Archive for the Favourite Poets Category

Tw Poems by Emily Brontë

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Quotations, Thoughts with tags , on October 28, 2017 by James Munro

emily-bronte

Emily Bronte – the writer whom of all writers I would most like to meet and talk to, get to know, even perhaps become her friend:

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The stedfast rock of immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou—THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.

“Vain are the thousand creeds” she says – creeds – what we believe (from credo, I believe) – so what does she mean by “faith” as she uses that word in the first stanza?

This (from Ram Dass) made me think:

not a belief

A more philosophical discussion of the concept of “faith” coming up in the next post.

But I said TWO Emily Bronte poems, so here’s a second one. As you read it, savour the structure and rhythm; it is exactly the same as that of F W H Myers’ long poem St Paul, which I shall also come to in a future post.

REMEMBRANCE

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
That noble heart for ever, ever more?

Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring:
Faithful indeed is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along:
Sterner desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven;
No second morn has ever shone for me:
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.

But when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy;

Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And even yet I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in Memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

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A Song of Innocence (William Blake)

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 22, 2017 by James Munro

blake_title_page_songs_of_innocence

This is the introductory poem to William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. It is a beautiful poem that I first learnt as a child and which only seems more beautiful after all these years:

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with merry chear.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop they pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy chear:”
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read.”
So he vanish’d from my sight
and I pluck’d a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

T. E. Hulme

Posted in Favourite images, Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on February 16, 2017 by James Munro

“The Embankment” is a little poem Hulme wrote about being out and alone on the Thames Embankment at night. I came across the poem years ago and have never forgotten it.

The picture shows the Embankment one wet night in 1929. It is a favourite haunt of the temporarily homeless.

The Thames Embankment in 1929

THE EMBANKMENT

Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy,
In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.
Now see I
That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.
Oh, God, make small
The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

T. E. Hulme (1883–1917)

On 28 September 1917, four days after his thirty-fourth birthday, Hulme suffered a direct hit from a large shell which literally blew him to pieces. Apparently absorbed in some thought of his own he had failed to hear it coming and remained standing while those around threw themselves flat on the ground. What was left of him was buried in the Military Cemetery at Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, in Belgium where — no doubt for want of space — he is described simply as ‘One of the War poets’ (Ferguson, Robert, The Short Sharp Life of T. E. Hulme)

WHERE IS JIM HARRISON?

Posted in Favourite Poets, Reblogs with tags on April 9, 2016 by James Munro

SEVEN POEMS FROM A MASTER

REMEMBERING A GREAT WRITER THROUGH SOME OF HIS FINAL WORDS

jim-harrison

(This is a reblog – please click on the image)

Les Murray – a quotation

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 9, 2015 by James Munro

Les Murray quote

A Magical Language

Posted in Esoterica, Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on October 7, 2015 by James Munro

“The language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age. This remains the language of true poetry.” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess)

Robert Graves

With that kiss …

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Translations with tags , , on February 26, 2015 by James Munro

Ramón Jiménez

(from the Spanish of Juan Ramón Jiménez)

With that kiss, your mouth
to my mouth, a rose-tree
was sown whose roots
gnaw at my heart.

It was autumn, the vast, empty sky
filled with sunlight
that sucked up all the gold of life
in columns of splendour.

Now, dry summer-time
has come, and the rose-tree – everything passes! –
has opened, too late
a bud of pain in each of my eyes.

Translation © James Munro

Breakfast

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Translations with tags , , on February 2, 2015 by James Munro

jacques prevert

(from the French of Jacques Prévert)

He put the coffee
In the cup
He put the milk
In the cup of coffee
He put the sugar
In the white coffee
With the little spoon
He stirred
He drank the white coffee
He put down the cup
Without speaking to me
He lit
A cigarette
He blew smoke-rings
With the smoke
He put the ash
In 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
And he left
In the rain
Without a word
Without looking at me
And me I took
My head in my hands
And I wept.

Michael Daugherty

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , , on January 25, 2015 by James Munro

Two of my favourite poems from Michael Daugherty’s collection Lines from No-Man’s-Land. Read the whole thing if you can get hold of a copy!

Daugherty

ANYONE’S

In one room of a damned metropolis
a lonely madman works on a plan.

In an all-night corner coffee bar
a statistic prays for one last fix.

Under frozen branches in black park
pale fingers fumble with elastic.

Twelve inches away from the late-night news
a myopic spinster weeps in colour.

Someone somewhere begins a letter
to anyone’s silent son or daughter.

WHEAT FIELD WITH CROWS

(for Vincent and the too many others)

A grass track
leads nowhere

beneath a blue-black
sick summer

sky; crows attack
the eye, defy

all the slick
laws of probability;

angry wheat
writhes beneath

the breath of fate,
the mistral of truth:

clues to the paradox
of a waking dream,

the brushstrokes
of a scream.

Thomas Hardy’s THE OXEN

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , , on December 24, 2014 by James Munro
Thomas Hardy's cottage in Dorset

Thomas Hardy’s cottage in Dorset

An author I often turn to when I am in a nostalgic mood is Thomas Hardy – both for his novels and for his less well-known poems. If anyone is curious, my favourite novel of his is The Return of the Native. (Now it has come up I’ll post a review of it here as soon as I can get round to it, explaining why I like it so much.) But for now, as it is Christmas – Happy Christmas to you all! – here is his beautiful little Christmas poem, The Oxen.

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees’,
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come! See the oxen kneel

‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Springtime Long Ago

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Translations with tags , , on December 6, 2014 by James Munro

Luis Cernuda

(from the Spanish of Luis Cernuda)

Now, in the purple sunset of the evening,
With the magnolias in flower and wet with dew,
To walk along those streets while the moon
Waxes in the heavens will be a waking dream.

Flocks of swallows with their keening will make 
The sky more immense; the water in the fountain
Will loose the deep voice of the earth; then
Sky and earth will fall silent.

In the corner of some cloister, alone
With your head in your hand, like a ghost
Returned, you will weep thinking
How beautiful life was, and how pointless.

Translation © James Munro

A cloister in Barcelona

Stop All The Clocks – W. H. Auden

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , , on November 12, 2014 by James Munro

This poem became wildly popular for a while after it was read at the funeral in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. It is number XI in a series of poems entitled Twelve Songs.

Stop all the clocks. Cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos, and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let the aeroplanes circle, moaning, overhead,
Scribbling on the sky the message, He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves.
Let traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last for ever. I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now. Put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean, and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

WH-Auden

A Quotation from W. H. Auden

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags , on November 12, 2014 by James Munro

Auden quote

 

Thought-provoking. It implies that there is an alternative universe in which he, I, we, would have written them. But that would necessitate a whole series of alternative universes, in fact a to-all-intents-and-purposes infinite number of alternative universes, all existing in the mind of God …

After that, we need to relax with an Auden poem: next post!

Dorothy Nimmo’s THE WIGBOX

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets, Reviews with tags , on November 10, 2014 by James Munro

Dorothy Nimmo - Wigbox coverWhen I first came across Dorothy Nimmo, I thought she was like Sylvia Platt – only more so.

Mother has made you a house to live in
and she’ll make sure you live in it.
Mother has made you a bed to lie on,
she’ll cut bits off you if they don’t fit.

The obsession with pleasing – and being unable to please – her parents. The ever-present temptation to suicide.

Lying in the warm soapy water I do not
slit my wrists. I take only one sleeping pill.

The feeling that she shouldn’t be here at all – that it’s the wrong part in the wrong play:

This is the dressing-room I know is mine,
when they begin I’ll recognise my cue.
For God’s sake tell me, what’s the opening line?
Who am I? What am I supposed to do?

When they begin I’ll recognise my cue.
You’re on! they whisper and I face the light.
Who am I? What am I supposed to do?
Forgive me, mother. Have I got that right?

My voice is strangled. I’m awake. I shout
I know there’s something I must do today
and I can’t do it. You must write me out.
It’s not my part and this is not my play. 

But see the whole of this wonderful poem – “Dream Play” (below)

She had been an actress, spent ten years on the stage. Now as a poet and person she was not even one of the audience. She was outside the theatre in the dark, peering in through a window.

I was getting smaller and smaller
[…]
I went up the track on all fours
my petticoats torn off by the brambles
my hands bleeding.
(from “Pretend Games”)

The true outsider.

But if you turn out to be left-handed, if you suspect your name
may not be your real name,

if you can hear the cry of bats, if you can dowse
for water, if your dreams belong to somebody else,

if when you stand at the tide’s edge looking out to sea
you hear them calling to you, then you must come to me.

Put your hand in mine. I’ll say
It’s all right. it’s possible. We go this way.
(from “A Birthday Present for Roger John”)

So go as the sun goes, wise daughter, go clockwise;
wrong way round the church is another kingdom, the price
of walking alone is a sword-blade slashing the instep.
(from “Message for a Daughter”)

MORE

SHELLEY

Posted in Favourite Poets on November 7, 2014 by James Munro

This is for those who haven’t read any Shelley since they were at school (if then) – an attempt to show you a little of what you are missing!

Percy_Bysshe_Shelley

Shelley is a great poet. His lyrics will live and be read and loved as long as the English language is spoken, yet all too often what should have been appreciation of his poetry has degenerated into criticism of his way of life. “With all his genius [said Southey, soon after Shelley’s death] … he was a base, bad man.” To comments like which, Byron, who knew him well, responded: “You were all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew.”

But Shelley was difficult to classify. For instance, he was sent down from Oxford for “atheism”, yet his mysticism, underlaid by his platonic vision of the universe, makes him one of the greatest of all religious poets. In an early poem [he was hardly more than a boy himself at the time], he writes that

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard – I saw them not –
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming, –
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shrieked and clasped my hands in ecstasy.

