POETRY IS LIKE TAKING A DEEP BREATH

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

INNOCENTS' SONG

King Herod's Palace
National Geographic



Who's that knocking on the window,
Who's that standing at the door,
What are all those presents
Lying on the kitchen floor?

Who is the smiling stranger
With hair as white as gin,
What is he doing with the children
And who could have let him in?

Why has he rubies on his fingers,
A cold, cold crown on his head,
Why, when he caws his carol,
Does the salty snow run red?

Why does he ferry my fireside
As a spider on a thread,
His fingers made of fuses
And his tongue of gingerbread?

Why does the world before him
Melt in a million suns,
Why do his yellow, yearning eyes
Burn like saffron buns?

Watch where he comes walking
Out of the Christmas flame,
Dancing, double-talking:

Herod is his name.




Charles Causley
1917-2003



Charles Causley comments:

I wrote this poem for a private Christmas card at the time of the Cold War when such phrases as 'the peaceful use of atomic energy'  for me rang particularly thin. There is a clear reference to the Christian Feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December) or Childermass.



Monday, 20 December 2010

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING



Christmas Shopping in Dublin




Spending beyond their income on gifts for Christmas-
Swing doors and crowded lifts and draperied jungles-
What shall we buy for our husbands and sons
   Different from last year?

Foxes hang by their noses behind plate glass-
Scream of macaws across festoons of paper-
Only the faces on the boxes of chocolates are free
   From boredom and crowsfeet.

Sometimes a chocolate-box girl escapes in the flesh,
Lightly manoeuvres the crowd, trilling with laughter;
After a couple of years her feet and her brain will
   Tire like all the others.

The great windows marshall their troops for assault on the purse
Something-and-eleven the yard, hoodwinking logic,
The eleventh hour draining the gurgling pennies
   Down to the conduits

Down to the sewers of money - rats and marshgas - 
Bubbling in maundering music under the pavement;
Here go the hours of routine, the weight on our eyelids-
   Pennies on corpses’.

While over the street in the centrally heated
Library dwindling figures with sloping shoulders
And hands in pockets, weighted in the boots like chessmen,
   Stare at the printed

Columns of ads, the quickest roads to riches,
Staring at a little and temporary but once we’re
Started who knows whether we shan’t continue,
   Salaries rising,

Rising like a salmon against the bullnecked river,
Bound for the spawning-ground of care-free days-
Good for a fling before the golden wheels run
   Down to a standstill.

And Christ is born - The nursery glad with baubles,
Alive with light and washable paint and children’s
Eyes, expects as its due the accidental
   Loot of a system.

Smell of the South - oranges in silver paper,
Dates and ginger, the benison of firelight,
The blue flames dancing round the brandied raisins,
   Smiles from above them,

Hands from above them as of gods but really
These their parents, always seen from below, them-
Selves are always anxious looking across the
   Fence to the future-

Out there lies the future gathering quickly
Its blank momentum; through the tubes of London
The dead winds blow the crowds like beasts in flight from
   Fire in the forest.

The little firtrees palpitate with candles
In hundreds of chattering households where the suburb
Straggles like nervous handwriting, the margin
   Blotted with smokestacks.

Further out on the coast the lighthouse moves its
Arms of light through the fog that wads our welfare,
Moves its arms like a giant at Swedish drill whose
   Mind is a vacuum.



Louis Macneice
1907-1963


Sunday, 12 December 2010

GRIEF IS VAIN

Arjuna-Krishna-Bhagavad-Gita


Thou hast grieved over them for whom grief is unmeet,
though thou speakest words of understanding. The learned
grieve not for them whose lives are fled nor for them
whose lives are not fled.
Never have I not been, never hast thou and never have
these princes of men not been; and never shall time yet
come when we shall not all be.
As the body's tenant goes through childhood and manhood
and old age in this body, so does it pass to other bodies;
the wise man is not confounded therein.
It is the touchings of the senses' instruments, O Kunti's
son, that beget cold and heat, pleasure and pain; it is
they that come and go, that abide not; bear with them, O
thou of Bharata's race.
Verily the man whom these disturb not, indifferent alike to
pain and to pleasure, and wise, is meet for immortality, O
chief of wise men.
Of what is not there cannot be being; of what is there
cannot be aught but being. The bounds of these twain have
been beheld by them that behold the Verity.
But know that That which pervades this universe is
imperishable; there is none can make to perish that
changeless being.


