Monday, February 29, 2016

GEORGE ELIOT (Mary Ann Evans) 1819-80


-o0o-

SWEET SPRINGTIME

It was in the prime
Of the sweet springtime.
In the linnet's throat
Trembled the love note,
And the love-stirred air
Thrilled the blossoms there.
Little shadows danced,
Each a tiny elf,
Happy in large light
And the thinnest self. 

It was but a minute
In a far-off spring,
But each gentle thing,
Sweetly wooing linnet,
Soft thrilled hawthorn tree,
Happy shadowy elf,
With the thinnest self,
Live on still in me.
It was in the prime
Of the past springtime! 

This English novelist, poet, journalist and translator was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. Her novels include The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

OSCAR WILDE 1854-1900


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SONNET TO LIBERTY

These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

Is it not said that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God's wonder, or His woe?

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin. His mother Lady Jane Francesca Wilde was a poet and journalist, writing under the name Sperenza. His father Sir William Wilde was an antiquarian, writer and a specialist in diseases of the eye and ear.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

THOMAS MOORE 1779-1852


-o0o-

AFTER THE BATTLE

Night closed around the conqueror's way, 
And lightnings show'd the distant hill, 
Where those who lost that dreadful day 
Stood few and faint, but fearless still. 
The soldier's hope, the patriot's zeal, 
For ever dimm'd, for ever crost -
Oh! who shall say what heroes feel, 
When all but life and honour's lost? 

The last sad hour of freedom's dream, 
And valour's task, moved slowly by, 
While mute they watch'd, till morning's beam 
Should rise and give them light to die. 
There's yet a world, where souls are free, 
Where tyrants taint not nature's bliss; - 
If death that world's bright opening be, 
Oh! who would live a slave in this? 

 This Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer is now best remembered for the lyrics of "The Minstrel Boy" and "The Last Rose of Summer".

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Friday, February 26, 2016

SPIKE MILLIGAN 1918-2002

ALL THOSE MONKEYS

Look at all those monkeys
Jumping in their cage.
Why don't they all go out to work
And earn a decent wage?

How can you say such silly things,
And you a son of mine?
Imagine monkeys travelling on
The Morden-Edgware line!

But what about the Pekinese!
They have an allocation.
"Don't travel during Peke hour"
It says on every station.

My gosh, you're right, my clever boy,
I never thought of that!
And so they left the monkey house,
While an elephant raised his hat. 

Terence Alan Patrick Seán Milligan was a popular comedian, writer, musician, poet, playwright and actor. He was the main writer and principal cast member of the famous radio programme The Goon Show. 
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

THOMAS HARDY 1840-1928


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SOMETHING TAPPED

Something tapped on the pane of my room
When there was never a trace
Of wind or rain, and I saw in the gloom
My weary Belovèd's face.

"O I am tired of waiting," she said,
"Night, morn, noon, afternoon;
So cold it is in my lonely bed,
And I thought you would join me soon!"

I rose and neared the window-glass,
But vanished thence had she:
Only a pallid moth, alas,
Tapped at the pane for me.

In his long life Thomas Hardy wrote 14 novels, more than 40 short stories, over 900 poems and two dramas. Apart from his prose works and poetry, Hardy left a great number of letters, notebooks, pocket-books and diaries, most of which were destroyed in accordance with his will. 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

WILLIAM BLAKE 1757-1827


THE ECHOING GREEN

-o0o-

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the spring.
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells' cheerful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the echoing green.

Old John with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
"Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth-time were seen
On the echoing green."

Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end.
Round the laps of their mother
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen
On the darkening green.

The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti described William Blake as a "glorious luminary" and "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors".

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

GEORGE ELIOT 1819-80


-o0o-

SWEET SPRINGTIME

It was in the prime
Of the sweet springtime
In the linnet's throat
Trembled the love note,
And the love-stirred air
Thrilled the blossoms there.
Little shadows danced,
Each a tiny elf
Happy in large light
And the thinnest self. 

It was but a minute
In a far-off spring,
But each gentle thing,
Sweetly wooing linnet,
Soft thrilled hawthorn tree,
Happy shadowy elf,
With the thinnest self,
Live on still in me.
It was in the prime
Of the past springtime! 

