Friday, July 31, 2015

THOMAS EDWARD BROWN 1830-97


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I BENDED UNTO ME

I bended unto me a bough of May,
That I might see and smell:
It bore it in a sort of way,
It bore it very well.
But, when I let it backward sway,
Then it were hard to tell
With what a toss, with what a swing,
The dainty thing
Resumed its proper level,
And sent me to the devil.
I know it did - you doubt it?
I turned, and saw them whispering about it.

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Usually known as T.E. Brown, this Isle of Man poet was a well-respected scholar, teacher and theologian. Among his works, quite a number are written in the dialect spoken on the Isle of Man.

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DOLLIE RADFORD 1858-1920

SOLILOQUY OF A MAIDEN AUNT

The ladies bow, and partners set,
And turn around and pirouette
And trip the Lancers.

But no one seeks my ample chair,
Or asks me with persuasive air
To join the dancers.

They greet me, as I sit alone
Upon my solitary throne,
And pass politely.

Yet mine could keep the measured beat,
As surely as the youngest feet,
And tread as lightly.

No other maiden had my skill 
In our old homestead on the hill -
That merry Maytime.

When Allan closed the flagging ball,
And danced with me before them all,
Until the daytime.

Again I laugh, and step alone,
And curtsey low as on my own
His strong hand closes.

But Allan now seeks staid delight,
His son there, brought my niece tonight
These early roses.

Time orders well, we have our Spring,
Our songs, our Mayflower gathering,
Our love and laughter.

And children chatter all the while,
And leap the brook and climb the stile
And follow after.

And yet - the step of Allan's son
Is not as light as was the one
That went before it.

And that old lace, I think, falls down
Less softly on Priscilla's gown
Than when I wore it.

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Dollie Radford was the nom de plume of Caroline Maitland, the British poet and writer. Her friends included Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx.

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NEXT POST - MONDAY

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

ROBERT HERRICK 1591-1674


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TO BLOSSOMS

Fair pledges of a fruitful tree,
Why do ye fall so fast?
Your date is not so past
But you may stay here yet a while,
To blush and gently smile;
And go at last.

What! Were ye born to be
An hour and half's delight;
And so to bid goodnight?
'Twas pity Nature brought ye forth
Merely to show your worth,
And lose you quite.

But you are lovely leaves, where we
May read how soon things have
Their end, though ne'er so brave:
And after they have shown their pride
Like you a while, they glide
Into the grave.

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Robert Herrick was the seventh child born to a London goldsmith. He was a disciple of the famous Ben Jonson about whom he wrote five poems. In 1623 he took holy orders and later became vicar of Dean Prior in Devon.

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POETRY - A PERSONAL CHOICE is updated every weekday

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THOMAS HARDY 1840-1928


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THE OLD WORKMAN

"Why are you so bent down before your time,
Old mason? Many have not left their prime
So far behind at your age, and can still
Stand full upright at will."

He pointed to the mansion-front hard by,
And to the stones of the *quoin against the sky;
"Those upper blocks," he said, "that there you see,
It was that ruined me."

There stood on the air up to the parapet
Crowning the corner height, the stones as set 
By him - *ashlar whereon the gales might drum
For centuries to come.

"I carried them up," he said, "by a ladder there;
"The last was as big a load as I could bear;
But on I heaved; and something in my back
Moved, as 'twere with a crack.

"So I got crookt. I never lost that sprain;
And those who live there, walled from wind and rain
By freestone that I lifted, do not know
That my life's ache came so.

"They don't know me, or even know my name;
But good I think it, somehow, all the same
To have kept 'em safe from harm, and right and tight,
Though it has broke me quite.

"Yes; that I fixed it firm up there I am proud,
Facing the hail and snow and sun and cloud,
And to stand storms for ages, beating round
When I lie underground."

*ashlar = finely dressed masonry that has been worked until squared.
*quoins = masonry blocks at the corner of a wall.

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Thomas Hardy gained fame as the writer of novels like "Far from the Madding Crowd"  and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." However, he claimed that he was primarily a poet and that his novels were written to earn him a living.

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POETRY - A PERSONAL CHOICE is updated every weekday

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TWO POEMS ABOUT WATER

WATER
Wendell Berry b.1934

I was born in a drouth year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemy's soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

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from STREAMS
W.H. Auden 1907-73

Dear water, clear water, playful in all your streams,
As you dash or loiter through life who does not love
To sit beside you, to hear you and see you,
Pure being, perfect in music and movement?
Air is boastful at times, earth slovenly, fire rude,
But you in your bearing are always immaculate,
The most well-spoken of all the older
Servants in the household of Mrs. Nature.

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POETRY - A PERSONAL CHOICE is being updated every weekday

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Monday, July 27, 2015

MARY OLIVER b.1935

THE JOURNEY

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations _
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do - determined to save
the only life you could save.

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Mary Oliver is an American poet who has won the Pulitzer Prize (1984) and the National Book Award (1992).

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POETRY - A PERSONAL CHOICE will be updated every week day

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

RUDYARD KIPLING 1865-1936

Rudyard Kipling
Photo: Elliott and Fry

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THE VAMPIRE

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,
(We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair -
(Even as you or I)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste,
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

A fool there was and his goods he spent,
(Even as you or I)
Honour and faith and a sure intent
(And it wasn't the least what the lady meant)
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(Even as you or I)

Oh, the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned
Belong to the woman who didn't know why
(And now we know that she never knew why)
And did not understand!

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide,
(Even as you or I)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside - 
(But it isn't on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died - 
(Even as you or I)

And it isn't the shame and it isn't the blame
That stings like a white-hot brand -
It's coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing, at last, she could never know why)
And never could understand!

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Born in Bombay, this British poet and writer is remembered especially for his Just So Stories, The Jungle Book, Kim and the famous poem with the last line "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din."
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 Tomorrow's poem is "The Journey" by the American Pulitzer prize winner Mary Oliver.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

MAYA ANGELOU 1928-2014

Maya Angelou at York College of Pennsylvania, February 2013
Photo by York College ISLGP

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STILL I RISE

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise

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Born Marguerite Annie Johnson, this amazing American woman was an author, poet, dancer, actress and singer. She was also a producer and director of plays, films and TV programmes.

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TOMORROW - A POEM BY RUDYARD KIPLNG

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