Thursday, 31 March 2011


La Vendimia
(The Wine Harvest)

Francisco de Goya 1787

Come, for our hopes are no more than a jerry-built house;
Bring wine, for life's foundations are rooted in wind.

But that man's zeal shall draw me, which under this blue ceiling
Burns bright for nothing that ties us down to the world.

How can I tell you what good news the angel of the Unseen
Brought me last night, flat-out on the wine-shop's floor?

'O royal keen-eyed falcon, whose perch is on the Tree of life,
Why is this corner of affliction's town your nest?

They are whistling you home from the battlements of the Empyrean:
What could you be doing here in this place of snares?'

Take my advice and follow out what I say -
This is a Dictum the Master has handed down:

Don't let the world's ill harm you - (note this, a subtlety
From one who had travelled far upon love's way) -

But accept whatever is dealt you - unknit your brows;
We shall find no other way out; free choice is not ours.

Don't look to hold this tottering world to her bond;
She is the withered hag of a thousand bridegrooms.

There is no faith in the smile of the rose;
Lament, empassioned nightingale: there is room for complaint.

why should poetasters be jealous of Hafiz?
To please the subtleties of speech is the gift of God.

Translated from the Persian by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs

Friday, 25 March 2011


Salvador Dali - Galatea of the Spheres

Luck has no songs, luck has no thoughts, luck has nothing.
Push your luck, so that she breaks, for luck is evil.
Luck comes softly in the whisper of morning among the sleeping bushes,
luck glides away in the light images of clouds over deep blue depths,
luck is the field that sleeps in the burning heat of noon, 
or the endless expanse of the sea under the piercing vertical rays,
luck is powerless, she sleeps and breathes and does not know anything . . . . 

Do you know pain? She is strong and big with secretly clenched fists.
Do you know pain? She is a hopeful smile with eyes red with tears.
Pain gives us all what we need -
she gives us the keys to the realm of death,
she pushes us through the gate when we still hesitate.
Pain baptizes the children and remains awake with the mothers
and forges all the golden wedding-rings.
Pain rules over everything, she smooths the brow of the thinker,
she clasps the jewel round the neck of the desired woman,
she stands by the door when a man is leaving his love . . . .
What else does pain still give to the ones she loves?
I do not know of more.
She gives pearls and flowers, she gives songs and dreams,
she gives us a thousand kisses which are all empty,
she gives us the only kiss that is true.
She gives us our strange souls and curious desires,
she gives to all the highest gain in life:
love, loneliness and the face of death.

Edith Sodergran

translated from Swedish
by Jaakko A. Ahokas

Edith Sodergran  was born in St Petersburg (Leningrad), where her parents belonged to the Swedish-speaking population of Finns. She was sent to a German school. After the Russian Revolution she and her mother took refuge in Finland, where they lived in extreme poverty. Her poems, published in Helsinki, were bitterly attacked by all but a few critics, and she was entirely isolated except for her attachment to Hagar Ollsen, a young woman writer who introduced her poems to other young Finnish poets. Sodergran died of tuberculosis and the effects of hunger. After her death she was hailed as a reformer of Swedish poetry in both Finland and Sweden, and her fame has increased with time.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Come, sweetheart, listen, for I have a thing
Most wonderful to tell you, news of spring.
Albeit Winter still is in the air
And the Earth troubled and the branches bare,
Yet down the field today I saw her pass -
The Spring - her feet went shining through the grass;
She touched the ragged hedgerows - I have seen
Her finger-prints, most delicately green;
And she has whispered to the crocus leaves,
And to the garrulous sparrows in the eaves.
Swiftly she passed and shyly, and her fair
Young face was hidden in her cloudy hair,
She would not stay, her season is not yet,
But she has re-awakened, and has set
The sap of all the world astir, and rent
Once more the shadows of our discontent,
Triumphant news - a miracle I sing -
The everlasting miracle of Spring.

John Drinkwater 1882-1937

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Round the corner was always the sea. Our childhood
Tipping the sand from its shoes on return from holiday
Knew there was more where it came from, as there was more
Seaweed to pop and horizons to blink at. Later
Our calf loves yearned for union in solitude somewhere
Round that corner where Xenophon crusted with parasangs
Knew he was home, where Columbus feared he was not,
And the Bible said there would be no more of it. Round
That corner regardless there will be always a realm
Undercutting its banks with repeated pittance of spray,
The only anarchic democracy, where we are all vicarious
Citizens; Which we remember as we remember a person
Whose wrists are springs to spring a trap or rock
A cradle; whom we remember when the sand falls out on the carpet
Or the exiled shell complains or a wind from round the corner
Carries the smell of wrack or the taste of salt, or a wave
Touched to steel by the moon twists a gimlet in memory.
Round the corner is - sooner or later - the sea.

Louis MacNeice

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Very old are the woods;
And the buds that break
Out of the briar's bough,
When March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are -
Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.

Very old are the brooks;
And the rills that rise
Where snow sleeps cold beneath
The azure skies
Sing such a history
Of come and gone,
Their every drop is as wise
As Solomon.

Very old are we men;
Our dreams are tales
Told in dim Eden
By Eve's nightingales;
We wake and whisper awhile,
But, the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields
Of amaranth lie.

Walter de la Mare

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Life is ours in vain
Lacking love, which never 
Counts the loss or gain.
But remember, ever
Love is linked with pain.

Light and sister shade
Shape each mortal morrow
Seek not to evade
Love's companion, Sorrow,
And be not dismayed.

Grief is not in vain,
It's for our completeness.
If the fates ordain
Love to bring life's sweetness
Welcome too its pain.

Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal

Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal was born on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia and described her Aboriginal Noonuccal tribe heritage in the autobiographical Stradboke Dreaming (1970).

She changed her name from Kath Walker in 1988 in protest at the bicentennial year of the European invasion.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Paul Nash  1889-1946
'Totes Meer'

  And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And Death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas