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Adrian 9th December 2006 12:05 PM

 

Name That Poem

 

"I am not yet born; console me."

 

More lines in the unlikely event nobody knows it. Identify it and you get the honour of posting the next one.

 

Claire 9th December 2006 01:39 PM

 

Like the idea very much, Adrian, but I can't (yet) identify the poem. I'll have to wait for another line, or for someone better read to come along!

 

David 9th December 2006 02:19 PM

 

That would be a cheery old Louis MacNeice poem: 'Prayer before Birth'.

 

Adrian 9th December 2006 10:18 PM

 

I didn't think there was enough there and thought I might have to add a few more lines, but obviously not.

Prayer Before Birth

 

I am not yet born; O hear me.

Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.

 

I am not yet born, console me.

I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

 

I am not yet born; provide me

With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.

 

I am not yet born; forgive me

For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.

 

I am not yet born; rehearse me

In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.

 

I am not yet born; O hear me,

Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.

 

I am not yet born; O fill me

With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.

 

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

Otherwise kill me.

 

Louis Macneice

 

David 9th December 2006 11:13 PM

I did't think there was enough there and thought I might have to add a few more lines, but obviously not.

"I am not yet born" was enough! That's a poem that's long stuck in my mind and sits in my much-thumbed copy of Longman Poetry 1900-1975: a wonderful twentieth century trawl, from which comes the next one.

 

"The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

The page is printed."

 

No, it's not 'Travails with My Printer', but is a great favourite of mine.

 

katrina 10th December 2006 12:01 PM

 

Adrain that poem is gorgeous, I have printed out and stuck it inside my Penguin collection of poems, so I can read it again

 

David 11th December 2006 11:45 AM

 

Okay, it seems more help is needed, so here's the start:

 

"I imagine this midnight moment's forest:

Something else is alive"

 

Lady Lazarus 11th December 2006 12:31 PM

"I am not yet born" was enough! That's a poem that's long stuck in my mind and sits in my much-thumbed copy of Longman Poetry 1900-1975: a wonderful twentieth century trawl, from which comes the next one.

What a fabulous poem. I'm not a big poetry reader (like Plath and Hughes, but not read very widely), but have just bought that Longman book on ebay for £2! Should read more poetry! Will keep an eye on this thread...

 

Claire 11th December 2006 10:52 PM

 

Nope, I don't think I know that one, David.....it vaguely feels like it's something with a Christmassy theme, is that right? (Go on, give us a clue!)

 

David 11th December 2006 10:58 PM

 

Not Christmassy, Claire, no. It's a poem about writing a poem - I'm surprised it's foxed everyone! ;)

 

elfstar 12th December 2006 07:21 AM

 

I recognized the poem but couldn't recall the title now i think its

 

The Thought Fox but the author won't come to mind.......

 

David 12th December 2006 10:32 AM

 

Yes indeed, Elfstar, that's right, by Ted Hughes.

 

The Thought-Fox

 

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:

Something else is alive

Beside the clock's loneliness

And this blank page where my fingers move.

 

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness:

 

Cold, delicately as the dark snow

A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;

Two eyes serve a movement, that now

And again now, and now, and now

 

Sets neat prints into the snow

Between trees, and warily a lame

Shadow lags by stump and in hollow

Of a body that is bold to come

 

Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,

Coming about its own business

 

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox

It enters the dark hole of the head.

The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

The page is printed.

 

 

 

Over to you!

 

elfstar 12th December 2006 04:27 PM

 

Oh, is the water sweet and cool,

Gentle and brown, above the pool?

 

 

I think this MIGHT be too easy.

 

woofwoof 12th December 2006 07:01 PM

 

It's "The old vicarage Grantchester" by Rupert Brooke, isn't it? The last line "is there honey still for tea" would have given it away. One of my great achievements of about 20 years ago was to learn the entire poem off by heart (I only know snatches of it now). When I had finished, I made the trek to Grantchester to recite it in its natural habitat. Unfortunately it was a cloudy, rain-soaked day, the place looked quite dreary and not very impressive (no sign of Jeffrey Archer, thankfully) and it really made you wonder if a stiflingly hot day in Berlin might not have been preferable!

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elfstar 12th December 2006 07:29 PM

 

Just now the lilac is in bloom,

All before my little room;

And in my flower-beds, I think,

Smile the carnation and the pink;

And down the borders, well I know,

The poppy and the pansy blow . . .

Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,

Beside the river make for you

A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep

Deeply above; and green and deep

The stream mysterious glides beneath,

Green as a dream and deep as death.

---Oh, damn! I know it! and I know

How the May fields all golden show,

And when the day is young and sweet,

Gild gloriously the bare feet

That run to bathe . . . Du lieber Gott!

 

Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,

And there the shadowed waters fresh

Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.

Temperamentvoll German Jews

Drink beer around;---and there the dews

Are soft beneath a morn of gold.

Here tulips bloom as they are told;

Unkempt about those hedges blows

An English unofficial rose;

And there the unregulated sun

Slopes down to rest when day is done,

And wakes a vague unpunctual star,

A slippered Hesper; and there are

Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton

Where das Betreten's not verboten.

 

. . . would I were

In Grantchester, in Grantchester!---

Some, it may be, can get in touch

With Nature there, or Earth, or such.

And clever modern men have seen

A Faun a-peeping through the green,

And felt the Classics were not dead,

To glimpse a Naiad's reedy head,

Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .

But these are things I do not know.

I only know that you may lie

Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,

And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,

Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,

Until the centuries blend and blur

In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .

Still in the dawnlit waters cool

His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,

And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,

Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.

Dan Chaucer hears his river still

Chatter beneath a phantom mill.

Tennyson notes, with studious eye,

How Cambridge waters hurry by . . .

And in that garden, black and white,

Creep whispers through the grass all night;

And spectral dance, before the dawn,

A hundred Vicars down the lawn;

Curates, long dust, will come and go

On lissom, clerical, printless toe;

And oft between the boughs is seen

The sly shade of a Rural Dean . . .

Till, at a shiver in the skies,

Vanishing the Satanic cries,

The prim ecclesiastic rout

Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,

Grey heavens, the first bird's drowsy calls,

The falling house that never falls.

 

God! I will pack, and take a train,

And get me to England once again!

For England's the one land, I know,

Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;

And Cambridgeshire, of all England,

The shire for Men who Understand;

And of that district I prefer

The lovely hamlet Grantchester.

For Cambridge people rarely smile,

Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;

And Royston men in the far South

Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;

At Over they fling oaths at one,

And worse than oaths at Trumpington,

 

And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,

And there's none in Harston under thirty,

And folks in Shelford and those parts

Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,

And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,

And Coton's full of nameless crimes,

And things are done you'd not believe

At Madingley on Christmas Eve.

Strong men have run for miles and miles,

When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;

Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,

Rather than send them to St. Ives;

Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,

To hear what happened at Babraham.

But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!

There's peace and holy quiet there,

Great clouds along pacific skies,

And men and women with straight eyes,

Lithe children lovelier than a dream,

A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,

And little kindly winds that creep

Round twilight corners, half asleep.

In Grantchester their skins are white;

They bathe by day, they bathe by night;

The women there do all they ought;

The men observe the Rules of Thought.

They love the Good; they worship Truth;

They laugh uproariously in youth;

(And when they get to feeling old,

They up and shoot themselves, I'm told) . . .

 

Ah God! to see the branches stir

Across the moon at Grantchester!

To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten

Unforgettable, unforgotten

River-smell, and hear the breeze

Sobbing in the little trees.

Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand

Still guardians of that holy land?

The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,

The yet unacademic stream?

Is dawn a secret shy and cold

Anadyomene, silver-gold?

