, who co-wrote Tears of a Clown, also nominates William
Robinson as an all time-great lyricist. I have to say that if the song
wasn't composed and sung so nicely I might never have noticed these lyrics
but once I did I found them more than up to snuff (English understatement
for very good indeed).

The starting point is fairly standard for a pop tune but it's elevated by
clever use of the clown image, tremendous metre that sings and reads equally
well and some fine rhyming that never diverts the piece. The whole thing is
very cogent and beautifully crafted.

I like the internal rhyme of 'convince you' with 'since you'.

Pagliacci is an opera by Leoncavallo in which a clown called Canio sings a
lament similar in substance to Tears of a Clown. Pagliacci wasn't a
character as such but what the hell!

If you're wondering who Smokey Robinson is you could check out a host of
websites for details. Briefly, soul singer, songwriter, Motown producer who
wrote many hits for himself and others. According to one website he's still
looking for gigs in his sixties so you could hire him!


Angel Wings -- Brian Patten

Guest poem submitted by Caro Orange:
(Poem #1052) Angel Wings
 In the morning I opened the cupboard
 and found inside it a pair of wings,
 a pair of angel's wings.
 I was not naive enough to believe them real.
 I wondered who had left them there.

 I took them out the cupboard,
 brought them over to the light by the window
 and examined them.
 You sat in the bed in the light by the window grinning.

 'They are mine,' you said;
 You said that when we met
 you'd left them there.

 I thought you were crazy.
 Your joke embarrassed me.
 Nowadays even the mention of the word angel
 embarrasses me.

 I looked to see how you'd stuck the wings together.
 Looking for glue, I plucked out the feathers.
 One by one I plucked them till the bed was littered,

 'They are real,' you insisted,
 your smile vanishing.
 And on the pillow your face grew paler.
 Your hands reached to stop me but
 for some time now I have been embarrassed by the word angel.

 For some time now in polite or conservative company
 I have checked myself from believing
 anything so untouched and yet so touchable
 had a chance of existing.

 I plucked then
 till your face grew even paler;
 intent on proving them false
 I plucked
 and your body grew thinner.
 I plucked till you all but vanished.

 Soon beside me in the light,
 beside the bed in which you were lying
 was a mass of torn feathers;
 glueless, unstitched, brilliant,
 reminiscent of some vague disaster.

 In the evening I go out alone now.
 You say you can no longer join me.
 You say
 Ignorance has ruined us,
 disbelief has slaughtered.

 You stay at home
 listening on the radio
 to sad and peculiar music,
 who fed on belief,
 who fed on the light I'd stolen.

 Next morning when I opened the cupboard
 out stepped a creature,
 blank, dull, and too briefly sensual
 it brushed out the feathers gloating.
 I must review my disbelief in angels.
-- Brian Patten
I've never read a Brian Patten poem that I didn't like.  He has a couple of
poetry books - 'Gargling with Jelly' and can't remember the name of the
other one. There are web sites about him I think - it's been a while since I
looked. This one is a particular favourite - each time I read it I get
something different from it.


Happiness -- A A Milne

Guest poem submitted by M.E. Lasseter:
(Poem #1051) Happiness
 John had
 Great Big
 Boots on;
 John had a
 Great Big
 John had a
 Great Big
 Mackintosh --
 And that
 (Said John)
-- A A Milne
I like this poem because of the simple way it rolls off the tongue. It's
orderly because of its simplicity and non-verbosity.

Robert Fulghum has this to say about this poem in his book Words I Wish I
Wrote: "If you live for a long time, as I have, in the Pacific Northwest,
where it rains all winter long, you cherish the feeling of being warm and
dry and still out in the weather. This poem expresses that sense of
well-being. A child understands. In the quest for God, when you find out
there there is nowhere God is not and that you are as much a part of the
universe as the
farthest star, you have a sense of well-being not unlike the child in this
poem. That is that. I often recited this to my children before a meal or at
bedtime. It's not a prayer. It's a state of being, understood by a child of
six or sixty."

