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I've Dreamed of You So Much -- Robert Desnos

Guest poem sent in by
(Poem #1339) I've Dreamed of You So Much
 I've dreamed of you so much that you're losing your reality.
 Is it already too late for me to embrace your literal, living and breathing
 physical body
 and to kiss that mouth which is the birthplace of that voice which is so dear
 to me?
 I've dreamed of you so much that my arms--which have become accustomed to
 lying crossed upon my own chest after attempting to encircle your
 shadow--might not be able to unfold again to embrace the contours of your
 literal form, perhaps
 So that coming face-to-face with the actual incarnation of what has haunted me
 and ruled me and dominated my life for so many days and years
 Might very well turn me into a shadow.
 Oh equilibriums of the emotional scales!
 I've dreamed of you so much that it might be too late for me to ever wake up
 I sleep on my feet, body confronting all the usual phenomena of life and love
 and yet
 when it comes to you--you, the only being on the planet who matters to me
 I can no more touch your face and lips than I can those of the next random
 I've dreamed of you so much, have walked and talked and slept so much with
 phantom presence that perhaps the only thing left for me to do now
 Is to become a phantom among phantoms, a shadow a hundred times more shadowy
 than that shifting shape which moves and which will go on moving,
 stepping lightly and happily across the sundial of your life.
-- Robert Desnos
          (Translated by Michael Benedikt)

This poem by Robert Desnos was originally written in French in 1926.  I
translated this piece at the age of 16 during my 4th year of French Studies
in high school in North America.  Now in my 30's, I recently found the
tattered remnants of my romantic schoolgirl translation buried within the
pages of a book where I first discovered my heartfelt love and proclivity
for the written word.  Ironically, the words, the images and the idea of the
"one" as written by Robert Desnos -- which attracted me then -- haunt me

Despite the yearning inherent in the impressionable adolescence of a
hesitant, yet  emerging young poet -- also a student of French -- I find I
like my version (below) best.  But then, I have so many dreams of.....

'Poem to the Mysterious'

(translated by )

  I have so many dreams of you,
  that you lose your reality
  Is it too late to reach for your living, breathing body,
  and lower my mouth over the birthplace
  of a voice so dear to me?

  I have so many dreams of you,
  that my arms--accustomed to embracing only shadows--
  will cross themselves over my chest
  and will not unfold again if not perhaps around
  the contours of your very body.

  And until your actual appearance in my life
  --the ideal of the person who haunts and leads
  me through the days and the years--
  I too will become a shadow,
  without direction or sentimental balance

  I have so many dreams of you,
  that I may never wake up again.
  I sleep at will, exposing my life to love and to you,
  the only one that matters to me now.
  Would that I be able to touch your forehead and lips,
  and not those of a one who randomly crosses my path.

  I have so many dreams of you,
  so walked upon, talked about and slept with your haunting image, that there
    is no remedy but to be,
  a ghost among the ghosts.
  And I'd rather be this shadow one hundred times over,
  than the phantom shape that walks and
  will walk happily over the sundial of your life.


Biography of Desnos:

And one of Benedikt:

The World is Too Much With Us -- William Wordsworth

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1338) The World is Too Much With Us
 The World is too much with us; late and soon,
 Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
 Little we see in Nature that is ours;
 We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
 This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
 The winds that will be howling at all hours
 And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers,
 For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
 It moves us not.-Great God! I'd rather be
 A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,-
 So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
 Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
 Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
 Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
-- William Wordsworth
I was reading Edna St Vincent Millay's Sonnets
on Minstrels (lovely) and remembered this famous one.

Wordsworth laboured his poems, but just one phrase
makes this one worthwhile for me - a  picture
of the quiet winds over the ocean on a moonlit night.

I studied in a Convent, and some of us giggled when the line
"this Sea that bares her bosom to the moon" was read
in class. Our English teacher - a nun - admonished us
"You silly girls, don't you know a woman's bosom is one of the
most beautiful of God's creations!"

Beauty is Truth, and Truth is Beauty! I'm forever indebted
to Sister Catherine.

Mallika Chellappa

[Martin adds]

Like Mallika, I find this poem a trifle laboured, but the first line has an
indefinable *something* to it. It stuck in my memory long after the rest
of the poem had faded. The transition from the octet to the sestet is very well
handled, too - not always the case in a sonnet, but noticeable when it does


Ample Make This Bed -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem sent in by Linda Roberts
(Poem #1337) Ample Make This Bed
 Ample make this bed.
 Make this bed with awe;
 In it wait till judgment break
 Excellent and fair.

 Be its mattress straight,
 Be its pillow round;
 Let no sunrise' yellow noise
 Interrupt this ground.
-- Emily Dickinson
(Complete Poems Part Four: Time and Eternity, LXIII)

After reading today's Emily Dickinson (Poem #1328) and reflecting on the
recent "poetry in the movies" thread, I thought of this poem, used to such
great effect in "Sophie's Choice" and especially touching to anyone like me
who's recently lost a loved one.

Graves are often compared to beds, and death to sleep, but Dickinson's
description seems especially poignant to me, since graves are frequently
described as narrow or deep, but "ample" seems both an unusual and apt term.


Of Human Knowledge -- Sir John Davies

(Poem #1336) Of Human Knowledge
 I know my body's of so frail a kind,
    As force without, fevers within can kill;
 I know the heavenly nature of my mind,
    But 'tis corrupted both in wit and will.

 I know my Soul hath power to know all things,
    Yet is she blind and ignorant in all;
 I know I am one of Nature's little kings,
    Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

 I know my life's a pain and but a span,
    I know my Sense is mock'd with every thing:
 And to conclude, I know myself a MAN,
    Which is a proud, and yet a wretched thing.
-- Sir John Davies
 From Nosce Teipsum ('know thyself'), published in 1599.

 One thing I like about the Elizabethan and metaphysical poets is the
wonderfully _assured_ quality of their verse. The Sonnets are perhaps
the canonical example of this: again and again Shakespeare uses the most
unexpected of words, yet on closer inspection these words are revealed
to be absolutely, incontrovertibly _right_ for their contexts. Even the
lesser poets of those days -- Campion, Peele and yes, John Davies --
seem to have this quality in spades.

 I think it has a lot to do with the intellectual climate of the time.
The late 15th and early 16th centuries saw a confluence of factors --
the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance, the emergence of England as a
seafaring power, the maturing of the English language, the merging of
Italianate and classical prosody with the folk songs and ballads of the
English countryside -- which combined to spark into life a poetry that
was confident and self-assured, exploring brave new themes in a language
perfectly suited to its purpose. English poetry had broken free of the
intellectual and thematic limitations of the Middle Ages, and had yet to
be entangled in the stifling conventions of the Augustan period. A true
golden age, responsible for such gems as today's poem.


A biography of Sir John Davies can be found at Luminarium:

Balloon Fight -- Roger McGough

(Poem #1335) Balloon Fight
    'This morning, the American, Steve Fossett, ended his Round-The-World
    balloon fight...I'm sorry, balloon "flight" northern India.'
        - The Today Programme, Radio 4, 20 January 1997

 It ended in Uttar Pradesh.
 It had to.
 You can't go around the world
 attacking people with balloons
 and expect to get away with it.

 What may be mildly amusing
 at children's parties
 in Upper Manhattan
 will not seem so funny ha ha
 on the Falls Road.

 How Fossett fought his way
 across the former Yugoslavia
 I'll never know.
 Some folk never grow up.
 Hang on to their childhood.

 Believing in the Tooth Fairy,
 watched over by the Man in the Moon.
 Thank you, Mr Newsreader,
 for bringing him down to earth.
 For bursting his balloon.
-- Roger McGough
I had to laugh out loud when I read this poem, at the sheer *image* of our
intrepid hero working his way around the world and hitting unsuspecting
people with balloons.

As a child, McGough came as something of a revelation - I had always loved
poetry, but only if it rhymed and scanned. McGough was the first poet to
show me that modern poetry could be pleasurable, and here, watching him turn
a simple slip of the tongue into a wonderful piece of whimsy, I'm glad to
say that the magic hasn't faded.


Where Everything Is Music -- Jalaluddin Rumi

Guest poem submitted by Sashidhar Dandamudi:
(Poem #1334) Where Everything Is Music
 Don't worry about saving these songs!
 And if one of our instruments breaks,
 it doesn't matter.

 We have fallen into the place
 where everything is music.

 The strumming and the flute notes
 rise into the atmosphere,
 and even if the whole world's harp
 should burn up, there will still be
 hidden instruments playing.

 So the candle flickers and goes out.
 We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

 This singing art is sea foam.
 The graceful movements come from a pearl
 somewhere on the ocean floor.

 Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
 of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

 They derive
 from a slow and powerful root
 that we can't see.

 Stop the words now.
 Open the window in the center of your chest,
 and let the spirits fly in and out.
-- Jalaluddin Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks.

Mallika's "song" bought this fantastic poem up from memory. Even though
I can't claim to have memorized it, the last verse has been a long time
favourite of mine. Also since summer, usually for me, consists of
absorbing a dose of live music as it happens around the city, often a
time I remembered song at those moments of transendent guitar riffs,
when I could only open the window in the center of my chest and let the
spirits fly in and out!



This poem was a part of the PBS Program "Fooling with Words". I would
also reccomend the viewers to go listen and view to "Jump Mama" here:

Tyre -- Bayard Taylor

(Poem #1333) Tyre
 The wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
 The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre, --
 Beats on the fallen columns and round the headland roars,
 And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
 And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire:
 "Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"

 Within her cunning harbor, choked with invading sand,
 No galleys bring their freightage, the spoils of every land,
 And like a prostrate forest, when autumn gales have blown,
 Her colonnades of granite lie shattered and o'erthrown;
 And from the reef the pharos no longer flings its fire,
 To beacon home from Tarshish the lordly ships of Tyre.

 Where is thy rod of empire, once mighty on the waves, --
 Thou that thyself exalted, till Kings became thy slaves?
 Thou that didst speak to nations, and saw thy will obeyed, --
 Whose favor made them joyful, whose anger sore afraid, --
 Who laid'st thy deep foundations, and thought them strong and sure,
 And boasted midst the waters, Shall I not aye endure?

 Where is the wealth of ages that heaped thy princely mart?
 The pomp of purple trappings; the gems of Syrian art;
 The silken goats of Kedar; Sabæa's spicy store;
 The tributes of the islands thy squadrons homeward bore,
 When in thy gates triumphant they entered from the sea
 With sound of horn and sackbut, of harp and psaltery?

 Howl, howl, ye ships of Tarshish! the glory is laid waste:
 There is no habitation; the mansions are defaced.
 No mariners of Sidon unfurl your mighty sails;
 No workmen fell the fir-trees that grow in Shenir's vales
 And Bashan's oaks that boasted a thousand years of sun,
 Or hew the masts of cedar on frosty Lebanon.

 Rise, thou forgotten harlot! take up thy harp and sing:
 Call the rebellious islands to own their ancient king:
 Bare to the spray thy bosom, and with thy hair unbound,
 Sit on the piles of ruins, thou throneless and discrowned!
 There mix thy voice of wailing with the thunders of the sea,
 And sing thy songs of sorrow, that thou remembered be!

 Though silent and forgotten, yet Nature still laments
 The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:
 The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now;
 The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow,
 And evermore the surges chant forth their vain desire:
 "Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?"
-- Bayard Taylor

The fascination of ancient civilisations is hard to resist; the tales and
legends of vanished glory have left an indelible mark on mankind's
collective imagination.  Samarkand, Damascus, Babylon, Carthage - the
names are richly evocative, conjuring up entire chains of association by
their mere mention. We've explored this before - the Lays of Ancient Rome
theme, and the poetic journey along the Silk Road both rank among my
favuorite Minstrels themes, and today's poem is a worthy addition to their

Tyre, for me, shall ever be associated with Kipling's magnificent lines

   Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre

and Taylor has appealed to the same image, the same sense of loss for a
vanished greatness. I was particularly gratified by the fact that he has
not shied away from a certain extravagance of imagery - I feel that the
poem's subject calls for it, and a more restrained approach would not have
done it justice.



  A brief history of Tyre:

  The Ancient Roman theme:
    Poem #489, Poem #491, Poem #493, Poem #494

  And the Silk Road theme:
    Poem #526 (rest of the theme summarised in the commentary)


The Flowers -- Rudyard Kipling

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1332) The Flowers
        To our private taste, there is always something a little exotic,
        almost artificial, in songs which, under an English aspect and
        dress, are yet so manifestly the product of other skies. They affect
        us like translations; the very fauna and flora are alien, remote;
        the dog's-tooth violet is but an ill substitute for the rathe
        primrose, nor can we ever believe that the wood-robin sings as
        sweetly in April as the English thrush. — THE ATHENÆUM.

 Buy my English posies!
 Kent and Surrey may —
 Violets of the Undercliff
 Wet with Channel spray;
 Cowslips from a Devon combe —
 Midland furze afire —
 Buy my English posies
 And I'll sell your heart's desire!

