Redheaded Ramblings: Sheila A-stray  

"This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am." -- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man



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FOR BETH...

...who has recently discovered Yeats. She sent me the following poem, with the editorial comment: "Oh. My. F***ing. God."

I had a huge crush on a co-worker a couple years back, a really wonderful guy. I suppose he had a crush on me as well. We sat two cubicles away from each other, and used to have long hilarious IM conversations, as though we were in separate states, and couldn't say to one another, "Hey there, what's up" in PERSON. I would send him something amusing and hear him, four feet away from me, burst into laughter.

He was first-generation Irish-American, and was intimately familiar with the Irish canon. That was one of the things we loved to discuss. He IMd me the following Yeats poem, saying, "This one is my favorite, I think. I know it by heart."

What? I fell madly in love with him at that moment. Unfortunately, it all crashed and burned a couple of weeks later. Unfortunately, he did not "love the pilgrim soul" in me. Bastard!

But here is the poem, I post this for Beth.

When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face'

And bending down beside the glowin bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.



  contact Sheila Link: 4/18/2003 10:09:00 AM


Friday, April 18, 2003  

 
THE QUESTION OF JUDAS

Donald Sensing, at One Hand Clapping, has a very interesting post up about Judas. The question he asks, which many people have asked is: "Was Judas Iscariot really a traitor to Christ? Or was he actually a secret accomplice?"

I remember seeing a documentary on the Independent Film Channel about the making of The Last Temptation of Christ, a movie which I actually really enjoyed. Harvey Keitel, who played Judas (I didn't realize that Judas came from Brooklyn) talks about Martin Scorsese's take on Judas. Actually, it wasn't Scorsese's take, it was Nikos Kazantzakis' take. That Judas was Jesus' accomplice, his closest confidante. Harvey Keitel spoke very feelingly about this. I remember him saying, "It is a very healing interpretation of the event."

This, clearly, is very controversial. I actually enjoy the controversy. It doesn't disturb me that people want to take up the story of Judas, examine it, see what else might be there. The whole point, to me, is that the story is a living story, not a dead flat story. It is something which we, to this day, can participate in.

Sensing goes into this controversy, this interpretation, with some detail. It's fascinating. Talk about making these stories live! He asks questions, he delves deeper ...

Check it out. Very interesting stuff.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/18/2003 09:48:00 AM



 
GOOD FRIDAY

Lent, leading up to Good Friday, and Easter, is my favorite time of the church calendar. I have to admit that the reason is: that it appeals to the actress in me. I mean, that's not the ONLY reason, of course ... but the part of me that is the storyteller, and also loves to listen to stories, gets swept away in it all. The church, too, became like a theatre to me. It's like what i know about the medieval churches, and the glorious spectacles of the masses then: It was about the music, and the people as spectators, the illiterate masses being told the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. It fed the populace's need for drama. I remember the Good Friday masses from when I was a kid, at Christ the King. Everything a deep purple, the priest's robes, the cloth over the altar ... the melancholy tone of the Good Friday mass. Everything still in darkness. A sense of waiting. We went to evening masses on the Friday before, and then Easter, of course, was a morning mass.

Here's the reading for today, Good Friday. I always loved the story of Peter. Peter basically saying, when push came to shove, "You know what? I have never seen that man before in my life." "You're sure you don't know him, Peter?" "Nope. Never laid eyes on the guy."

It was such a betrayal ... but Peter always seemed so human to me. Because of those three moments of denial, I related to him the most. I couldn't relate to Judas. His betrayal was too calculated, too sneaky. Peter just choked, in the moment of crisis.

Jesus says, "One of you will betray me tomorrow."
They all protest: "NEVER!"
Jesus says again, "One of you will betray me tomorrow."
Again: "No! Never!"
And then the next day, boom boom boom, Peter is asked 3 times, "Do you know this man? Are you his disciple?" And Peter chokes: "Nope. Never seen the guy before in my life. Don't know him. Nope. It's not me. You totally got the wrong guy."

Who of us could NOT relate to Peter's betrayal? I really related to it.