Bhagavadgita
Lesson The Second, verses 11-17
translated from the Sanskrit by F Max Muller



Thursday, 9 December 2010

From THE TASK



Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in. . . . 

Oh Winter, ruler of the' inverted year . . . .
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st,
And dreaded as thou art. Thou hold'st the sun
A prisoner in the yet undawning east
Shortening his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west; but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gathering, at short notice, in one group
The family dispersed, and fixing thought,
Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturbed retirement and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening know.

William Cowper
1731-1800


Saturday, 4 December 2010

MEMORANDUM BOOK

Winter Magic



In such a night as this,

Of north wind and rain mixed with snow,
There is someone who drowses in front of a TV,
Someone who resolves to rob a bank.

In such a night as this,

Distant as it takes light to travel in five days,
There is a comet that plummets onto us
From the black womb without height or depth.
The same one Giotto painted,
It will bring neither luck nor disasters,
But ancient ice and a reply, perhaps.

In such a night as this,

There is a half mad old man,
Fine metalworker in his day,
And now he sleeps at Porta Nuova, drinks,

In such a night as this,

Someone stretches out next to a woman
And feels he no longer has weight.
It's today that counts and not tomorrow,
And the flow of time pauses briefly.

In such a night as this,
Witches used to choose hemlock and hellebore
To pick by the light of the moon
And cook in their kitchens.

In such a night as this,
There is a transvestite on Corso Matteotti
Who would give a kidney and a lung
To grow hollow and become a woman.

In such a night as this,
There are seven young men in white lab coats,
Four of them smoking pipes.
They are designing a very long channel
In which to unite a bundle of protons
Almost as swift as light.
If they succeed, the world will blow up.

In such a night as this,

A poet strains his bow, searching for a word
That can contain the typhoon's force,
The secrets of blood and seed.



Primo Levi
1919-1987

Translated from the Italian by
Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann


Monday, 29 November 2010

SNOW



The room was suddenly rich and the great bay window was 
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible;
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On he tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis Macneice
1907-1963



Tuesday, 23 November 2010

SOMEWHERE OR OTHER




Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet - never yet - ah me!
Made answer to my word.

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night.

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
Fallen on turf grown green.


Christina Rossetti
1830-1894



Thursday, 18 November 2010

EVENING







The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternatively stone in you and star.


Rainer Maria Rilke
1875-1926

translated by Stephen Mitchell 


Saturday, 13 November 2010

MY NOVEMBER GUEST








My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.



Robert Frost
1874-1963


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

AYE, BUT TO DIE AND GO WE KNOW NOT WHERE






Aye, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible, warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprisoned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

Shakespeare 



From Measure for Measure, 
Act 3, Scene 1


Sunday, 7 November 2010

APPLE BLOSSOM



Apple Blossom 


The first blossom was the best blossom 
For the child who never had seen an orchard; 
For the youth whom whiskey had led astray 
The morning after was the first day. 

The first apple was the best apple 
For Adam before he heard the sentence; 
When the flaming sword endorsed the Fall 
The trees were his to plant for all. 

The first ocean was the best ocean 
For the child from streets of doubt and litter; 
For the youth for whom the skies unfurled 
His first love was his first world. 

But the first verdict seemed the worst verdict 
When Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, 
Yet when the bitter gates clanged to 
The sky beyond was just as blue. 

For the next ocean is the first ocean 
And the last ocean is the first ocean 
And, however often the sun may rise, 
A new thing dawns upon our eyes. 

For the last blossom is the first blossom 
And the first blossom is the last blossom 
And when from Eden we take our way 
The morning after is the first day.





Louis MacNeice
1907-1963


Thursday, 4 November 2010

AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

Cocktail Party by Mike Jones


Even if you can't shape your life the way you want,
at least try as much as you can
not to degrade it
by too much contact with the world,
by too much activity and talk.

Do not degrade it by dragging it along,
taking it around and exposing it so often
to the daily silliness
of social relations and parties,
until it comes to seem a boring hanger-on.