And sunset still a golden sea

From Haslingfield to Madingley?

And after, ere the night is born,

Do hares come out about the corn?

Oh, is the water sweet and cool,

Gentle and brown, above the pool?

And laughs the immortal river still

Under the mill, under the mill?

Say, is there Beauty yet to find?

And Certainty? and Quiet kind?

Deep meadows yet, for to forget

The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?

And is there honey still for tea?

 

 

 

Of course it was.... your turn woofwoof.

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#16 13th December 2006, 03:15 PM

woofwoof

 

Thanks for posting that, Elfstar. It certainly brings back the memories. Re-reading it, I suppose I'd tend to agree with my wife who has always said that it is no better than "doggerel". However, it is very evocative of Edwardian England and there are one or two beautiful lines. My favourite is:

 

To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten

Unforgettable, unforgotten

River-smell, and hear the breeze

Sobbing in the little trees

 

Anyway, on with the game. Here is the next extract:

 

"Tell me what thy lordly name is"

 

I'm sure someone will get it, but if not, I'll post a bit more

 

#17 13th December 2006, 04:28 PM

Hazel

 

Is it The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe? I thought this game was for the first line of the poem, in which case my answer will be wrong and someone has taken this line from The Raven and used it for another poem. Am I wrong or having a brain meltdown?

 

#18 13th December 2006, 04:47 PM

megustaleer

thought this game was for the first line of the poem,

No, it's not first lines (in many cases that would be the title too). David added the first line of A Thought Fox because no-one seemed to recognise the poem from the line he started with.

 

#19 14th December 2006, 07:40 AM

Hazel

No, it's not first lines (in many cases that would be the title too). David added the first line of A Thought Fox because no-one seemed to recognise the poem from the line he started with.

Aah thank you Meg, so my guess stands then.

 

#20 14th December 2006, 07:42 AM

woofwoof

"I am not yet born" was enough! That's a poem that's long stuck in my mind and sits in my much-thumbed copy of Longman Poetry 1900-1975: a wonderful twentieth century trawl, from which comes the next one.

David, is that the anthology edited by George Macbeth? If so, I've got a nasty feeling I've seen a copy of it in the house somewhere (we moved house 5 years ago and most of our books are still languishing in the loft. There have been occasions when I've borrowed a book from the library, knowing full well that I have a copy up in the loft!)

 

Well done, Hazel. It is indeed "The Raven". This is what a character in the novel I've just finished, "The conjugial angel" by A.S. Byatt says about it:

 

"It is hard to divine whether that poem is designed as some macabre exercise of humour, or a genuine response to the sense of loss we feel for the beloved departed. It has a tantivy tantivy sound that is hard to take seriously in such a melancholy and sinister circumstance."

 

Another miscellaneous reference I came across:

 

""The Raven" made Poe so popular that children would chase the author until he would turn around, raise his arms and yell "Nevermore."

 

Anyway here it is:

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -

Only this, and nothing more.'

 

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -

Nameless here for evermore.

 

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -

This it is, and nothing more,'

 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -

Darkness there, and nothing more.

 

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before

But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'

Merely this and nothing more.

 

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;

Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -

'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

 

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

 

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,

`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.

Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

 

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -

Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

With such name as `Nevermore.'

 

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -

Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -

On the morrow will he leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'

Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

 

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,

`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,

Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster

Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -

Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore

Of "Never-nevermore."'

 

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -

What this grim, ungainly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

 

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;

This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining

On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,

But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

 

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.

`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee

Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

 

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -

Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -

On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -

Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

 

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!

By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

 

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -

`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!

Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'

Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

 

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted - nevermore!

 

Your turn, Hazel!

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#21 14th December 2006, 11:32 AM

David

David, is that the anthology edited by George Macbeth?

That's the one! I like it because it has most of the major twentieth century poets with a good selection from each. There's enough to give you an excellent insight into their writing and whilst occasionally it is a little challenging it's always highly rewarding.

