Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sketches by Robert Seymour, Fish Poet Unknown

The two fun fish poems below are by an anonymous poet. Andrew Mullins is possibly the poet's penname as far as can be surmised.

The poems accompany two of Robert Seymour's (1800-1836) sketches, from Seymour's Sketches, Part 4. Click on them to blow them up and see the detail better. Notably, Seymour did the illustrations, collaborating with Charles Dickens in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.



"This is a werry lonely spot, Sir; I wonder you ar'n't afeard of being robbed."

Job Timmins was a tailor bold,
And well he knew his trade,
And though he was no fighting man
Had often dress'd a blade!

Quoth he, one day--"I have not had
A holiday for years,
So I'm resolv'd to go and fish,
And cut for once the shears."

So donning quick his Sunday's suit,
He took both rod and line,
And bait for fish--and prog for one,
And eke a flask of wine.

For he was one who loved to live,
And said--"Where'er I roam
I like to feed--and though abroad,
To make myself at home."

Beneath a shady grove of trees
He sat him down to fish,
And having got a cover, he
Long'd much to get a dish.

He cast his line, and watch'd his float,
Slow gliding down the tide;
He saw it sink! he drew it up,
And lo! a fish he spied.

He took the struggling gudgeon off,
And cried--"I likes his looks,
I wish he'd live--but fishes die
Soon as they're--off the hooks!"

At last a dozen more he drew--
(Fine-drawing 'twas to him!)
But day past by--and twilight came,
All objects soon grew dim.

"One more!" he cried, "and then I'll pack,
And homeward trot to sup,"--
But as he spoke, he heard a tread,
Which caused him to look up.

Poor Timmins trembled as he gazed
Upon the stranger's face;
For cut purse! robber! all too plain,
His eye could therein trace.

"Them's werry handsome boots o' yourn,"
The ruffian smiling cried,
"Jist draw your trotters out--my pal--
And we'll swop tiles, besides."

"That coat too, is a pretty fit--
Don't tremble so--for I
Von't rob you of a single fish,
I've other fish to fry."

Poor Timmins was obliged to yield
Hat, coat, and boots--in short
He was completely stripp'd--and paid
Most dearly for his "sport."

And as he homeward went, he sigh'd--
"Farewell to stream and brook;
O! yes, they'll catch me there again
A fishing--with a hook!"




Along the banks, at early dawn,
Trudged Nobbs and Nobbs's son,
With rod and line, resolved that day
Great fishes should be won.

At last they came unto a bridge,
Cried Nobbs, "Oh! this is fine!"
And feeling sure 'twould answer well,
He dropp'd the stream a line.

"We cannot find a fitter place,
If twenty miles we march;
Its very look has fix'd my choice,
So knowing and--so arch!"

He baited and he cast his line,
When soon, to his delight,
He saw his float bob up and down,
And lo! he had a bite!

"A gudgeon, Tom, I think it is!"
Cried Nobbs, "Here, take the prize;
It weighs a pound--in its own scales,
I'm quite sure by its size."

He cast again his baited hook,
And drew another up!
And cried, "We are in luck to-day,
How glorious we shall sup!"

All in the basket Tommy stow'd
The piscatory spoil;
Says Nobbs, "We've netted two at least,
Albeit we've no toil."

Amazed at his own luck, he threw
The tempting bait again,
And presently a nibble had--
A bite! he pull'd amain!

His rod beneath the fish's weight
Now bent just like a bow,
"What's this?" cried Nobbs; his son replied,
"A salmon, 'tis, I know."

And sure enough a monstrous perch,
Of six or seven pounds,
He from the water drew, whose bulk
Both dad and son confounds.

"O! Gemini!" he said, when he
"O! Pisces!" should have cried;
And tremblingly the wriggling fish
Haul'd to the bridge's side.

When, lo! just as he stretched his hand
To grasp the perch's fin,
The slender line was snapp'd in twain,
The perch went tumbling in!

"Gone! gone! by gosh!" scream'd Nobbs, while Tom
Too eager forward bent,
And, with a kick, their basket quick
Into the river sent.


Seymour's Sketches, Complete


Friday, July 28, 2006

in sideout side

in sideout side

inside its cage a tiger stalks junglebeasts
a bird flies the sky to a farwood perch
stairs cascade from dreamroom
drawers to my study i exitthrough a whitepage door door door


a hairpin will
a hair pinwill

an afghan ghostwoman
(thrown through a lookwindow comedeath shatterglass
by an apoplectic liarcalling taxcollector legally)
stilllooks for her husband's hidmoney
still to thisday this veryday no oneknows his stashaway way

i'll take thetiger you take the bird
i'll take the tiger you take thebird
your hubby's selfasylumated
haven't you heard

it's alwhite alwhite now

it was all astral projectionlike stormyweather anyway
stormy weathereyes
freedom spaciousskies
do you have an extra hair pin for a poorstill liver

turn around
minute flybird

going back and forth to the junglebeasts
there's no placelike home noplace likehome noplay

Vargstad VGS

As published in The Quarterly Journal of Ideology Volume 25, 2002.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Poetry Selections in The Atlantic Monthly (July 1867)



A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by Ticknor and Fields, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

~ ~ ~

The following three poems:

"Mona's Mother" by Alice Cary (p. 22, 23 & 24)

"Freedom in Brazil" by John G. Whittier (p. 62)

"An Ember-Picture" by James Russell Lowell (p. 99 & 100)

are the poetry selections in the July 1867 Atlantic Monthly.

(Candidates for a hypothetical BAP that year, maybe?)

~ ~ ~

by Alice Cary

Mona's Mother

In the porch that brier-vines smother,
At her wheel, sits Mona's mother.
        O, the day is dying bright!
Roseate shadows, silver dimming,
Ruby lights through amber swimming,
        Bring the still and starry night.

Sudden she is 'ware of shadows
Going out across the meadows
        From the slowly sinking sun,--
Going through the misty spaces
That the rippling ruby laces,
Shadows, like the violets tangled,
Like the soft light, softly mingled,
        Till the two seem just as one!

Every tell-tale wind doth waft her
Little breaths of maiden laughter.
        O, divinely dies the day!
And the swallow, on the rafter,
        In her nest of sticks and clay,--
On the rafter, up above her,
With her patience doth reprove her,
        Twittering soft the time away;
Never stopping, never stopping,
With her wings so warmly dropping
        Round her nest of sticks and clay.

"Take, my bird, O take some other
        Eve than this to twitter gay!"
Sayeth, prayeth Mona's mother,
To the slender-throated swallow
        On her nest of sticks and clay;
For her sad eyes needs must follow
Down the misty, mint-sweet hollow,
        Where the ruby colors play
        With the gold, and with the gray.
"Yet, my little Lady-feather,
        You do well to sit and sing,"
Crieth, sigheth Mona's mother.
"If you would, you could no other.
        Can the leaf fail with the spring?
Can the tendril stay from twining
        When the sap begins to run?
Or the dew-drop keep from shining
        With her body full o' the sun?
Nor can you, from gladness, either;
        Therefore, you do well to sing.
Up and o'er the downy lining
        Of your bird-bed I can see
Two round little heads together,
Pushed out softly through your wing.
        But alas! my bird, for me!"

In the porch with roses burning
        All across, she sitteth lonely.
        O, her soul is dark with dread!
Round and round her slow wheel turning,
Lady brow down-dropped serenely,
Lady hand uplifted queenly,
Pausing in the spinning only
        To rejoin the broken thread,--
Pausing only for the winding,
With the carded silken binding
        Of the flax, the distaff-head.

All along the branches creeping,
To their leafy beds of sleeping
        Go the blue-birds and the brown;
Blackbird stoppeth now his clamor,
And the little yellowhammer
        Droppeth head in winglet down.
Now the rocks rise bleak and barren
        Through the twilight, gray and still;
In the marsh-land now the heron
        Clappeth close his horny bill.
Death-watch now begins his drumming
And the fire-fly, going, coming,
        Weaveth zigzag lines of light,--
Lines of zigzag, golden-threaded,
Up the marshy valley, shaded
        O'er and o'er with vapors white.
Now the lily, open-hearted,
Of her dragon-fly deserted,
        Swinging on the wind so low,
Gives herself, with trust audacious,
To the wild warm wave that washes
        Through her fingers, soft and slow.

O the eyes of Mona's mother!
        Dim they grow with tears unshed;
For no longer may they follow
Down the misty mint-sweet hollow,
Down along the yellow mosses
That the brook with silver crosses.
        Ah! the day is dead, is dead;
And the cold and curdling shadows,
Stretching from the long, low meadows,
Darker, deeper, nearer spread,
Till she cannot see the twining
Of the briers, nor see the lining
Round the porch of roses red,--
Till she cannot see the hollow,
Nor the little steel-winged swallow,
        On her clay-built nest o'erhead.

Mona's mother falleth mourning:
        O, 't is hard, so hard, to see
Prattling child to woman turning,
        As to grander company!
Little heart she lulled with hushes
Beating, burning up with blushes,
All with meditative dreaming
On the dear delicious gleaming
Of the bridal veil and ring;
Finding in the sweet ovations
Of its new, untried relations
        Better joys than she can bring.

In her hand her wheel she keepeth,
And her heart within her leapeth,
With a burdened, bashful yearning,
        For the babe's weight on her knee,
        For the loving lisp of glee,
Sweet as larks' throats in the morning,
        Sweet as hum of honey-bee.

"O my child!" cries Mona's mother,
"Will you, can you take another
        Name ere mine upon your lips?
Can you, only for the asking,
Give to other hands the clasping
        Of your rosy finger-tips?"

Fear on fear her sad soul borrows,--
        O the dews are falling fair!
But no fair thing now can move her;
Vainly walks the moon above her,
Turning out her golden furrows
        On the cloudy fields of air.

Sudden she is 'ware of shadows,
Coming in across the meadows,
        And of murmurs, low as love,--
Murmurs mingled like the meeting
Of the winds, or like the beating
        Of the wings of dove with dove.

In her hand the slow wheel stoppeth,
Silken flax from distaff droppeth,
And a cruel, killing pain
Striketh up from heart to brain;
And she knoweth by that token
        That the spinning all is vain,
That the troth-plight has been spoken,
And the thread of life thus broken
        Never can be joined again.

~ ~ ~

by John G. Whittier

Freedom in Brazil

With clearer light, Cross of the South, shine forth
        In blue Brazilian skies;
And thou, O river, cleaving half the earth
        From sunset to sunrise,
From the great mountains to the Atlantic waves
        Thy joy's long anthem pour.
Yet a few days (God make them less!) and slaves
        Shall shame thy pride no more.
No fettered feet thy shaded margins press;
        But all men shall walk free
Where thou, the high-priest of the wilderness,
        Hast wedded sea to sea.

And thou, great-hearted ruler, through whose mouth
        The word of God is said,
Once more, "Let there be light!"—Son of the South,
        Lift up thy honored head,
Wear unashamed a crown by thy desert
        More than by birth thy own,
Careless of watch and ward; thou art begirt
        By grateful hearts alone.
The moated wall and battle-ship may fail,
        But safe shall justice prove;
Stronger than greaves of brass or iron mail
        The panoply of love.

Crowned doubly by man's blessing and God's grace,
        Thy future is secure;
Who frees a people makes his statue's place
        In Time's Valhalla sure.
Lo! from his Neva's banks the Scythian Czar
        Stretches to thee his hand
Who, with the pencil of the Northern star,
        Wrote freedom on his land.
And he whose grave is holy by our calm
        And prairied Sangamon,
From his gaunt hand shall drop the martyr's palm
        To greet thee with "Well done!"

And thou, O Earth, with smiles thy face make sweet,
        And let thy wail be stilled,
To hear the Muse of prophecy repeat
        Her promise half fulfilled.
The Voice that spake at Nazareth speaks still,
        No sound thereof hath died;
Alike thy hope and Heaven's eternal will
        Shall yet be satisfied.
The years are slow, the vision tarrieth long,
        And far the end may be;
But, one by one, the fiends of ancient wrong
        Go out and leave thee free.

~ ~ ~

by James Russell Lowell

An Ember-Picture

How strange are the freaks of memory!
        The lessons of life we forget,
While a trifle, a trick of color,
        In the wonderful web is set,--

Set by some mordant of fancy,
        And, despite the wear and tear
Of time or distance or trouble,
        Insists on its right to be there.

A chance had brought us together;
        Our talk was of matters of course;
We were nothing, one to the other,
        But a short half-hour's resource.

We spoke of French acting and actors,
        And their easy, natural way,--
Of the weather, for it was raining
        As we drove home from the play.

We debated the social nothings
        Men take such pains to discuss;
The thunderous rumors of battle
        Were silent the while for us.

Arrived at her door, we left her
        With a drippingly hurried adieu,
And our wheels went crunching the gravel
        Of the oak-darkened avenue.

As we drove away through the shadow,
        The candle she held in the door,
From rain-varnished tree-trunk to tree-trunk
        Flashed fainter, and flashed no more,--

Flashed fainter and wholly faded
        Before we had passed the wood;
But the light of the face behind it
        Went with me and stayed for good.

The vision of scarce a moment,
        And hardly marked at the time,
It comes unbidden to haunt me,
        Like a scrap of ballad-rhyme.

Had she beauty? Well, not what they call so:
        You may find a thousand as fair,
And yet there's her face in my memory,
        With no special right to be there.

As I sit sometimes in the twilight,
        And call back to life in the coals
Old faces and hopes and fancies
        Long buried,--good rest to their souls!--

Her face shines out of the embers;
        I see her holding the light,
And hear the crunch of the gravel
        And the sweep of the rain that night.

'Tis a face that can never grow older,
        That never can part with its gleam;
'Tis a gracious possession forever,
        For what is it all but a dream?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"The Korathy's Lullaby" for you to tattoo by

"The Korathy is the tattooer of the Indian village, who offers her services for a small fee. Hindu females are very fond of having their bodies tattooed. The Korathy first makes a sketch of the figure of a scorpion or a serpent on the part of the body offered to her for tattooing, then takes a number of sharp needles, dips them in some liquid preparation which she has ready, and pricks the flesh most mercilessly. In a few days the whole appears green. This is considered a mark of beauty among the Hindus. While the tattooing takes place the Korathy sings a crude song, so as to make the person undergoing the process forget the pain. The following is as nearly as possible a translation of the song which I myself heard." --T. Ramakrishna (or Thottakadu Ramakrisha Pillai, 1854-)

      from Tales of Ind: and Other Poems, 1896

      by T. Ramakrishna

      The Korathy's Lullaby

Stay, darling, stay--'tis only for an hour,
And you will be the fairest of the fair.
Your lotus eyes can soothe the savage beast,
Your lips are like the newly blossomed rose,
Your teeth—they shine like pearls; but what are they
Before the beauties of my handiwork?

Stay, darling, stay--'tis only for an hour,
And you will be the fairest of the fair.
I've left my home, and all day hard I toil
So to adorn the maidens of the land
That erring husbands may return to them;
Such are the beauties of my handiwork.

Stay, darling, stay--'tis only for an hour,
And you will be the fairest of the fair;
In days of old fair Seeta laid her head
Upon the lap of one of our own clan,
When with her lord she wandered in the wilds,
And like the emerald shone her beauteous arms.

Stay, darling, stay--'tis only for an hour,
And you will be the fairest of the fair.
And often in the wilds, so it is said,
She also of the Pandus went in quest
Of one of us, but found not even one,
And sighed she was not like her sisters blest.

Stay, darling, stay--'tis only for an hour,
And you will be the fairest of the fair.
My work is done; rejoice, for you will be
The fairest of your sisters in the land.
Rejoice for evermore, among them you
Will shine as doth the moon among the stars.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Poetry, Language, and Word Games

Tonight I came across Games for Everybody by May C. Hofmann, published in 1905. And it reminded me of a word game my father and mother came home with when I was young. They had been at another couple's home. This had to be during an amicable time for them, for they separated when I was 13. Maybe from 10 years on, the Five Letter Word Game has been my favorite pen-and-paper game.

Five Letter Word Game

This is for two people sitting across from each other. Each player takes a piece of letter- or legal-size paper, and folds the top over one inch. Beneath her own resulting flap, each writes a five letter word that the other cannot see. It is also a good idea to write the alphabet at the bottom of the paper, so that eliminated letters can be crossed out, and discovered letters can be circled. The player who gets (but rarely guesses) her opponent's word first wins.

Let's say Player One has chosen the word FIELD and Player Two has chosen JUDGE.

Player One starts and offers the five-letter word BULKY--and writes it down on her sheet of paper.

Player Two responds by saying the number of letters the offered word has in common with the word she has hidden beneath her flap. Her response is to say "One" for the U in both JUDGE and BULKY. Player One then writes the answer "1" next to BULKY.

Player two begins by saying BONUS and writes that down.

This turns out to be an excellent play, because FIELD and BONUS have no letters in common, so Player One responds "Zero" and Player Two gets to cross out the five letters B, N, O, S, and U in the alphabet, but also has BONUS 0 written, to aid in creating further words as the game progresses.

Player One then says CHALK.

Player Two now responds "Zero" because CHALK and JUDGE share no letters. So Player One gets to cross out A, C, H, K, L in the alphabet; has CHALK 0 on her paper; but furthermore, gets to cross out those letters in the first word given and now shows BULKY 1 as the first word, meaning that either the B, the U, or the Y is one of the letters in her opponent's hidden word.

The game progresses until the offering of one of the players is the word beneath the other's flap.

Note that the use of words with double letters needs to be agreed upon one way or the other by the players, either as hidden words or offered ones. But, if it is agreed that they are allowed, offering DAFFY against FIELD gets the answer of "Two", one for the D and another for one F only.

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Below are word and language games gleaned from May C. Hofmann's Games for Everybody. Some of the games use song lyrics or titles to any books, but are easily adapted to be poetry games if this is preferred. Have fun!

