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Favourite poems

Discussion in 'The Cave' started by Gagnrad, Jun 29, 2015.

  1. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    I think we may have done this before, but a long time ago. Anyway, here's one to kick off. Anyone else interested in posting any?

    This is a fairly simple one, "The Buckle" from Walter de la Mare's Songs of Childhood. I don't think de la Mare is a great poet, but I do think that he has a substantial talent and that he does this kind of thing really well. There's a breath of enchantment in this, and perhaps that's something we should look for more in an age when too many people wish to disenchant the world—and wish children to be off to school at an early age where, it's hoped they will be "stretched". (A teacher said to me once that whenever she heard that expression she used to think of a child on a rack.)

    The first verse isn't really anything child would do, but I think it establishes a kind of careless and joyful mood. And by the time you reach the last verse you have a sense of seeing the child and almost entering her world. Delightful—at least to an unserious person like me.


    I had a silver buckle,
    I sewed it on my shoe,
    And 'neath a sprig of mistletoe
    I danced the evening through!

    I had a bunch of cowslips,
    I hid 'em in a grot,
    In case the elves should come by night
    And me remember not.

    I had a yellow riband,
    I tied it in my hair,
    That, walking in the garden,
    The birds might see it there.

    I had a secret laughter,
    I laughed it near the wall:
    Only the ivy and the wind
    May tell of it at all

    caroline likes this.
  2. Lahelada

    Lahelada New Member

  3. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

  4. b612

    b612 New Member

    I Am Very Bothered

    I am very bothered when I think
    of the bad things I have done in my life.
    Not least that time in the chemistry lab
    when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
    and played the handles
    in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
    then called your name, and handed them over.

    O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
    as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
    then couldn't shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
    the doctor said, for eternity.

    Don't believe me, please, if I say
    that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
    of asking you if you would marry me.

    Simon Armitage
  5. b612

    b612 New Member

    Haha, this poem made me smile today.
  6. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    Here's an Ezra Pound translation form the Chinese:

    Lament of the Frontier Guard

    By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
    Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
    Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
    I climb the towers and towers
    to watch out the barbarous land:
    Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
    There is no wall left to this village.
    Bones white with a thousand frosts,
    High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
    Who brought this to pass?
    Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
    Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
    Barbarous kings.
    A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
    A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
    Three hundred and sixty thousand,
    And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
    Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
    Desolate, desolate fields,
    And no children of warfare upon them,
    No longer the men for offence and defence.
    Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
    With Rihoku’s name forgotten,
    And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.
  7. b612

    b612 New Member

    I can't say I love this one. But I kinda like it. Would like to make my own version

    “since feeling is first,” e.e. cummings

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;
    wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
    —the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says

    we are for each other: then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    And death i think is no parenthesis
    Gagnrad and Lahelada like this.
  8. JoeBranca

    JoeBranca Silver

    I used to scribble a bunch. This is one of the more coherent ones, from almost 18 years ago in the basement of the university library (wasn't into studying for the math final).

    "Detail on Map of the World"

    What lies behind the intent
    With acts of common occurence
    Such as the flash meeting of the eyes
    of strangers passing on the street?

    Is it an instinct to affirm humanity
    Or a superficially courteous duty
    Or something of a deeper well:

    Like a longing to intercept beauty
    Or silent defense of our safety
    Or is a faint hope through the eyes
    Though at a distance, to recognize?
  9. Jack Kruse

    Jack Kruse Administrator

    Magical Sunset
    As the day ends to rest
    The sunset does its best
    Setting on fire the lively waves
    Coloring orange the nature he saves
    its pure ancient glorious perfection.

    The great ocean will receive
    The burning sun who's going to leave.
    Slowly comes the night
    Devouring that magic light:
    we are still suspended in a great delight.
  10. notsoperfick

    notsoperfick New Member

    Always a favourite and Walter De La Mare again:

    The Listeners
    By Walter de La Mare
    ‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
    Knocking on the moonlit door;
    And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
    Of the forest’s ferny floor:
    And a bird flew up out of the turret,
    Above the Traveller’s head:
    And he smote upon the door again a second time;
    ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
    But no one descended to the Traveller;
    No head from the leaf-fringed sill
    Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
    Where he stood perplexed and still.
    But only a host of phantom listeners
    That dwelt in the lone house then
    Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
    To that voice from the world of men:
    Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
    That goes down to the empty hall,
    Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
    By the lonely Traveller’s call.
    And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
    Their stillness answering his cry,
    While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
    ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
    For he suddenly smote on the door, even
    Louder, and lifted his head:—
    ‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
    That I kept my word,’ he said.
    Never the least stir made the listeners,
    Though every word he spake
    Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
    From the one man left awake:
    Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
    And the sound of iron on stone,
    And how the silence surged softly backward,
    When the plunging hoofs were gone.
    b612 likes this.
  11. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    Clever. And, whether true or not, written by someone - don't know much about him other than his dislike of capitals - who would likely would understand syntax well.

