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Claire

Poetic Wanderings

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That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense   
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence   
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
 
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept   
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and   
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;   
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped   
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass   
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth   
Until the next town, new and nondescript,   
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.
 
At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys   
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls   
I took for porters larking with the mails,   
And went on reading. Once we started, though,   
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls   
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,   
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,
 
As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant   
More promptly out next time, more curiously,   
And saw it all again in different terms:   
The fathers with broad belts under their suits   
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;   
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,   
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,   
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that
 
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.   
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed   
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days   
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define   
Just what it saw departing: children frowned   
At something dull; fathers had never known
 
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared   
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.   
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast   
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
 
Just long enough to settle hats and say
    I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,   
And someone running up to bowl—and none   
Thought of the others they would never meet   
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.   
I thought of London spread out in the sun,   
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
 
There we were aimed. And as we raced across   
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss   
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail   
Travelling coincidence; and what it held   
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power   
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower   
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.
 
Philip Larkin 'The Whitsun Weddings'
 

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Whitsuntide fast approaches, 
Another Bank holiday beckons.
Time for a long week-end in the pub
Or sitting in the garden whose grass
Needs cutting with dandelions like 
Saucers. This is the new Pentecost, 
People mooching around the shops
Looking for that something that they
Didn’t realise they wanted only to find
They had one when they got home.
People enjoying the Bank holiday
Not realizing what the holiday means.
Of family day trips to the seaside with
Children eating ice cream that spread
Around their face and noses.
A day to escape the daily grind. 
 

Whitsun, David Wood

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     Thus, thus begin the yearly rites

      Are due to Pan on these bright nights;

      His morn now riseth and invites

      To sports, to dances, and delights:

        All envious and profane, away!

        This is the shepherds’ holiday.

 

      Strew, strew the glad and smiling ground

      With every flower, yet not confound;

      The primrose drop, the spring’s own spouse,

      Bright day’s-eyes, and the lips of cows,

        The garden-star, the queen of May,

        The rose, to crown the holiday.

 

      Drop, drop you violets, change your hues

      Now red, now pale, as lovers use,

      And in your death go out as well,

      As when you lived unto the smell:

        That from your odour all may say,

        This is the shepherds’ holiday.

 

Ben Jonson - 'The Shepherd's Holiday'

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Keep these verbs

you may require them
to bend a steel of wrath- 
sharp weapons from behind 
grow flashy: into wounds 
they strike certainty of destruction.

Be sure, that I may not come-
not even my surreal shadows
from this portion
of your soft yellow light.  

These nouns that once
acted hopefully
like a complacent boatman
to steer our way of love-
floated us down in the divine stream-
washed our nights and days, 
our burning suns and cloyed moons-
with surfs and salts of life, 
see whirl of doom.

When you prefer to run down north
south must be left behind-
and fade unknown...
when brooding flowers 
will fill your hands
trees'll gape empty
and suffer neglect of our eyes...

Love the rhyme and vision of north, 

keep the flowers' hues on your eyes-

but before that
you have to prove others futile-

Take these verbs, 
those throttling nouns
to mend your weapon speech

They will perish your old choices
under new sun.

Be rife with arguments
like old Roman friend, Brutus. 


 

Verbs And Nouns Of Love by Rites Ghosh

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Processions that lack high stilts have nothing that catches the eye.
What if my great-granddad had a pair that were twenty foot high,
And mine were but fifteen foot, no modern stalks upon higher,
Some rogue of the world stole them to patch up a fence or a fire.
Because piebald ponies, led bears, caged lions, make but poor shows,
Because children demand Daddy-long-legs upon his timber toes,
Because women in the upper storeys demand a face at the pane
That patching old heels they may shriek, I take to chisel and plane.
 
Malachi Stilt-Jack am I, whatever I learned has run wild,
From collar to collar, from stilt to stilt, from father to child.
All metaphor, Malachi, stilts and all. A barnacle goose
Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.
 
W.B. Yeats - 'High Talk'

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Seventy years ago I made a pair of stilts
from six-foot two-by-twos, with blocks
to stand on nailed a foot from the bottom.