George Eliot was the pseudonym of Mary Ann or Marian Evans. She was an English novelist, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian age. Her novels included The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch.
The new blog is now online

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Monday, February 22, 2016

ROBERT BROWNING 1812-89


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SUMMUM BONUM
(Latin - the highest good)

All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee:
All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem:
In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea:
Breath and bloom, shade and shine, - wonder, wealth, and - how far above them -
        Truth that's brighter than gem,
        Trust, that's purer than pearl, -
Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe - all were for me
        In the kiss of one girl.

The new blog is now online - http://thewisdomoflao-tzu.blogspot.co.uk

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

ROYDEN BARRIE 1890-1948

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT

All through the night there’s a little brown bird singing,
Singing in the hush of the darkness and the dew.
Would that his song through the stillness could go winging
To you.

All through the night-time my lonely heart is singing
Sweeter songs of love than the brown bird ever knew.
Would that the song of my heart could go winging
To you.

Royden Barrie was a pseudonym used by Rodney Bennett, father of the composer Richard Rodney Bennett. Under this name, he wrote many song-lyrics for composers like Eric Coates and Roger Quilter.
Now online
THE WISDOM OF LAO-TZU
The new blog will be updated every day

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 1850-94


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THE LAMPLIGHTER

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky,
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by,
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be,
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more,
And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!

This Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer is remembered mainly for his books Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

MY LOVE IN HER ATTIRE
Anon (renaissance period)

My love in her attire doth show her wit,
It doth so well become her:
For every season she hath dressings fit,
For winter, spring, and summer.
No beauty she doth miss,
When all her robes are on;
But Beauty's self she is,
When all her robes are gone.

A new blog begins on Sunday
THE WISDOM OF LAO-TZU
 A collection of sayings by "The Father of Taoism"

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI 1830-94


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UPHILL

Does the road wind uphill all the way? 
Yes, to the very end. 
Will the day's journey take the whole long day? 
From morn to night, my friend. 

But is there for the night a resting-place? 
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin. 
May not the darkness hide it from my face? 
You cannot miss that inn. 

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? 
Those who have gone before. 
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? 
They will not keep you waiting at that door. 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? 
Of labour you shall find the sum. 
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? 
Yea, beds for all who come.

A new blog begins on Sunday
THE WISDOM OF LAO-TZU
A collection of sayings by "the Father of Taoism"

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LANGSTON HUGHES 1902-67

CROSS

My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black? 

Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist. He was one of the earliest writers to experiment with jazz poetry.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH 1770-1850


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A CHARACTER

I marvel how Nature could ever find space 
For so many strange contrasts in one human face: 
There's thought and no thought, and there's paleness and bloom 
And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom. 

There's weakness, and strength both redundant and vain; 
Such strength as, if ever affliction and pain 
Could pierce through a temper that's soft to disease, 
Would be rational peace - a philosopher's ease. 

There's indifference, alike when he fails or succeeds, 
And attention full ten times as much as there needs; 
Pride where there's no envy, there's so much of joy; 
And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy. 

There's freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare 
Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she's there, 
There's virtue, the title it surely may claim, 
Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name. 

This picture from nature may seem to depart, 
Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart; 
And I for five centuries right gladly would be 
Such an odd such a kind happy creature as he. 

William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet. Along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature when they published their Lyrical Ballads.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

HAROLD BOULTON 1859-1935

OVER THE SEA TO SKYE

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.

Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead in Culloden's field.

Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

These verses recall the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at Culloden in 1746. The prince disguised as a servant girl made his escape in a small boat with the help of Flora MacDonald.
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

SARA TEASEDALE 1884-1933


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THERE WILL COME SOFT RAIN

There will come soft rain and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

This American lyric poet was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for her poetry collection Love Songs. She died by suicide after overdosing on sleeping pills.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

WILLIAM BLAKE 1757-1827


-o0o-

MY PRETTY ROSE TREE

A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said, 'I've a pretty rose tree,'
And I passed the sweet flower o'er.

Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

William Blake was an English poet, painter and printmaker.  Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, he is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

THOMAS HARDY 1840-1928


-o0o-

WHERE THE PICNIC WAS

Where we made the fire,
In the summer time,
Of branch and briar
On the hill to the sea
I slowly climb
Through winter mire,
And scan and trace
The forsaken place
Quite readily.