          Buy my English posies!
            You that scorn the May,
          Won't you greet a friend from home
            Half the world away?
          Green against the draggled drift,
            Faint and frail and first —
          Buy my Northern blood-root
            And I'll know where you were nursed:
 Robin down the logging-road whistles, "Come to me!"
 Spring has found the maple-grove, the sap is running free;
 All the winds of Canada call the ploughing-rain.
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Here's to match your need —
          Buy a tuft of royal heath,
            Buy a bunch of weed
          White as sand of Muysenberg
            Spun before the gale —
          Buy my heath and lilies
            And I'll tell you whence you hail!
 Under hot Constantia broad the vineyards lie —
 Throned and thorned the aching berg props the speckless sky —
 Slow below the Wynberg firs trails the tilted wain —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            You that will not turn —
          Buy my hot-wood clematis,
            Buy a frond o' fern
          Gathered where the Erskine leaps
            Down the road to Lorne —
          Buy my Christmas creeper
            And I'll say where you were born!
 West away from Melbourne dust holidays begin —
 They that mock at Paradise woo at Cora Lynn —
 Through the great South Otway gums sings the great South Main —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Here's your choice unsold!
          Buy a blood-red myrtle-bloom,
            Buy the kowhai's gold
          Flung for gift on Taupo's face,
            Sign that spring is come —
          Buy my clinging myrtle
            And I'll give you back your home!
 Broom behind the windy town; pollen o' the pine —
 Bell-bird in the leafy deep where the ratas twine —
 Fern above the saddle-bow, flax upon the plain —
 Take the flower and turn the hour, and kiss your love again!

          Buy my English posies!
            Ye that have your own
          Buy them for a brother's sake
            Overseas, alone.
          Weed ye trample underfoot
            Floods his heart abrim —
          Bird ye never heeded,
            Oh, she calls his dead to him!
 Far and far our homes are set round the Seven Seas;
 Woe for us if we forget, we that hold by these!
 Unto each his mother-beach, bloom and bird and land —
 Masters of the Seven Seas, oh, love and understand.
-- Rudyard Kipling

Although manifestly a song (not a poem) for English patriots
there is something in this for everyone. (as the last
stanza underlines)

I can never read this without smelling the scents of parijath,
jasmine, champak, kewda (Thazhampu), sandal and the myriad
other scents of India, the mynah and the sparrow

This too is a gem from the "Anthology of Modern verse" again
committed to memory in early childhood, and recalled now
thanks to this forum.


Faithless Sally Brown -- Thomas Hood

(Poem #1331) Faithless Sally Brown
An old ballad.

 Young Ben he was a nice young man,
    A carpenter by trade;
 And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
    That was a lady's maid.

 But as they fetch'd a walk one day,
    They met a press-gang crew;
 And Sally she did faint away,
    Whilst Ben he was brought to.

 The Boatswain swore with wicked words,
    Enough to shock a saint,
 That though she did seem in a fit,
    'Twas nothing but a feint.

 "Come, girl," said he, "hold up your head,
    He'll be as good as me;
 For when your swain is in our boat,
    A boatswain he will be."

 So when they'd made their game of her,
    And taken off her elf,
 She roused, and found she only was
    A coming to herself.

 "And is he gone, and is he gone?"
    She cried, and wept outright:
 "Then I will to the water side,
    And see him out of sight."

 A waterman came up to her,--
    "Now, young woman," said he,
 "If you weep on so, you will make
    Eye-water in the sea."

 "Alas! they've taken my beau Ben
    To sail with old Benbow;"
 And her woe began to run afresh,
    As if she'd said Gee woe!

 Says he, "They've only taken him
    To the Tender ship, you see";
 "The Tender-ship," cried Sally Brown
    "What a hard-ship that must be!"

 "O! would I were a mermaid now,
    For then I'd follow him;
 But Oh!--I'm not a fish-woman,
    And so I cannot swim.

 "Alas! I was not born beneath
    The virgin and the scales,
 So I must curse my cruel stars,
    And walk about in Wales."

 Now Ben had sail'd to many a place
    That's underneath the world;
 But in two years the ship came home,
    And all her sails were furl'd.

 But when he call'd on Sally Brown,
    To see how she went on,
 He found she'd got another Ben,
    Whose Christian-name was John.

 "O Sally Brown, O Sally Brown,
    How could you serve me so?
 I've met with many a breeze before,
    But never such a blow":

 Then reading on his 'bacco box
    He heaved a bitter sigh,
 And then began to eye his pipe,
    And then to pipe his eye.

 And then he tried to sing "All's Well,"
    But could not though he tried;
 His head was turn'd, and so he chew'd
    His pigtail till he died.

 His death, which happen'd in his berth,
    At forty-odd befell:
 They went and told the sexton, and
    The sexton toll'd the bell.
-- Thomas Hood
A series of bad puns disguised as a poem - what's not to like? :) The last two
lines have the distinction of being the first piece of Hood I ever heard,
and their charm has not faded with time - some of the other puns limp a
little, but that one is flawless.

It is interesting to compare today's poem with Carryl's "How a Cat Was
Annoyed and a Poet Was Booted" [Poem #273] - the latter takes a similar
"pack in as many bad puns as we can" approach, but at the same time, pokes
fun at itself for doing so. And, I believe, manages to be a funnier poem in
the process - Hood has the occasional gem, but the poem as a whole is
slightly laboured.


Money -- Philip Larkin

Guest poem submitted by Mike Christie:
(Poem #1330) Money
 Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
    'Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
 I am all you never had of goods and sex.
    You could get them still by writing a few cheques.'

 So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
    They certainly don't keep it upstairs.
 By now they've a second house and car and wife:
    Clearly money has something to do with life

 - In fact, they've a lot in common, if you enquire:
    You can't put off being young until you retire,
 And however you bank your screw, the money you save
    Won't in the end buy you more than a shave.

 I listen to money singing. It's like looking down
    From long French windows at a provincial town,
 The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
    In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.
-- Philip Larkin
A couple of notes: "bank your screw" refers to putting your wages in the
bank; this is British slang and no longer current.  And the "shave"
referred to is the shave you get from the mortician when you are dead,
to make you look good in the coffin.

There have been quite a few Larkin poems on Minstrels, but several of my
favourites are missing, including this one.  I like a lot of things
about Larkin -- technically he is always flawless, and he can make the
most intricate rhyme scheme flow effortlessly.  But most of all I like
his ability to find an image that is unreasonably effective.  In this
poem it's the last verse.  I wish I knew why the town seems such an
apposite image for the disease of money.  And "ornate and mad"; and the
last four words; both give a powerful emotional kick that I don't fully
understand but that have stayed with me since I first read this twenty
years ago.


[Minstrels Links]

Philip Larkin:
Poem #178, Water
Poem #73, I Remember, I Remember
Poem #100, Days
Poem #254, The North Ship
Poem #502, MCMXIV
Poem #544, Toads
Poem #756, An Arundel Tomb
Poem #793, No Road
Poem #886, Maiden Name
Poem #1070, Wires

(Of these, 'Toads' has a similarish sort of theme)

The Bagel -- David Ignatow

(Poem #1329) The Bagel
 I stopped to pick up the bagel
 rolling away in the wind,
 annoyed with myself
 for having dropped it
 as if it were a portent.
 Faster and faster it rolled,
 with me running after it
 bent low, gritting my teeth,
 and I found myself doubled over
 and rolling down the street
 head over heels, one complete somersault
 after another like a bagel
 and strangely happy with myself.
-- David Ignatow
A charming poem, striking just the right balance of absurdity and
seriousness. And quite apart from its metaphorical meaning, it evokes a very
literal and physical image - the childhood memory of running downhill as
fast as I could, until I was not so much running as bounding, very out
of control and very exhilarated. And, yes, strangely happy with myself.

I must admit to not caring much for Ignatow's poetry in general; today's
poem was a very welcome exception.




You cannot put a fire out -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem submitted by Zenobia Driver:
(Poem #1328) You cannot put a fire out
 You cannot put a fire out;
   A thing that can ignite
 Can go, itself, without a fan
   Upon the slowest night.

 You cannot fold a flood
   And put it in a drawer, --
 Because the winds would find it out,
   And tell your cedar floor.
-- Emily Dickinson
I really like this poem, because it's sort of rebellious and
revolutionary and because the images are whacko. I keep imagining trying
to fold a flood the way I would sheets :-). Also I like the image of the
wind whispering quietly to the cedar floor.

[Minstrels Links]

Emily Dickinson:
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
Poem #950, The Cricket Sang
Poem #1294, The reticent volcano keeps

What We Might Be, What We Are -- X J Kennedy

(Poem #1327) What We Might Be, What We Are
 If you were a scoop of vanilla
 And I were the cone where you sat,
 If you were a slowly pitched baseball
 And I were the swing of a bat,

 If you were a shiny new fishhook
 And I were a bucket of worms,
 If we were a pin and a pincushion,
 We might be on intimate terms.

 If you were a plate of spaghetti
 And I were your piping-hot sauce,
 We'd not even need to write letters
 To put our affection across.

 But you're just a piece of red ribbon
 In the beard of a Balinese goat
 And I'm a New Jersey mosquito.
 I guess we'll stay slightly remote.
-- X J Kennedy
Today's poem strikes a wonderfully deadpan tone of self mockery - the
metaphors hover on the verge of the reasonable, with a violent overtone that
seduces the reader into believing the poem is 'serious'. Indeed, by the
end of second verse, Kennedy has set the stage so that he can, should he so
wish, continue the theme in an increasingly dark vein, using the not
uncommon technique of a nursery-rhyme form in deliberate contrast to the

On the other hand, there's the ubiquitous "If...", with its promise of a
"but" to come, and by the time the third verse hints that the poem is,
perhaps, not entirely serious, we have already started building up our
expectations for the inevitable punchline.

Luckily, the last verse bears the weight of that expectation - it's both
nicely absurd and nicely deadpan, a combination that when it works works
very well indeed. I was unfamiliar with this lighter side of Kennedy, and I
must say it's a most welcome discovery.


Bearhug -- Michael Ondaatje

Guest poem sent in by Alan DeMello
(Poem #1326) Bearhug
 Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
 I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
 then something else, walk slowly round
 the corner to my son's room.
 He is standing arms outstretched
 waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.

 Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
 give it that dark squeeze of death?
 This is the hug which collects
 all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
 The thin tough body under the pyjamas
 locks to me like a magnet of blood.

 How long was he standing there
 like that, before I came?
-- Michael Ondaatje
This poem could be the poster-child for Deconstruction, it lends itself so
well. Everytime you think you have them all, another binary hits you in the
face, or skirts across your mind's eye. I haven't ever read anything else by
Ondaatje, but Bearhug makes me want to.




 Collection of Ondaatje links:

Forced March -- Miklos Radnoti

Guest poem submitted by Dave Fortin:
(Poem #1325) Forced March
 You're crazy. You fall down,    stand up and walk again,
 your ankles and your knees move
 but you start again    as if you had wings.
 The ditch calls you, but it's no use    you're afraid to stay,
 and if someone asks why,    maybe you turn around and say
 that a woman and a sane death    a better death wait for you.
 But you're crazy.    For a long time
 only the burned wind spins    above the houses at home,
 Walls lie on their backs,    plum trees are broken
 and the angry night    is thick with fear.
 Oh if I could believe    that everything valuble
 is not only inside me now    that there's still home to go back to.
 If only there were! And just as before    bees drone peacefully
 on the cool veranda,    plum preserves turn cold
 and over sleepy gardens    quietly, the end of summer bathes in the
 Among the leaves the fruit    swing naked
 and in front of the rust-brown hedge    blond Fanny waits for me,
 the morning writes    slow shadows---
 All this could happen    The moon is so round today!
 Don't walk past me, friend.    Yell, and I'll stand up again!
-- Miklos Radnoti
This poem appeared in today's Washington Post Book World.

Miklos Radnoti was born in Budapest in 1909, and orphaned at the age of
12. He published a number of collections of poems before the war and was
a fierce anti-fascist. In the 1940's he was interned in various work
camps, the last time being in Bor, Yugoslavia at a copper mine, to which
he was driven in a forced march with other internees. Along the way, he
and 22 other prisoners were murdered near the town of Abda sometime
between November 6 and 10, 1944 and tossed into a mass grave. After the
war, his body was exhumed and his last poems were found in his field
jacket, written in pencil in a small Serbian exercise book.

The above poem is part of this collection, published in 1946 as "Sky
With Clouds". It is dated September 5, 1944.

There are a number of poems around, written by Holocaust survivors or
others who faced the atrocities of modern warfare. This one strikes me
having that ring of truth -- of memeory unvarnished by the passage of
time. I am particularly moved by how the poet conveys the way a person's
mind wanders to happier times and almost loses touch with the horrors of
the present in the second half of the poem, and then is yanked back into
the on-going atrocity by the fear of falling behind.

Dave Fortin.