    It's interesting to compare the Rossetti. That's quite syntactically complex. I'll bet you many - most? - people would hear:

    But she actually says:

    She's not quite ready to be forgotten, I think.

    Anyway, a careful reading already showed it was forgetfulness "for a while" that she had in mind:

    b612 likes this.
  12. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    The story behind this one is that Leigh Hunt had been very ill for a long time - and I think nearly died. Having recovered he visited Thomas Carlyle and his wife, and was so touched by the concern showed by Jane, who apparently sprang from her chair to greet him, that he wrote this:

    b612 likes this.
  13. prAna303

    prAna303 New Member

    I like it simple and perhaps not a poem.

    “Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously.”
    Tom Robbins
  14. b612

    b612 New Member

    The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    Gagnrad likes this.
  15. b612

    b612 New Member


    The fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.
  16. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    From memory … let's see if I can … the concluding stanzas, where the bumbling Polonius shuffles offstage somehow and the mood changes quite powerfully

    … I have seen the mermaids singing each to each
    I do not think that they will sing to me.

    I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
    Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
    Where the wind blows the water white and black

    We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us and we drown

    But almost any Eliot. Here the "hyacinth girl" speaks:

    You gave me hyacinths first a year ago
    They called me the hyacinth girl
    Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden
    Your [ … ] and your hair wet
    I could not speak and my eyes failed me
    I was neither living nor dead and I knew nothing
    Looking into the heart of light the silence

    Then the quote from Tristan and Isolde.

    Oed und leer das meer

    I lost it in there somewhere. I forget what goes where I put [ … ]

    So - there's a game. Which poem does that fragment above come from?
  17. b612

    b612 New Member

    T.S. Eliot “The Waste Land.”
  18. b612

    b612 New Member

    The beginning... I know it by heart:

    Dylan Thomas

    Under Milk Wood


    FIRST VOICE [very softly]

    To begin at the beginning:

    It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and- rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows' weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.

    Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wet-nosed yards; and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on the one cloud of the roofs.

    You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.
  19. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    What slipped my mind came to me later: "your arms full and your hair wet …" I suppose he's carrying the flowers.

    Yes, the passage is beautiful indeed. Like several other parts of the poem it seems to be there partly to provide an ironic commentary on the seduction of the typist, who "smoothes her hair with automatic hand, And puts a record on the gramophone". The phrase makes one think of the motorised arm of the player moving, and emphasises that she, and her emotions, aren't engaged. Unlike the girl coming back from the garden, "looking into the heart of light the silence", she doesn't know what it's all about.

    How could anyone who hadn't had an experience like that know that there could be something more? For me this is one of the things poetry does superlatively well. Because form and content are inseparable and form matters - or, actually, better, because it speaks the language of the heart - it can suggest such things.

    But the incurably prosaic are always with us. "Par ma foi, il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose, sans que j’en susse rien ; et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde, de m’avoir appris cela."
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
    b612 likes this.
  20. Gagnrad

    Gagnrad New Member

    Here's a poem by Alistair McLean I stumbled upon once. I've never seen it anywhere in any collection. It seems quite extraordinary to me. It's an imagined conversation between one of the "gangrel folk" - wandering tinkers in Scotland - and a wealthy man on a Hebridean island.

    Said the thriving man to the tinker’s wife,
    “Spell me the secret of your happy life.

    “I could not bide it, I was never made
    To couch in bracken with the birch for shade.

    “And hills I love not, their ironic smile
    Seems scornful of the things I hold worth while.

    “Nor am I ravished of the woodland note
    That breaks in tumult from the merle’s apt throat.

    “Yet you love them all. But why? What’s the art,
    That turns rose-petal into quiet of heart?”

    “Ah, easy to answer,” she softly said,
    “I’m richer than you—that’s your riddle read.

    “Have you heard fir-music? Or the whisp’ring tales
    That the tide brings in when the white moon pales?

    “Or glimpsed the slim grace of the tall June grass
    Bowing demurely to the winds that pass?

    “Or strayed through a glen where wild violet grew
    And thought, “Well, Heaven will be nothing new?”

    “So I envy none—if I’m poor, I’m free
    To the feast love spreads for the like o’ me.”

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