Today's reading is from the gospel according to John:

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley
to where there was a garden,
into which he and his disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them, "Whom are you looking for?"
They answered him, "Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them, "I AM."
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, "I AM,"
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
"Whom are you looking for?"
They said, "Jesus the Nazorean."
Jesus answered,
"I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go."
This was to fulfill what he had said,
"I have not lost any of those you gave me."
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it,
struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear.
The slave's name was Malchus.
Jesus said to Peter,
"Put your sword into its scabbard.
Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?"

So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus,
bound him, and brought him to Annas first.
He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year.
It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews
that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus.
Now the other disciple was known to the high priest,
and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus.
But Peter stood at the gate outside.
So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest,
went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.
Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter,
"You are not one of this man's disciples, are you?"
He said, "I am not."
Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire
that they had made, because it was cold,
and were warming themselves.
Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

The high priest questioned Jesus
about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him,
"I have spoken publicly to the world.
I have always taught in a synagogue
or in the temple area where all the Jews gather,
and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me?
Ask those who heard me what I said to them.
They know what I said."
When he had said this,
one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said,
"Is this the way you answer the high priest?"
Jesus answered him,
"If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;
but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?"
Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm.
And they said to him,
"You are not one of his disciples, are you?"
He denied it and said,
"I am not."
One of the slaves of the high priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
"Didn't I see you in the garden with him?"
Again Peter denied it.
And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.
It was morning.
And they themselves did not enter the praetorium,
in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.
So Pilate came out to them and said,
"What charge do you bring against this man?"
They answered and said to him,
"If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you."
At this, Pilate said to them,
"Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law."

The Jews answered him,
"We do not have the right to execute anyone,"
in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled
that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.
So Pilate went back into the praetorium
and summoned Jesus and said to him,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered,
"Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered,
"I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered,
"My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him,
"Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered,
"You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

When he had said this,
he again went out to the Jews and said to them,
"I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover.
Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"
They cried out again,
"Not this one but Barabbas!"
Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head,
and clothed him in a purple cloak,
and they came to him and said,
"Hail, King of the Jews!"
And they struck him repeatedly.
Once more Pilate went out and said to them,
"Look, I am bringing him out to you,
so that you may know that I find no guilt in him."
So Jesus came out,
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, "Behold, the man!"
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
"Crucify him, crucify him!"
Pilate said to them,
"Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him."
The Jews answered,
"We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God."
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid,
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
"Where are you from?"
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
"Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?"
Jesus answered him,
"You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin."
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out,
"If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar."

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge's bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
"Behold, your king!"
They cried out,
"Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!"
Pilate said to them,
"Shall I crucify your king?"
The chief priests answered,
"We have no king but Caesar."
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself,
he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull,
in Hebrew, Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross.
It read,
"Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews."
Now many of the Jews read this inscription,
because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city;
and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
"Do not write 'The King of the Jews,'
but that he said, 'I am the King of the Jews'."
Pilate answered,
"What I have written, I have written."

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his clothes and divided them into four shares,
a share for each soldier.
They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from the top down.
So they said to one another,
"Let's not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,"
in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says:
They divided my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
Jesus said, "I thirst."
There was a vessel filled with common wine.
So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop
and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had taken the wine, he said,
"It is finished."
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

Now since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath,
for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea,
secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews,
asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus.
And Pilate permitted it.
So he came and took his body.
Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night,
also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about one hundred pounds.
They took the body of Jesus
and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices,
according to the Jewish burial custom.
Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.
So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day;
for the tomb was close by.



  contact Sheila Link: 4/18/2003 09:26:00 AM



 

DIARY FRIDAY



I came across the following entry this morning, as I was preparing for "Diary Friday". It's funny: I read it, and am a little bit embarrassed by my own gushing prose. I was 17 years old, a freshman at college. But at times I sound like I have to be all of 13 years old. But regardless; I will post it anyway. I like the story I tell here. I had completely forgotten about all of this, and now I feel like it's in my memory-bank again. That's pretty cool. Just a bit o' background: "Mummy Gina" was my grandmother. "Pop" was my grandfather.