 

It's a style of anthology that I don't think is in vogue any more and I doubt it's still in print. (Be glad to be proven wrong! Schools that have the sense not to be overly bound by the National Curriculum might provide enough demand for it, I guess.)

 

#22 15th December 2006, 08:53 AM

woofwoof

 

I remember my English teacher at school had a personal copy of that anthology on his shelves and several of us would often look at it (he was the sort of teacher who encouraged us to browse through his books). I think there were notes on each poem at the end. I remember his inclusion of the poem "Croft" (googled it just now - Stevie Smith?) caused great amusement in our classroom - here is the complete poem:

 

Aloft in the loft

Sits Croft

He is soft

 

Macbeth had a page of notes and questions on that poem eg, "what emotions does that poem raise in you for Croft" etc. It also caused us great amusement when a boy in our class found a racy extract from Macbeth's latest novel in a publication where you would not expect to find a literary writer's work, namely a certain gentleman's magazine! It was definitely the same George Macbeth as he was described as "the Scottish poet". Apparently he used to write erotic fiction as a sideline, unusually using his own name. Anyway, talking about lofts, I must go into my own one and dig up my wife's old copy of the anthology.

 

#23 17th December 2006, 06:10 PM

megustaleer

Your turn, Hazel!

Oh, Hazel! Where are you?

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I'm assuming we did find Hazel, but there are missing posts, I'm afraid.

 

#31 Today, 06:28 AM

mvr_moorthy

I'm afraid I can't think of the poem, mvr moorthy!

 

Here’s the full text of the poem. I found it in one of my stray readings and was arrested by the startling theme and imagery.

 

“ We live in the egg,

We have covered the inside wall

Of the shell with dirty drawings

And the Christian names of our enemies.

We are being hatched.

 

Whoever is hatching us

Is hatching our pencils as well.

Set free from the egg one day

At once we shall draw a picture

Of whoever is hatching us.

 

We assume that we are being hatched.

We imagine some good-natured fowl

And write school essays

About the color and creed

Of the hen that is hatching us.

 

When shall we break the shell?

Our prophets inside the egg

For a middling salary argue

About the period of incubation.

They posit a day called X.

 

Out of boredom and genuine need

We have invented incubators.

We are much concerned about our offspring inside the egg---

We should be glad to recommend our planet

To her who looks after us.

 

But we have a roof over our heads

Senile chicks

Polyglot embryos

Chatter all day

And even discuss their dreams.

 

And what if we’re not being hatched?

If this shell will never break?

If our horizon is only that

Of our scribbles, and always will be?

We hope we are being hatched.

 

Even if we only talk of hatching

Then remains the fear that someone

Outside our shell will feel hungry

And crack us into the frying pan with a pinch of salt-----

What shall we do then, my brethren inside the egg?"

 

#32 Today, 11:53 AM

David

 

Thanks for that, mvr moorthy! Who was the author?

 

#33 Today, 12:51 PM

Adrian

 

It was sung by Hawkwind, I think from a Gunter Grass poem.

 

A new one:

Quote:

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

--O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

 

 

What I tried to put across when I started this thread is that some poets have their own "fingerprints" in a similar way to cryptic crossword compilers. If you already know the excerpt above, then fair enough, but, I'd like to think that his style is so recognisable that even if you don't know the poem you'd recognise the poet.

 

You see, I have this theory that the structure and maybe more so the essence of a poem gives away the writer, and if you don't know the poem itself the poet's style can be so distinctive that a few vital lines should be able to "feel" intuitively who wrote them. The one quoted above is the closest I can get to what I mean. It's the poet's "signature" I am interested in, like a particular fiction author's style can be recognisable with only a few lines.

 

And for no reason at all, I like this quote: "Poets have been curiously silent on the subject of cheese."

 

There's more at the end which I hope will turn up - I'll keep an eye out!

