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Against Entropy -- John M Ford

Guest poem sent in by Zeynep Dilli
(Poem #1934) Against Entropy
 The worm drives helically through the wood
 And does not know the dust left in the bore
 Once made the table integral and good;
 And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
 Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
 A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
 The names of lovers, light of other days
 Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
 The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
 But memory is everything to lose;
 Although some of the colors have to fade,
 Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
 Regret, by definition, comes too late;
 Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.
-- John M Ford
As sad it is to become aware of the main mass of the body of someone's work
after his death, that pattern is repeated again and again, and here's
another such case.  John Mike Ford, whom I knew mostly through his comments
on the weblog _Making Light_ and two other of his poems, "Troy: The Movie"
and "110 Stories", passed away last night---the morning of September 25th.
Those who had read more of him made the rest of us realize what we missed.
Much more can be found starting at this weblog entry:

As for this particular poem, two things first caught my eye: The
English-sonnet rhyming scheme, and the last line taken together with the
title.  "Against Entropy: Say what you mean.  Bear witness.  Iterate."  In
the era when mass-scale language manipulation is an art form (even in the
way Orwell had foreseen), that reduction of Ford's call has its own urgency.

But the poem's point doesn't need to be taken at the level of politics to be
taken seriously; it's something one needs to remember in day-to-day life.
We'll forget things, and not only things we want to forget.  Things will
change.  I can't say it better than the third quartuplet of the sonnet, so I
won't try; but for things we really, truly care about and we really, truly
would like to keep in heart or mind or in physical reality, we should be
insistent about keeping it---write, tell, note, make it clear.  On a very
personal level, maybe the best argument for keeping a journal that I've

The language of the poem is driving, and on a meta-level, demonstrates its
own point as clearly and starkly as possible.  As the lines progress,
there's a shift from even the simplest of metaphors and illustrative
examples to outright "Say[ing] what [it] mean[s]." On that note, I've
babbled on too much already.

-- Zeynep Dilli


Wikipedia entry:

Where Lesbians Come From -- Jan Sellers

Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1933) Where Lesbians Come From
 It is true that lesbians do not have families;
 we have pretend family relationships.
 We do not have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters;
 our sons and daughters do not count at all,
 having no families within which to rear them.
 And our lovers - there's nothing in that
 but something mocking truth;
 for you know it's true
 that lesbians do not have families, like you...

 We emerge, instead, complete from some dark shell,
 beds and beds of us (like oysters,
 what else would I mean?)
 sea-born on stormy nights
 with the wind in a certain quarter.
 We rise and wiggle, all slippery and secret,
 curling and stretching and glad to be alive,
 untangling our hair from the wind and salt and seaweed.
 We steal clothes from washing lines,
 and once it's daylight, almost pass for human.

 Glowing into warmth in the sun or a hard north wind
 we lick the salt from our lips,
 for now. And smile.
 We live for a while, in the light,
 despite your brutal laws
 and your wish that we were not here;
 we return to our beds by moonlight
 to nurture and foster the sweet salt shells
 that give birth to our lesbian futures.
 And there we plot, in our dark sea beds,
 the seduction of your daughters.
-- Jan Sellers
A marvellous poem. The mocking tone is done just right - funny enough to
make you laugh at the absurdity of it, indignant enough to make you realise
that it's not perhaps quite that absurd. The truth pushed just far enough to
make it satire. The poem works because underlying its ridiculous narration
is a deep sense of alienation, of feeling unwanted and other in a world
where choosing to live out your sexual preferences makes you sub-human. Plus
there's the deeply erotic oyster / salt imagery, of course.

I know practically nothing about Jan Sellers. The Virago New Poets (Virago
Press, 1993, edited by Melanie Silgardo and Janet Book) from which this poem
is taken describes her as a "part-time adult education worker, full-time
lesbian and intermittent performance poet".


Breakfast -- Jacques Prevert

Guest poem sent in by Firdaus Janoos
(Poem #1932) Breakfast
 He poured the coffee
 Into the cup
 He poured the milk
 Into the cup of coffee
 He added the sugar
 To the coffee and milk
 He stirred it
 With a teaspoon
 He drank the coffee
 And put back the cup
  Without speaking to me
 He lit a cigarette
 He blew some rings
 With the smoke
 He flicked the ashes
 Into the ashtray
  Without speaking to me
  Without looking at me
 He got up
 He put his hat
 On his head
 He put on
 His raincoat
 Because it was raining
 He went out
 Into the rain
  Without a word
  Without looking at me
 And I
  I took my head
  In my hands
  And I wept
-- Jacques Prevert
   (translated by Alastair Campbell)

Jacques Prévert is one of France's most well-known poets, and I was
surprised to see him so well represented on minstrels ;)

The thing I love about him is his remarkable obervation of and sympathy for
people and everyday life. He evokes deep emotions with suprising simplicity
and grace. The poem "Breakfast" published in Paroles, Prévert's first
collection of poetry which appeared late in 1945, is typical of his lucid
and poignant style.


[Martin adds]

As an aside, I'd like to thank reader Ian Barnett (of the Parole
Translations and Literary Agency) for drumming into me the importance of
finding out about and acknowledging the translators of non-English poems we
run. I don't always succeed, I'll admit, but I do always make the effort.
Quoting Ian's spot-on rant about this all-too-common omission:

  This lacuna annexes foreign poets to the English language in a most
  unwholesome, if reflexive, nay, automatic way. It does the invisible
  profession of the literary translator no favours either. And strictly
  it is illegal not to acknowledge provenance -- a law which, for the
  authorship of the translator, is also strangely invisible.



Wikipedia entry:

A collection of Prévert's poems, translated by Campbell:

Bonsai -- Edith Tiempo

Guest poem sent in by Genevieve Aquino
(Poem #1931) Bonsai
 All that I love
 I fold over once
 And once again
 And keep in a box
 Or a slit in a hollow post
 Or in my shoe.

 All that I love?
 Why, yes, but for the moment --
 And for all time, both.
 Something that folds and keeps easy,
 Son's note or Dad's one gaudy tie,
 A roto picture of a queen,
 A blue Indian shawl, even
 A money bill.

 It's utter sublimination,
 A feat, this heart's control
 Moment to moment
 To scale all love down
 To a cupped hand's size,

 Till seashells are broken pieces
 From God's own bright teeth,
 And life and love are real
 Things you can run and
 Breathless hand over
 To the merest child.
-- Edith Tiempo

Being from a small archipelago with such a bounty of poets writing in
English, I have always wanted to share Philippine poetry with Minstrels.
But I never summoned the courage until now, when Poem #1927 (Lowell Parker's
"The Bee Box"), reminded me again of this poem and the beautiful but simple
images of love and the human experience "scaled down" into this classic
example of Philippine Poetry in English.

I was packing up my things a week ago in preparation for moving to another
country and the rote action of putting things away reminded me of the
imagery in this poem. "All that I love/ I fold over once/ And once again".
Now that I am far from home, I feel that sharing this with others will make
me a little less homesick.

It is a universal human trait to gather all the important memories and
attempt to condense these metaphysical things into tangible bits and pieces
that one can carry around. Thus, no matter where a person might be, one can
always be reminded of home and the things they love.



Edith Tiempo is a Philippine National Artist for Literature.

A collection of Tiempo's poems:
 [broken link]

The Dover Bitch -- Anthony Hecht

Guest poem sent in by Nisha Susan
(Poem #1930) The Dover Bitch
 So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
 With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
 And he said to her, 'Try to be true to me,
 And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
 All over, etc., etc.'
 Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read
 Sophocles in a fairly good translation
 And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
 But all the time he was talking she had in mind
 The notion of what his whiskers would feel like
 On the back of her neck. She told me later on
 That after a while she got to looking out
 At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
 Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
 And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
 And then she got really angry. To have been brought
 All the way down from London , and then be addressed
 As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
 Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
 Anyway, she watched him pace the room
 And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
 And then she said one or two unprintable things.
 But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is,
 She's really all right. I still see her once in a while
 And she always treats me right. We have a drink
 And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year
 Before I see her again, but there she is,
 Running to fat, but dependable as they come.
 And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d' Amour.
-- Anthony Hecht
Having recently discovered Anthony Hecht I am alternating between postures
of extreme surprise at others who have not read him and indignation at those
who have and not told me that he exists.

This particular poem is such a satisfying parody with its wide-eyed Holden
Caulfield taunts at Mathew Arnold and mock-earnestness. Hecht has also
written hilarious imitations of Horace's odes as if Horace was a
lotus-eating New Yorker who wrote for Vogue. Hecht's poems do that tricky
dance of being full of literary, even classical allusion and yet being very
accessible and fun. Perepateia for instance is a poem for anyone who likes
to go to the theatre. And the toothsome beauty of the poem is evident even
when one has no clue who ... is.

For the critics of course Anthony Hecht is an important poet because he
wrote about the Holocaust and war.



We've run Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach":

A well-written obit:

Biographical details

September Twelfth, 2001 -- X J Kennedy

Guest poem sent in by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous
(Poem #1929) September Twelfth, 2001
 Two caught on film who hurtle
 from the eighty-second floor,
 choosing between a fireball
 and to jump holding hands,

 aren't us. I wake beside you,
 stretch, scratch, taste the air,
 the incredible joy of coffee
 and the morning light.

 Alive we open eyelids
 on our pitiful share of time,
 we bubbles rising and bursting
 in a boiling pot.
-- X J Kennedy
Kennedy's poem is featured in a volume, "Good Poems for Hard Times"
selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor. Without being trite,
dramatic, verbose or clever, the twelve lines (and especially the
"aren't us" capture the essence of being spared, and the thoughts
that spin through the mind each time another image of disaster is
broadcast on a billion TV screens: What did they feel? It wasn't
me! What would I have felt? Why am I still here? More coffee?


Academy of American Poets page on X. J. Kennedy:

Wikipedia entry:

The Workbox -- Thomas Hardy

Guest poem sent in by Jennifer McWhorter
(Poem #1928) The Workbox
 See, here's the workbox, little wife,
   That I made of polished oak.'
 He was a joiner, of village life;
   She came of borough folk.

 He holds the present up to her
   As with a smile she nears
 And answers to the profferer,
   ''Twill last all my sewing years!'

 'I warrant it will. And longer too.
   'Tis a scantling that I got
 Off poor John Wayward's coffin, who
   Died of they knew not what.

 'The shingled pattern that seems to cease
   Against your box's rim
 Continues right on in the piece
   That's underground with him.

 'And while I worked it made me think
   Of timber's varied doom;
 One inch where people eat and drink,
   The next inch in a tomb.

 'But why do you look so white, my dear,
   And turn aside your face?
 You knew not that good lad, I fear,
   Though he came from your native place?'

 'How could I know that good young man,
   Though he came from my native town,
 When he must have left there earlier than
   I was a woman grown?'

 'Ah, no. I should have understood!
   It shocked you that I gave
 To you one end of a piece of wood
   Whose other is in a grave?'

 'Don't, dear, despise my intellect,
   Mere accidental things
 Of that sort never have effect
   On my imaginings.'

 Yet still her lips were limp and wan,
   Her face still held aside,
 As if she had known not only John,
   But known of what he died.
-- Thomas Hardy
My closest friend turned me on to this poem about 13 years ago and it has
haunted me ever since. When I first read it, I saw only a surface tale of a
woodworker/coffin maker who made a box for his wife from a leftover bit from
his work. But on a second read I saw a woman whose husband had killed her
lover and who was now giving her a very unmistakable message: "I'm not
fooled, and this is all you have of him now. You might be next."

It's pretty powerful story telling.




Wikipedia on Hardy:

Christ in the Universe -- Alice Meynell

Guest poem sent in by Dr. Roger Thurling
(Poem #1927) Christ in the Universe
 With this ambiguous earth
 His dealings have been told us. These abide:
 The signal to a maid, the human birth,
 The lesson, and the young Man crucified.
 But not a star of all
 The innumerable host of stars has heard
 How He administered this terrestrial ball.
 Our race have kept their Lord¿s entrusted Word.
 Of His earth-visiting feet
 None knows the secret, cherished, perilous,
 The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet
 Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.
 No planet knows that this
 Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,
 Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,
 Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.
 Nor, in our little day,
 May His devices with the heavens be guessed,
 His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way
 Or His bestowals there be manifest.
 But in the eternities,
 Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
 A million alien Gospels, in what guise
 He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.
 O, be prepared, my soul!
 To read the inconceivable, to scan
 The million forms of God those stars unroll
 When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.
-- Alice Meynell
As a convinced atheist of many years I had often wondered how Christians
reconciled their belief in an all-knowing all-powerful universe-wide God,
with what they believed to be its (his?) interest in, and manifestation in
our parochial little planet, with all its peculiarities of biology and
geography - almost all of them unlikely to be repeated anywhere else in the

Alice Meynell tackled this problem head-on, walking over it as though it
didn't exist.