October 13, 1985
Yesterday before we went into Boston we spent a few hours at Mummy Gina's condo. She's really hurt her back and has to walk with a cane, but she's as bubbly as ever. Tom was there with his girlfriend Jo and her son Christopher, who is an unbelievable sweetheart. He must be about 6 or 7.

When I'm in the bosom of my family, I just sit there watching, hoping I can become an adult as well-adjusted as all of them. They're so nice to one another. I watched Tom help Christopher put a toy together, his head bent over it, Christopher leaning close to him --

I keep anticipating men to be egotistical and shitty. Even men in my own family. And there's Tom, who looks like a tough guy (all the brothers call him "Gonzales"), he's very handsome, in a tough gang-leader like way. And the way he is with Chris ... the way he is with all of us ... It's wonderful.

The way my dad and all his brothers treat each other: I mean, they tease mercilessly, but they respect each other. They like each other as people. Also the family is so elastic, letting new people in with ease, like Jo and Chris.

On Mummy Gina's table there were stacks and stacks of old photos. Not of us, but of Dad when he was little. And even older photos than that. That's basically how I spent those three hours, studying each and every picture. Oh GOD. I wanted to take them all to make a scrapbook. I was enthralled, close to tears. History has never felt so close to me.

Last night for the first time I felt that -- even if I didn't become overwhelmingly famous and respected -- it might be all right. Because by the time I die, hopefully I'll have a lot of happy funny memories to look back on, and get satisfaction from that.

Browsing through the pictures:
Mummy Gina's senior picture, Dad in a sunsuit, Dad with a crewcut, about 5 years old, Terry as a baby, Tony -- all of them on Christmas day. Jimmy: a tough little guy with slicked hair. Terry and Joe as teenagers playing baseball in the backyard. Regina going off to all her proms.

I couldn't drag my eyes away.

My favorites were Dad in the sunsuit.

Then there were really old pictures. Brown and blurred.

The only memories I have of Pop are of a stationary quiet old man, who sat under a blanket in the sunroom, painting color-by-numbers. He had emphysema, I think. But there were all of these pictures of him as a teenager, a young man. He was GORGEOUS.

He was born in 1901, so he grew up in the teens and '20s. Diary, he was breath-taking. And he was crazy, too. So many of them made me laugh.

There was a group of photos from a trip Pop took once, and Mummy Gina referred to it as: "the infamous trip to Canada." It was in 1917 or 1918, and he went to Canada with his best friends. There were about three pictures of all of them, 5 or 6 handsome college guys, in their bathing suits -- really old-fashioned cloth kinds -- posing on a stone wall by a river, in these mock balletic statuesque positions, legs stuck out in arabesques, heads thrown back, arms out to steady themselves. And there's Pop among them. Just 5 nutty guys. Like today.

I guess they met 5 girls on this "infamous trip to Canada", on a road somewhere -- Everyone was referring to them as "the dancing girls." "Have you come across the pictures of the dancing girls yet?" I can just see it: 5 guys having a great time, running into 5 just as nutty girls.

There's one picture of all of them with their arms around each other, doing a Chorus Line kick, guys with knickers on, and boots, the girls were all flappers, wearing small hats and T-strap shoes. And everyone was laughing uproariously. They're on a ROAD somewhere in Canada.

There was a shot of just the girls, holding hands, and being crazy. It's a blurred picture, because they're all dancing, in motion, but you can see their giggling faces fine. Every time I think about the whole situation, it makes me laugh a little harder.

And Pop was there --

He wasn't born an old man. He was an extremely exquisite-looking college guy who loved to be rowdy and crazy in Canada with his four best friends.

I can't tell you how many times I kept pulling them out again and again to stare at them -- each face -- I could feel my own face gliding into a grin each time I looked. The pictures were so EXCITING to me.

There were many more exciting pictures: Mummy Gina's mother -- it must have been taken at the turn of the century or before. She was so beautiful. Her beauty shone out of that dull black and white. There's a man beside her with a shiny top hat.

Suddenly everything is real to me.