 

If I was to learn to walk on stilts I wanted
them red and I had to wait almost forever
for the paint to dry, laid over the arms

 

of a saggy, ancient Adirondack chair
no longer good for much but holding hoes
and rakes and stakes rolled up in twine,

 

and at last I couldn’t wait a minute longer
and took the stilts into my hands and stepped
between them, stepped up and stepped out,

 

tilted far forward, clopping fast and away
down the walk, a foot above my neighborhood,
the summer in my hair, my new red stilts

 

stuck to my fingers, not knowing how far
I’d be able to get, and now, in what seems
just a few yards down the block, I’m there.

 

Red Stilts by Ted Kooser

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Look, stranger, on this island now

The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.

Here at a small field's ending pause
Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges
Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide,
And the shingle scrambles after the suck-
-ing surf,
A moment on its sheer side.

 

Far off like floating seeds the ships   

Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,   

And this full view

Indeed may enter

And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbour mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.

 

W.H. Auden - 'Look, Stranger'

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Winter has shown peeks in chill's reprises
As though summer winds follow sultry roads 
Melting dreams use desperate devices  
To hold onto lush lands for their abode
 
Where will the lovely lilting lilies go
When their stretch to heaven gets impeded
By softest saunter of first season's snow
Perhaps their petals rest, neatly pleaded

 

I wonder If I too shall find my rest
When heated moments turn to peaceful psalm
And God's crystalline account comes to impress
With snowflakes of truth, twirling love's sweet balm

 

When the songbird sings, all stop and want her 
As if saving grace flies forth through her wings   
I caress these thoughts, in softest saunter
Honing hope in her song to return spring 

 

Softest Saunter, Cherie Leigh

 

Edited by lunababymoonchild
layout problems

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There is a garden in her face
Where roses and white lilies grow;
A heav'nly paradise is that place
Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.
There cherries grow which none may buy,
Till "Cherry ripe" themselves do cry.
 
Those cherries fairly do enclose
Of orient pearl a double row,
Which when her lovely laughter shows,
They look like rose-buds fill'd with snow;
Yet them nor peer nor prince can buy,
Till "Cherry ripe" themselves do cry.
 
Her eyes like angels watch them still,
Her brows like bended bows do stand,
Threat'ning with piercing frowns to kill
All that attempt with eye or hand
Those sacred cherries to come nigh,
Till "Cherry ripe" themselves do cry.
 
Thomas Campion - 'There is a garden in her face'

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She left me with a bouquet of
flowers that never bloomed,
and a muse with bleeding
verses that never rhymed

At nights when her name
is dancing on my tongue,
I hunger for the cherries
she once promised to feed me

 

Cherry Promise, N (the only credit I could find)

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I felt that Id a right to song

And sung – but in a timid strain

Of fondness for my native plain

For every thing I felt a love

The weeds below the birds above

And weeds that bloomed in summers hours

I thought they should be reckoned flowers

They made a garden free for all

And so I loved them great and small...

And so it cheered me while I lay

Among their beautiful array

To think that I in humble dress

Might have a right to happiness

And sing as well as greater men

And then I strung the lyre agen

And heartened up and oer toil and fear

And lived with rapture every where ...

My harp tho simple was my own

When I was in the fields alone

With none to help and none to hear

To bid me either hope or fear...

No matter how the world approved

Twas nature listened – I that loved.

 

John Clare – from ‘The Progress of Rhyme’

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Ares at last has quit the field,
The bloodstains on the bushes yield
    To seeping showers,
And in their convalescent state
The fractured towns associate
    With summer flowers.

Encamped upon the college plain
Raw veterans already train
    As freshman forces;
Instructors with sarcastic tongue
Shepherd the battle-weary young
    Through basic courses.

Among bewildering appliances
For mastering the arts and sciences
    They stroll or run,
And nerves that steeled themselves to slaughter
Are shot to pieces by the shorter
    Poems of Donne.

Professors back from secret missions
Resume their proper eruditions,
    Though some regret it;
They liked their dictaphones a lot,
T hey met some big wheels, and do not
    Let you forget it.

