Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jonathan Swift 1667-1745

Stella this day is thirty-four,
(We shan't dispute a year or more:)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled,
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green;
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.

Oh, would it please the gods to split
Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit;
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair;
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle Fate,
(That either nymph might have her swain,)
To split my worship too in twain.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sydney Carter 1915-2004

My heart is running dry, 
There's not a shoulder to cry,
Everyone's a stranger tonight,
It's such a lonely night.

Lonely are the stars, lonely the night,
A lonely cloud wanders, silently it cries,
It's raining tears tonight,
It's such a lonely night.

The waves washed away my sandcastles, 
The eerie darkness holds me in shackles,
Even my shadows desert me tonight,
It's such a lonely night.

So far are you, that you can't hear my cries,
My heart doesn't beat anymore, yet it never dies,
I bleed alone, not a soul in sight,
It's such a lonely night.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Ye highlands, and ye lowlands, 
    Oh! where hae ye been?
    They hae slain the Earl of Moray,
    And hae laid him on the green.

    Now woe be to thee, Huntly!
    And wherefore did you sae!
    I bade you bring him wi' you,
    But forbade you him to slay.

    He was a braw gallant,
  And he rid at the ring;
  And the bonnie Earl of Moray,
  Oh! he might hae been a king.

  He was a braw gallant,
  And he played at the ba';
  And the bonnie Earl of Murray
  Was the flower among them a'.

  He was a braw gallant,
  And he played at the glove;*
  And the bonnie Earl of Moray,
  Oh! he was the Queen's love.

  Oh! lang will his Lady
  Look o'er the Castle Doune,
  Ere she see the Earl of Moray
  Come sounding through the toon.

* And he played at the glove" - In "The Right Attitude to Rain" by Alexander McCall Smith, one of his characters, talking to her friends about the above ballad, believes that the phrase "means that he played real tennis - not lawn tennis but real tennis. That's the game with those strange racquets and the ball that you hit off the roof. At first they played it by hitting the ball with their hands. Then they started to use a glove." You can see a real tennis court at Falkland Palace in Fife, Scotland.


Monday, June 27, 2016

William Cowper 1731-1800

The nymph must lose her female friend
If more admired than she, -
But where will fierce contention end
If flowers can disagree?

Within the garden's peaceful scene
Appeared two lovely foes,
Aspiring to the rank of queen,
The Lily and the Rose.

The Rose soon reddened into rage,
And swelling with disdain,
Appealed to many a poet's page
To prove her right to reign.

The Lily's height bespoke command,
A fair imperial flower,
She seemed designed for Flora's hand,
The sceptre of her power.

This civil bickering and debate
The goddess chanced to hear,
And flew to save, ere yet too late,
The pride of the parterre*

Yours is, she said, the nobler hue,
And yours the statelier mien,
And till a third surpasses you, 
Let each be deemed a queen.

Thus soothed and reconciled, each seeks
The fairest British fair,
The seat of empire is her cheeks,
They reign united there. 

parterre = a formal garden

Sunday, June 26, 2016


a gentle wake-up
the blackbird's insistent song
creeps into my sleep

struck by a small branch
the hedgehog retreats
into himself

cloudless spring night
a stone thrown into the pond
shatters the moon

admiring a butterfly
killing a moth


Saturday, June 25, 2016



When friendly summer calls again,
Calls again
Her little fifers to these hills,
We'll go we two to that arched fane
Of leafage where they prime their bills
Before they start to flood the plain
With quavers, minims, shakes, and trills.
" We'll go," I sing; but who shall say
What may not chance before that day!

And we shall see the waters spring,
Waters spring
From chinks the scrubby copses crown;
And we shall trace their oncreeping
To where the cascade tumbles down
And sends the bobbing growths aswing,
And ferns not quite but almost drown.
" We shall," I say; but who may sing
Of what another moon will bring!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Malvina Reynolds 1900-78

[Composed in 1962 and originally called "Rain Song", this was a song which was written as part of a campaign to stop nuclear testing in the atmosphere.]

Just a little rain falling all around,
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,
Just a little rain, just a little rain.
What have they done to the rain?
Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years,
And the grass is gone, the boy disappears
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears.
And what have they done to the rain?
Just a little breeze out of the sky,
The leaves nod their head as the breeze blows by,
Just a little breeze with some smoke in its eye.
What have they done to the rain?
Just a little boy standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years,
And the grass is gone, the boy disappears.
And rain keeps falling like helpless tears,
And what have they done to the rain?
What have they done to the rain?