That, I think, is all the analysis that is needed. :)


[Minstrels Links]

A. A. Milne:
Poem #91, Cottleston Pie
Poem #463, Disobedience
Poem #562, The King's Breakfast
Poem #576, Tra-la-la, tra-la-la
Poem #1022, Buckingham Palace
Poem #1051, Happiness

Devonshire Street W.1 -- John Betjeman

(Poem #1050) Devonshire Street W.1
 The heavy mahogany door with its wrought-iron screen
   Shuts. And the sound is rich, sympathetic, discreet.
 The sun still shines on this eighteenth-century scene
   With Edwardian faience adornment -- Devonshire Street.

 No hope. And the X-ray photographs under his arm
   Confirm the message. His wife stands timidly by.
 The opposite brick-built house looks lofty and calm
   Its chimneys steady against the mackerel sky.

 No hope. And the iron knob of this palisade
   So cold to the touch, is luckier now than he
 "Oh merciless, hurrying Londoners! Why was I made
   For the long and painful deathbed coming to me?"

 She puts her fingers in his, as, loving and silly
   At long-past Kensington dances she used to do
 "It's cheaper to take the tube to Piccadilly
   And then we can catch a nineteen or twenty-two".
-- John Betjeman
Betjeman is often belittled as a poet of light verse: popular, and populist;
charming and witty and undeniably easy to read, but also (dare I say it) a
wee bit frothy, even frivolous: "the kind of poet that the Queen Mother
would enjoy" [1].

This is very unfair.

It's not a crime to be popular, nor is it a crime to write fluently and
well. Least of all is it a crime to hold true to the subjects dear to your
heart, be they ever so specialized. Betjeman, in his charm, in his language,
in his unabashed fondness for Victorian England, does all three.

And yet...

And yet I do wish, at times, that he had put his talent to (what I consider)
better use. Today's poem is an excellent example of what might have been:
it's sombre, yet not depressing; the verse is a rich amalgam of
conversational lightness and underlying sorrow; the descriptions are
delicate and concise, the characters surprisingly real. Above all, there is
a profound sense of sympathy for the afflicted couple, a sympathy which
finds expression in the essence of the poem, the stoic (and ever-so-English)
message: Life goes on.


[1] Sadly, I don't remember who perpetrated this particular statement.

[Minstrels Links]

John Betjeman:
Poem #543, Executive
Poem #613, In Westminster Abbey
Poem #764, A Subaltern's Love Song

Down With Fanatics! -- Roger Woddis

My thanks to Marcus Bales, for suggesting (and
introducing me to) today's poem:
(Poem #1049) Down With Fanatics!
 If I had my way with violent men
 I'd simmer them in oil,
 I'd fill a pot with bitumen
 And bring them to the boil.
 I execrate the terrorist
 And those who harbour him,
 And if I weren't a moralist
 I'd tear them limb from limb.

 Fanatics are an evil breed
 Whom decent men should shun;
 I'd like to flog them till they bleed,
 Yes, every mother's son,
 I'd like to tie them to a board
 And let them taste the cat,
 While giving praise, oh thank the Lord,
 That I am not like that.

 For we should love the human kind,
 As Jesus taught us to,
 And those who don't should be struck blind
 And beaten black and blue;
 I'd like to roast them in a grill
 And listen to them shriek,
 Then break them on the wheel until
 They turned the other cheek.
-- Roger Woddis
A delightfully sly poem; I love the way Woddis skewers both fanatics and the
self-righteous hypocrites who would like to teach them a lesson. And he does
it with such wicked relish... mmm, lovely.