Mummy Gina was a pretty 17 year old who wore overalls and babysat.
Pop was a handsome nut who cavorted with unknown Canadian flappers and clowned around in his bathing suit.
Dad wore sunsuits, and was a baby who had no teeth
Regina was an extremely fat little baby
Mummy Gina had a MOTHER who was very beautiful.

Life ... life ...

Everyone has a history. What will be my history, when I'm old? What pictures will be lying around of MY life?

It doesn't matter if your history is world-known or what -- Your life is important because you're you. I must remember that. I have to be happy. Even if I don't become an actress. It shouldn't matter that much.

I loved looking at those pictures. No one will ever know how much they all meant to me.

I never really knew Pop. But now I feel like I do.

It's so so beautiful!!!!

  contact Sheila Link: 4/18/2003 08:36:00 AM



 
NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

I'll post more poems throughout the month. There's so many I love. Seamus Heaney, Shakespeare, Rumi, and many many more.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/18/2003 08:36:00 AM



 
POETS: W.B. YEATS

In honor of National Poetry Month:

The Second Coming
by W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:41:00 PM


Thursday, April 17, 2003  

 
POETS: WALT WHITMAN

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Walt Whitman makes me cry. So many poems to choose from. Here are a couple:

I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Sometimes with One I Love
by Walt Whitman

Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I
effuse unreturn'd love,
But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is
certain one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not
return'd,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)

When I heard the learn'd astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.


  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:38:00 PM



 
POETS: CHRISTOPHER SMART

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Christopher Smart (1722-1771) was put into a madhouse. It seems that he had some sort of fit of religious freak-out, and felt that he had to pray all the time. He prayed in the streets, he fell to his knees in public places.

The following poem is just delicious: I love love love it. It is an excerpt from his long extended poem: Jubilate Agno, which he wrote while he was locked up in the madhouse. Smart writes an ode to his cat. Sounds to me like Christopher Smart must have been a very interesting person to know. To see the joy in such small things. He saw God everywhere. I love this poem.

On his cat Jeoffry
by Christopher Smart

I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the living God, duly and daily serving Him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For when he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it (a) chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps The Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incompleat without him & a blessing is lacking in the spirit....
For the English cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his fore-paws of any quadrupeds.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion....
For he is docile and can learn certain things....
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again....
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly....
For by stroaking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than other quadrupeds.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:21:00 PM



 
POETS: MARK STRAND

In honor of National Poetry Month:

My sister Jean loves Mark Strand with all her heart. Here's one of his poems:

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
by Mark Strand

1.
When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from their cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon's ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

2.
Soon the house, with its shades drawn closed, will send
small carpets of lampglow
into the haze and the bay
will begin its loud heaving
and the pines, frayed finials
climbing the hill, will seem to graze
the dim cinders of heaven.
And my mother will stare into the starlanes,
the endless tunnels of nothing,
and as she gazes,
under the hour's spell,
she will think how we yield each night
to the soundless storms of decay
that tear at the folding flesh,
and she will not know
why she is here
or what she is prisoner of
if not the conditions of love that brought her to this.

3.
My mother will go indoors
and the fields, the bare stones
will drift in peace, small creatures --
the mouse and the swift -- will sleep
at opposite ends of the house.
Only the cricket will be up,
repeating its one shrill note
to the rotten boards of the porch,
to the rusted screens, to the air, to the rimless dark,
to the sea that keeps to itself.
Why should my mother awake?
The earth is not yet a garden
about to be turned. The stars
are not yet bells that ring
at night for the lost.
It is much too late.


  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:15:00 PM



 
POETS: FRANK O'HARA

In honor of National Poetry Month:

My friend Mitchell turned me on to Frank O'Hara. He also used to read the following poem to me, as a semi-dramatic monologue. It was hilarious. The poem never fails to make me laugh out loud.

Poem
by Frank O'Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:09:00 PM



 
POETS: JOHN MILTON

In honor of National Poetry Month:

I do not know how to preface this poem. Nothing I can say will describe or explain its impact. Any attempt on my part would just diminish it. This is one of the most powerful poems I have ever read. I can barely deal with it. It makes me want to scream. John Milton was going blind. He wrote this poem to his blindness.