C.P. Cavafy
1863-1933


translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Monday, 1 November 2010

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS




When despair grows in me
and I wake in he middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wendell Berry
Aug 5th 1934 -



Wednesday, 27 October 2010

FERN HILL

Dyfi Valley, Wales



     Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
     About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
       The night above the dingle starry,
         Time let me hail and climb
       Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
     And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
     And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
         Trail with daisies and barley
       Down the rivers of the windfall light.

     And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
     About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
       In the sun that is young once only,
         Time let me play and be
       Golden in the mercy of his means,
     And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
     Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
         And the sabbath rang slowly
       In the pebbles of the holy streams.

     All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
     Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
       And playing, lovely and watery
         And fire green as grass.
       And nightly under the simple stars
     As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
     All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
       Flying with the ricks, and the horses
         Flashing into the dark.

     And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
     With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
       Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
         The sky gathered again
       And the sun grew round that very day.
     So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
     In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
       Out of the whinnying green stable
         On to the fields of praise.

     And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
     Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
       In the sun born over and over,
         I ran my heedless ways,
       My wishes raced through the house high hay
     And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
     In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
       Before the children green and golden
         Follow him out of grace.

     Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
     Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
       In the moon that is always rising,
         Nor that riding to sleep
       I should hear him fly with the high fields
     And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
     Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
         Time held me green and dying
       Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


Dylan Thomas
1934-1952



Friday, 22 October 2010

BE NOT AFEARD: THIS ISLE IS FULL OF NOISES





Be not afeard: this isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked
I cried to dream again.


Shakespeare



From The Tempest
Act 3 Scene 2

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

ANGER LAY BY ME ALL NIGHT LONG


Charles Le Brun
French Painter 1619-1690



Anger lay by me all night long,
His breath was hot upon my brow,
He told me of my burning wrong,
All night he talked and would not go.

He stood by me all through the day,
Struck from my hand the book, the pen;
He said; " Hear first, what I've to say,
And sing, if you've the heart to, then.

And can I cast him from my couch?
And can I lock him from my room?
Ah no, his honest words are such
That he's my True-Lord, and my doom.


Elizabeth Daryush
1887-1977


Saturday, 16 October 2010

THE TOURISTS

Carl Spitzweg
1808-1885
19th Century English Tourist in the Roman Campagna


Arriving was their passion,
Into the new place out of the blue
Flying, sailing, driving - 
How well these veteran tourists knew
Each fashion of arriving.

Leaving a place behind them,
There was no sense of loss; they fed
Upon the act of leaving -
So hot their hearts for the land ahead -
As a kind of pre-conceiving.

Arrival has stern laws, though,
Condemning men to lose their eyes
If they have treated travel
As a brief necessary disease,
A pause before arrival.

And merciless the fate is 
Of him who leaves nothing behind,
No hostage, no reversion;
He travels on, not only blind
But a stateless person.

Fleeing from love and hate,
Pursuing change, consumed by motion,
Such arrivistes, unseeing,
Forfeit through endless self-evasion
The estate of simple being.



C. Day Lewis
1904-1972
Poet Laureate


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

ALMANAC



Robert Rauschenberg
Almanac



The indifferent rivers 
Will keep on flowing to the sea
Or ruinously overflowing dikes,
Ancient handiwork of determined men.
The glaciers will continue to grate,
Smoothing what's under them
Or suddenly fall headlong,
Cutting short fir trees' lives.
The sea, captive between
Two continents, will go on struggling,
Always miserly with its riches.
Sun stars planets and comets
Will continue on their course.
Earth too will fear the immutable
Laws of the universe.
Not us. We, rebellious progeny
With great brainpower, little sense,
Will destroy, defile
Always more feverishly.
Very soon we'll extend the desert
Into the Amazonian forests,
Into the living heart of our cities,
Into our very hearts.


Primo Levi
1919-1987

translated from the Italian by Ruth Feldman


Sunday, 10 October 2010

SOMETIMES IT HAPPENS


The Fountain of Indolence
J.M.W. Turner
British  Painter 1775-1851


And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.

So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon as you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.


Brian Patten
born February 1946



Tuesday, 5 October 2010

WANTS




Beyond all this, the wish to be alone;
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flagstaff - 
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs;
despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes from death -
Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs.


Philip Larkin
1922-1985


Friday, 1 October 2010

NURSERY RHYME OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE


I had a silver penny
And an apricot tree
And I said to the sailor
On the white quay

'Sailor o sailor
will you bring me
If I give you my penny
And my apricot tree

A fez from Algeria
An Arab drum to beat
A little gilt sword
And a parakeet?'