The Telephone -- Robert Frost

Guest poem sent in by Radhika Gowaikar
(Poem #1324) The Telephone
 "When I was just as far as I could walk
 From here to-day,
 There was an hour
 All still
 When leaning with my head against a flower
 I heard you talk.
 Don't say I didn't, for I heard you say--
 You spoke from that flower on the window sill--
 Do you remember what it was you said?"

 "First tell me what it was you thought you heard."

 "Having found the flower and driven a bee away,
 I leaned my head,
 And holding by the stalk,
 I listened and I thought I caught the word--
 What was it? Did you call me by my name?
 Or did you say--
 *Someone* said 'Come' -- I heard it as I bowed."

 "I may have thought as much, but not aloud."

 "Well, so I came."
-- Robert Frost
Text within *s in italics.
From Louis Untermeyer's 'Robert Frost's Poems.'

I like Robert Frost. Usually, it is the way his intellect and wit
simultaneously shine through his verse that I appreciate most. But this
poem appeals to me differently. I like its simplicity (and that of its
characters) and the 'telephone' is just such a sweet notion. The
artlessness of the "Well, so I came." always makes me smile. I think this
poem shows a different facet of the genius that is Frost.

Radhika Gowaikar

Strugnell's Sonnets (VI) -- Wendy Cope

(Poem #1323) Strugnell's Sonnets (VI)
 Let me not to the marriage of true swine
 Admit impediments. With his big car
 He's won your heart, and you have punctured mine.
 I have no spare; henceforth I'll bear the scar.
 Since women are not worth the booze you buy them
 I dedicate myself to Higher Things.
 If men deride and sneer, I shall defy them
 And soar above Tulse Hill on poet's wings --
 A brother to the thrush in Brockwell Park,
 Whose song, though sometimes drowned by rock guitars,
 Outlives their din. One day I'll make my mark,
 Although I'm not from Ulster or from Mars,
 And when I'm published in some classy mag
 You'll rue the day you scarpered in his Jag.
-- Wendy Cope
 From "Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis", published 1986.
 Attributed by Ms Cope to Jason Strugnell, the somewhat impressionable
but always enthusiastic Bard of Tulse Hill.

 Being a good poet is hard enough; being a good _bad_ poet is (dare I
say it) even harder. Wendy Cope's creation, the irrepressible Jason
Strugnell, can be tiresome sometimes, but by and large his 'work' is
marvellously funny. Like William McGonagall or Julia Moore, he remains
blithely unaware of his shortcomings; it's his utter lack of
self-consciousness that makes him so memorable.

 Strugnell's intolerable egotism, his unrelieved seriousness, and his
laughably narrow horizons all make him the perfect tump (Cope's acronym
for "typically useless male poet"). In presenting her (fictitious)
protagonist, Cope makes some serious points about the qualities (and
flaws) of the latter group. But Strugnell is not merely a figure of
ridicule. He's certainly funny, but in his shallow, self-centred way,
he's also somewhat sad. He may not be very likable, but he remains
pitiable nonetheless.


[Minstrels Links]

More from the irrepressible Strugnell:
Poem #587, Strugnell's Rubaiyat
Poem #693, Strugnell's Haiku

Non-Strugnell Cope poems:
Poem #859, Waste Land Limericks
Poem #859, An Unusual Cat-Poem

And Bill Shakespeare's original:
Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI)

[Other Links]

Here's a very nice article on Ms Cope and her poetry:
[broken link],3858,4193029,00.html

Here's an essay on Wendy Cope and the weight of light verse:

Both are well worth a read, do take a look.

Climbing You -- Erica Jong

Guest poem sent in by arvind natarajan
(Poem #1322) Climbing You
 I want to understand the steep thing
 that climbs ladders in your throat.
 I can't make sense of you.
 Everywhere I look you're there--
 a vast landmark, a volcano
 poking its head through the clouds,
 Gulliver sprawled across Lilliput.

 I climb into your eyes, looking.
 The pupils are black painted stage flats.
 They can be pulled down like window shades.
 I switch on a light in your iris.
 Your brain ticks like a bomb.

 In your offhand, mocking way
 you've invited me into your chest.
 Inside: the blur that poses as your heart.
 I'm supposed to go in with a torch
 or maybe hot water bottles
 & defrost it by hand
 as one defrosts an old refrigerator.
 It will shudder & sigh
 (the icebox to the insomniac).

 Oh there's nothing like love between us.
 You're the mountain, I am climbing you.
 If I fall, you won't be all to blame,
 but you'll wait years maybe
 for the next doomed expedition
-- Erica Jong
Searching for poems by Erica on the net, landed up
reading this lovely poem.

Liked the following lines in particular:

  The pupils are black painted stage flats.
  They can be pulled down like window shades.
  I switch on a light in your iris.


[Martin adds]

Intriguing poem - I loved the imagery, particularly in the brilliant last
verse. It reminded me a bit of Atwood's [Poem #1093]

        I would like to be the air
        that inhabits you for a moment
        only. I would like to be that unnoticed
        & that necessary.

- there's the same sense of 'selfless' attachment, and the wryly humorous
tone promising more, perhaps, than the other is willing to receive.



 Born March 26, 1942, New York to Seymour Mann a
 musician, and Eda Mirsky, a painter.

 Interesting to note that her first publication party,
 in 1971, was held in a fruit and vegetable market. She
 read selections from her poetry book "Fruits &
 Vegetables" perched on a crate of grapefruits and

 More on her website

Ramon -- Bret Harte

Guest poem sent in by Mallika Chellappa
(Poem #1321) Ramon
 Drunk and senseless in his place,
 Prone and sprawling on his face,
 More like brute than any man
 Alive or dead,
 By his great pump out of gear,
 Lay the peon engineer,
 Waking only just to hear,
 Angry tones that called his name,
 Oaths and cries of bitter blame,--
 Woke to hear all this, and, waking, turned and fled!

 "To the man who`ll bring to me,"
 Cried Intendant Harry Lee,--
 Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine,--
 "Bring the sot alive or dead,
 I will give to him," he said,
 "Fifteen hundred pesos down,
 Just to set the rascal's crown
 Underneath this heel of mine:
 Since but death
 Deserves the man whose deed,
 Be it vice or want of heed,
 Stops the pumps that give us breath,--
 Stops the pumps that suck the death
  From the poisoned lower levels of the mine!"

 No one answered; for a cry
 From the shaft rose up on high,
 And shuffling, scrambling, tumbling from below,
 Came the miners each, the bolder
 Mounting on the weaker`s shoulder,
 Grappling, clinging to their hold or
 Letting go,
 As the weaker gasped and fell
 From the ladder to the well,--
 To the poisoned pit of hell
 Down below!

 "To the man who sets them free,"
 Cried the foreman, Harry Lee,--
 Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine,--
 "Brings them out and sets them free,
 I will give that man," said he,
 "Twice that sum, who with a rope
 Face to face with Death shall cope.
 Let him come who dares to hope!"
 "Hold your peace!" some one replied,
 Standing by the foreman`s side;
 "There has one already gone, whoe'er he be!"

 Then they held their breath with awe,
 Pulling on the rope, and saw
 Fainting figures reappear,
 On the black rope swinging clear,
 Fastened by some skillful hand from below;
 Till a score the level gained,
 And but one alone remained,--
 He the hero and the last,
 He whose skillful hand made fast
 The long line that brought them back to hope and cheer!

 Haggard, gasping, down dropped he
 At the feet of Harry Lee,--
 Harry Lee, the English foreman of the mine.
 "I have come," he gasped, "to claim
 Both rewards. Senor, my name
 Is Ramon!
 I'm the drunken engineer,
 I'm the coward, Senor"-- Here
 He fell over, by that sign,
 Dead as stone!
-- Bret Harte
Another oldie and goodie from my brother's poetry text - "Poems Old and New"

Heroic acts by everyday unlikely heroes.  Altruism (survival of the species
at the cost of the individual) is alive and well in literature at least!

Mallika Chellappa

[Martin adds]

More than altruism, the poem draws on another powerful and universal theme -
the desperately heroic act of self-redemption by one who has shamed himself.
Note the strict accounting principle at work - Ramon has endangered the
lives of others, and therefore paid for his mistake with his life. His
heroism likewise wipes out his cowardice, and he dies with honour intact.
(Incidentally, the best twist I've seen on this theme was in an sf story,
where in the final scene, the girl leaves the hero - she couldn't bear to stay
with anyone so selfish he'd endanger all their lives for the sake of his

The Revenge : A Ballad of the Fleet -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Guest poem sent in by Ashwin Menon
(Poem #1320) The Revenge : A Ballad of the Fleet
 At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
 And a pinnace, like a fluttered bird, came flying from far away:
 "Spanish ships of war at sea! we have sighted fifty-three!"
 Then sware Lord Thomas Howard: "'Fore God I am no coward;
 But I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear,
 And the half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick.
 We are six ships of the line; can we fight with fifty-three?"

 Then spake Sir Richard Grenville: "I know you are no coward;
 You fly them for a moment to fight with them again.
 But I've ninety men and more that are lying sick ashore.
 I should count myself the coward if I left them, my Lord Howard,
 To these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain."

 So Lord Howard passed away with five ships of war that day,
 Till he melted like a cloud in the silent summer heaven;
 But Sir Richard bore in hand all his sick men from the land
 Very carefully and slow,
 Men of Bideford in Devon,
 And we laid them on the ballast down below;
 For we brought them all aboard,
 And they blest him in their pain, that they were not left to Spain,
 To the thumbscrew and the stake, for the glory of the Lord.

 He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and to fight,
 And he sailed away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight,
 With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
 "Shall we fight or shall we fly?
 Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
 For to fight is but to die!
 There'll be little of us left by the time this sun be set."
 And Sir Richard said again: "We be all good English men.
 Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil,
 For I never turned my back upon Don or devil yet."

 Sir Richard spoke and he laughed, and we roared a hurrah, and so
 The little Revenge ran on sheer into the heart of the foe,
 With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below;
 For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen,
 And the little Revenge ran on through the long sea-lane between.

 Thousands of their soldiers looked down from their decks and laughed,
 Thousands of their seamen made mock at the mad little craft
 Running on and on, till delayed
 By their mountain-like San Philip that, of fifteen hundred tons,
 And up-shadowing high above us with her yawning tiers of guns,
 Took the breath from our sails, and we stayed.

 And while now the great San Philip hung above us like a cloud
 Whence the thunderbolt will fall
 Long and loud,
 Four galleons drew away
 From the Spanish fleet that day,
 And two upon the larboard and two upon the starboard lay,
 And the battle-thunder broke from them all.

 But anon the great San Philip, she bethought herself and went
 Having that within her womb that had left her ill content;
 And the rest they came aboard us, and they fought us hand to hand,
 For a dozen times they came with their pikes and musqueteers,
 And a dozen times we shook 'em off as a dog that shakes his ears
 When he leaps from the water to the land.

 And the sun went down, and the stars came out far over the summer sea,
 But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty-three.
 Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons came,
 Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-thunder and flame;
 Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead and her shame.
 For some were sunk and many were shattered, and so could fight us no more -
 God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the world before?

 For he said "Fight on! fight on!"
 Though his vessel was all but a wreck;
 And it chanced that, when half of the short summer night was gone,
 With a grisly wound to be dressed he had left the deck,
 But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead,
 And himself he was wounded again in the side and the head,
 And he said "Fight on! fight on!"

 And the night went down, and the sun smiled out far over the summer sea,
 And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay round us all in a ring;
 But they dared not touch us again, for they feared that we still could sting,
 So they watched what the end would be.
 And we had not fought them in vain,
 But in perilous plight were we,
 Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,
 And half of the rest of us maimed for life
 In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife;
 And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and cold,
 And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder was all of it spent;
 And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
 But Sir Richard cried in his English pride,
 "We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
 As may never be fought again!
 We have won great glory, my men!
 And a day less or more
 At sea or ashore,
 We die -does it matter when?
 Sink me the ship, Master Gunner -sink her, split her in twain!
 Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!"

 And the gunner said "Ay, ay," but the seamen made reply:
 "We have children, we have wives,
 And the Lord hath spared our lives.
 We will make the Spaniard promise, if we yield, to let us go;
 We shall live to fight again and to strike another blow."
 And the lion there lay dying, and they yielded to the foe.

 And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then,
 Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir Richard caught at last,
 And they praised him to his face with their courtly foreign grace;
 But he rose upon their decks, and he cried:
 "I have fought for Queen and Faith like a valiant man and true;
 I have only done my duty as a man is bound to do:
 With a joyful spirit I Sir Richard Grenville die!"
 And he fell upon their decks, and he died.

 And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant and true,
 And had holden the power and glory of Spain so cheap
 That he dared her with one little ship and his English few;
 Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they knew,
 But they sank his body with honour down into the deep,
 And they manned the Revenge with a swarthier alien crew,
 And away she sailed with her loss and longed for her own;
 When a wind from the lands they had ruined awoke from sleep,
 And the water began to heave and the weather to moan,
 And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew,
 And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew,
 Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and their flags,
 And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shattered navy of Spain,
 And the little Revenge herself went down by the island crags
 To be lost evermore in the main.
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Here's another narrative poem. I was a bit surprised that the minstrels have
not run this one before. I came across this poem when I listened to a song
called "Lord Grenville" by Al Stewart, and I was curious whether Grenville was
a historical character. A great song, by the way. For those interested in
comparing the song to the poem, I've added the song lyrics below.

The song:

Lord Grenville (by Al Stewart)

Go and tell Lord Grenville that the tide is on the turn
It's time to haul the anchor up and leave the land astern
We'll be gone before the dawn returns
Like voices on the wind.

Go and tell Lord Grenville that our dreams have run aground
There's nothing here to keep us in this shanty town
None of us are caring where we're bound
Like voices on the wind

And come the day you'll hear them saying
They're throwing it all away
Nothing more to say
Just throwing it all away

Go and fetch the captain's log and tear the pages out
We're on our way to nowhere now, can't bring the helm about
None of us are left in any doubt
We won't be back again

Send a message to the fleet, they'll search for us in vain
We won't be there among the reaches of the Spanish Main
Tell the ones we left home not to wait
We won't be back again.

Our time is just a point along a line
That runs forever with no end
I never thought that we would come to find
Ourselves upon these rocks again

Here's what has to say on the
incident described in the poem:

Sir Richard Grenville (1542-1591)

English Naval commander. He was sent with a fleet of
13 ships to intercept a Spanish treasure ship in the
Azores. On August 31 they received news that 53
Spanish ships were headed out to meet the treasure
ship. Other ships in the fleet weighed anchor and
headed out to sea. Grenville's ship, the Revenge, was
delayed and cut off. The ship was becalmed in the lee
of a large galleon. After a hand to hand battle
lasting 15 hours, involving 15 ships and 5000 men, the
Revenge was captured. Grenville was carried aboard the
Spanish flagship, where he died a few days later. The
exploit is commemorated in a poem by Tennyson titled
"the Revenge"

- Ashwin

Goats and Monkeys -- Derek Walcott

Guest poem submitted by Ameya Nagarajan:
(Poem #1319) Goats and Monkeys
 '...even now, an old black ram
  is tupping your white ewe.'

 The owl's torches gutter. Chaos clouds the globe.
 Shriek, augury! His earthen bulk
 buries her bosom in its slow eclipse.
 His smoky hand has charred
 that marble throat. Bent to her lips,
 he is Africa, a vast, sidling shadow
 that halves your world with doubt.
 'Put out the light', and God's light is put out.

 That flame extinct, she contemplates her dream
 of him as huge as night, as bodiless,
 as starred with medals, like the moon
 a fable of blind stone.
 Dazzled by that bull's bulk agaisnt the sun
 of Cyprus, couldn't she have known
 like Pasiphae, poor girl, she'd breed horned monsters?
 That like Euyridice, her flesh a flare
 travelling the hellish labyrinth of his mind
 his soul would swallow hers?

 Her white flesh rhymes with night. She climbs, secure.

 Virgin and ape, maid and malevolent Moor,
 their immortal coupling still halves our world.
 He is your sacrificial beat, bellowing, goaded,
 a black bull snarled in ribbons of blood.
 And yet, whatever fury girded
 on the saffron-sunset turban, moon-shaped sword
 was not his racial, panther-black revenge
 pulsing her chamber with its raw musk, its sweat
 but horror of the moon's change,
 of the corruption of an absolute,
 like a white fruit
 pulped ripe by fondling but doubly sweet.

 And so he barbarously arraigns the moon
 for all she has beheld since time began
 for his own night-long lechery, ambition,
 while barren innocence whimpers for pardon.

 And it is still the moon, she silvers love,
 limns lechery and stares at our disgrace.
 Only annihilation can resolve
 the pure corruption in her dreaming face.

 A bestial, comic agony. We harden
 with mockery at this blackamoor
 who turns his back on her, who kills
 what, like the clear moon, cannot abhor
 her element, night; his grief
 farcially knotted in a handkerchief
 a sibyl's
 prophetically stitched rememberancer
 webbed and embroidered with the zodiac,
 this mythical, horned beast who's no more
 monstrous for being black.
-- Derek Walcott
Walcott is West Indian, from the island of St. Lucia. He came from a
mixed family, with two white grandfathers and two black grandmothers. He
grew up familiar with English and his problem is one faced by most
post-colonial writers, he does not fit in the native tradition but he
does not fit in the British traditon, and he is troubled both by his
ease with the English language and his alienation from English

This poem rewrites Othello, and it is really interesting because its
sympathetic to Othello while still granting him agency, Walcott
completely deletes Iago and Othello is no longer a pawn.

What I love most about Walcott is his almost intoxicating use of
imagery. He does go overboard in one or two places, but most of the time
he manages to pick the most evocative images to convey impressions. Call
him impressionist if you wish!

[Minstrels Links]

Derek Walcott:
Poem #993: "Midsummer, Tobago"
Poem #1041: "The Schooner 'Flight'"

The Wind -- Vikram Seth

Guest poem sent in by Tanmoy Saha
(Poem #1318) The Wind
 The bay is thick with flecks of white.
 The freezing air is honed and thined.
 The gulls sleep on the stones tonight,
 Wings locked against the prising wind.
 With no companion to my mood,
 Against the wind as it should be,
 I walk, but in my solitude
 Bow to the wind that buffets me.
-- Vikram Seth
 From: All You who Sleep Tonight

I was slightly surprised to find that this poem was not on the minstrels
collection. This is one of the best poems of Seth that I have come across...he
is at his best when he pens these small ones (Remember 'Sit'? - Poem #966)....

This poem needs absolutely no explanation at all....but do you ever wonder why
is he against the wind "as it should be" ?!

Some more of poems can be found at
[broken link]


P.S. Anybody know what Seth is working on next?

Richard Cory -- Edwin Arlington Robinson

Guest poem submitted by Siddarth Kalasapur:
(Poem #1317) Richard Cory
 Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
 We people on the pavement looked at him:
 He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
 Clean favored, and imperially slim.

 And he was always quietly arrayed,
 And he was always human when he talked;
 But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
 "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

 And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
 And admirably schooled in every grace;
 In fine we thought that he was everything
 To make us wish that we were in his place.