Broken Quotations

This is a good game to play at the beginning of a social gathering, as the guests have to mingle together and thus become better acquainted, and the stiffness of a formal gathering passes off.

The hostess has prepared familiar quotations which were written on paper and then cut in two or three parts and pinned in different places around the room.

The guests are requested to find as many quotations as they can during a certain length of time.

As the parts are scattered all over the room, it isn't as easy as it sounds to find the complete quotations. The person gathering the most quotations, deserves a prize.

~ ~ ~

Building Sentences

The hostess begins by saying one word and announces that each word of the sentence must begin with the initial letter of the given word. The player to her right gives the second word, the next player, the third, and so on, until the sentence is complete only when it reaches the hostess.

Each player must be careful not to give a word which with the others completes the sentence, as the hostess is the only one who is supposed to finish it--but sometimes it seems as though all the words of that letter have been taken; if this is the case, the player who finished the sentence must pay a forfeit or drop out of the game.

Suppose there are nine players and number one says "An," number two "Angry," number three "Ape," number four "Ate," number five "Apples"; thus number five is out or pays a forfeit as the sentence is completed and there are still four more to play. Thus the sentence might have been "An angry ape ate attractive, audacious, ancient April apples."

This sentence is absurd, but the more ridiculous, the greater the fun.

For the second turn the player to the right of the hostess begins, using a word beginning with another letter and so on, until each player has started a sentence.

~ ~ ~

Capping Verses

To while away the time before dinner, or while sitting in the twilight, this is a simple amusement for those who love poetry.

One begins by giving a line or verse of poetry. The next one continues, but his verse must commence with the last letter of the previous verse, and so on, each one capping the other's verse.

Suppose No.1 quotes:

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

No. 2 continues quoting:

"Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?"

No. 3:

"O speak again, bright angel."

No. 4:

"Like summer tempest came her tears,
'Sweet, my child, I live for thee.'"

and so on until the guests tire of it.

~ ~ ~


Provide each player with pencil and paper. The leader has a dictionary which she opens at any place and selects a word which the rest are to define.

The players write the word and their definition of it on the slips of paper. When the leader taps a bell all the slips must be collected and mixed up in a basket or hat.

Each player then draws out a slip and the definitions are read aloud in turn. The leader decides which one has written a definition most like the one in the dictionary. The author of the best one rises, receives the dictionary, gives out a word and the game proceeds as before.

~ ~ ~

The Five Senses

All the players sit in a circle. No. 1 begins by naming something he has seen, being careful what his last word is, as it must furnish him with a rhyme for the rest of the game. Each player in turn tells what he has seen, then No. 1 repeats his first statement and adds what he heard, the next time, what he tasted; then what he smelt; and lastly, what he felt. For example, No. 1 says, "I saw a ring of solid gold." No. 2 says, "I saw a boy fall off the car."

The second time round No. 1 says,

"I saw a ring of solid gold.
I heard a story twice told."

No. 2 says,

"I saw a boy fall off the car.
I heard the war news from afar."

and so on, after going around five times, No. 1's complete rhyme would be,

"I saw a ring of solid gold.
I heard a story twice told.
I tasted cheese that was too old.
I smelt hay that soon would mould.
I felt for something I couldn't hold."

Do not have the verses written as there is more fun in trying to remember one's rhyme

~ ~ ~

Literary Salad

Salad leaves are prepared for this game by folding and twisting pieces of green tissue paper until they look like lettuce leaves. Then paste slips of white paper containing a quotation, on each leaf.

The participants of this salad are requested to guess the name of the author of their quotation. This may be played very easily at a church social where the leaves may contain Bible verses instead of quotations, and the players are asked to tell just where their verses are found, in what book and chapter.

~ ~ ~

Misquoted Quotations

Choose very familiar quotations from Longfellow, Shakespeare, Tennyson, or any well-known author or poet, and write them on slips of paper.

Change some of the words of the original, or even a whole line, and when each guest receives his slip he is requested to repeat the quotation correctly.

For example--"To be, or not to be; that is the question," may be written, "To be, or not to be: that is the problem."

~ ~ ~


Any number of persons may play this game. One is sent out of the room while the rest choose some proverb. Then he is called in and asks each player in turn a question. In the answer, no matter what the question is, one word of the proverb must be given.

Suppose the proverb "Make hay while the sun shines" is taken, then player No. 1 would have "Make"; No. 2, "hay"; No. 3, "while"; No. 4, "the"; No. 5, "sun"; No. 6, "shines"; No. 7, "make"; etc., giving each player a word, often repeating the proverb several times.

The answers to the questions must be given quickly, and no special word emphasized. Often the one guessing will have to go around several times before he can discover any word which will reveal the proverb. The one whose answer gave the clue must leave the room next, and it becomes his turn to guess.

~ ~ ~


Provide each player with slips of paper and pencil. The hostess then announces that each one is to write some question at the top of the paper, fold the paper over and pass it to the player at the left, who writes a noun, folds the paper over and passes it to the left again.

The players who then receive the slips are requested to write one or more stanzas of poetry containing the noun and question written at the top of the paper.

Allow fifteen minutes for this, then pass the papers to the left and they are then read in turn. A prize may be given to the one who wrote the best poetry.


Question--Where did you get that hat?


"Where did you get that hat?"
Said Shortie to Mr. Fat,
"I stole it from the Fair,
When I was leaving there."
Question--Can you dance?


"May-day! let us away!
Can you dance?
Here's your chance,
On this lovely May-day."

~ ~ ~

Stray Syllables

Prepare long strips of paper on which the guests are requested to write several words of three or more syllables, leaving spaces between each syllable.

When this is done, cut up the words into the syllables and mix thoroughly. Then each player draws three syllables and tries to construct a word.

If a word can't be made of all three syllables, maybe it can be made of two, but if it is then impossible to construct a word, the player must wait until the rest draw three syllables again, and perchance he may be able to construct two words, using the syllables he could not use before.

The one constructing the most words, wins the game.

~ ~ ~


Provide the players with pencil and paper. Each one then writes on his piece of paper ten letters of the alphabet in any order, using no letter twice. The papers are then passed to the right and each one is requested to write a telegram, using the ten letters for the beginning of the ten words, just in the order given. The papers are then passed again and the telegrams are read aloud. Some will be very amusing.


A. E. F. J. K. L. N. O. P. T. Am ever frightfully jealous. Keep lookout now on Pa's tricks.

C. B. D. W. G. H. S. I. M. Y. Come back. Down with Grandma. How shall I meet you?

~ ~ ~

Verbal Authors

The players sit in a circle. One is chosen as judge and he keeps tally. Each player in turn, rises, and names some well-known book. The first one to call out the name of the author scores a point. The game continues until the interest ceases or the store of literary knowledge is exhausted. The player having the most points is the winner.

This game may be played in another way. Instead of calling out the author as the book is named, provide each guest with pencil and paper and announce that as a book is named, each player must write down the author and the name of some character in that book.


"The Taming of the Shrew"--
Wm. Shakespeare--Petruchio.

"Nicholas Nickleby"--
Chas. Dickens--Mr. Squeers.

Sir Walter Scott--Rebecca.

~ ~ ~

Who Am I?

As the guests arrive pin a card with a name of some noted author, statesman, or poet written on it, on their backs, so that every one can see it but themselves.

Of course, each person wants to know who he is, so the guests talk to each other as though they were the person whose name is on the other's back, but do not mention the name, and from the conversation, they have to guess who they are.

~ ~ ~

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Guardian Newspaper's Poetry Workshop

"Want to have your work reviewed by a published poet?"

These are the words that greet you at The Guardian newspaper's Poetry workshop. About ten months of the year, an esteemed poet is "in residence" to, not only comment on the shortlisted selections, but create the workshop theme of the month. This opportunity and service comes to us through Sarah Crown and the other folks at Guardian Unlimited Books.

This month, the poet in residence is Vicki Feaver. Here is a paragraph from her exercise on "capturing animals" at Vicki Feaver's workshop:

Go on an animal hunt. Don't just restrict yourself to warm-blooded animals--fish, reptiles, amoeba, will do equally well. This could be an actual field trip, or an expedition into your memory or imagination. Observe and make notes on your animal: its appearance and behaviour and habitat. Maybe it has a smell or a distinct cry.

It's worth a go, if you write poetry. Submissions are due by e-mail at the end of the month. Just watch your time zones.

Here, from previous workshops, are the links to the exercises, for your musing pleasure, and the resulting shortlists and judges' comments, for your reading interests.

October 2004: Poet-in-residence: Ruth Fainlight
Shortlist and comment: 'They all reach a high standard'

November 2004: Tobias Hill
Shortlist and comment: 'Remember poetry is an oral form at heart'

December 2004: Tobias Hill's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'A real Grand National of an exercise'

January 2005: Julia Darling's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Are your poems brave enough?

February 2005: Chris Greenhalgh's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'The endings were what made them . . .'

March 2005: Anne Stevenson's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'Many fine sonnets'

April 2005: Tony Curtis's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'The poets show an appreciation of the form . . .'