But Zeus' inscrutable decree
Permits the will-to-disagree
    To be pandemic,
Ordains that vaudeville shall preach
And every commencement speech
    Be a polemic.

Let Ares doze, that other war
Is instantly declared once more
   'Twixt those who follow
Precocious Hermes all the way
And those who without qualms obey
    Pompous Apollo.

Brutal like all Olympic games,
Though fought with smiles and Christian names
    And less dramatic,
This dialectic strife between
The civil gods is just as mean,
    And more fanatic.

What high immortals do in mirth
Is life and death on Middle Earth;
    Their a-historic
Antipathy forever gripes
All ages and somatic types,
    The sophomoric

Who face the future's darkest hints
With giggles or with prairie squints
    As stout as Cortez,
And those who like myself turn pale
As we approach with ragged sail
    The fattening forties.

The sons of Hermes love to play
And only do their best when they
    Are told they oughtn't;
Apollo's children never shrink
From boring jobs but have to think
    Their work important.

Related by antithesis,
A compromise between us is
    Impossible;
Respect perhaps but friendship never:
Falstaff the fool confronts forever
     The prig Prince Hal.

If he would leave the self alone,
Apollo's welcome to the throne,
    Fasces and falcons;
He loves to rule, has always done it;
The earth would soon, did Hermes run it,
    Be like the Balkans.

But jealous of our god of dreams,
His common-sense in secret schemes
     To rule the heart;
Unable to invent the lyre,
Creates with simulated fire
    Official art.

And when he occupies a college,
Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge;
    He pays particular
Attention to Commercial Thought,
Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport,
    In his curricula.

Athletic, extrovert and crude,
For him, to work in solitude
    Is the offence,
The goal a populous Nirvana:
His shield bears this device: Mens sana
    Qui mal y pense.

Today his arms, we must confess,
From Right to Left have met success,
    His banners wave
From Yale to Princeton, and the news
From Broadway to the Book Reviews
    Is very grave.

His radio Homers all day long
In over-Whitmanated song
    That does not scan,
With adjectives laid end to end,
Extol the doughnut and commend
    The Common Man.

His, too, each homely lyric thing
On sport or spousal love or spring
    Or dogs or dusters,
Invented by some court-house bard
For recitation by the yard
    In filibusters.

To him ascend the prize orations
And sets of fugal variations
    On some folk-ballad,
While dietitians sacrifice
A glass of prune-juice or a nice
    Marsh-mallow salad.

Charged with his compound of sensational
Sex plus some undenominational
    Religious matter,
Enormous novels by co-eds
Rain down on our defenceless heads
    Till our teeth chatter.

In fake Hermetic uniforms
Behind our battle-line, in swarms
   That keep alighting,
His existentialists declare
That they are in complete despair,
   Yet go on writing.

No matter; He shall be defied;
White Aphrodite is on our side:
   What though his threat
To organize us grow more critical?
Zeus willing, we, the unpolitical,
   Shall beat him yet.

Lone scholars, sniping from the walls
Of learned periodicals,
   Our facts defend,
Our intellectual marines,
Landing in little magazines
   Capture a trend.

By night our student Underground
At cocktail parties whisper round
   From ear to ear;
Fat figures in the public eye
Collapse next morning, ambushed by
   Some witty sneer.

In our morale must lie our strength:
So, that we may behold at length
   Routed Apollo's
Battalions melt away like fog,
Keep well the Hermetic Decalogue,
   Which runs as follows:—

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor's thesis
   On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
   Administration.

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
   Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
   A social science.

Thou shalt not be on friendly terms
With guys in advertising firms,
   Nor speak with such
As read the Bible for its prose,
Nor, above all, make love to those
   Who wash too much.

Thou shalt not live within thy means
Nor on plain water and raw greens.
   If thou must choose
Between the chances, choose the odd;
Read The New Yorker, trust in God;
   And take short views.

 

 

Under Which Lyre, W H Auden

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Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
 
William Wordsworth - 'Compused upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802'
 

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