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That seems very familiar.....I think I read either that, or something by the same author, when my sister did them at school.

 

It was called something like, "Fat Black Woman's Poems", or similar, (yes, there's a clue in the quotation you gave us!) - but I can't remember her actual name, if I ever knew it.

 

Actually, I'm not sure if I recognise the way language is used from that same poet, or if it just seems familiar because it reminds me of The Colour Purple, or something similar.

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Well I can't name the specific poem, but Grace Nichols produced a series of 'Fat Black Woman' poems. The ones I've read certainly make me smile but it was some time ago and I don't have them 'to hand' in my brain!

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Yes - I used Google to try and put a name to the poet I was half remembering, and I came up with Grace Nichols as well.

 

(Get that hand out of your brain at once, David.....you've no way of telling what you might find in there!)

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That was a distinctive choice, Chuntzy, thanks. I've searched out the poem:

 

Tropical Death

By Grace Nichols

 

The fat black woman want

a brilliant tropical death

not a cold sojourn

in some North Europe far/forlorn

 

The fat black woman want

some heat/hibiscus at her feet

blue sea dress

to wrap her neat

 

The fat black woman want

some bawl

no quiet jerk tear wiping

a polite hearse withdrawal

 

The fat black woman want

all her dead rights

first night

third night

nine night

all the sleepless droning

red-eyed wake nights

in the heart

of her mother’s sweetbreast

In the shade

of the sun leaf’s cool bless

In the bloom

of her people’s bloodrest

 

The fat black woman want

a brilliant tropical death yes

 

 

I've tried as hard as I can to find the missing pages that were posted most recently but to no avail.

 

Anyway, here's a new one.

 

"I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough

Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!"

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(A favourite that escaped me yesterday but with the morning.....)

 

 

Ulyssess - Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

 

A new one -

 

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 thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!-and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

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That's very familiar, I think I must have tried to memorise it once. I'm just not sure if I can scrape up the right title and author for it.......

 

It's Elizabeth Barrett Browning, isn't it, one of the Sonnets from the Portugese. I don't know if it has an official number or title, but it's the one that starts, "How do I love thee? let me count the ways,"

 

I don't think I know another scrap of poetry by her, so I can't add any weight to David's theory about recognising the "feel" of a particular poet.

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Have a go at this one, then. Not sure how easy to guess it will be, but the subject and attitude is probably fairly typical of this poet's work as a whole, which may help.

 

..................Are your heart's coals

Kindled for God, or is the burning

Of your lean cheeks because you sit

Too near that girl's smouldering gaze?

Tell me, Davies, for the faint breeze

From heaven freshens and I roll in it,

Who taught you your deft poise?

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No-one rushing in with the title, then.

 

It's called 'Chapel Deacon', by R S Thomas, as mentionned above. The whole poem follows, for your delight and delectation:

 

Who put that crease in your soul,

Davies, ready this fine morning

For the staid chapel, where the Book’s frown

Sobers the sunlight? Who taught you to pray

And scheme at once, your eyes turning

Skyward, while your swift mind weighs

Your heifer’s chances in the next town’s

Fair on Thursday? Are your heart’s coals

Kindled for God, or is the burning

Of your lean cheeks because you sit

Too near that girl’s smouldering gaze?

Tell me, Davies, for the faint breeze

From heaven freshens and I roll in it,

Who taught you your deft poise?

 

 

I find his sourness strangely appealing and honest - but I'm really glad he wasn't vicar of a church I belonged to. I don't think it's one of his best poems by a long way, nor is it one of my favourites of his, but it does seem very typical of him somehow.

 

Go on then, chuntzy - what will you have us guessing at next?

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OK, then how about -

 

These are trial pieces,

the craft's mystery

improvised on bone:

foliage, bestiaries,

 

interlacings elaborate

as the netted routes

of ancestry and trade.

That have to be

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