May 2005: Moniza Alvi's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'Very much alive and healthily varied'

July 2005: David Harsent's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Murdering your darlings

August 2005: Adèle Geras's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'There are things going on here beyond the words'

September 2005: Micheal O'Siadhail's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'A strikingly urban feel'

October 2005: John Burnside's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Other lives

November 2005: Lucy Newlyn's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'Poems that tell a story'

December 2005: Helen Farish's workshop
Shortlist and comment: 'All the poems have something to commend them . . .'

February 2006: Esther Morgan's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Ghosts, written

March 2006: Jane Duran's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Opposition victories

April 2006: Jen Hadfield's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Praise be

June 2006: Pascale Petit's workshop
Shortlist and comment: Ut pictura poesis

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Eaglelike, Pantherlike, Are the Poet's Desires"

Tonight, some of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) writings about poetry. Selections are from two of his books, first Beyond Good and Evil, and then Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Included along with his philosophical musings, are some of Nietzsche's poetry.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The following seven quotes, plus the poem "From the Heights" are from Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, the Helen Zimmern Translation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Poets act shamelessly towards their experiences: they exploit them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How much trouble have the poets and orators of every nation given themselves!--not excepting some of the prose writers of today, in whose ear dwells an inexorable conscientiousness--"for the sake of a folly," as utilitarian bunglers say, and thereby deem themselves wise--"from submission to arbitrary laws," as the anarchists say, and thereby fancy themselves "free," even free-spirited.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Supposing that someone has often flown in his dreams, and that at last, as soon as he dreams, he is conscious of the power and art of flying as his privilege and his peculiarly enviable happiness; such a person, who believes that on the slightest impulse, he can actualize all sorts of curves and angles, who knows the sensation of a certain divine levity, an "upwards" without effort or constraint, a "downwards" without descending or lowering--without TROUBLE!--how could the man with such dream-experiences and dream-habits fail to find "happiness" differently coloured and defined, even in his waking hours! How could he fail--to long DIFFERENTLY for happiness? "Flight," such as is described by poets, must, when compared with his own "flying," be far too earthly, muscular, violent, far too "troublesome" for him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Finally, let us only understand profoundly enough Napoleon's astonishment when he saw Goethe it reveals what had been regarded for centuries as the "German spirit" "VOILA UN HOMME!"--that was as much as to say "But this is a MAN! And I only expected to see a German!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All of them steeped in literature to their eyes and ears--the first artists of universal literary culture--for the most part even themselves writers, poets, intermediaries and blenders of the arts and the senses (Wagner, as musician is reckoned among painters, as poet among musicians, as artist generally among actors); all of them fanatics for EXPRESSION "at any cost"--I specially mention Delacroix, the nearest related to Wagner; all of them great discoverers in the realm of the sublime, also of the loathsome and dreadful, still greater discoverers in effect, in display, in the art of the show-shop; all of them talented far beyond their genius, out and out VIRTUOSI, with mysterious accesses to all that seduces, allures, constrains, and upsets; born enemies of logic and of the straight line, hankering after the strange, the exotic, the monstrous, the crooked, and the self-contradictory; as men, Tantaluses of the will, plebeian parvenus, who knew themselves to be incapable of a noble TEMPO or of a LENTO in life and action--think of Balzac, for instance,--unrestrained workers, almost destroying themselves by work; antinomians and rebels in manners, ambitious and insatiable, without equilibrium and enjoyment; all of them finally shattering and sinking down at the Christian cross (and with right and reason, for who of them would have been sufficiently profound and sufficiently original for an ANTI-CHRISTIAN philosophy?);--on the whole, a boldly daring, splendidly overbearing, high-flying, and aloft-up-dragging class of higher men, who had first to teach their century--and it is the century of the MASSES--the conception "higher man."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hence we can understand without further detail why love AS A PASSION--it is our European specialty--must absolutely be of noble origin; as is well known, its invention is due to the Provencal poet-cavaliers, those brilliant, ingenious men of the "gai saber," to whom Europe owes so much, and almost owes itself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Those great poets, for example, such as Byron, Musset, Poe, Leopardi, Kleist, Gogol (I do not venture to mention much greater names, but I have them in my mind), as they now appear, and were perhaps obliged to be: men of the moment, enthusiastic, sensuous, and childish, light-minded and impulsive in their trust and distrust; with souls in which usually some flaw has to be concealed; often taking revenge with their works for an internal defilement, often seeking forgetfulness in their soaring from a too true memory, often lost in the mud and almost in love with it, until they become like the Will-o'-the-Wisps around the swamps, and PRETEND TO BE stars--the people then call them idealists,--often struggling with protracted disgust, with an ever-reappearing phantom of disbelief, which makes them cold, and obliges them to languish for GLORIA and devour "faith as it is" out of the hands of intoxicated adulators:--what a TORMENT these great artists are and the so-called higher men in general, to him who has once found them out!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

translated by L A Magnus

by F W Nietzsche

From the Heights


Midday of Life! Oh, season of delight!
                                My summer's park!
Uneaseful joy to look, to lurk, to hark--
I peer for friends, am ready day and night,--
Where linger ye, my friends? The time is right!


Is not the glacier's grey today for you
The brooklet seeks you, wind, cloud, with longing thread
And thrust themselves yet higher to the blue,
To spy for you from farthest eagle's view.


My table was spread out for you on high--
                                Who dwelleth so
Star-near, so near the grisly pit below?--
My realm--what realm hath wider boundary?
My honey--who hath sipped its fragrancy?


Friends, ye are there! Woe me,--yet I am not
                                He whom ye seek?
Ye stare and stop--better your wrath could speak!
I am not I? Hand, gait, face, changed? And what
I am, to you my friends, now am I not?


Am I an other? Strange am I to Me?
                                Yet from Me sprung?
A wrestler, by himself too oft self-wrung?
Hindering too oft my own self's potency,
Wounded and hampered by self-victory?


I sought where-so the wind blows keenest. There
                                I learned to dwell
Where no man dwells, on lonesome ice-lorn fell,
And unlearned Man and God and curse and prayer?
Became a ghost haunting the glaciers bare?


Ye, my old friends! Look! Ye turn pale, filled o'er
                                With love and fear!
Go! Yet not in wrath. Ye could ne'er live here.
Here in the farthest realm of ice and scaur,
A huntsman must one be, like chamois soar.


An evil huntsman was I? See how taut
                                My bow was bent!
Strongest was he by whom such bolt were sent--
Woe now! That arrow is with peril fraught,
Perilous as none.--Have yon safe home ye sought!


Ye go! Thou didst endure enough, oh, heart;--
                                Strong was thy hope;
Unto new friends thy portals widely ope,
Let old ones be. Bid memory depart!
Wast thou young then, now--better young thou art!


What linked us once together, one hope's tie--
                                (Who now doth con
Those lines, now fading, Love once wrote thereon?)--
Is like a parchment, which the hand is shy
To touch--like crackling leaves, all seared, all dry.


Oh! Friends no more! They are--what name for those?--
                                Friends' phantom-flight
Knocking at my heart's window-pane at night,
Gazing on me, that speaks "We were" and goes,--
Oh, withered words, once fragrant as the rose!


Pinings of youth that might not understand!
                                For which I pined,
Which I deemed changed with me, kin of my kind:
But they grew old, and thus were doomed and banned:
None but new kith are native of my land!


Midday of life! My second youth's delight!
                                My summer's park!
Unrestful joy to long, to lurk, to hark!
I peer for friends!--am ready day and night,
For my new friends. Come! Come! The time is right!


This song is done,--the sweet sad cry of rue
                                Sang out its end;
A wizard wrought it, he the timely friend,
The midday-friend,--no, do not ask me who;
At midday 'twas, when one became as two.


We keep our Feast of Feasts, sure of our bourne,
                                Our aims self-same:
The Guest of Guests, friend Zarathustra, came!
The world now laughs, the grisly veil was torn,
And Light and Dark were one that wedding-morn.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What follows are two full sections (the 39th section called "Poets" and the 74th called "The Song of Melancholy") from Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, translated by Thomas Common into English.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

XXXIX. Poets.

"Since I have known the body better"--said Zarathustra to one of his disciples--"the spirit hath only been to me symbolically spirit; and all the 'imperishable'--that is also but a simile."

"So have I heard thee say once before," answered the disciple, "and then thou addedst: 'But the poets lie too much.' Why didst thou say that the poets lie too much?"

"Why?" said Zarathustra. "Thou askest why? I do not belong to those who may be asked after their Why.

Is my experience but of yesterday? It is long ago that I experienced the reasons for mine opinions.

Should I not have to be a cask of memory, if I also wanted to have my reasons with me?

It is already too much for me even to retain mine opinions; and many a bird flieth away.

And sometimes, also, do I find a fugitive creature in my dovecote, which is alien to me, and trembleth when I lay my hand upon it.

But what did Zarathustra once say unto thee? That the poets lie too much?--But Zarathustra also is a poet.

Believest thou that he there spake the truth? Why dost thou believe it?"

The disciple answered: "I believe in Zarathustra." But Zarathustra shook his head and smiled.--

Belief doth not sanctify me, said he, least of all the belief in myself.