On His Blindness
by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bar his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.



  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:01:00 PM



 
POETS: JOHN DONNE

In honor of National Poetry Month:

At the round earth's imagin'd corners
by John Donne

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattered bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou’hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 04:00:00 PM



 
POETS: JOHN KEATS

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? what maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 03:58:00 PM



 
POETS: GALWAY KINNELL

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Here's another poem which meanders along, descriptive, before suddenly clutching at your throat.

The Perch
by Galway Kinnell

There is a fork in a branch
of an ancient, enormous maple,
one of a grove of such trees,
where I climb sometimes and sit and look out
over miles of valleys and low hills.
Today on skis I took a friend
to show her the trees. We set out
down the road, turned in at
the lane which a few weeks ago,
when the trees were almost empty
and the November snows had not yet come,
lay thickly covered in bright red
and yellow leaves, crossed the swamp,
passed the cellar hole holding
the remains of the 1850s farmhouse
that had slid down into it by stages
in the thirties and forties, followed
the overgrown logging road
and came to the trees. I climbed up
to the perch, and this time looked
not into the distance but at
the tree itself, its trunk
contorted by the terrible struggle
of that time when it had its hard time.
After the trauma it grows less solid.
It may be some such time now comes upon me.
It would have to do with the unaccomplished,
and with the attempted marriage
of solitude and happiness. Then a rifle
sounded, several times, quite loud,
from across the valley, percussions
of the custom of male mastery
over the earth — the most graceful,
most alert of the animals
being chosen to die. I looked
to see if my friend had heard,
but she was stepping about on her skis,
studying the trees, smiling to herself,
her lips still filled, for all
we had drained them, with hundreds
and thousands of kisses. Just then
she looked up — the way, from low
to high, the god blesses — and the blue
of her eyes shone out of the black
and white of bark and snow, as lovers
who are walking on a freezing day
touch icy cheek to icy cheek,
kiss, then shudder to discover
the heat waiting inside their mouths.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 03:54:00 PM



 
POETS: ROBERT FROST

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Sheila's note: Ahhhh. The poem never disappoints, no matter how many times I read it.


The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, 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 step 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 traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Out, Out
by Robert Frost

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them 'Supper'. At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap--
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh.
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all--
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart--
He saw all spoiled. 'Don't let him cut my hand off
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!'
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then -- the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little -- less -- nothing! -- and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 03:49:00 PM



 
POETS: EMILY DICKINSON

In honor of National Poetry Month:

There's a certain Slant of light (258)
by Emily Dickinson

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--


Sheila's note: The following poem "After great pain a formal feeling comes" was one of my favorites in high school. I knew it by heart. I felt that I understood her despair. Of course the "great pain" in my life was when David Worthen turned me down for the toga dance, but afterwards I certainly felt an enormously "formal feeling". Don't mean to trivialize this great poem. I'm just trying to illustrate that poems speak on all levels. Or at least the great ones do.

After great pain
by Emily Dickinson

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.



  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 03:40:00 PM



 
A LOAD OF SHITE - RE-POSTED

For some reason, the following Slate piece, written by Adam Kirsch, entitled "Why We Love Irish Poets" ANNOYED me. I am trying to figure out why. First of all, I think it is very badly written. 6th grade book report sentences:

Why do we love the Irish so much? In large part it's because these poets have portrayed an Ireland that seems glamorously different from our own modern, urban, technological society.


"modern, urban, technological..." I think you need a couple more descriptive phrases there, because as it is: I am not really getting what you mean. Additionally: and let me scream this from the rooftops: Ireland is a modern society. It has a long history, filled with Celts and Druids and pagans and dancing across the fields on summer solstices in the year 4,000 B.C. (Whatever). But it is 2003 and Ireland is a modern country. It has roads. It has internet connectivity. Everyone has a cell phone. People zip around in cool cars. They love Shania Twain and Cher and Eminem. They have Virgin megastores. They are not cute quaint little "oh, sure and begorran" peasants anymore.