 So on we worked, and waited for the light,
 And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
 And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
 Went home and put a bullet through his head.
-- Edwin Arlington Robinson
Here's a poem that I first read back in 1994, and it has been one of my
favorites since. Isn't there a Simon & Garfunkel song titled "Richard
Cory"? [Yes; see notes -t.] E. A. Robinson is not among my favorite
poets (e e cummings and Kahlil Gibran are). This poem however, always
reminds me of a friend who, in 1994 who actually put a bullet thruugh
his head - and we were left to speculate the reason, for it seemed like
he had everything. He was indeed quietly arrayed and human, rich and
graceful, well-liked and well-schooled. To date we don't know the reason
my friend did what he did - one calm summer night - and this poem will
serve as a constant reminder that things aren't always what they appear
to be.



"Richard Cory" is from Robinson's collection "The Children Of The
Night". The poem was written in 1897, after Robinson read a newspaper
clipping of one Frank Avery, who "blew his bowels out with a shotgun".

Here's Paul Simon's version of the story, from the "Sounds of Silence"
album, 1966:

 "Richard Cory"

 They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
 With political connections to spread his wealth around.
 Born into society, a banker's only child,
 He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

    But I work in his factory
    And I curse the life I'm living
    And I curse my poverty
    And I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be
    Richard Cory.

 The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
 Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
 And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
 Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he's got.

    But I work in his factory
    And I curse the life I'm living
    And I curse my poverty
    And I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be
    Richard Cory.

 He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
 And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
 So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
 "Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head."

    But I work in his factory
    And I curse the life I'm living
    And I curse my poverty
    And I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be,
    Oh, I wish that I could be
    Richard Cory.

        -- Paul Simon

Spencer Leigh, in "Paul Simon - Now and Then" (1973) comments:

"Simon also retains this surprise but in neither version do we receive
any explanation as to why Richard Cory should have shot himself.
Robinson dwells on his material possessions and Simon updates this to
include orgies and yachts. Simon may well have added a subtlety to
Robinson's poem by repeating the chorus after Richard Cory has shot
himself, thus implying that the workers also envy Cory's courage in
being able to do away with himself.

It is easy to see why E.A. Robinson's poetry appealed to Paul Simon.
They both understood this feeling of being lonely in a crowd. Indeed a
university thesis in years to come may well show the parallels between
the two writers and songs like 'A Most Peculiar Man' and 'I Am A Rock'
certainly mark Simon out as a latter-day Robinson."

        -- [broken link]

Lobachevsky -- Tom Lehrer

Guest poem sent in by Matt Chanoff
(Poem #1316) Lobachevsky
 Who made me the genius I am today,
 The mathematician that others all quote,
 Who's the professor that made me that way?
 The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat.

 One man deserves the credit,
 One man deserves the blame,
 and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
 In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

 Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
 Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
 So don't shade your eyes,
 But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
 Only be sure always to call it please "research".

 And ever since I meet this man my life is not the same,
 And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day I am given first original paper to write.  It
 was on analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean metrization
 of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold.
 Bozhe moi!
 This I know from nothing.
 But I think of great Lobachevsky and I get idea - haha!

 I have a friend in Minsk,
 Who has a friend in Pinsk,
 Whose friend in Omsk
 Has friend in Tomsk
 With friend in Akmolinsk.
 His friend in Alexandrovsk
 Has friend in Petropavlovsk,
 Whose friend somehow
 Is solving now
 The problem in Dnepropetrovsk.

 And when his work is done -
 Haha! - begins the fun.
 From Dnepropetrovsk
 To Petropavlovsk,
 By way of Iliysk,
 And Novorossiysk,
 To Alexandrovsk to Akmolinsk
 To Tomsk to Omsk
 To Pinsk to Minsk
 To me the news will run,
 Yes, to me the news will run!

 And then I write
 By morning, night,
 And afternoon,
 And pretty soon
 My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
 When he finds out I published first!

 And who made me a big success
 And brought me wealth and fame?
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day my first book is published.
 Every chapter I stole from somewhere else.
 Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.
 This book, this book was sensational!
 Pravda - ah, Pravda - Pravda said: (Russian double-talk)
 It stinks.
 But Izvestia!  Izvestia said: (Russian double-talk)
 It stinks.
 Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva bought the movie rights for six million rubles,
 Changing title to 'The Eternal Triangle',
 With Brigitte Bardot playing part of hypotenuse.

 And who deserves the credit?
 And who deserves the blame?
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
-- Tom Lehrer
This current mathematical theme made me think that it's time once again for
Minstrels to put out something by the great Tom Lehrer.  The following was
referred to in the commentary on Lehrer's one previous appearance, Poem #490,
The Elements. The Elements is more interesting poetically, but on the
other hand, this one is funnier.  Attached to #490 you can also find links
for info on this peculiar genius, who, three decades after he stopped
performing publically, still leaves us wanting more.

Matt Chanoff

[Martin adds]

This one really, really, really needs to be listened to to be fully
appreciated. It's not just the music - the performance is sidesplittingly
funny, and maintains the mix of patter and singing most impressively.
Luckily for the current generation, Lehrer's works have been recenely
reissued in a three CD box set titled "The Remains of Tom Lehrer". Highly


Mathematicians at Work -- Judith Saunders

Guest poem submitted by :

Today's poem inspired me to dig out this poem by Judith Saunders.
(Poem #1315) Mathematicians at Work
 hunker down on their hands and knees
    and sniff the problem
 poke it with ungentle fingers
    rub it raw with steel wool
 wad it up in a ball and cackle
    then pound it flat with little mallets
 watch it rise like dough (uh oh)
    resume its original shape
 screech, swing at it with hatchets
    spatter the walls with oozing fragments
 stare horrified at the shattered bits
    reassembling themselves, jump up
 attack the problem with icepicks
    gouge holes six inches deep
 and seven inches across
    (chew the mangled matter
 spit it out and belch) kick the thing
    into a corner, remove their belts
 and beat it senseless, walk off
    with the answer in their pockets.
-- Judith Saunders
I don't know if it meets your criteria with regard to Saunders being an
established poet; I can find little out about her.  However, this poem
was professionally published; it appeared in the Mathematical
Intelligencer, I believe in the early 90's.  I still have the photocopy,
which I've taped up near my desk at many places I've worked.  I also
found this poem:
        [broken link]
which I'm sure is by her and also appeared in the Intelligencer; this:
would appear to be her home page.  So: up to you if it qualifies for the
Minstrels. [yes -- t.]

As for the poem itself, what I like about it is the way it captures the
sheer joy of mathematical aggression.  Tearing a problem into shreds is
pure competition, between you and the Platonic world.  If you don't know
anything about mathematics, this poem tells you more about what it's
like to do research mathematics than almost anything else could.