[Minstrels Links]

We once ran a week of "hate rhymes":
Poem #876, I Wish My Tongue were a Quiver -- Louis McKay
Poem #877, I Do Not Love Thee, Dr Fell -- Tom Brown
Poem #878, Frustration -- Dorothy Parker

Other magnificent rants on the Minstrels include:
Poem #185, A Glass of Beer  -- David O'Bruadair
Poem #266, The Litany for Doneraile  -- Patrick O'Kelly
Poem #840, The Travellers' Curse after Misdirection -- Robert Graves

Black Rook in Rainy Weather -- Sylvia Plath

Guest poem submitted by Amulya Gopalakrishnan:
(Poem #1048) Black Rook in Rainy Weather
 On the stiff twig up there
 Hunches a wet black rook
 Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain-
 I do not expect a miracle
 Or an accident

 To set the sight on fire
 In my eye, nor seek
 Any more in the desultory weather some design,
 But let spotted leaves fall as they fall
 Without ceremony, or portent.

 Although, I admit, I desire,
 Occasionally, some backtalk
 From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
 A certain minor light may still
 Lean incandescent

 Out of kitchen table or chair
 As if a celestial burning took
 Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then --
 Thus hallowing an interval
 Otherwise inconsequent

 By bestowing largesse, honor
 One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
 Wary (for it could happen
 Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical
 Yet politic, ignorant

 Of whatever angel any choose to flare
 Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
 Ordering its black feathers can so shine
 As to seize my senses, haul
 My eyelids up, and grant

 A brief respite from fear
 Of total neutrality. With luck,
 Trekking stubborn through this season
 Of fatigue, I shall
 Patch together a content

 Of sorts. Miracles occur.
 If you care to call those spasmodic
 Tricks of radiance
 Miracles. The wait's begun again,
 The long wait for the angel,

 For that rare, random descent.
-- Sylvia Plath
Truly miraculous.

A poem about revelation that breaks like light, and yet it is tense with
effort. It is not just simple awe at the shimmering that suns out from a
bird's wings; it is a labored, longed-for epiphany.

This poem enacts the conflict I find fascinating about Sylvia Plath -- she's
the same person who in the 'Soliloquy of a Solipsist' knows that the world
is what she gifts herself, she possesses the capacity to endow it with grace
or terror, even oblivion, with the blink of her eyelid. But simultaneously,
there's always the compulsion to be overwhelmed, to abandon herself to

Here too, she shies away from directly singing her vision. And yet, in spite
of (and perhaps because of) all the studied casualness ('spasmodic tricks of
radiance', 'one might say love') she manages to convey a sense of whimsical
magic. That is the astonishment of the poem. For me anyway.

I'm not equipped to analyze the structure or rhyme scheme, but this one
looks pretty corseted. Sylvia Plath, like other confessional poets is often
associated with a raw, visceral intensity -- which is odd considering so
much of her poetry has this kind of achieved poise and formal perfection.

(I'm skipping all the who-is-sylvia-what-is-she details, because it's been
done to death.)


[Minstrels Links]

Sylvia Plath:
Poem #53, Winter landscape, with rocks
Poem #129, Ariel
Poem #366, Child
Poem #404, Daddy
Poem #612, Love Letter
Poem #678, Mirror
Poem #881, The Moon and the Yew-tree
Poem #1048, Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Crows, rooks, blackbirds and ravens:
Poem #35, The Windhover  -- Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poem #85, The Raven  -- Edgar Allan Poe
Poem #137, The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven  -- Guy Wetmore Carryl

Poem #620, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird -- Wallace Stevens
Poem #621, Thirteen Blackbirds Looking at a Man -- R. S. Thomas
Poem #1048, Black Rook in Rainy Weather -- Sylvia Plath

Oh! Death Will Find Me, Long Before I Tire -- Rupert Brooke

Posting this on Martin's behalf:
(Poem #1047) Oh! Death Will Find Me, Long Before I Tire
 Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire
    Of watching you; and swing me suddenly
 Into the shade and loneliness and mire
    Of the last land! There, waiting patiently,

 One day, I think, I'll feel a cool wind blowing,
    See a slow light across the Stygian tide,
 And hear the Dead about me stir, unknowing,
    And tremble. And I shall know that you have died,

 And watch you, a broad-browed and smiling dream,
    Pass, light as ever, through the lightless host,
 Quietly ponder, start, and sway, and gleam --
    Most individual and bewildering ghost! --