But granting that some one did say in all seriousness that the poets lie too much: he was right--WE do lie too much.

We also know too little, and are bad learners: so we are obliged to lie.

And which of us poets hath not adulterated his wine? Many a poisonous hotchpotch hath evolved in our cellars: many an indescribable thing hath there been done.

And because we know little, therefore are we pleased from the heart with the poor in spirit, especially when they are young women!

And even of those things are we desirous, which old women tell one another in the evening. This do we call the eternally feminine in us.

And as if there were a special secret access to knowledge, which CHOKETH UP for those who learn anything, so do we believe in the people and in their "wisdom."

This, however, do all poets believe: that whoever pricketh up his ears when lying in the grass or on lonely slopes, learneth something of the things that are betwixt heaven and earth.

And if there come unto them tender emotions, then do the poets always think that nature herself is in love with them:

And that she stealeth to their ear to whisper secrets into it, and amorous flatteries: of this do they plume and pride themselves, before all mortals!

Ah, there are so many things betwixt heaven and earth of which only the poets have dreamed!

And especially ABOVE the heavens: for all Gods are poet-symbolisations, poet-sophistications!

Verily, ever are we drawn aloft--that is, to the realm of the clouds: on these do we set our gaudy puppets, and then call them Gods and Supermen:--

Are not they light enough for those chairs!--all these Gods and Supermen?--

Ah, how I am weary of all the inadequate that is insisted on as actual! Ah, how I am weary of the poets!

When Zarathustra so spake, his disciple resented it, but was silent. And Zarathustra also was silent; and his eye directed itself inwardly, as if it gazed into the far distance. At last he sighed and drew breath.--

I am of to-day and heretofore, said he thereupon; but something is in me that is of the morrow, and the day following, and the hereafter.

I became weary of the poets, of the old and of the new: superficial are they all unto me, and shallow seas.

They did not think sufficiently into the depth; therefore their feeling did not reach to the bottom.

Some sensation of voluptuousness and some sensation of tedium: these have as yet been their best contemplation.

Ghost-breathing and ghost-whisking, seemeth to me all the jingle-jangling of their harps; what have they known hitherto of the fervour of tones!--

They are also not pure enough for me: they all muddle their water that it may seem deep.

And fain would they thereby prove themselves reconcilers: but mediaries and mixers are they unto me, and half-and-half, and impure!--

Ah, I cast indeed my net into their sea, and meant to catch good fish; but always did I draw up the head of some ancient God.

Thus did the sea give a stone to the hungry one. And they themselves may well originate from the sea.

Certainly, one findeth pearls in them: thereby they are the more like hard molluscs. And instead of a soul, I have often found in them salt slime.

They have learned from the sea also its vanity: is not the sea the peacock of peacocks?

Even before the ugliest of all buffaloes doth it spread out its tail; never doth it tire of its lace-fan of silver and silk.

Disdainfully doth the buffalo glance thereat, nigh to the sand with its soul, nigher still to the thicket, nighest, however, to the swamp.

What is beauty and sea and peacock-splendour to it! This parable I speak unto the poets.

Verily, their spirit itself is the peacock of peacocks, and a sea of vanity!

Spectators, seeketh the spirit of the poet--should they even be buffaloes!--

But of this spirit became I weary; and I see the time coming when it will become weary of itself.

Yea, changed have I seen the poets, and their glance turned towards themselves.

Penitents of the spirit have I seen appearing; they grew out of the poets.--

Thus spake Zarathustra.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

LXXIV. The Song of Melancholy.


When Zarathustra spake these sayings, he stood nigh to the entrance of his cave; with the last words, however, he slipped away from his guests, and fled for a little while into the open air.

"O pure odours around me," cried he, "O blessed stillness around me! But where are mine animals? Hither, hither, mine eagle and my serpent!

Tell me, mine animals: these higher men, all of them--do they perhaps not SMELL well? O pure odours around me! Now only do I know and feel how I love you, mine animals."

--And Zarathustra said once more: "I love you, mine animals!" The eagle, however, and the serpent pressed close to him when he spake these words, and looked up to him. In this attitude were they all three silent together, and sniffed and sipped the good air with one another. For the air here outside was better than with the higher men.


Hardly, however, had Zarathustra left the cave when the old magician got up, looked cunningly about him, and said: "He is gone!

And already, ye higher men--let me tickle you with this complimentary and flattering name, as he himself doeth--already doth mine evil spirit of deceit and magic attack me, my melancholy devil,

--Which is an adversary to this Zarathustra from the very heart: forgive it for this! Now doth it wish to conjure before you, it hath just ITS hour; in vain do I struggle with this evil spirit.

Unto all of you, whatever honours ye like to assume in your names, whether ye call yourselves 'the free spirits' or 'the conscientious,' or 'the penitents of the spirit,' or 'the unfettered,' or 'the great longers,'--

--Unto all of you, who like me suffer FROM THE GREAT LOATHING, to whom the old God hath died, and as yet no new God lieth in cradles and swaddling clothes--unto all of you is mine evil spirit and magic-devil favourable.

I know you, ye higher men, I know him,--I know also this fiend whom I love in spite of me, this Zarathustra: he himself often seemeth to me like the beautiful mask of a saint,

--Like a new strange mummery in which mine evil spirit, the melancholy devil, delighteth:--I love Zarathustra, so doth it often seem to me, for the sake of mine evil spirit.--

But already doth IT attack me and constrain me, this spirit of melancholy, this evening-twilight devil: and verily, ye higher men, it hath a longing--

--Open your eyes!--it hath a longing to come NAKED, whether male or female, I do not yet know: but it cometh, it constraineth me, alas! open your wits!

The day dieth out, unto all things cometh now the evening, also unto the best things; hear now, and see, ye higher men, what devil--man or woman--this spirit of evening-melancholy is!"

Thus spake the old magician, looked cunningly about him, and then seized his harp.


In evening's limpid air,
What time the dew's soothings
Unto the earth downpour,
Invisibly and unheard--
For tender shoe-gear wear
The soothing dews, like all that's kind-gentle--:
Bethinkst thou then, bethinkst thou, burning heart,
How once thou thirstedest
For heaven's kindly teardrops and dew's down-droppings,
All singed and weary thirstedest,
What time on yellow grass-pathways
Wicked, occidental sunny glances
Through sombre trees about thee sported,
Blindingly sunny glow-glances, gladly-hurting?

"Of TRUTH the wooer? Thou?"--so taunted they-
"Nay! Merely poet!
A brute insidious, plundering, grovelling,
That aye must lie,
That wittingly, wilfully, aye must lie:
For booty lusting,
Motley masked,
Self-hidden, shrouded,
Himself his booty-
HE--of truth the wooer?
Nay! Mere fool! Mere poet!
Just motley speaking,
From mask of fool confusedly shouting,
Circumambling on fabricated word-bridges,
On motley rainbow-arches,
'Twixt the spurious heavenly,
And spurious earthly,
Round us roving, round us soaring,--

HE--of truth the wooer?
Not still, stiff, smooth and cold,
Become an image,
A godlike statue,
Set up in front of temples,
As a God's own door-guard:
Nay! hostile to all such truthfulness-statues,
In every desert homelier than at temples,
With cattish wantonness,
Through every window leaping
Quickly into chances,
Every wild forest a-sniffing,
Greedily-longingly, sniffing,
That thou, in wild forests,
'Mong the motley-speckled fierce creatures,
Shouldest rove, sinful-sound and fine-coloured,
With longing lips smacking,
Blessedly mocking, blessedly hellish, blessedly bloodthirsty,
Robbing, skulking, lying--roving:--

Or unto eagles like which fixedly,
Long adown the precipice look,
Adown THEIR precipice:--
Oh, how they whirl down now,
Thereunder, therein,
To ever deeper profoundness whirling!--
With aim aright,
With quivering flight,
On LAMBKINS pouncing,
Headlong down, sore-hungry,
For lambkins longing,
Fierce 'gainst all lamb-spirits,
Furious-fierce all that look
Sheeplike, or lambeyed, or crisp-woolly,
--Grey, with lambsheep kindliness!

Even thus,
Eaglelike, pantherlike,
Are the poet's desires,
Are THINE OWN desires 'neath a thousand guises,
Thou fool! Thou poet!
Thou who all mankind viewedst--
So God, as sheep--:
The God TO REND within mankind,
As the sheep in mankind,
And in rending LAUGHING--

THAT, THAT is thine own blessedness!
Of a panther and eagle--blessedness!
Of a poet and fool--the blessedness!--

In evening's limpid air,
What time the moon's sickle,
Green, 'twixt the purple-glowings,
And jealous, steal'th forth:
--Of day the foe,
With every step in secret,
The rosy garland-hammocks
Downsickling, till they've sunken
Down nightwards, faded, downsunken:--

Thus had I sunken one day
From mine own truth-insanity,
From mine own fervid day-longings,
Of day aweary, sick of sunshine,
--Sunk downwards, evenwards, shadowwards:
By one sole trueness
All scorched and thirsty:
--Bethinkst thou still, bethinkst thou, burning heart,
How then thou thirstedest?-

Friday, July 21, 2006


Tonight, I wrote my first one-word "poem"--if that's what this is:


My thought was that any one-word poem cannot truly qualify as a one-word poem if a title is there elaborating, doing almost all the poetical work. The word must be a poem, not only in and of itself, but simply by itself. But, this thought gets quickly overruled at, for instance, this site: One-Word Poems by Douglas A. Mackey.