  And he smiled and he kissed me
  as strong as death
  And I saw his red tongue
  And I felt his sweet breath.


''You may keep your penny
And your apricot tree
And I'll bring your presents
Back from the sea.'


O the ship dipped down
On the rim of the sky
And I waited while three
Long summers went by.

Then one steel morning
On the white quay
I saw a grey ship
come in from the sea.



Slowly she came
Across the bay
For her flashing rigging
Was shot away

All round her wake
The seabirds cried
And flew in and out
Of the hole in her side

Slowly she came
In the path of the sun
And I heard the sound
Of a distant gun

And a stranger came running
up to me
From the deck of the ship
And he said, said he



'O are you the boy
Who would wait on the quay
With the silver penny
And the apricot tree?

I've a plum coloured fez
And a drum for thee
And a sword and a parakeet
From over the sea.'


'O where is the sailor
With bold red hair?
And what is that volley
On the bright air?

O where are the other 
Girls and boys?
And why have you brought me
Children's toys?




Charles Causley
1917-2003

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

KASSIA - SELECTED EPIGRAMS

9th century
Byzantine Greece



Selected Epigrams

-o-

You meet your friend, your face
Brightens - you have struck gold.

-o-

Wealth covers sin - the poor
Are naked as a pin.

-o-

Poverty? wealth? seek neither -
One causes swollen heads,
The other, swollen bellies.

-o-

A learned fool? God save us!
The pigs are wearing pearls.

-o-

Better unborn than fool.
If born, spare earth your tread.
Don't wait, Go straight to hell.

-o-

Ask for a taste of luck
Before you ask for beauty.

-o-

and my favourite in this group:

A half-dead, bald, one-handed,
Stuttering, pint-sized, pimply,
Pigeon-toed, cross-eyed man,
When mocked by a lying pimp,
A thieving, murderous drunk,
Of his misfortune said:

"I'm not to blame - you think
I asked to be like this?
But you! . . . the credit's yours.
Your Maker gave you nothing,
Behold! a self-made man.'

-o-


Kassia is the only woman poet of distinction in Byzantine history. Tradition says she was to be chosen as a bride by the Emperor but was rejected when she answered him with the edged wit for which she is famous. She founded a convent and was its abbess for the remainder of her life. She wrote epigrams in iambics, and a substantial number of hymns.

Epigrams translated from Byzantine Greek by Patrick Diehl



Thursday, 23 September 2010

MUSEE DES BEAUX ARTS

Landscape
with the Fall of Icarus
c. 1558
Pieter Bruegel the Elder



   About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


W.H. Auden
1907-1973



Monday, 20 September 2010

THE LAST EVENING





And night and distant rumbling; now the army's
carrier train was moving out, to war.
He looked up from the harpsichord, and as
he went on playing, he looked across at her

almost as one might gaze into a mirror;
so deeply was her every feature filled
with his young features, which bore his pain and were
more beautiful and seductive with each sound.

Then, suddenly, the image broke apart.
She stood, as though distracted, near the window
and felt the violent drum-beats of her heart.

His playing stopped. From outside, a fresh wind blew.
And strangely alien on the mirror-table
stood the black shako with its ivory skull.


Rainer Maria Rilke
translator Stephen Mitchell

Monday, 13 September 2010

A ROSE FROM THE GARDEN




Day after day the wind carries away a rose from the garden;
and the heart of the nightingale feels a new sorrow.

The law of Time is the same for all men:
murmur not, and submit to its justice.

The falcon of death carries off in his talons,
like a pigeon, all things that are born.

O Friend!
Set not thy heart on this world:
For peace undisturbed is not possible here.

The tulip and hyacinth that blossom 
come from the earth;
perhaps from the dust of a face that was lovely,
with hyacinthlike scented hair.

Nothing has ever been built on the earth,
that time has not changed its perfection.

Yesterday the garden and its flowers felt the gladness
of the warbling of birds.

Today the thorns alone remain,
as if never a rose had bloomed in the garden.

The world is a bridge that leads to Eternity;
the wise build not their homes on the bridge.

Sadi
from Ode 405

translator unknown


Friday, 10 September 2010

QUESTION AND ANSWER AMONG THE MOUNTAINS

The Peach Blossom Spring 



You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach blossom flows downstream
and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.


Li-Po
701-762

Translated from the Chinese
by Robert Kotewall and Norman L. Smith

Monday, 6 September 2010

SLOW SEASON






Now light is less, noon skies are wide and deep;
The ravages of wind and rain are healed.
The haze of harvest drifts along the field
Until clear eyes put on the look of sleep.

The garden spider weaves a silken pear
To keep inclement weather from its young.
Straight from the oak, the gossamer is hung.
At dusk our slow breath thickens in the air.

Lost hues of birds the trees take as their own.
Long since, bronze wheat was gathered into sheaves.
The walker trudges ankle-deep in leaves;
The feather of the milkweed flutters down.

The shoots of spring have mellowed with the year.
Buds, long unsealed, obscure the narrow lane,
The blood slows trance-like in the altered vein;
Our vernal wisdom moves through ripe to sere.


Theodore Roethke
1908-1963


Saturday, 4 September 2010

THE GURU SPEAKS

Milarepa



To desire much bringeth a troubled mind;
So store within thy heart these precepts wise;

Many seeming That are not the That;
Many trees bear nought of Fruit;
All sciences are not the Wisdom true;
Much talking is of little profit
That which enricheth the heart is the Sacred Wealth;
Desirest thou Wealth, then store thou this;
The Doctrine which subdueth passion vile is the Noble Path;
Desirest thou a safe Path? then tread thou this,
Forsake the weeping sorrow-burdened world;
Make lonely caves thy home paternal,
And solitude thy paradise.
Let thought riding Thought be thy tireless steed,
And thy body thy temple filled with gods,
And ceaseless devotion thy best of drugs,

To thee, thou energetic one,
The Teaching that containeth all Wisdom I have given;
Thy Faith, the Teaching and myself are one.
And may this perfect Seed of Truth thus to my son entrusted,
Bring forth its foliage and its fruit,
Without corruption, without being scattered, without withering.


Milarepa

translated from the Tibetan by W.Y. Evans-Wentz



Wednesday, 1 September 2010

THISTLES





Against the rubber tongues of cows and the hoeing hands of men
Thistles spike the summer air
Or crackle open under a blue-black pressure.

Every one a revengeful burst
Of resurrection, a grasped fistful
Of splintered weapons and Icelandic frost thrust up

From the underground stain of a decayed Viking,
They are like pale hair and the gutturals of dialects.
Every one manages a plume of blood.

Then they grow, like men.
Mown down, it is a feud. Their sons appear,
Stiff with weapons, fighting back over the same ground.


Ted Hughes
1930-1998


Friday, 27 August 2010

TAXING THE RAIN





When I wake the rain's falling
and I think, as always, it's for the best,

I remember how much I love rain,
the weakest and strongest of us all;

as I listen to its yesses and no's,
I think how many men and women 

would, if they could,
against all sense and nature,

tax the rain for its privileges;

make it pay for soaking our earth
and splashing all over our leaves;

pay for muddying our grass
and amusing itself with our roots.

Let rain be taxed, they say,
for riding on our rivers
and drenching our sleeves;

for loitering in our lakes
and reservoirs. Make rain pay its way.

Make it pay for lying full length
in the long straight sedate green waters

of our city canals,
and for working its way through processes

of dreamy complexity
until the too-long untaxed rain comes indoors

and touches our lips,
bringing assuagement - for rain comes

to slake all our thirsts, spurting
brusque and thrilling in hot needles,

showering on to anyone naked;
or balming our skins in the shape of scented baths.

Yes, there are many who'd like to tax the rain;
even now they whisper, it can be done, it must be done.


Penelope Shuttle
1947


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

WELSH LANDSCAPE


George Vicat Cole
English Painter
1833-1893


To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went to the making of the wild sky,
Dyeing the immaculate rivers 
in all their courses.
It is to be aware,
Above the noisy tractor
And hum of the machine
Of strife in the strung woods,
Vibrant with sped arrows.
You cannot live in the present,
at least, not in Wales,
There is the language, for instance,
The soft consonants
strange to the ear.
There are the cries in the dark at night
As owls answer the moon,
And thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed at the fields' corners.
There s no present in Wales,
And no future;
There is only the past,
brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song.


R.S. Thomas
1913-2000