Thursday, June 23, 2016


There lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And sent them o'er the sea.

They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely ane,
When word came to the carline wife,
That her three sons were gane.

They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely three,
When word came to the carline wife
That her sons she'd never see.

"I wish the wind may never cease,
Nor fashes in the flood,
Till my three sons come hame to me,
In earthly flesh and blood."

It fell about the Martinmas,
When nights are long and mirk,
The carline wife's three sons came hame,
But their hats were o' the birk.

It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
Nor yet in ony sheugh;
But at the gates o' Paradise,
That birk grew fair enough.

"Blow up the fire my maidens,
Bring water from the well;
For a' my house shall feast this night,
Since my three sons are well."

And she has made to them a bed,
She's made it large and wide,
And she's taen her mantle her about,
Sat down at the bed-side.

Up then crew the red, red, cock,
And up then crew the grey;
The eldest to the youngest said,
"It's time we were away."

The cock he hadna crawed but once,
And clappd his wings at a',
When the youngest to the eldest said,
"Brother, we must awa.

"The cock doth craw, the day both daw,
The channerin' worm doth chide;
If we be missed out o' our place,
A sair pain we maun bide.

"Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
Fareweel to barn and byre!
And fare ye weel, the bonnie lass
That kindles my mother's fire!"


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834

When Youth his faery reign began
Ere sorrow had proclaimed me man;
While Peace the present hour beguiled,
And all the lovely Prospect smiled;
Then Mary! 'mid my lightsome glee
I heav'd the painless Sigh for thee.

And when, along the waves of woe,
My harassed Heart was doomed to know
The frantic burst of outrage keen,
And the slow Pang that gnaws unseen;
Then shipwrecked on Life's stormy sea
I heaved an anguished Sigh for thee!

But soon Reflection's power imprest
A stiller sadness on my breast;
And sickly Hope with waning eye
Was well content to droop and die:
I yielded to the stern decree,
Yet heaved a languid Sigh for thee!

And though in distant climes to roam,
A wanderer from my native home,
I fain would soothe the sense of Care,
And lull to sleep the Joys that were,
Thy Image may not banished be - 
Still, Mary! still I sigh for thee.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

William Blake 1757-1827

 Ah, Sunflower! weary of time,
     Who countest the steps of the sun;
     Seeking after that sweet golden clime,
     Where the traveller's journey is done;

     Where the Youth pined away with desire,
     And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow,
     Arise from their graves, and aspire
     Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.


Monday, June 20, 2016

A.E. Housman 1859-1936

As I gird on for fighting
         My sword upon my thigh,
     I think on old ill fortunes
         Of better men than I.

     Think I, the round world over,
         What golden lads are low
     With hurts not mine to mourn for
         And shames I shall not know.

     What evil luck soever
         For me remains in store,
     'Tis sure much finer fellows
         Have fared much worse before.

     So here are things to think on
         That ought to make me brave,
     As I strap on for fighting
         My sword that will not save.


Sunday, June 19, 2016


silent pond
suddenly alive
sound of frogs

early morning breeze
a beach ball bounces along
the deserted shore

peep through the curtains 
rain again 
the day can start without me

both thumbs in plaster
(the job would be no problem)
bent nails on the floor


Saturday, June 18, 2016



I lay in my bed and fiddled
With a dreamland viol and bow,
And the tunes flew back to my fingers
I had melodied years ago.
It was two or three in the morning
When I fancy-fiddled so
Long reels and country-dances,
And hornpipes swift and slow.

And soon anon came crossing
The chamber in the grey
Figures of jigging fieldfolk -
Saviours of corn and hay -
To the air of "Haste to the Wedding,"
As after a wedding-day;
Yea, up and down the middle
In windless whirls went they!

There danced the bride and bridegroom,
And couples in a train,
Gay partners time and travail
Had longwhiles stilled amain! . . .
It seemed a thing for weeping
To find, at slumber's wane
And morning's sly increeping,
That Now, not Then, held reign.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Robert Burns 1759-96

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stock-dove, whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild ev'ning leaps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides,
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As gathering sweet flowrets she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

J.R.R.Tolkien 1892-1973

I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been,

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016


When streams turn pink in the setting sun,
And a slight shudder rushes through the wheat fields,
A plea for happiness seems to rise out of all things
And it climbs up towards the troubled heart.
A plea to relish the charm of life
While there is youth and the evening is fair,
For we pass away, as the wave passes:
The wave to the sea, we to the grave.

