Friday, 27 July 2007

Poetry Day

Oh look, it's Montana Poetry Day. How prescient of me to have posted poetry for most of the last week. I do like how the Poetry Day website already declares "Montana Poetry Day was a huge success." I like the optimism. Time to plug the poetry section of Not PC's Archives. ;^)

UPDATE: Feel free to post your own favourite poems in the comments section (or excerpts and links to your favourites if they're still under copyright).


  1. Here's one - a ghazal (from the Arabic/Islamic tradition - one of the longest standing non-Western poetic forms). Always wonderfuly extravagant and intense.

    The Jasmine and Roses Of Your Presence

    In the wasteland of solitude, my love, quiver
    shadows of your voice, illusions of your lips.
    In the wasteland of solitude, from the dusts of parting
    Sprout jasmine and roses of your presence.

    From somewhere close by, rises the warmth of your breath
    and in its own aroma smolders, slowly, bit by bit.
    Far-off, across the horizon, drop by glistening drop
    Falls the dew of your beguiling glance.

    With such overwhelming love, O my love,
    your memory has placed its hand on my heart's cheek,
    it looks as if (though it's still the dawn of the adieu)
    the sun of parting has set; the night of union has come.

    Faiz Ahmed Faiz


    As I walked down by the river, down by the frozen fen
    I saw the grey cathedral with the eyes of a child of ten
    O the railway arch is smoky as the Flying Scot goes by
    And but for the Education Act go Jumper Cross and I

    But war is a bitter bugle that all must learn to blow
    And it didn’t take long to stop the song in the dirty Italian snow
    O war is a casual mistress and the world is her double bed
    She has a few charms in her mechanised arms but you wake up and find yourself dead

    The olive tree in winter casts her banner down
    And the priest in white and scarlet comes up from the muddy town
    O never more will Jumper watch the Flying Scot go by
    His funeral knell was a six-inch shell singing across the sky

    The Queen of Castile has a daughter who won’t come home again
    She lies in the grey cathedral under the arms of Spain
    O the Queen of Castile has a daughter, torn out by the roots
    Her lovely breast in a cold stone chest under the farmer’s boots

    Now I like a Spanish party and many o many’s the day
    That I’ve watched them swim as the night came dim in Algeciras Bay
    O the high sierra was thunder and the seven-branched river of Spain
    Came down to the sea to plunder the heart of the sailor again

    O shall I leap in the river and knock upon paradise door
    For a gunner of twenty-seven and a half and a queen of twenty-four
    From the almond tree by the river I watch the sky with a groan
    For Jumper and Kate are always out late and I lie here alone

  3. Here is an extract from my favourite poem, Ulyesses by Tennyson. He beautifully twists Homer's characterisation to capture the spirit of the Victorian age.

    "Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
    Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever when I move.
    How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
    To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
    As though to breath were life. Life piled on life
    Were all to little, and of one to me
    Little remains: but every hour is saved
    From that eternal silence, something more,
    A bringer of new things; and vile it were
    For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
    And this gray spirit yearning in desire
    To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
    Beyond the utmost bound of human thought."

  4. Here's a favourite bit of Yeats. Poetry can inspire with depth and majesty of scope, or superb insight into the human condition etc, but this piece is simply evocative and lovely.

    I heard a recording of Yeats reading it, and when it got to 'peace comes dropping slow' I was already halfway there to evict Yeats and move into his holiday place myself. Sublime.


    The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

    I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
    And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
    Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
    And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

    And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
    Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
    There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
    And evening full of the linnet's wings.

    I will arise and go now, for always night and day
    I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 10
    While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
    I hear it in the deep heart's core.

  5. The Old Ships

    I have seen old ships like swans asleep
    Beyond the village which men call Tyre,
    With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
    For Famagusta and the hidden sun
    That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
    And all those ships were certainly so old
    Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
    Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
    The pirate Genoese
    Hell-raked them till they rolled
    Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
    But now through friendly seas they softly run,
    Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
    Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.

    But I have seen,
    Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn
    And image tumbed on a rose-swept bay,
    A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
    And, wonder's breath indrawn,
    Thought I - who knows - who knows - but in that same
    (Fished up beyond Ææa, patched up new
    - Stern painted brighter blue -)
    That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
    (Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
    From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
    And with great lies about his wooden horse
    Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.

    It was so old a ship - who knows, who knows?
    - And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
    To see the mast burst open with a rose,
    And the whole deck put on its leaves again.

    -- James Elroy Flecker

  6. Beans, beans,
    The musical fruit,
    The more you eat,
    The more you toot.

    Sorry. Never paid much attention during English lit classes.

  7. O my luve is like a red, red rose
    That's newly sprung in June;
    My love like the melodie
    That's sweetly played in tune.

    As fair art thou, my bonny lass,
    So deep in luve am I;
    And I will luve thee still, my dear,
    Till a' the seas gang dry.

    Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
    And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
    I will luve thee still, my dear,
    While the sands o' life shall run.

    And fare thee weel, my only love!
    And fare thee weel, awhile!
    And I will come again, my love
    Though it were ten thousand mile.

    - Robert Burns

  8. Dulce et decorum est is always topical

    Dulce Et Decorum Est

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

    GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Wilfred Owen

  9. Ah, World War 1 Poetry.

    The German Guns





    - S. Baldrick

  10. "I heard a recording of Yeats reading it, and when it got to 'peace comes dropping slow' I was already halfway there to evict Yeats and move into his holiday place myself."

    I felt the same when I heard that recording. I have it on a CD here that makes simple pleasures seem so sweet.

  11. Really? What an intriguing character you are. A modern-day Sir Walter Ralegh - brillant and heroic but capable of great savagery as well as great poetry. He fascinates just as he repels.

  12. Ralegh quotes:

    Speaking much is a sign of vanity; for he that is lavish in words is a niggard in deeds.

    Whoso desireth to govern well and securely, it behoveth him to have a vigilant eye to the proceedings of great princes, and to consider seriously of their designs.

    All, or the greatest part of men that have aspired to riches or power, have attained thereunto either by force or fraud, and what they have by craft or cruelty gained, to cover the foulness of their fact, they call purchase, as a name more honest.



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