Each poem of Mackey's is one word, but needs the title to complete it as a poem. Such as this poem, entitled "The Last Breath of a Famous Philosopher":

Why . . .

Commentary after the poem is also used by some poets, such as at Monoverbum Poems, where this poem entitled "Why" by Charlie Koscak appears:


But, there is no poem without this commentary:

This poem is an exploration of the feelings the poet has to deal with when creating the second monoverbum poem without creative assistant. There is a sense of loneliness the author feels, but the final letter, a vowel, leaves the reader with a spirit of strength to continue through life's difficulties.

It is difficult not to consider the idea of "Why . . ." as a plagiarism of "Why"--or vice versa. And although to my memory, I have never encountered "immortal" before, someone could easily have thought of it and written it down, even in doodling before. But although I may now be open to a plagiarism charge, I find it difficult to think I could be hit with a copyright infringement for writing "Why . . ."

From the commentary idea, comes the curious thought for a poem by David R. Slavitt:


It certainly is emotionally charged and tells some story, even touching most people's lives personally sooner or later, but maybe all people's fears sooner or later. Yet, even Slavitt pulls up short on asserting it as a poem. The poem that contains "Motherless" is, infact, called "One-Word Poem", and can be read in its entirety here: American Academy of Poets. This is how the beginning of the poem appears:

One-Word Poem
by David R. Slavitt


Discussion questions.

1. Is this a joke? And, if so, is it a joke of the poet in which the editor of the magazine (or, later, the book publisher or the textbook writers) has conspired? Or is it a joke on the editors and publishers? Is the reader the audience of the poem?

There are 10 discussion questions in all. So the poem, albeit clever, is even far from minimalist.

Another idea of one-word poems, is to contain the word within a drawing, for instance here: Alice George: One-Word Poems & Collages (grades 5-12). Here is "Serenity" by Nat from that collection:

When Aram Saroyan writes minimalist poetry, he gets it down to one word or less, for some terrific musing. Here's the one by him that some consider the greatest one-word poem, and my favorite too:


This poem is published within a series of Saroyan's minimalist poems at U B U W E B

In fact, here is a one-letter poem by him:

For more thoughts on one-word poems, and an even smaller poem than Saroyan's one-letter poem above, visit this web page:

MNMLST POETRY: Unacclaimed but Flourishing by Bob Grumman

There you'll also find commentary on "lighght".

~ ~ ~

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Abbas Lesani, on hunger strike, now refusing liquids

Imprisoned poet and activist Abbas Lesani has been on a hunger strike, and will now refuse liquids "until the justice is served." Here is a quote from the news item City of Ardabil in Northern Iran: Lives of Azerbaijani prisoners are in danger in today's

Meanwhile, the hunger strike of well-known Azerbaijani activist, writer and poet, Abbas Lesani continues. He is now refusing to drink any fluids. His family members who have been able to see him after a long time, say that Mr. Lesani is being held in the hospital of Ardabil Prison and his health is in grave condition. The writer has told his family members that despite their insistence he will refuse to even drink water until the justice is served.

Here is a link to a blog post on an appearance in court by Abbas Lesani last August:

South Azerbayjan: What's going on in a court of justice in South Azerbaijan

Here is a link to a blog post on his arrest last month:

South Azerbayjan: Abbas Lesani has been arrested.

Click on map to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Song of the Stone Wall by Helen Keller

Below is the extraordinary Helen Keller poem "The Song of the Stone Wall" that is only on the web at Project Gutenberg that I can find.

First, a brief refresher bio of this writer.

~ ~ ~

from Helen Keller Services for the Blind

Biography of Helen Keller

The story of Helen Keller is the story of a normal child who, at the age of 18 months, was suddenly shut off from the world but, against overwhelming odds, waged a slow, hard but successful battle to re-enter that same world. The child grew into a highly intelligent and sensitive woman who wrote, spoke and labored incessantly for the betterment of others.

Helen was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. However, her real life began one day in March of 1887, when she was almost seven years old. She was always to call that the most important day I can remember in my life. It was the day when Annie Sullivan, a 20-year-old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, came to be her teacher. They were inseparable until Annie’s death in 1936.

Even as a little girl Helen expressed a desire to go to college. In 1900, she entered Radcliffe College and graduated from there cum laude in 1904. She thus became the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college. Throughout these years, Annie Sullivan laboriously spelled books and lectures into her pupil's hand.

While still at Radcliffe, Helen Keller began the writing career, which was to continue for 50 years. In addition to The Story of My Life, she wrote 11 other books and numerous articles on blindness, deafness, social issues and women's rights.

Despite the broad range of her interests, Helen Keller never lost sight of the needs of others who were blind and deaf-blind. She was a personal friend of Dr. Peter J. Salmon, Executive Director of Helen Keller Services for the Blind (then known as the Industrial Home for the Blind) and lent her support to the establishment of what has become known as the Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. She was a visitor to a number of facilities and programs operated by IHB.

In 1936, Helen Keller moved to Westport, Connecticut, where she lived until her death on June 1, 1968, at the age of 87. In his eulogy at her funeral, Senator Lister Hill said of her, "She will live on, one of the few, immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith."

~ ~ ~

produced by Jamie Taylor in memory of Helen Keller

copyright, 1909, 1910; published October, 1910

~ ~ ~

by Helen Keller

The Song of the Stone Wall


When I began "The Song of the Stone Wall," Dr. Edward Everett Hale was still among us, and it was my intention to dedicate the poem to him if it should be deemed worthy of publication. I fancied that he would like it; for he loved the old walls and the traditions that cling about them.

As I tried to image the men who had built the walls long ago, it seemed to me that Dr. Hale was the living embodiment of whatever was heroic in the founders of New England. He was a great American. He was also a great Puritan. Was not the zeal of his ancestors upon his lips, and their courage in his heart? Had they not bequeathed to him their torch-like faith, their patient fervor of toil and their creed of equality?

But his bright spirit had inherited no trace of their harshness and gloom. The windows of his soul opened to the sunlight of a joyous faith. His optimism and genial humor inspired gladness and good sense in others. With an old story he prepared their minds to receive new ideas, and with a parable he opened their hearts to generous feelings. All men loved him because he loved them. They knew that his heart was in their happiness, and that his humanity embraced their sorrows. In him the weak found a friend, the unprotected, a champion. Though a herald and proclaimer of peace, he could fight stubbornly and passionately on the side of justice. His was a lovable, uplifting greatness which drew all men near and ever nearer to God and to each other. Like his ancestors, he dreamed of a land of freedom founded on the love of God and the brotherhood of man, a land where each man shall achieve his share of happiness and learn the work of manhood—to rule himself and "lend a hand."

Thoughts like these were often in my mind as the poem grew and took form. It is fitting, therefore, that I should dedicate it to him, and in so doing I give expression to the love and reverence which I have felt for him ever since he called me his little cousin, more than twenty years ago.

    Helen Keller
    Wrentham, Massachusetts,
    January, 1910.

~ ~ ~

The Song of the Stone Wall

Come walk with me, and I will tell
What I have read in this scroll of stone;
I will spell out this writing on hill and meadow.
It is a chronicle wrought by praying workmen,
The forefathers of our nation--
Leagues upon leagues of sealed history awaiting an interpreter.
This is New England's tapestry of stone
Alive with memories that throb and quiver
At the core of the ages
As the prophecies of old at the heart of God's Word.

The walls have many things to tell me,
And the days are long. I come and listen:
My hand is upon the stones, and the tale I fain would hear
Is of the men who built the walls,
And of the God who made the stones and the workers.

With searching feet I walk beside the wall;
I plunge and stumble over the fallen stones;
I follow the windings of the wall
Over the heaving hill, down by the meadow-brook,
Beyond the scented fields, by the marsh where rushes grow.
On I trudge through pine woods fragrant and cool
And emerge amid clustered pools and by rolling acres of rye.
The wall is builded of field-stones great and small,
Tumbled about by frost and storm,
Shaped and polished by ice and rain and sun;
Some flattened, grooved, and chiseled
By the inscrutable sculpture of the weather;
Some with clefts and rough edges harsh to the touch.
Gracious Time has glorified the wall
And covered the historian stones with a mantle of green.
Sunbeams flit and waver in the rifts,
Vanish and reappear, linger and sleep,
Conquer with radiance the obdurate angles,
Filter between the naked rents and wind-bleached jags.