Some of that condescending attitude towards the Irish came up a bit during the last play I just did, which was set in Ireland. One of the other actors in the show seemed to be amazed that Irish people nowadays had cars, and televisions, and email. "So ... we would have a car then?" What? No, you'd have a rickety old donkey-led cart filled with jangling milk bottles and the couple of sheep you want to peddle at the farmer's market down the road a-ways. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Of course there are still rural areas in Ireland. But most of those people, even people living in hovels, have massive TVs and watch "Survivor" every week like everybody else. My Auntie Bridgie (God rest her soul) in County Kerry comes to mind.

The Slate piece discusses the poetry of Dennis O'Driscoll. Again, using grade-school book-report language.

O'Driscoll, a 48-year-old Dubliner and the author of six collections of poems, is well-known in Ireland and Britain as a poet and critic, but he is little read in the United States. This is a shame, since he is one of the most interesting poets now writing in English.


Is it me, am I a total snob, or is that really bad writing?

Parody beginning:
I really like poetry. I especially really like Irish poets. Some Irish poets write about faeries and digging in the mud and stuff like that. I like those poems. They're really good. But some Irish poets write about things that are modern and everyday. Like Irish people at happy hours, or Irish people listening to rap music. Irish people are modern people. That is why I like to read these poems, too. I like to learn about other countries and other lands. But Ireland sounds a lot like America. And this is kind of confusing. But still. I like to read those poems. They're really good.

Parody ending

So yeah, the writing's bad, but what really bothers me is the condescending attitude towards the Irish.

It's the same sort of anti-globalization attitude which would rather see people continue to dig for potatoes in the dirt, rather than have a bit of modernization to make their lives easier. Anti-globalization (in some of its manifestations, not all of them, not all of them, let me be clear) seems to want to preserve native ways of life. But so often that means that what they want to preserve is subsistence agriculture and ignorance. Not all progress is terrible. Running water is good. Electricity is good. But there is a misguided nostalgia at times, towards ways of life that are disappearing (and sometimes disappearing for very good reasons!): "We liked the Irish better when they were quaint and Catholic and driving the cows home through the fields after church."

The Irish people are damn proud of their long history. James Joyce is on their 5-pound note, for God's sake. History is everywhere in Ireland. Irish people are in LOVE with the past. But Irish people are also damn proud of the economic turn-around their country has experienced recently, of the boom years, of becoming a modern nation ... People are now actually staying in Ireland, to work, to raise families. As opposed to having to emigrate. Ireland is a modern nation. It is doing very well. Irish people are rightly proud of that. They have no desire to go back to the days of poverty-struck yet jolly river-dancing evenings round the peat fire.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive but the entire tone of the Slate piece is:

"Woah, O'Driscoll's poems are MODERN. It's so amazing: In his poems, he shows us that Irish people listen to rap music! Irish girls have black bra straps showing! Irish people have 4 wheel drive, and yuppie bars! Isn't that AMAZING?? Especially when the OTHER Irish poets, Yeats and Heaney, write poems about a haunted land, filled with ghosts and ancient gods and faeries, and earth.... It's incredible!"

Here's a quote from the piece:

As these lines show, O'Driscoll's Dublin is a version of London or New York.


Uh ... "O'Driscoll's Dublin"? Dublin IS a version of London or New York. It's not just O'Driscoll's interpretation of it. Dublin is a cosmopolitan city, and has been for quite some time. Where the hell have YOU been, dude? Has Adam Kirsch ever been to Ireland? I can't imagine that he has, or he never could write in such a provincial tone.

Another quote:

A few references to "VAT" (a European tax) and "EC directives" let us know that we are not in America, but otherwise O'Driscoll could be writing about any executive anywhere.


I don't know. Again, maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I just don't like that tone. It has the quality of "black people are just like white people! Isn't that amazing??" Ignorance masquerading as tolerance, or something. "Wow! I went to Chinatown, and it was incredible to me! To see groups of Chinese teenagers acting just like groups of white teenagers!" It's obnoxious. Why would you be surprised that people are people, no matter where you go?