This is the mystic moment. Yet like all mystics, he suffered moments of depression, aggravated by the knowledge that though he was so idealistic, such a believer in the innate goodness of people, he was “one whom men love not”. Read these lines, from”Stanzas written in Dejection near Naples”:

Yet now despair itself is  mild,
Even as the winds and waters are;
I could lie down like a tired child,
And weep away the life of care
Which I have borne and yet must bear,
Till death like sleep might steal on me,
And I might feel in the warm air
My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea
Breathe o’er my dying brain its last monotony.

Look at the opening lines of these sonnets:

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life …

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king …

Or read this, from “Ode to the West Wind” (Shelley was a master of the terza rima):

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

But if you read nothing else, read this, “Adonais”, Shelley’s lament on hearing of the death of John Keats. It is a long poem – 55 stanzas – and all I can do here is quote a few of them to give you a feel … MORE

Five Unexpected and Inspiring Literary Friendships

Posted in Favourite Poets, Reblogs with tags , , on November 2, 2014 by James Munro

A Poet Calls on a Poet

Poets-and-Friends

To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , on October 25, 2014 by James Munro

James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915) wrote the poem “To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence”. Many years later another poet, John Heath Stubbs, who died in 2006 (and was blind for the last thirty years of his life) wrote his version of the poem. I like both.

James Elroy Flecker

James Elroy Flecker

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

John Heath Stubbs

John Heath Stubbs

I who am dead a thousand years
And wrote this crabbed post-classic screed
Transmit it to you – though with doubts
That you possess the skill to read,

Who, with your pink, mutated eyes,
Crouched in the radioactive swamp,
Beneath a leaking shelter, scan
These lines beside a flickering lamp;

Or in some plastic paradise
Of pointless gadgets, if you dwell,
And finding all your wants supplied
Do not suspect it may be Hell.

But does our art of words survive –
Do bards within that swamp rehearse
Tales of the twentieth century,
Nostalgic, in rude epic verse?

Or do computers churn it out –
In lieu of songs of War and Love,
Neat slogans by the State endorsed
And prayers to Them, who sit above?

How shall we conquer? – all our pride
Fades like a summer sunset’s glow:
Who will read me when I am gone –
For who reads Elroy Flecker now?

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags , , on September 8, 2014 by James Munro

 

Dylan Thomas

After that, I must post a Dylan Thomas poem. Here is one of his best known, a perfect villanelle entitled Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Very True …

Posted in Favourite Poets, Quotations with tags on September 8, 2014 by James Munro

Dylan Thomas quotation

James K. Baxter’s poem TOMCAT

Posted in Favourite Poems, Favourite Poets with tags on September 6, 2014 by James Munro

Some poets – T. S. Eliot is a perfect example – publish only their very best work. The rest goes in the bin where, to be frank, most of it almost certainly belonged. Other poets – Robert Graves and Stephen Spender for instance – seem to publish everything. In order to find the gems, the poor reader has to wade through page after page of poems that can only be described as mediocre.

James K. Baxter

James K. Baxter

One such was James K. Baxter of New Zealand. I have here his “Selected Poems”, published by Oxford University Press. It contains 200 poems, which are presumably the ones the editor considered Baxter’s best work. (The “Collected Poems” apparently contains 600 poems!) Of the 200, no more than a dozen “make your hair stand on end”  (Emily Dickinson) – the dozen that make Baxter a great poet – and there are another twenty or thirty I would read again. The other 150? Already forgotten. But all that wasted time … No wonder people prefer to buy anthologies which present the reader with only the best of each poet.

Of course, none of the above applies to poets such as George Barker, whose separate collections were usually sequences and complete works in themselves, indivisible. A single poem from a collection such as Villa Stellar, Anno Domini or In Memory of David Archer, is lost when uprooted and planted out in an anthology among other quite different poems and poets.

Anyway, here is James K. Baxter at his inimitable best in Tomcat.

TOMCAT

This tomcat cuts across the
zones of the respectable
through fences, walls, following
other routes, his own. I see
the sad whiskered skull-mouth fall
wide, complainingly, asking

to be picked up and fed, when
I thump up the steps through bush
at 4 p.m. He has no
dignity, thank God! has grown
older, scruffier, the ash-
black coat sporting one or two

flowers like round stars, badges
of bouts and fights. The snake head
is seamed on top with rough scars:
old Samurai! He lodges
in cellars, and the tight furred
scrotum drives him into wars

as if mad, yet tumbling on
the rug looks female, Turkish-
trousered. His bagpipe shriek at
sluggish dawn dragged me out in
pyjamas to comb the bush
(he being under the vet

for septic bites): the old fool
stood, body hard as a board,
heart thudding, hair on end, at
the house corner, terrible,
yelling at something. They said,
‘Get him doctored.’ I think not.