This is a translation of “Beau Soir” by the French poet Paul Bourget


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thomas Moore 1779-1852

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervour and faith of a soul may be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear!
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose! 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Langston Hughes 1902-67

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.


Sunday, June 12, 2016


after the downpour
the pavement wriggles
with a host of tiny worms

summer afternoon
the weather cock's shadow
on the hen house roof
low tide - noisy gulls
forage in the rock pools
for stranded fish

her Anais Anais
announces her arrival
before she appears


Saturday, June 11, 2016



In the third-class seat sat the journeying boy,
And the roof-lamp's oily flame
Played down on his listless form and face,
Bewrapt past knowing to what he was going,
Or whence he came.

In the band of his hat the journeying boy
Had a ticket stuck; and a string
Around his neck bore the key of his box,
That twinkled gleams of the lamp's sad beams
Like a living thing.

What past can be yours, O journeying boy
Towards a world unknown,
Who calmly, as if incurious quite
On all at stake, can undertake
This plunge alone?

Knows your soul a sphere, O journeying boy,
Our rude realms far above,
Whence with spacious vision you mark and mete
This region of sin that you find you in,
But are not of?


Friday, June 10, 2016

Sara Teasdale 1884-1933

Life has loveliness to sell,
     All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
     Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
     Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
     Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
     Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
     Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Extract from the TAO TE CHING

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?

Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?

Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?

Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?

Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I've left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I'm wearing the cloak, I've slipped on the ring,
I've swallowed the magic potion.
I've fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Julia Donaldson was the UK Children’s Laureate 2011-2013. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Gwendolin Brooks 1917-2000

I shall not sing a May song.
A May song should be gay.
I'll wait until November
And sing a song of grey.

I'll wait until November
That is the time for me.
I'll go out in the frosty dark
And sing most terribly.

And all the little people
Will stare at me and say,
"That is the Crazy Woman
Who would not sing in May."

This American poet and teacher was the first black person to win a Pulitzer Prize. 
She was appointed Poet Laureate for Illinois in 1968, a post she held till her death.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Alexander Pope 1688-1744

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep at night; study and ease
Together mixed; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.


Sunday, June 5, 2016


held up by roadworks
noticing for the first time
the colour of corn
before the roller coaster
has started
the girls are screaming
evening on the loch
my hand joins its reflection
in the cool water


Saturday, June 4, 2016



Glad old house of lichened stonework,
What I owed you in my lone work,
Noon and night!
Whensoever faint or ailing,
Letting go my grasp and failing,
You lent light.

How by that fair title came you?
Did some forward eye so name you
Knowing that one,
Sauntering down his century blindly,
Would remark your sound, so kindly,
And be won?

Smile in sunlight, sleep in moonlight,
Bask in April, May, and June-light,
Let your chambers show no sorrow,
Blanching day, or stuporing morrow,
While they stand.


Friday, June 3, 2016

William Ernest Henley 1849-1903

O, gather me the rose, the rose,
   While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
   And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
   The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
   And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
   And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
   The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
   The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
   The memories that follow!  


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lewis Carroll  1832-98

I love the stillness of the wood:
   I love the music of the rill:
I love to couch in pensive mood
   Upon some silent hill.

Scarce heard, beneath yon arching trees,
   The silver-crested ripples pass;
And, like a mimic brook, the breeze
   Whispers among the grass.

Here from the world I win release,
   Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
Break in to mar the holy peace
   Of this great solitude.

Here may the silent tears I weep
   Lull the vexed spirit into rest,
As infants sob themselves to sleep
   Upon a mother's breast.

But when the bitter hour is gone,
   And the keen throbbing pangs are still,
Oh, sweetest then to couch alone
   Upon some silent hill!

To live in joys that once have been,
   To put the cold world out of sight,
And deck life's drear and barren scene
   With hues of rainbow-light.

For what to man the gift of breath,
   If sorrow be his lot below;
If all the day that ends in death
   Be dark with clouds of woe?

Shall the poor transport of an hour
   Repay long years of sore distress -
The fragrance of a lonely flower
   Make glad the wilderness?

Ye golden hours of Life's young spring,
   Of innocence, of love and truth!
Bright, beyond all imagining,
   Thou fairy-dream of youth!

I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
   The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
   For one bright summer-day.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Walter de la Mare 1873-1958

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.