Thursday, 28 April 2011


Children in war-torn Afghanistan

 I am not yet born; O hear me.
  Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
    club-footed ghoul come near me.

 I am not yet born, console me.
 I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
    with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
       on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

 I am not yet born; provide me
 With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
    to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
       in the back of my mind to guide me.

 I am not yet born; forgive me
 For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
    when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
       my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
          my life when they murder by means of my
             hands, my death when they live me.

 I am not yet born; rehearse me
 In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
    old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
       frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
           waves call me to folly and the desert calls
             me to doom and the beggar refuses
                my gift and my children curse me.

 I am not yet born; O hear me,
 Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
    come near me.

 I am not yet born; O fill me
 With strength against those who would freeze my
    humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
       would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
          one face, a thing, and against all those
             who would dissipate my entirety, would
                blow me like thistledown hither and
                   thither or hither and thither
                      like water held in the
                         hands would spill me.

 Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
 Otherwise kill me.

Louis MacNeice

This poem first appeared in MacNeice's 1944 collection, Springboard, and could be read autobiographically as a father's reaction to bringing a child into a world at war.

Nothing has changed for the children since he wrote these words.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


Faust's Osterspaziergang

Rivers and streams are freed from ice
By Spring’s sweet enlivening glance.
Valleys green with hope's happiness dance;                                       
Old Winter, in his weakness, sighs,
Withdrawing to the harsh mountains.
From there, retreating, he sends down
Impotent showers of hail that show
In stripes across the quickening ground.                                               
But the sun allows nothing white below,
Change and growth are everywhere,
He enlivens all with his colours there,
And lacking flowers of the fields outspread,
He takes these gaudy people instead.                                                      
Turn round, and from this mountain height,
Look down, where the town’s in sight.
That cavernous, dark gate,
The colourful crowd penetrate,
All will take the sun today,                                                                     
The Risen Lord they’ll celebrate,
And feel they are resurrected,
From low houses, dully made,
From work, where they’re constricted,
From the roofs’ and gables’ weight,                                                       
From the crush of narrow streets,
From the churches’ solemn night
They’re all brought to the light.
Look now: see! The crowds, their feet
Crushing the gardens and meadows,                                                      
While on the river a cheerful fleet
Of little boats everywhere it flows.
And over-laden, ready to sink,
The last barge takes to the stream.
From far off on the mountain’s brink,
All the bright clothing gleams.
I hear the noise from the village risen,
Here is the people’s true Heaven,
High and low shout happily:
Here I am Man: here, dare to be!   

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Part I
Scene II : in Front Of The City Gates

Faust Translation 

Thursday, 21 April 2011


The forgotten tribes of Oromo

If I might be an ox,
An ox, a beautiful ox,
Beautiful but stubborn;
The merchant would buy me,
Would buy me and slaughter me,
Would spread my skin,
Would bring me to the market,
The coarse woman would bargain for me,
The beautiful girl would buy me.
She would crush perfumes for me,
I would spend the night rolled up round her,
I would spend the afternoon rolled up round her.
Her husband would say: "it's a dead skin."
But I would have her love.

A song from the Galla tribe in Ethiopia
(translator unknown)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

"The Road Not Taken' was inspired by Frost's friend,  the poet Edward Thomas, and was intended to be gently ironic of the habit of regret. Frost said of Thomas , "He more than anyone else was accessory to what I had done and was doing."

Monday, 11 April 2011

Night Sky

Vincent van Gogh
Starry Night Over The Rhone 1888

What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.

They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind

of untenanted space. It i its own
light,  a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness

that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow

traveller, but there is more than time
to arrive. resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.

R.S. Thomas

R.S. Thomas was a fervent Welsh nationalist and defender of the Welsh language, despite writing all of his poetry in English. Of his poetry, he once said: " "I don't write for the public. You make a poem for yourself firstly, and then, if other people want to join in, then there we are."

Sunday, 3 April 2011


If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy-green and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates, 
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green band among the gathered swans.

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

Laurie Lee