Now a cold wind blows,
And the grass is grey,
But the spot still shows
As a burnt circle - aye,
And stick-ends, charred,
Still strew the sward
Whereon I stand,
Last relic of the band
Who came that day!

Yes, I am here
Just as last year,
And the sea breathes brine
From its strange straight line
Up hither, the same
As when we four came.
- But two have wandered far
From this grassy rise
Into urban roar
Where no picnics are,
And one - has shut her eyes
For evermore.

 Thomas Hardy's lyric poetry is his best known and most widely read. Poets such as Robert Frost, W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin were greatly influenced by his poems. Claire Tomalin the biographer said that the poems illuminate “the contradictions always present in Hardy, between the vulnerable, doomstruck man and the serene inhabitant of the natural world.”

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

THE MOON
Anon

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon:
This way, and that, she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

HEINRICH HEINE 1797-1856


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THE LOTUS FLOWER

The Lotus flower shudders
When the Sun brings forth his light.
She droops her head in slumber
To dream in wait for the night.

The moon is the Lotus' lover.
He wakes her with bright grace,
Before him she will gladly uncover
Her flower's devoted face.

She shines and glows and blossoms
And mutely gazes above,
She sighs and weeps and trembles
With love and the woe of love.

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities and he spent the last 25 years of his life in Paris. 

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

JOHN CLARE 1793-1864


-o0o-

SONG

Soft falls the sweet evening
Bright shines the one star
The night clouds they're leaning
On mountains afar
The moon in dim brightness
The fern in its lightness
Tinge the valley with whiteness
Both near and afar

O soft falls the evening
Around those sweet glens
The hill's shadows leaning
Half over the glen
There meet me my deary
I'm lonely and weary
And nothing can cheer me
So meet me agen

The gate it clap'd slightly
The noise it was small
The footstep fell lightly
And she pass'd the stone wall
And is it my deary
I'm no longer weary
But happy and cheery
For in thee I meet all

According to the poet's biographer Jonathan Bate, Clare was "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

THOMAS HOOD 1789-1845


-o0o-

I REMEMBER, I REMEMBER

I remember, I remember 
The house where I was born, 
The little window where the sun 
Came peeping in at morn; 
He never came a wink too soon 
Nor brought too long a day; 
But now, I often wish the night 
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember 
The roses red and white, 
The violets and the lily cups - 
Those flowers made of light! 
The lilacs where the robin built, 
And where my brother set 
The laburnum on his birthday, -
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember 
Where I was used to swing, 
And thought the air must rush as fresh 
To swallows on the wing; 
My spirit flew in feathers then 
That is so heavy now, 
The summer pools could hardly cool 
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember 
The fir-trees dark and high; 
I used to think their slender tops 
Were close against the sky: 
It was a childish ignorance, 
But now 'tis little joy 
To know I'm farther off from Heaven 
Than when I was a boy. 

Writings by this English poet, author and humourist regularly appeared in The London Magazine, The Athenaeum and Punch. Later, he published a magazine whose contents were mainly his own work.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ROSE FYLEMAN 1877-1957

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
It's not so very, very far away;
You pass the gardener's shed and you just keep straight ahead -
I do so hope they've really come to stay.
There's a little wood, with moss in it and beetles,
And a little stream that quietly runs through;
You wouldn't think they'd dare to come merrymaking there -
      Well, they do.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
They often have a dance on summer nights;
The butterflies and bees make a lovely little breeze,
And the rabbits stand about and hold the lights.
Did you know that they could sit upon the moonbeams
And pick a little star to make a fan,
And dance away up there in the middle of the air?
      Well, they can.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
You cannot think how beautiful they are;
They all stand up and sing when the Fairy Queen and King
Come gently floating down upon their car.
The King is very proud and very handsome;
The Queen - now you can guess who that could be?
(She's a little girl all day, but at night she steals away)
      Well - it's Me!

This English writer and poet was well known for her works for children on fairies. Today's poem was set to music by the English composer Liza Lehmann.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

CHARLES BUKOWSKI 1920-94

MY CATS

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can't
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers. 

The work of this German-born American poet, novelist and short-story writer continues to have an influence on modern literature.
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