I understand the triumph and the truth
Wrought into these walls of rugged stone.
They are a miracle of patient hands,
They are a victory of suffering, a paean of pain;
All pangs of death, all cries of birth,
Are in the mute, moss-covered stones;
They are eloquent to my hands.
O beautiful, blind stones, inarticulate and dumb!
In the deep gloom of their hearts there is a gleam
Of the primeval sun which looked upon them
When they were begotten.
So in the heart of man shines forever
A beam from the everlasting sun of God.
Rude and unresponsive are the stones;
Yet in them divine things lie concealed;
I hear their imprisoned chant:--

"We are fragments of the universe,
Chips of the rock whereon God laid the foundation of the world:
Out of immemorial chaos He wrought us.
Out of the sun, out of the tempest, out of the travail of the earth we grew.
We are wonderfully mingled of life and death;
We serve as crypts for innumerable, unnoticed, tiny forms.
We are manifestations of the Might
That rears the granite hills unto the clouds
And sows the tropic seas with coral isles.
We are shot through and through with hidden color;
A thousand hues are blended in our gray substance.
Sapphire, turquoise, ruby, opal,
Emerald, diamond, amethyst, are our sisters from the beginning,
And our brothers are iron, lead, zinc,
Copper and silver and gold.
We are the dust of continents past and to come,
We are a deathless frieze carved with man's destiny;
In us is the record sibylline of far events.
We are as old as the world, our birth was before the hills.
We are the cup that holds the sea
And the framework of the peak that parts the sky.
When Chaos shall again return,
And endless Night shall spread her wings upon a rained world,
We alone shall stand up from the shattered earth,
Indestructible, invincible witnesses of God's eternal purpose."

In reflective mood by the wall I wander;
The hoary stones have set my heart astir;
My thoughts take shape and move beside me in the guise
Of the stern men who built the wall in early olden days.
One by one the melancholy phantoms go stepping from me,
And I follow them in and out among the stones.
I think of the days long gone,
Flown like birds beyond the ramparts of the world.
The patient, sturdy men who piled the stones
Have vanished, like the days, beyond the bounds
Of earth and mortal things.
From their humble, steadfast lives has sprung the greatness of my nation.
I am bone of their bone, breath of their breath,
Their courage is in my soul.
The wall is an Iliad of granite: it chants to me
Of pilgrims of the perilous deep,
Of fearless journeyings and old forgotten things.
The blood of grim ancestors warms the fingers
That trace the letters of their story;
My pulses beat in unison with pulses that are stilled;
The fire of their zeal inspires me
In my struggle with darkness and pain.
These embossed books, unobliterated by the tears and laughter of Time,
Are signed with the vital hands of undaunted men.
I love these monoliths, so crudely imprinted
With their stalwart, cleanly, frugal lives.

From my seat among the stones I stretch my hand and touch
My friend the elm, urnlike, lithesome, tall.
Far above the reach of my exploring fingers
Birds are singing and winging joyously
Through leafy billows of green.
The elm-tree's song is wondrous sweet;
The words are the ancientest language of trees--
They tell of how earth and air and light
Are wrought anew to beauty and to fruitfulness.
I feel the glad stirrings under her rough bark;
Her living sap mounts up to bring forth leaves;
Her great limbs thrill beneath the wand of spring.

This wall was builded in our fathers' days--
Valorous days when life was lusty and the land was new.
Resemble the walls the builders, buffeted, stern, and worn.
To us they left the law,
Order, simplicity, obedience,
And the wall is the bond they gave the nation
At its birth of courage and unflinching faith.
Before the epic here inscribed began,
They wrote their course upon a trackless sea.
O, tiny craft, bearing a nation's seed!
Frail shallop, quick with unborn states!
Autumn was mellow in the fatherland when they set sail,
And winter deepened as they neared the West.
Out of the desert sea they came at last,
And their hearts warmed to see that frozen land.
O, first gray dawn that filtered through the dark!
Bleak, glorious birth-hour of our northern states!
They stood upon the shore like new created men;
On barren solitudes of sand they stood,
The conquered sea behind, the unconquered wilderness before.
Some died that year beneath the cruel cold,
And some for heartsick longing and the pang
Of homes remembered and souls torn asunder.
That spring the new-plowed field for bread of life
Bordered the new-dug acre marked for death;
Beside the springing corn they laid in the sweet, dark earth
The young man, strong and free, the maiden fair and trustful,
The little child, and the uncomplaining mother.

Across the meadow, by the ancient pines,
Where I, the child of life that lived that spring,
Drink in the fragrances of the young year,
The field-wall meets one grimly squared and straight.
Beyond it rise the old tombs, gray and restful,
And the upright slates record the generations.
Stiffly aslant before the northern blasts,
Like the steadfast, angular beliefs
Of those whom they commemorate, the headstones stand,
Cemented deep with moss and invisible roots.
The rude inscriptions charged with faith and love,
Graceless as Death himself, yet sweet as Death,
Are half erased by the impartial storms.
As children lisping words which move to laughter
Are themselves poems of unconscious melody,
So the old gravestones with their crabbed muse
Are beautiful for their halting words of faith,
Their groping love that had no gift of song.
But all the broken tragedy of life
And all the yearning mystery of death
Are celebrated in sweet epitaphs of vines and violets.
Close by the wall a peristyle of pines
Sings requiem to all the dead that sleep.

Beyond the village churchyard, still and calm,
Steeped in the sweetness of eternal morn,
The wall runs down in crumbling cadence
Beside the brook which plays
Through the land like a silver harp.
A wind of ancient romance blows across the field,
A sweet disturbance thrills the air;
The silken skirts of Spring go rustling by,
And the earth is astir with joy.
Up the hill, romping and shaking their golden heads,
Come the little children of the wood.
From ecstasy to ecstasy the year mounts upward.
Up from the south come the odor-laden winds,
Angels and ministers of life,
Dropping seeds of fruitfulness
Into the bosoms of flowers.
Elusive, alluring secrets hide in wood and hedge
Like the first thoughts of love
In the breast of a maiden;
The witchery of love is in rock and tree.
Across the pasture, star-sown with daisies,
I see a young girl--the spirit of spring she seems,
Sister of the winds that run through the rippling daisies.
Sweet and clear her voice calls father and brother,
And one whose name her shy lips will not utter.
But a chorus of leaves and grasses speaks her heart
And tells his name: the birches flutter by the wall;
The wild cherry-tree shakes its plumy head
And whispers his name; the maple
Opens its rosy lips and murmurs his name;
The marsh-marigold sends the rumor
Down the winding stream, and the blue flag
Spread the gossip to the lilies in the lake:
All Nature's eyes and tongues conspire
In the unfolding of the tale
That Adam and Eve beneath the blossoming rose-tree
Told each other in the Garden of Eden.
Once more the wind blows from the walls,
And I behold a fair young mother;
She stands at the lilac-shaded door
With her baby at her breast;
She looks across the twilit fields and smiles
And whispers to her child: "Thy father comes!"

Life triumphed over many-weaponed Death.
Sorrow and toil and the wilderness thwarted their stout invasion;
But with the ship that sailed again went no retreating soul!
Stubborn, unvanquished, clinging to the skirts of Hope,
They kept their narrow foothold on the land,
And the ship sailed home for more.
With yearlong striving they fought their way into the forest;
Their axes echoed where I sit, a score of miles from the sea.
Slowly, slowly the wilderness yielded
To smiling grass-plots and clearings of yellow corn;
And while the logs of their cabins were still moist
With odorous sap, they set upon the hill
The shrine of liberty for man's mind,
And by it the shrine of liberty for man's soul,
The school-house and the church.

The apple-tree by the wall sheds its blossom about me--
A shower of petals of light upon darkness.
From Nature's brimming cup I drink a thousand scents;
At noon the wizard sun stirs the hot soil under the pines.
I take the top stone of the wall in my hands
And the sun in my heart;
I feel the rippling land extend to right and left,
Bearing up a receptive surface to my uncertain feet;
I clamber up the hill and beyond the grassy sweep;
I encounter a chaos of tumbled rocks.
Piles of shadow they seem, huddling close to the land.
Here they are scattered like sheep,
Or like great birds at rest,
There a huge block juts from the giant wave of the hill.
At the foot of the aged pines the maiden's moccasins
Track the sod like the noiseless sandals of Spring.
Out of chinks in the wall delicate grasses wave,
As beauty grew out of the crannies of these hard souls.

Joyously, gratefully, after their long wrestling
With the bitter cold and the harsh white winter,
They heard the step of Spring on the edge of melting snow-drifts;
Gladly, with courage that flashed from their life-beaten souls,
As the fire-sparks fly from the hammered stone,
They hailed the fragrant arbutus;
Its sweetness trailed beside the path that they cut through the forest,
And they gave it the name of their ship Mayflower.
          Beauty was at their feet, and their eyes beheld it;
The earth cried out for labor, and they gave it.
But ever as they saw the budding spring,
Ever as they cleared the stubborn field,
Ever as they piled the heavy stones,
In mystic vision they saw, the eternal spring;
They raised their hardened hands above the earth,
And beheld the walls that are not built of stone,
The portals opened by angels whose garments are of light;
And beyond the radiant walls of living stones
They dreamed vast meadows and hills of fadeless green.