  Alice Meynell (1847 - 1922), English writer, editor, critic, and
  suffragist, now remembered mainly as a poet.

Tobacco's But an Indian Weed -- Traditional

Guest poem sent in by William Grey
(Poem #1926) Tobacco's But an Indian Weed
 Tobacco's but an Indian weed,
 Grows green at morn, cut down at eve,
 It shews our decay, we are but clay:
 Think of this when you smoke tobacco.

 The pipe that is so lily white,
 Wherein so many take delight,
 Is broke with a touch -- man's life is such:
 Think of this when you smoke tobacco.

 The pipe that is so foul within,
 Shows man's soul is stained with sin;
 It doth require the purging fire;
 Think of this when you smoke tobacco!

 The ashes that are left behind,
 Do serve to put us all in mind
 That unto dust return we must:
 Think of this when you smoke tobacco.

 The smoke, that does so high ascend,
 Shews us man's life must have an end,
 The vapour's gone -- man's life is done:
 Think of this when you smoke tobacco.
-- Traditional
      (17th Century England)

The song "Tobacco's But an Indian Weed" goes back at least to the mid-17th
century. It can be sung to an appropriately mournful, dirge-like melody.

This version is based on Thomas D'Urfey's "Pills to Purge Melancholy"
(1699), sourced from:

William Grey

[Martin adds]

What fascinates me about this song is how likely it is (at least in
retrospect) that it would be caught up in the folk process. The combination
of a simple, strong pattern (one rhyming couplet, one internally-rhyming
line and a refrain), a subversive topic that has room for infinite
variation, and the lack of any real ordering to the verses makes the
temptation to tweak or add a verse or two almost irresistible.

[Links] has a nice writeup on the
history of the song

I Asked No Other Thing -- Emily Dickinson

Guest poem sent in by Priscilla Jebaraj
(Poem #1925) I Asked No Other Thing
 I asked no other thing,
 No other was denied.
 I offered Being for it;
 The mighty merchant smiled.

 Brazil? He twirled a button
 Without a glance my way:
 But, madam, is there nothing else
 That we can show today?
-- Emily Dickinson
I was skimming through Jean Webster's "Daddy Long Legs" yesterday, because I
was sure I remembered a poem written by her heroine Judy Abbott in college,
which would go with the current theme. Couldn't find it, but I did come
across this rather enigmatic Dickinson piece.  Judy, writing to her
guardian, tells him about the poem --

  "In English class this afternoon we had an unexpected written lesson.
  This was it:

     I asked no other thing,
     No other was denied.
     I offered Being for it;
     The mighty merchant smiled.

     Brazil? He twirled a button
     Without a glance my way:
     But, madam, is there nothing else
     That we can show today?

  That is a poem. I don't know who wrote it or what it means. It was
  simply printed out on the blackboard when we arrived and we were ordered
  to comment upon it. When I read the first verse I thought I had an
  idea--The Mighty Merchant was a divinity who distributes blessings in
  return for virtuous deeds-- but when I got to the second verse and found
  him twirling a button, it seemed a blasphemous supposition, and I
  hastily changed my mind.  The rest of the class was in the same
  predicament; and there we sat for three-quarters of an hour with blank
  paper and equally blank minds. Getting an education is an awfully
  wearing process!"

I must admit that, like Judy, my idea of what it means is rather vague. But
since, unlike Judy, I don't have to get an education out of it, I'm free to
enjoy it with my own interpretation!

I'd guess that the Mighty Merchant is meant to be God, a God who seems to
smile indifferently at her deepest desires. Some commentators suggest that
Brazil is a reference to heaven -- apparently, "during this period, exotic
locations frequently... represented heaven, or something desired and dreamt
of, yet beyond reach and denied." Other readings of the poem say Dicksinson
is speaking for all women seeking emancipation and freedom, the one thing
that is denied to them.

Quite apart from meaning, I think those first two lines just stick in the
memory somehow! Anyone else care to take a stab at interpretation?


Nice To Be Here -- Ray Thomas

Guest poem sent in by Don Case
(Poem #1924) Nice To Be Here
 Nice to be here hope you agree
 Lying in the sun
 Lovely weather, must climb a tree
 The show has just begun

 All the leaves start swaying
 To the breeze that's playing
 On a thousand violins
 And the bees are humming
 To a frog sat strumming
 On a guitar with only one string

 I can see them they can't see me
 I feel out of sight
 I can see them they can't see me
 Much to my delight

 And it seems worth noting
 Water rats were boating
 As a lark began to sing
 The sounds kept coming
 With Jack Rabbit loudly drumming
 On the side of a biscuit tin

 I can see them they can't see me
 I feel out of sight
 I can see them they can't see me
 Much to my delight

 Silver minnows were devising
 Water ballet so surprising
 A mouse played a daffodil
 A mole came up blinking
 Underneath an owl who's thinking
 How he came to be sat on a hill

 I can see them they can't see me
 I feel out of sight
 I can see them they can't see me
 Much to my delight

 I know you won't believe me
 But I'm certain that I did see
 A mouse playing daffodil
 All the band was really jumping
 With Jack Rabbit in there thumping
 I found that I couldn't sit still
 I just had to make it with them
 Cause they played my kind of rhythm
 And the bees hummed in harmony
 And the owl played his oboe
 Then the frog's guitar solo
 It was all just too much for me

 I know you won't believe me
 But I'm certain that I did see
 A mouse playing daffodil
 All the band was really jumping
 With Jack Rabbit in there thumping
 I found that I couldn't sit still
-- Ray Thomas
   (of the Moody Blues)

Note: From the album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, 1971

This song has always been uplifting to me even out of the context of the
album.  In the album it follows "One More Time To Live" by John Lodge, a
heavy song musically. Then this light hearted melody comes on and delivers
the twinkle in the eye of Mother Earth that is longed for. The Moody Blues
have made some great albums and this one deserves a listen.

Don Case


Wikipedia on the Moody Blues:

The Bee Box -- Lowell Parker

Guest poem sent in by Prateek Sharma
(Poem #1923) The Bee Box
 In this small box, my love,
 you'll not find a ring,
 but instead, a brave, little bee.
 He'll be dead by morn, having given his life
 defending his flowers against me.
 I felt his sting
 while picking the small, purple pansies
 growing wild along the roadside,
 in hopes of an afternoon bouquet for you.
 And I grieved the sting,
 more for him than me,
 knowing full well the price he paid
 for my small pain.
 And I allowed him his victory,
 leaving his flowers as a memory,
 and brought you instead
 this brave, little bee,
 who proves there is love
 even in the smallest
 of things.
-- Lowell Parker
Form vs Freedom of Expression has been an age old question for art creators
and critics. When I posed this question to our poetry teacher, she came up
with this poem. This poem does not score too well on the metre/rhyme front.
There are some grammatical errors and inconsistency in style as well.

Yet, the poem just soars. The imagery is transforming. It touches us on a
very human level. It says so much about love and courage. And about
sensitivity. How much can we learn from this world and its creatures!


The Betrothed -- Rudyard Kipling

Inspired by yesterday's poem...
(Poem #1922) The Betrothed
            "You must choose between me and your cigar."
            --BREACH OF PROMISE CASE, CIRCA 1885.

 Open the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,
 For things are running crossways, and Maggie and I are out.

 We quarrelled about Havanas--we fought o'er a good cheroot,
 And I know she is exacting, and she says I am a brute.

 Open the old cigar-box--let me consider a space;
 In the soft blue veil of the vapour musing on Maggie's face.

 Maggie is pretty to look at--Maggie's a loving lass,
 But the prettiest cheeks must wrinkle, the truest of loves must pass.

 There's peace in a Laranaga, there's calm in a Henry Clay,
 But the best cigar in an hour is finished and thrown away--

 Thrown away for another as perfect and ripe and brown--
 But I could not throw away Maggie for fear o' the talk o' the town!

