Poesie: March Thoughts

Daffy-down-dilly is come up to town, / In her yellow petticoat and her green gown.

When daffodils begin to peer,
With hey the doxy over the dale,
Why then comes in the sweet of the year
And the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.

~ William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

daffodils - Edited

And hark! How blithe the Throstle sings,
He, too, is no mean preacher;
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

~ William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

march eggs

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
The snowdrop and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet;
And their breath was mixed with sweet-odour sent
from the turf like the voice and the instrument.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

violets shelley

All poems and drawings are taken from Edith Holden’s “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady”, first published in 1977.  A delightful book!

Poesie: Jeffers’ To an Old Square Piano

Tor is a term for a craggy outcrop or lookout.

To an Old Square Piano

(Purchased from the caretaker of an estate in Monterey)

Whose fingers wore your ivory keys
So thin – as tempest and tide flow
some pearly shell, the castaway
of indefatigable seas
on a low shingle far away –
You will not tell, we cannot know.

Only, we know that you are come,
Full of strange ghosts melodious
The old years forget the echoes of,
From the ancient house into our home;
And you will sing of old-world love,
And of ours too, and live with us.

Sweet sounds will feed you here: our woods
are vocal with the seawind’s breath;
Nor want they wing-born choristers,
Nor the ocean’s organ interludes.
– Be true beneath her hands, even hers
Who is more to me than life or death.

~ Robinson Jeffers (1887 – 1962)

robinson jeffers

Poesie: Roethke’s In a Dark Time

Although thoroughly postmodern, the American poet Theodore Roethke would have been at home with almost any of the lyric poets of the 16th and 17th centuries.

In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

~ Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963)

IMG_2451 - Edited

Poesie: Burgess’ Purple Cow

Some poets live to regret having written wildly successful poems…

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope so see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

1895

About two years later, Burgess offered the following in the same journal in which the Purple Cow had first appeared, his “The Lark”:

Ah, yes!, I wrote the ‘Purple Cow” –
I’m Sorry now, I Wrote it!
But I can Tell you, Anyhow,
I’ll Kill you if you Quote it!

1897

~ Gelett Burgess (1866 – 1951)

Burgess-lark-cover-2

Poesie: Tolkien’s Little Princess Mee

Little Princess Mee is a Hobbit poem that was among those written in the margins of the Red Book of Westmarch.

Little Princess Mee

Little Princess Mee
Lovely was she
As in elven-song is told:
She had pearls in hair
All threaded fair;
Of gossamer shot with gold
Was her kerchief made,
And a silver braid
Of stars above her throat.
Of moth-web light
All moonlit-white
She wore a woven coat,
And round her kirtle
Was bound a girdle
Sewn with diamond dew.

She walked by day
Under mantle grey
And hood of clouded blue;
But she went by night
All glittering bright
Under the starlit sky,
And her slippers frail
Of fishes’ mail
Flashed as she went by
To her dancing-pool,
And on mirror cool
Of windless water played.
As a mist of light
In whirling flight
A glint like glass she made
Wherever her feet
Of silver fleet
Flicked the dancing-floor.

She looked on high
To the roofless sky
And she looked to the shadowy shore;
Then round she went,
And her eyes she bent
And saw beneath her go
A Princess Shee
As fair as Mee:
They were dancing toe to toe!

Shee was as light
As Mee, and as bright;
But Shee was, strange to tell,
Hanging down
With starry crown
Into a bottomless well!
Her gleaming eyes
In great surprise
Looked upon to the eyes of Mee:
A marvellous thing,
Head-down to swing
Above a starry sea!

Only their feet
Could ever meet;
For where the ways might lie
To find a land
Where they do not stand
But hang down in the sky
No one could tell
Nor learn in spell
In all the elven-lore.

So still on her own
An elf alone
Dancing as before
With pearls in hair
And kirtle fair
And slippers frail
Of fishes’ mail went Mee:
Of fishes’ mail
And slippers frail
And kirtle fair
With pearls in hair went Shee!

J.R.R. Tolkien

IMG_2300

Illustrations by Alan Lee; taken from “Tales from the Perilous Realm”

Poesie: Stevenson’s Requiem

Well known, for good reason. If you are mourning, it helps to think of things this way.

Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

cemetery2

Poesie: Dickinson’s “There’s a certain Slant of light”

Neither dash nor dot means anything; it is the difference between that makes the Morse code possible.

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

~ Emily Dickinson (10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)

Black-white_photograph_of_Emily_Dickinson
Daguerreotype taken at Mount Holyoke, December 1846 or early 1847; the only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson after childhood

Poesie: Rossetti’s The Woodspurge

This English poet with the Italian name was a painter as well as a poet.

Something to ponder…

The Woodspurge

The wind flapp’d loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walk’d on at the wind’s will,—
I sat now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was,—
My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flower’d, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me,—
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

Rossetti self portrait 1847
Self-portrait, 1847

Rossetti was as talented as a painter as he was as a poet.  Here’s a compilation of his paintings, set to Bach’s Concerto for 3 Harpsichords in C major.

Poesie: Allingham’s The Fairies

Legends of the wee little men persist everywhere, but the Irish have known to be particularly attuned to the presence of the good folk.

This is another poem we have known for a long time, something the girls used to love hearing when they were little.  The fairy illustrations on this post are Arthur Rackham’s, obviously.

The Fairies

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watchdogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and grey
He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with the music
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of fig-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hillside,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
For my pleasure, here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

~ William Allingham (1824 – 1889)

celtic lady

 

Poesie: Tolkien’s Noel

One last Christmas poem…

I had already written a post for today when a dear friend sent me a link to this blog post.  It appears two of J.R.R. Tolkien’s poems that were printed in the annual magazine of an Oxfordshire Catholic high school in 1936 came to the attention of the press, one called The Shadow Man, the other NoelThe Shadow Man was published later in a different form as we pointed out recently, but I had not heard of “Noel”, or at least, I do not remember reading it.  Since Christmastide ended only yesterday with Epiphany, let’s have one last Christmas poem for this season, and maybe not the most commonplace one.  Enjoy!

NOEL

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien, 1936

mother of god.jpeg

%d bloggers like this: