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Poetic Wanderings


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Hereto I come to view a voiceless ghost;
    Whither, O whither will its whim now draw me?
Up the cliff, down, till I'm lonely, lost,
    And the unseen waters' ejaculations awe me.
Where you will next be there's no knowing,
    Facing round about me everywhere,
        With your nut-coloured hair,
And gray eyes, and rose-flush coming and going.


Yes: I have re-entered your olden haunts at last;
    Through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you;
What have you now found to say of our past -
    Scanned across the dark space wherein I have lacked you?
Summer gave us sweets, but autumn wrought division?
    Things were not lastly as firstly well
        With us twain, you tell?
But all's closed now, despite Time's derision.


I see what you are doing: you are leading me on
    To the spots we knew when we haunted here together,
The waterfall, above which the mist-bow shone
    At the then fair hour in the then fair weather,
And the cave just under, with a voice still so hollow
    That it seems to call out to me from forty years ago,
        When you were all aglow,
And not the thin ghost that I now frailly follow!


Ignorant of what there is flitting here to see,
    The waked birds preen and the seals flop lazily,
Soon you will have, Dear, to vanish from me,
    For the stars close their shutters and the dawn whitens hazily.
Trust me, I mind not, though Life lours,
    The bringing me here; nay, bring me here again!
        I am just the same as when
Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers.


Thomas HARDY, "After a Journey"

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You did not come,

And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.

Yet less for loss of your dear presence there

Than that I thus found lacking in your make

That high compassion which can overbear

Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake

Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,

You did not come.


You love not me,

And love alone can lend you loyalty;

-I know and knew it. But, unto the store

Of human deeds divine in all but name,

Was it not worth a little hour or more

To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came

To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be

You love not me.


A Broken Appointment - Thomas Hardy

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Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.


T.S. Eliot - from 'East Coker'

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I studied 'East Coker' (and 'Little Gidding') for English literature A-level. We had an excellent teacher, and it all seemed to make sense. Over forty years later, I'm again mystified.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
W.B.Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"
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He cut a sappy sucker from the muckle rodden-tree,
He trimmed it, an’ he wet it, an’ he thumped it on his knee;
He never heard the teuchat when the harrow broke her eggs,
He missed the craggit heron nabbin’ puddocks in the seggs,
He forgot to hound the collie at the cattle when they strayed,
But you should hae seen the whistle that the wee herd made!


He wheepled on’t at mornin’ an’ he tweetled on’t at nicht,
He puffed his freckled cheeks until his nose sank oot o’ sicht,
The kye were late for milkin’ when he piped them up the closs,
The kitlins got his supper syne, an’ he was beddit boss;
But he cared na doit nor docken what they did or thocht or said,
There was comfort in the whistle that the wee herd made.


For lyin’ lang o’ mornin’s he had clawed the caup for weeks,
But noo he had his bonnet on afore the lave had breeks;
He was whistlin’ to the porridge that were hott’rin’ on the fire,
He was whistlin’ ower the travise to the baillie in the byre;
Nae a blackbird nor a mavis, that hae pipin’ for their trade,
Was a marrow for the whistle that the wee herd made.


He played a march to battle, it cam’ dirlin’ through the mist,
Till the halflin’ squared his shou’ders an’ made up his mind to ‘list;
He tried a spring for wooers, though he wistna what it meant,
But the kitchen-lass was lauchin’ an he thocht she maybe kent;
He got ream an’ buttered bannocks for the lovin’ lilt he played.
Wasna that a cheery whistle that the wee herd made?


He blew them rants sae lively, schottisches, reels an’ jigs,
The foalie flang his muckle legs an’ capered ower the rigs,
The grey-tailed futt’rat bobbit oot to hear his ain strathspey,
The bawd cam’ loupin’ through the corn to ‘Clean Pease Strae’;
The feet o’ ilka man an’ beast gat youkie when he played –
Hae ye ever heard o’ whistle like the wee herd made?


But the snaw it stopped the herdin’ an the winter brocht him dool,
When in spite o’ hacks an’ chilblains he was shod again for school;
He couldna sough the catechis nor pipe the rule o’ three,
He was keepit in an’ lickit when the ither loons got free;
But he aften played the truant – ‘twas the only thing he played,
For the maister brunt the whistle that the wee herd made!


Charles Murray - 'The Whistle'

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I was going to follow with Robert Herrick's A Child's Grace, where 'puddock' is spelled 'paddock', both being dialect for 'toad'. But then I came across this:


A puddock sat by the lochan’s brim,

An’ he thocht there was never a puddock like him.

He sat on his hurdies, he waggled his legs,

An’ cockit his heid as he glowered throu’ the seggs.

The bigsy wee cratur’ was feelin’ that prood,

He gapit his mou’ an’ he croakit oot lood:

“Gin ye’d a’ like tae see a richt puddock,” quo’ he,

“Ye’ll never, I’ll sweer, get a better nor me.

I’ve fem’lies an’ wives an’ a weel-plenished hame,

Wi’ drink for my thrapple an’ meat for my wame.

The lasses aye thocht me a fine strappin’ chiel,

An’ I ken I’m a rale bonny singer as weel.

I’m nae gaun tae blaw, but th’ truth I maun tell-

I believe I’m the verra MacPuddock himsel’.” …

A heron was hungry an’ needin’ tae sup,

Sae he nabbit th’ puddock and gollup’t him up;

Syne runkled his feathers: “A peer thing,” quo’ he,

“But – puddocks is nae fat they eesed tae be.”


The Puddock - John M. Caie

(from The Kindly North: verse in Scots and English - D. Wyllie & Son, 1934) 

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The more my wrong, the more his spite appears.
What, did he marry me to famish me?
Beggars that come unto my father's door
Upon entreaty have a present alms;
If not, elsewhere they meet with charity;
But I, who never knew how to entreat,
Nor never needed that I should entreat,
Am starv'd for meat, giddy for lack of sleep;
With oaths kept waking, and with brawling fed;
And that which spites me more than all these wants-
He does it under name of perfect love;
As who should say, if I should sleep or eat,
'Twere deadly sickness or else present death.
I prithee go and get me some repast;
I care not what, so it be wholesome food.


Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew IV/iii

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4 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

 I learnt a fair bit of Doric whilst living in Aberdeen 

You'll have a better idea than me, then, of what the poems actually mean. Puddock I knew, and I guessed that seggs were sedges. Unfortunately Google had other ideas of what it meant, but it was while searching for something more fitting that I came across John M. Cale's poem. I enjoyed both, and the journey that "translating" them took me on!

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“Drink,” said the lady, sad and slow -

World’s love behoveth thee to know”.

He looked to her, commanding so.


Her brow was troubled, but her eye

Struck clear to his soul. For all reply

He drank the water suddenly, —


Then, with a deathly sickness, passed

Beside the fourth pool and the last,

Where weights of shadow were down-cast


From Yew and cypress, and from trails

Of hemlock clasping the trunk-scales,

And flung across the intervals


From yew to yew. Who dareth stoop

Where those moist branches overdroop,

Into his heart the chill strikes up;


He hears a silent, gliding coil—

The snakes breathe hard against the soil—

His foot slips in their slimy oil;


And toads seem crawling on his hand,

And clinging bats, but dimly scanned,

Right in his face their wings expand.


A paleness took the poet’s cheek:

“Must I drink here?” he questioned meek

The lady’s will, with utterance weak.


”Ay, ay” she said. “it so must be”

(and this time she spake cheerfully)

“Behoves thee know World’s cruelty.”


From A Vision of Poets, vol1 - Elizabeth Barret Browning

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7 hours ago, megustaleer said:

You'll have a better idea than me, then, of what the poems actually mean. Puddock I knew, and I guessed that seggs were sedges. Unfortunately Google had other ideas of what it meant, but it was while searching for something more fitting that I came across John M. Cale's poem. I enjoyed both, and the journey that "translating" them took me on!


Meg, you can forget Google. There is an excellent site for looking up Scots words: https://dsl.ac.uk/. Yes, 'seggs' means sedges here. Thank you for drawing my attention to John M. Caie, who is new to me.




What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.


T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

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If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.


Shakespeare, Twelfth Night I/i

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Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard

If others sang; but others never sang

In the great beech-wood all that May and June.

No one saw him: I alone could hear him

Though many listened. Was it but four years

Ago? or five? He never came again.


Oftenest when I heard him I was alone,

Nor could I ever make another hear.

La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off—

As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world,

As if the bird or I were in a dream.

Yet that he travelled through the trees and sometimes

Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still

He sounded. All the proof is—I told men

What I had heard.


                                   I never knew a voice,

Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told

The naturalists; but neither had they heard

Anything like the notes that did so haunt me,

I had them clear by heart and have them still.

Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then

As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet:

Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say

That it was one or other, but if sad

'Twas sad only with joy too, too far off

For me to taste it. But I cannot tell

If truly never anything but fair

The days were when he sang, as now they seem.

This surely I know, that I who listened then,

Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering

A heavy body and a heavy heart,

Now straightway, if I think of it, become

Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.