 Maggie, my wife at fifty--gray and dour and old--
 With never another Maggie to purchase for love or gold!

 And the light of Days that have Been the dark of the Days that Are,
 And Love's torch stinking and stale, like the butt of a dead cigar--

 The butt of a dead cigar you are bound to keep in your pocket--
 With never a new one to light tho' it's charred and black to the socket.

 Open the old cigar-box--let me consider awhile--
 Here is a mild Manilla--there is a wifely smile.

 Which is the better portion--bondage bought with a ring,
 Or a harem of dusky beauties fifty tied in a string?

 Counsellors cunning and silent--comforters true and tried,
 And never a one of the fifty to sneer at a rival bride.

 Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes,
 Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere my eyelids close.

 This will the fifty give me, asking naught in return,
 With only a Suttee's passion--to do their duty and burn.

 This will the fifty give me. When they are spent and dead,
 Five times other fifties shall be my servants instead.

 The furrows of far-off Java, the isles of the Spanish Main,
 When they hear my harem is empty, will send me my brides again.

 I will take no heed to their raiment, nor food for their mouths withal,
 So long as the gulls are nesting, so long as the showers fall.

 I will scent 'em with best Vanilla, with tea will I temper their hides,
 And the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read of the tale of my brides.

 For Maggie has written a letter that gives me my choice between
 The wee little whimpering Love and the great god Nick o' Teen.

 And I have been servant of Love for barely a twelve-month clear,
 But I have been Priest of Partagas a matter of seven year;

 And the gloom of my bachelor days is flecked with the cheery light
 Of stumps that I burned to Friendship and Pleasure and Work and Fight.

 And I turn my eyes to the future that Maggie and I must prove,
 But the only light on the marshes is the Will-o'-the-Wisp of Love.

 Will it see me safe through my journey or leave me bogged in the mire?
 Since a puff of tobacco can cloud it, shall I follow the fitful fire?

 Open the old cigar-box--let me consider anew--
 Old friends, and who is Maggie that I should abandon you?

 A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
 And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke.

 Light me another Cuba--I hold to my first-sworn vows,
 If Maggie will have no rival, I'll have no Maggie for spouse!
-- Rudyard Kipling
This is one of those poems that I remembered mostly because I liked a
fragment of it, in this case the wonderfully flowing line

 And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke.

In truth, when I went to read it again, I was rather disappointed - the
premise is clever enough, and there are some nice lines, but overall the
poem felt like it was trying to squeeze too much out of a single idea, and
ended up sounding rather dull in consequence.

I do have to wonder, considering my usual high regard of Kipling's poetry,
whether this is at least in part because, not being a smoker myself, I have
no emotional or visceral reaction to anything in the poem, and that makes
potentially moving, stirring or humorous lines fall flat. What say those of
you who do indulge? Is this actually one of Kipling's nail-on-the-head poems
that I simply lack the context to appreciate? Or is this indeed one of the
rare times when he has simply missed the mark?


Tobacco Is Like Love -- Tobias Hume

Guest poem sent in by Catherine Pegg
(Poem #1921) Tobacco Is Like Love
 Tobacco, Tobacco
 sing sweetly for Tobacco,
 Tobacco is like love, O love it
 for you see I wil prove it
 Love maketh leane the fatte mens tumor,
 so doth Tobacco,
 Love still dries uppe the wanton humor,
 so doth Tobacco,
 love makes men sayle from shore to shore,
 so doth Tobacco
 Tis fond love often makes men poor
 so doth Tobacco
 Love makes men scorn al Coward feares,
 so doth Tobacco
 Love often sets men by the eares
 so doth Tobacco.

 Tobaccoe, Tobaccoe
 Sing sweetely for Tobaccoe,
 Tobaccoe is like Love, O love it,
 For you see I have prowde it.
-- Tobias Hume
Note: from "The First Part of Ayres (or Musicall Humors)", 1605

All the poems about smoking that I've been seeing on your site made me think
of this one.  Alas, I cannot say much about it, save that it is meant to be
sung, and belongs with work by Dowland and Campion in Elizabethan (or
thereabouts) England.