 And turn, and toss your brown delightful head
 Amusedly, among the ancient Dead.
-- Rupert Brooke
Brooke is usually a pleasure to read, and today's playfully romantic poem is
no exception. At first glance, this seems like your average Shakespearean
sonnet - Shakespearean in form, and Shakespearean in its return to the
timeworn themes of love and death. However, the solemnity of the opening
line is quickly and increasingly lightened as the poem progresses -
lightened, too, without ever tipping over the line into frivolity or wit.
For unlike, say, the explicitly humorous 'Sonnet Reversed', this is
definitely a 'serious' poem. It is merely not a *solemn* one - the tone it
chooses to address its subject in is refreshingly different from your
average grinding of Shakespeare's bones for yet another tired loaf of bread.

Despite the poem's apparently morbid theme, the impression the reader is
left with is one of life and laughter - one is reminded, almost, of
Shakespeare's Cleopatra, but without the grandeur - "most individual and
bewildering", as Brooke puts it. The imagery and the word-choices are
handled very well indeed; the narrator's sense of delight in his beloved
sparkles through every verse. The final couplet shifts the focus fully from
the narrator to his subject, providing the reader with a vivid and strongly
visual image that wraps the poem up nicely.




  Brooke poems on Minstrels:
    Poem #514, "The Chilterns"
    Poem #280, "The Soldier"
    Poem #589, "Sonnet Reversed"
    Poem #847, "On the Death of Smet-Smet, the Hippopotamus-Goddess"
    Poem #972, "The Beginning"

Sailing -- Henrik Nordbrandt

Guest poem submitted by Sashidhar Dandamudi:
(Poem #1046) Sailing
 After having loved we lie close together
 and at the same time with distance between us
 like two sailing ships that enjoy so intensely
 their own lines in the dark water they divide
 that their hulls
 are almost splitting from sheer delight
 while racing, out in the blue
 under sails which the night wind fills
 with flower-scented air and moonlight
 - without one of them ever trying
 to outsail the other
 and without the distance between them
 lessening or growing at all.

 But there are other nights, where we drift
 like two brightly illuminated luxury liners
 lying side by side
 with the engines shut off, under a strange constellation
 and without a single passenger on board:
 On each deck a violin orchestra is playing
 in honor of the luminous waves.
 And the sea is full of old tired ships
 which we have sunk in our attempt to reach each other.
-- Henrik Nordbrandt
Translated from the Danish by the author and Alexander Taylor.

The punch is in the last two lines: "And the sea is full of old tired ships
/ which we have sunk in our attempt to reach each other." What a wonderful
way to describe all the relationships one has gone through to arrive at the
present. Also this one captures the languidness of the post-coital trance
very well, like that Seth poem "To Make Love to A Stranger".



Here's a rather LitCritty essay on Nordbrandt's poetic themes:!fid=56&fid=56

Here's a nice drawing of the poet:

Here's Google:

The Body Reclining -- Grace Nichols

Guest poem submitted by Devyani Saltzman:
(Poem #1045) The Body Reclining
 I sing the body reclining
 I sing the throwing back of self
 I sing the cushioned head
 The fallen arm
 The lolling breast
 I sing the body reclining
 As an indolent continent

 I sing the body reclining
 I sing the easy breathing ribs
 I sing the horizontal neck
 I sing the slow-moving blood
 Sluggish as a river
 In its lower course

 I sing the weighing thighs
 The idle toes
 The liming knees
 I sing the body reclining
 As a wayward tree

 I sing the restful nerve

 Those who scrub and scrub
 corrupt the body

 Those who dust and dust
 also corrupt the body

 And are caught in the asylum
 Of their own making
 Therefore I sing the body reclining
-- Grace Nichols
"liming": West Indian expression for standing around, idling away the time.

What can I say... I was sitting in the library all day reading evolutionary
biology when I picked an anthology of Grace Nichols' poetry off the shelf.
She's a poet and writer from Guyana and has the most lovely flowing style.
All I can say is this poem is my new motto.