One more quote from Kirsch about O'Driscoll's poetry:

This may seem too ordinary for readers who look to Ireland for a rural authenticity or mythic glamour missing from their own country.


Every real Irish person I know is completely annoyed and irritated by Americans who go looking to Ireland for "rural authenticity" or "mythic glamour". A cultural history is one thing, an ancient past is one thing ... but wishing and hoping that the Irish will not evolve past that, will not modernize, and join the rest of the world ... is condescending and ignorant.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:49:00 PM



 
POETS: ERNEST HILBERT

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Click open. This page is devoted to Hilbert's poems.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:47:00 PM



 
POETS: SYLVIA PLATH

In honor of National Poetry Month:

I know, I know, most girls go through a Plath-ian phase. I sure did. To some degree, I will never emerge. Reading her poetry in high school changed my life forever. It wasn't until much much later, a decade and a half or so, that I could actually go back and read her stuff, without getting sucked into her mad feverish world. I could maintain distance between the poems and myself. This was impossible at age 17.

Hilbert's Bold Type essay on Plath is here. You can also listen to a recording of Plath read another one of her famous poems "Lady Lazarus", 2 months or so before she took her own life.

"Daddy" is probably her most famous poem. It's offensive, it's self-absorbed, it's shrill ... but it's a classic.

Daddy
by Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:34:00 PM



 
POETS: e.e. cummings

In honor of National Poetry Month:

(Sheila's note: This might be one of the most romantic poems ever written. It kills me. Makes my heart ache.)

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by e.e. cummings
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:10:00 PM



 
POETS: EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Sonnet XLIII
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Sheila's note: Ouch.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:08:00 PM



 
POETS: HART CRANE

In honor of National Poetry Month:

My sister Jean turned me on to Hart Crane.

At Melville's Tomb
by Hart Crane
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:06:00 PM



 
POETS: THOMAS HARDY

In honor of National Poetry Month:

I had only read Hardy's novels, until a couple of years ago (through Ernie and his poetry email list I am on) when I discovered his poetry.

The Convergence of the Twain: Lines on the loss of the "Titanic"
by Thomas Hardy
I.
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

II.
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

III.
Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls--grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

IV.
Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

V.
Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?". . .

VI.
Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

VII.
Prepared a sinister mate
For her--so gaily great--
A Shape of Ice, for the time fat and dissociate.

VIII.
And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

IX.
Alien they seemed to be:
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.

X.
Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event,

XI.
Till the Spinner of the Years
Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.


The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fevourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 01:01:00 PM



 
POETS: LANGSTON HUGHES

In honor of National Poetry Month:

I, too, sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:57:00 PM



 
POETS: D.H. LAWRENCE

In honor of National Poetry Month:

This poem kills me. Just kills me.

The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D.H. Lawrence
The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:54:00 PM



 
POETS: GERALD MANLEY HOPKINS

In honor of National Poetry Month:

God's Grandeur
by Gerald Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:53:00 PM



 
POETS: ROBERT BURNS

In honor of National Poetry Month:

I became acquainted with Robert Burns' stuff in a big way when I was doing mega-research for my L.M. Montgomery project. Lucy Maud adored Robert Burns.

A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
O my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
O my luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
O I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.


  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:51:00 PM



 
POETS: ROBERT BROWNING

In honor of National Poetry Month:

This is probably obnoxious to people who aren't into poetry, but oh well. Come back tomorrow. Robert Browning wrote "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" which, naturelment, tormented me as a child ... and, I suppose, still torments me today. Is there a sadder story ever written? It was the little lame boy left behind ... I just could NOT understand how such a mistake could have been made. I could NOT understand why the group could not just WAIT for him. I ached for that lame boy. I was so so so so sad for him. I was 7 years old. ha ha....There was a time when I knew some of this poem by heart. Here 'tis. (Damn. Just read it over and still got choked up at the end.)