Why I like it: because it's clever. It writes about all the horrible things
of tobacco and love (excepting lung cancer), and yet I get the feeling that
the writer is saying: "But you know you're gonna pick up the baccy again -
and Love? There's no hope for us, mate, and ain't that wonderful...". He
takes two of the great tragedies of human nature, love and addiction, and
turns them into a source of innocent merriment for a while. I like that.
Not every jewel has to be the Koh i Noor, and neither every poem an abyss
hidden inside a crack in the footpath.


[Martin adds]

I was tangentially but irresistibly reminded of Kipling's immortal line
"A woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke." (And I note we've
not run the poem yet - tomorrow is as good a time as any, I guess!)


More on Mr Hume can be found at:

The Sonnet -- William Wordsworth

Guest poem sent in by Paul E Collins
(Poem #1920) The Sonnet
 Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd,
   Mindless of its just honours; with this key
   Shakespeare unlock'd his heart; the melody
 Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
 A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
   With it Camöens sooth'd an exile's grief;
   The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf
 Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd
 His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
   It cheer'd mild Spenser, call'd from Faery-land
 To struggle through dark ways; and when a damp
   Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
 The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
 Soul-animating strains -- alas, too few!
-- William Wordsworth
Here's Wordsworth's famous defence of the sonnet, followed by a
playful but thought-provoking parody by Dickinson:

  'Scorn not the sonnet' (Wordsworth)

  Scorn not the sonnet on the sonnet, critic;
    It is a bank where poets love to lie
    And praise each other's ingenuity
  In finding such a form. The analytic
  Reader may stigmatise as parasitic
    The mirror-image of a mystery,
    The echo of lost voices, find it dry,
  And intellectually paralytic.
    Yet 'tis a child of Fancy, light and live,
  A fragile veil of Nature, scarcely worn
    (Of Wordsworth's two, of Shakespeare's none, survive);
  Empty not then the vials of scorn upon it.
    Nor, since we're on the subject, should you scorn
  The sonnet on the sonnet on the sonnet.

  - Peter Dickinson

The latter notes that Wordsworth, who wrote more than 500 sonnets in his
lifetime, produced two of these 'meta-sonnets' (the other being 'Nuns Fret
Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room') and Shakespeare, who wrote 154, none at

Dickinson's selection of rhymes for 'critic' - and the self-referential
closing couplet - may raise a smile. One has to wonder what Wordsworth, ever
the serious Romantic, would have made of his "parasitic ingenuity".


[Martin adds]

The final two lines of Dickinson's parody are absolutely brilliant. I wonder
why Unauthorized Versions[1] didn't pick this one up.

[1] an absolutely delightful anthology of poems paired with their parodies,
which both Thomas and I are huge fans of. We once ran a theme based on the
book (see links), which today's pair of poems would have fitted very nicely


Biography of Wordsworth:

And of Dickinson:

The poem/parody theme:

The Last Quadrille -- Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Guest poem sent in by Peter Kiff
(Poem #1919) The Last Quadrille
 Not yet, not yet, it's hardly four
 Not yet, we'll send the chair away
 Mirth still has many smiles in store
 And love has fifty things to say.
 Long leagues the weary sun must drive
 Ere pant his hot steeds o'er the hill
 The merry stars will dance till five
 One more quadrille, one more quadrille!

 'Tis only thus, 'tis only here
 That maids and minstrels may forget
 The myriad ills they feel or fear
 Ennui, taxation, cholera, debt.
 With daylight, busy cares and schemes
 Will come again to chafe or chill
 This is the fairyland of dreams
 One more quadrille, one more quadrille!

 What tricks the French in Paris play
 And what the Austrians are about
 And whether that tall knave Lord Grey
 Is staying in or going out.
 And what the House of Lords will do
 At last with that eternal bill,
 I do not care a rush, do you?
 One more quadrille, one more quadrille!

 Me book don't sell, me play don't draw,
 Me garden gives me only weeds.
 And Mr Quirk has found a law,
 Deuce take him, in me title deeds.
 Me aunt has scratched her nephew's name
 From that sweet corner of her will.
 Me dog is dead, me horse is lame.
 One more quadrille, one more quadrille!

 Not yet, not yet, it is not late.
 Don't whisper so to sister Jane.
 Your brother I am sure will wait,
 Papa will go to cards again.
 Not yet, not yet, your eyes are bright,
 Your step is like a wood nymph's still.
 Oh no! You can't be tired tonight.
 One more quadrille, one more quadrille!
-- Winthrop Mackworth Praed
Winthrop Mackworth Praed was a nineteenth century Tory MP and Old Etonian.  He
was a brilliant scholar who delighted in creating verse which parodied the
follies and foibles of his day.

I love his dashing style and sparkling wit.  The unflagging vivacity of his
verse goes on and on just like the never-ending quadrilles.



 Wikipedia entry:

Everybody Knows -- Leonard Cohen

Guest poem sent in by Matt Chanoff :

Here's another song lyric that I love and think people will enjoy.  Last
year, a group of people did a show of Leonard Cohen songs, which they
performed in New York and Sydney. It's the basis for a documentary about
Cohen that's in theaters now, called 'Came So Far for Beauty'.  I've been
listening to the soundtrack, which is phenomenal, and particularly love the
following song, performed on the album by Rufus Wainwright.
(Poem #1918) Everybody Knows
 Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
 Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
 Everybody knows that the war is over
 Everybody knows the good guys lost
 Everybody knows the fight was fixed
 The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
 That's how it goes
 Everybody knows

 Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
 Everybody knows that the captain lied
 Everybody got this broken feeling
 Like their father or their dog just died

 Everybody talking to their pockets
 Everybody wants a box of chocolates
 And a long stem rose
 Everybody knows

 Everybody knows that you love me baby
 Everybody knows that you really do
 Everybody knows that you've been faithful
 Ah give or take a night or two
 Everybody knows you've been discreet
 But there were so many people you just had to meet
 Without your clothes
 And everybody knows

 Everybody knows, everybody knows
 That's how it goes
 Everybody knows

 Everybody knows, everybody knows
 That's how it goes
 Everybody knows

 And everybody knows that it's now or never
 Everybody knows that it's me or you
 And everybody knows that you live forever
 Ah when you've done a line or two
 Everybody knows the deal is rotten
 Old black Joe's still pickin cotton
 For your ribbons and bows
 And everybody knows

 And everybody knows that the plague is coming
 Everybody knows that it's moving fast
 Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
 Are just a shining artifact of the past
 Everybody knows the scene is dead
 But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
 That will disclose
 What everybody knows

 And everybody knows that you're in trouble
 Everybody knows what you've been through
 From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
 To the beach of Malibu
 Everybody knows its coming apart
 Take one last look at this sacred heart
 Before it blows
 And everybody knows

 Everybody knows, everybody knows
 That's how it goes
 Everybody knows

 Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
 That's how it goes
 Everybody knows

 Everybody knows
-- Leonard Cohen
Here's what I love about this song. The first three stanzas let up this
barbed, vicious view of human nature. The world is sick, they say, because
people are crooked.  Then with the next stanza the focus of all that
hostility shifts from the world at large to an unfaithful lover.  You
automatically reinterpret the stuff in the third stanza about 'everybody
wants a box of chocolates, a long stemmed rose' from belonging to the first
sentiment to belonging to the second.

More gradually, the meaning of the refrain, 'everybody knows' shifts too,
from 'everybody knows the sad truth of the world' to 'everybody knows that
you've been unfaithful to me.'

This terrific conflation of the individual, personal hurt and the grand
sense that the world is sinful works in a macro way - as a betrayed lover,
you do feel that you've been betrayed by the whole world.  Cohen emphasizes
the theme by conflating big and small things throughout the song.  For
example 'Everybody got this broken feeling/ Like their father or their dog
just died'. One would think that these would be different orders of grief,
but not in this song. Another example is 'Everybody knows what you've been
through/ From the bloody cross on top of Calvary/ To the beach of Malibu'.

The other thing I love about the song is just simply the great lines.  For
example, the run up to the instance of 'everybody knows' where you suddenly
realize it means 'everybody knows you've been unfaithful' goes like this

    Everybody knows you've been discreet
    But there were so many people you just had to meet
    Without your clothes
    And everybody knows

I also love

    Everybody knows the deal is rotten
    Old black Joe's still pickin cotton
    For your ribbons and bows

Leonard Cohen's got this deep unvarying monotone of a voice, that has turned
me off to his music for years.  This album of good (and some great) singers
has given me an appreciation for what a great lyricist he is.

Matt Chanoff