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April 24, 2005


"Stern Edwardian moralizing"

Isn't that, y'know... Edward's job??? ;)

From The Dawn Wind:

At two o'clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You will hear the feet of the Wind that is going to call the sun.
And the trees in the shadow rustle and the trees in the moonlight glisten,
And though it is deep, dark night, you feel that the night is done.

Oh, hilzoy, thank you! This brings back childhood memories -- I memorized this poem way back then, and once in a crisis at work I took a long walk reciting it to myself.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Very good advice for keeping calm in the face of certain posters.

Spring in the Garden

Ah, cannot the curled shoots of the larkspur that you loved so,
Cannot the spiny poppy that no winter kills
Instruct you how to return through the thawing ground and the thin snow
Into this April sun that is driving the mist between the hills?

A good friend to the monkshood in a time of need
You were, and the lupine's friend as well;
But I see the lupine lift the ground like a tough weed
And the earth over the monkshood swell,

And I fear that not a root in all this heaving sea
Of land, has nudged you where you lie, has found
Patience and time to direct you, numb and stupid as you still must be
From your first winter underground.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

[in like spirit...]

No Enemies?

You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You've hit no traitor on the hip,
You've dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You've never turned the wrong to right,
You've been a coward in the fight.

-- Charles MacKay

Millay is another poet I rarely tire of reading; thanks rilkefan.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

"If," and "Invictus" bring back memories of jr. high and high school speech and English classes, memorizing and reciting lots of stuff - Shakespeare, poetry by the likes of Frost, Poe, Kipling, Tennyson, etc., etc. You know the stuff, or you do if you're past a certain age. (Don't overlook the now probably utterly unacceptable Vachel Lindsay).

My impression is that this is no longer done, and if so it's a shame. I think that reciting gives one a feel for the sound and rhythm and beauty of a language. I recall my mother telling me that as a high school student she had to learn the opening lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey in Greek, even though she knew no Greek, just to feel the sounds. This may seem silly to lots of people, but I don't think it is.

Forgive me if this is too far from the topic, but for some reason this one touches me...

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

-- e.e.cummings

"My impression is that this is no longer done, and if so it's a shame. I think that reciting gives one a feel for the sound and rhythm and beauty of a language. I recall my mother telling me that as a high school student she had to learn the opening lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey in Greek, even though she knew no Greek, just to feel the sounds. This may seem silly to lots of people, but I don't think it is."

I don't think it is silly at all.

One of my favorite poets for sound is Walter de la Mare (Gerard Manley Hopkins is another). This rather simple poem has always been one of my favorites because it is sheer joy to read aloud.


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 breast peep
Of doves in silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and a silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mare doesn't do much for me, except for this lyric:

The Song of the Mad Prince

Who said, "Peacock Pie"?
The old king to the sparrow:
Who said, "Crops are ripe"?
Rust to the harrow:
Who said, "Where sleeps she now?
Where rests she now her head,
Bathed in eve's loveliness?"
That's what I said.

Who said, "Ay, mum's the word"?
Sexton to willow:
Who said, "Green dust for dreams,
Moss for a pillow"?
Who said, "All Time's delight
Hath she for narrow bed;
Life's troubled bubble broken?"-
That's what I said.

Maybe I'm just a sucker, but this seems edifying enough to me:

You ask me, why, tho’ ill at ease,
Within this region I subsist,
Whose spirits falter in the mist,
And languish for the purple seas.

It is the land that freemen till,
That sober-suited Freedom chose,
The land, where girt with friends or foes
A man may speak the thing he will;

A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown,
Where Freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent;

Where faction seldom gathers head,
But, by degrees to fullness wrought,
The strength of some diffusive thought
Hath time and space to work and spread.

Should banded unions persecute
Opinions, and induce a time
When single thought is civil crime,
And individual freedom mute,

Tho’ power should make from land to land
The name of Britain trebly great—
Tho’ every channel of the State
Should fill and choke with golden sand—

Yet waft me from the harbor-mouth,
Wild wind! I seek a warmer sky,
And I will see before I die
The palms and temples of the South.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

For iraq, though, surely the early kipling is best:
"Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man." Right.

Arithmetic on the Frontier

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe--
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: "All flesh is grass."

Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in "villainous saltpetre!"
And after--ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our 'ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station--
A canter down some dark defile--
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail--
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.

The "captives of our bow and spear"
Are cheap--alas! as we are dear.

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I , and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

A. E. Housman (1859 - 1936) Labouchere Amendment, 1885

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