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
by Robert Browning
I.
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

II.
Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladle's,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

III.
At last the people in a body
To the town hall came flocking:
"'Tis clear," cried they, 'our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation--shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

IV.
An hour they sat in council,
At length the Mayor broke silence:
"For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell,
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain--
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I've scratched it so, and all in vain
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!"
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
"Bless us,' cried the Mayor, "what's that?"
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle, green and glutinous)
"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"

V.
"Come in!"--the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in--
There was no guessing his kith and kin!
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: "It's as if my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"

VI.
He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders--
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?"
"One? Fifty thousand!" was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

VII.
Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives--
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished!
‹Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, "At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, 'Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast dry-saltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said 'Come bore me!'
-- I found the Weser rolling o'er me."

VIII.
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"-- when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"

IX.
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
"Beside," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!

X.
The Piper's face fell, and he cried,
"No trifling! I can't wait! Beside,
I've promised to visit by dinnertime
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head-Cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor--
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion."

XI.
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d'ye think I brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"

XII.
Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

XIII.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step or cry,
To the children merrily skipping by--
And could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its water's
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop
And we shall see our children stop!
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,--
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me.
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!

XIV.
Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says that heaven's gate
Opens to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in!
The mayor sent East, West, North and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth
Wherever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear:
"And so long after what happened here
On the twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six;"
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children's last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper's Street,
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn,
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That, in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
To the outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why they don't understand.

XV.
So, Willy, let you and me be wipers
Of scores out with all men--especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free, from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them ought, let us keep our promise.




  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:45:00 PM



 
POETS: ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Sonnet XLIII
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Sonnet XXII
When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curve-d point,--what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belove-d,--where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

The Best Thing in the World
What's the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you're loved again.
What's the best thing in the world?
--Something out of it, I think.



  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:39:00 PM



 
POETS: GWENDOLYN BROOKS

In honor of National Poetry Month:

There's something about her stuff which gives me a big hard lump in my throat:

The Bean Eaters
by Gwendolyn Brooks
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.


The Mother
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.


  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:37:00 PM



 
POETS: ELIZABETH BISHOP

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Elizabeth Bishop rocks. Here are three of my favorites. Her compiled book of letters is great reading as well.

Hilbert's Bold Type essay on Bishop is here.

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.


--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited I read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
--"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.
Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
--Aunt Consuelo's voice--
not very loud or long.
I wasn't at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn't. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I--we--were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you'll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
--I couldn't look any higher--
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.

Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
What similarities--
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts--
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How--I didn't know any
word for it--how "unlikely". . .
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn't?

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.

Sheila's note: Shit. Can this woman write, or what....


At the Fishhouses
by Elizabeth Bishop
Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one's nose run and one's eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Down at the water's edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:34:00 PM



 
POETS: WILLIAM BLAKE

In honor of National Poetry Month:

Blake, that exhilarating visionary, who saw angels in the trees, who was a poet and an engraver, is also one of my favorite writers. Every single line, to me, seems a classic, vibrating with truth. Exciting stuff.

The Chimney-Sweeper
by William Blake
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'Weep! weep! weep! weep!'
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said,
'Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.'

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!--
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

A Divine Image
by Blake
Cruelty has a Human heart
And Jealousy a Human Face,
Terror, the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy, the Human Dress.

The Human Dress is forge-d Iron,
The Human Form, a fiery Forge,
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd,
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

Sheila's note: I must excerpt from his long long long poem "A Marriage of Heaven and Hell". Can't post the whole thing here. But it is remarkable. Ooops. Starting to sound like a 6th grade book report here.

Excerpts from Marriage of Heaven and Hell
A Memorable Fancy
As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs: thinking that as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.
When I came home; on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world. I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.
How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?

Proverbs of Hell
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.
All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Prides cloke.

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion. woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin'd.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbet; watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains: the fountain overflows.
One thought fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

Sheila's note: The last line there about the eagle and the crow are words I try to live by. I have taped them on my mirror. This is tough powerful robust stuff. It seems to me that this poem read, as a whole, tells you everything you need to know about living. Being human. William Blake is a hero of mine.

  contact Sheila Link: 4/17/2003 12:24:00 PM


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