The Unknown Bird - Edward Thomas

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At some lone homestead in the Cumner hills,
Where at her open door the housewife darns,
Thou hast been seen, or hanging on a gate
To watch the threshers in the mossy barns.
Children, who early range these slopes and late
For cresses from the rills,
Have known thee eyeing, all an April-day,
The springing pasture and the feeding kine;
And mark'd thee, when the stars come out and shine,
Through the long dewy grass move slow away.
In autumn, on the skirts of Bagley Wood—
Where most the gipsies by the turf-edged way
Pitch their smoked tents, and every bush you see
With scarlet patches tagg'd and shreds of grey,
Above the forest-ground called Thessaly—
The blackbird, picking food,
Sees thee, nor stops his meal, nor fears at all;
So often has he known thee past him stray,
Rapt, twirling in thy hand a wither'd spray,
And waiting for the spark from heaven to fall.
And once, in winter, on the causeway chill
Where home through flooded fields foot-travellers go,
Have I not pass'd thee on the wooden bridge,
Wrapt in thy cloak and battling with the snow,
Thy face tow'rd Hinksey and its wintry ridge?
And thou has climb'd the hill,
And gain'd the white brow of the Cumner range;
Turn'd once to watch, while thick the snowflakes fall,
The line of festal light in Christ-Church hall—
Then sought thy straw in some sequester'd grange.
But what—I dream! Two hundred years are flown
Since first thy story ran through Oxford halls,
And the grave Glanvil did the tale inscribe
That thou wert wander'd from the studious walls
To learn strange arts, and join a gipsy-tribe;
And thou from earth art gone
Long since, and in some quiet churchyard laid—
Some country-nook, where o'er thy unknown grave
Tall grasses and white flowering nettles wave,
Under a dark, red-fruited yew-tree's shade.
Matthew Arnold - from 'The Scholar Gipsy'
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Among twenty snowy mountains,   
The only moving thing   
Was the eye of the blackbird.   
I was of three minds,   
Like a tree   
In which there are three blackbirds.   
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   
It was a small part of the pantomime.   
A man and a woman   
Are one.   
A man and a woman and a blackbird   
Are one.   
I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after.   
Icicles filled the long window   
With barbaric glass.   
The shadow of the blackbird   
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in the shadow   
An indecipherable cause.   
O thin men of Haddam,   
Why do you imagine golden birds?   
Do you not see how the blackbird   
Walks around the feet   
Of the women about you?   
I know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.   
When the blackbird flew out of sight,   
It marked the edge   
Of one of many circles.   
At the sight of blackbirds   
Flying in a green light,   
Even the bawds of euphony   
Would cry out sharply.   
He rode over Connecticut   
In a glass coach.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook   
The shadow of his equipage   
For blackbirds.   
The river is moving.   
The blackbird must be flying.   
It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.
Wallace STEVENS, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
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    The faery beam upon you,
        The stars to glister on you;
            A moon of light,
            In the noon of night,
Till the fire-drake hath o'ergone you!
The wheel of fortune guide you,
The boy with the bow beside you;
            Run aye in the way,
            Till the bird of day,
        And the luckier lot betide you!


Ben Jonson - 'Song' (from 'The Gypsies Metamorphos'd')

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Draw thy sword,
That, if my speech offend a noble heart,
Thy arm may do thee justice. Here is mine.
Behold, it is the privilege of mine honours,
My oath, and my profession. I protest-
Maugre thy strength, youth, place, and eminence,
Despite thy victor sword and fire-new fortune,
Thy valour and thy heart- thou art a traitor;
False to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father;
Conspirant 'gainst this high illustrious prince;
And from th' extremest upward of thy head
To the descent and dust beneath thy foot,
A most toad-spotted traitor. Say thou 'no,'
This sword, this arm, and my best spirits are bent
To prove upon thy heart, whereto I speak,
Thou liest.


Shakespeare, King Lear V/iii

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Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness


And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn


The majesty and burning of the child's death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.


Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.


Dylan Thomas - 'A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London'

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It's a hot and lazy time of year
With temperatures rising high
A body doesn't want to work
Doesn't even want to try

It's time to lie around and rest
Not exert much energy
It's too hot to work but rather
We want to take it pretty easy

And if you do have to work
Either do it early in the morn
Or after the sun goes down
Sometime before the dawn

Oh how nice it feels
On these dog days of summer
When the sun drops down
The day has turned a bit cooler

So in the midst of winter time
When snow is on the hills
Dog days of summer sound
Kind of good amongst the chills!


Dog Days of Summer, Marilyn Lott

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I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   
For he must fly back to his perch and cling   
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence Dunbar - 'Sympathy'
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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


T.S.Eliot, from "Little Gidding" (Four Quartets)

[Posted with distant memories of A-level English Literature, 1977. RIP Colin Gordon, my excellent teacher.]

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Children's voices in the orchard
Between the blossom- and the fruit-time:
Golden head, crimson head,
Between the green tip and the root.
Black wing, brown wing, hover over;
Twenty years and the spring is over;
To-day grieves, to-morrow grieves,
Cover me over, light-in-leaves;
Golden head, black wing,
Cling, swing,
Spring, sing,
Swing up into the apple-tree.


T.S. Eliot - 'New Hampshire'

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