In the old house across the road
With weather-beaten front, like the furrowed face of an old man,
The lights are out forever, the windows are broken,
And the oaken posts are warped;
The storms beat into the rooms as the passion of the world
Racked and buffeted those who once dwelt in them.
The psalm and the morning prayer are silent.
But the walls remain visible witnesses of faith
That knew no wavering or shadow of turning.
They have withstood sun and northern blast,
They have outlasted the unceasing strife
Of forces leagued to tear them down.
Under the stars and the clouds, under the summer sun,
Beaten by rain and wind, covered with tender vines,
The walls stand symbols of a granite race,
The measure and translation of olden times.

In the rough epic of their life, their toil, their creeds,
Their psalms, their prayers, what stirring tales
Of days that were their past had they to tell
Their children to keep the new faith burning?
Tales of grandsires in the fatherland
Whose faith was seven times tried in fiery furnaces,--
Of Rowland Taylor who kissed the stake,
And stood with hands folded and eyes steadfastly turned
To the sky, and smiled upon the flames;
Of Latimer, and of Cranmer who for cowardice heroically atoned--
Who thrust his right hand into the fire
Because it had broken plight with his heart
And written against the voice of his conviction.
With such memories they exalted and cherished
The heroism of their tried souls,
And ours are wrung with doubt and self-distrust!

I am kneeling on the odorous earth;
The sweet, shy feet of Spring come tripping o'er the land,
Winter is fled to the hills, leaving snowy wreaths
On apple-tree, meadow, and marsh.
The walls are astir; little waves of blue
Run through my fingers murmuring:
"We follow the winds and the snow!"
Their heart is a cup of gold.
Soft whispers of showers and flowers
Are mingled in the spring song of the walls.
Hark to the songs that go singing like the wind
Through the chinks of the wall and thrill the heart
And quicken it with passionate response!
The walls sing the song of wild bird, the hoof-beat of deer,
The murmur of pine and cedar, the ripple of many streams;
Crows are calling from the Druidical wood;
The morning mist still haunts the meadows
Like the ghosts of the wall builders.

As I listen, methinks I hear the bitter plaint
Of the passing of a haughty race,
The wronged, friendly, childlike, peaceable tribes,
The swarthy archers of the wilderness,
The red men to whom Nature opened all her secrets,
Who knew the haunts of bird and fish,
The hidden virtue of herb and root;
All the travail of man and beast they knew--
Birth and death, heat and cold,
Hunger and thirst, love and hate;
For these are the unchanging things writ in the imperishable book of life
That man suckled at the breast of woman must know.

In the dim sanctuary of the pines
The winds murmur their mysteries through dusky aisles--
Secrets of earth's renewal and the endless cycle of life.
Living things are afoot among the grasses;
The closed fingers of the ferns unfold,
New bees explore new flowers, and the brook
Pours virgin waters from the rushing founts of May.
In the old walls there are sinister voices--
The groans of women charged with witchcraft.
I see a lone, gray, haggard woman standing at bay,
Helpless against her grim, sin-darkened judges.
Terror blanches her lips and makes her confess
Bonds with demons that her heart knows not.
Satan sits by the judgment-seat and laughs.
The gray walls, broken, weatherworn oracles,
Sing that she was once a girl of love and laughter,
Then a fair mother with lullabies on her lips,
Caresses in her eyes, who spent her days
In weaving warmth to keep her brood against the winter cold.
And in her tongue was the law of kindness;
For her God was the Lord Jehovah.
Enemies uprose and swore her accused,
Laid at her door the writhing forms of little children,
And she could but answer: "The Evil One
Torments them in my shape."
She stood amazed before the tribunal of her church
And heard the gate of God's house closed against her.
Oh, shuddering silence of the throng,
And fearful the words spoken from the judgment-seat!
She raised her white head and clasped her wrinkled hands:
"Pity me, Lord, pity my anguish!
Nor, since Thou art a just and terrible God,
Forget to visit thy wrath upon these people;
For they have sworn away the life of Thy servant
Who hath lived long in the land keeping Thy commandments.
I am old, Lord, and betrayed;
By neighbor and kin am I betrayed;
A Judas kiss hath marked me for a witch.
Possessed of a devil? Here be a legion of devils!
Smite them, O God, yea, utterly destroy them that persecute the innocent."
Before this mother in Israel the judges cowered;
But still they suffered her to die.
Through the tragic, guilty walls I hear the sighs
Of desolate women and penitent, remorseful men.

Sing of happier themes, O many-voiced epic,
Sing how the ages, like thrifty husbandmen, winnow the creeds of men,
And leave only faith and love and truth.
Sing of the Puritan's nobler nature,
Fathomless as the forests he felled,
Irresistible as the winds that blow.
His trenchant conviction was but the somber bulwark
Which guarded his pure ideal.
Resolute by the communion board he stood,
And after solemn prayer solemnly cancelled
And abolished the divine right of kings
And declared the holy rights of man.
Prophet and toiler, yearning for other worlds, yet wise in this;
Scornful of earthly empire and brooding on death,
Yet wrestling life out of the wilderness
And laying stone on stone the foundation of a temporal state!
I see him standing at his cabin-door at eventide
With dreaming, fearless eyes gazing at sunset hills;
In his prophetic sight Liberty, like a bride,
Hasteth to meet her lord, the westward-going man!
Even as he saw the citadel of Heaven,
He beheld an earthly state divinely fair and just.
Mystic and statesman, maker of homes,
Strengthened by the primal law of toil,
And schooled by monarch-made injustices,
He carried the covenant of liberty with fire and sword,
And laid a rich state on frugality!
Many republics have sprung into being,
Full-grown, equipped with theories forged in reason;
All, all have fallen in a single night;
But to the wise, fire-hardened Puritan
Democracy was not a blaze of glory
To crackle for an hour and be quenched out
By the first gust that blows across the world.
I see him standing at his cabin-door,
And all his dreams are true as when he dreamed them;
But only shall they be fulfilled if we
Are mindful of the toil that gave him power,
Are brave to dare a wilderness of wrong;
So long shall Nature nourish us and Spring
Throw riches in the lap of man
As we beget no wasteful, weak-handed generations,
But bend us to the fruitful earth in toil.
Beyond the wall a new-plowed field lies steaming in the sun,
And down the road a merry group of children
Run toward the village school.

Hear, O hear! In the historian walls
Rises the beat and the tumult of the struggle for freedom.
Sacred, blood-stained walls, your peaceful front
Sheltered the fateful fires of Lexington;
Builded to fence green fields and keep the herds at pasture,
Ye became the frowning breastworks of stern battle;
Lowly boundaries of the freeman's farm,
Ye grew the rampart of a land at war;
And still ye cross the centuries
Between the ages of monarchs and the age
When farmers in their fields are kings.
From the Revolution the young Republic emerged,
She mounted up as on the wings of the eagle,
She ran and was not weary, and all the children of the world
Joined her and followed her shining path.
But ever as she ran, above her lifted head
Darkened the monster cloud of slavery.
Hark! In the walls, amid voices of prayer and of triumph,
I hear the clank of manacles and the ominous mutterings of bondsmen!
At Gettysburg, our Golgotha, the sons of the fathers
Poured their blood to wash out a nation's shame.
Cleansed by tribulation and atonement,
The broken nation rose from her knees,
And with hope reborn in her heart set forth again
Upon the open road to ideal democracy.

Sing, walls, in lightning words that shall cause the world to vibrate,
Of the democracy to come,
Of the swift, teeming, confident thing!
We are part of it--the wonder and the terror and the glory!
Fearless we rush forward to meet the years,
The years that come flying towards us
With wings outspread, agleam on the horizon of time!

O eloquent, sane walls, instinct with a new faith,
Ye are barbarous, in congruous, but great with the greatness of reality.
Walls wrought in unfaltering effort,
Sing of our prosperity, the joyous harvest
Of the labor of lusty toilers.
Down through the years comes the ring of their victorious axes:
"Ye are titans of the forest, but we are stronger;
Ye are strong with the strength of mighty winds,
But we are strong with the unconquerable strength of souls!"
Still the young race, unassailable, inviolate,
Shakes the solitudes with the strokes of creation;
Doubly strong we renew the valorous days,
And like a measureless sea we overflow
The fresh green, benevolent West,
The buoyant, fruitful West that dares and sings!
Pure, dew-dripping walls that guard
The quiet, lovable, fertile fields,
Sing praises to Him who from the mossy rocks
Can bid the fountains leap in thirsty lands.
I walk beside the stones through the young grain,
Through waves of wheat that billow about my knees.
The walls contest the onward march of the wheat;
But the wheat is charged with the life of the world;
Its force is irresistible; onward it sweeps,
An engulfing tide, over all the land,
Till hill and valley, field and plain
Are flooded with its green felicity!
Out of the moist earth it has sprung;
In the gracious amplitudes of her bosom it was nurtured,
And in it is wrought the miracle of life.

Sing, prophetic, mystic walls, of the dreams of the builders;
Sing in thundering tones that shall thrill us
To try our dull discontent, our barren wisdom
Against their propagating, unquenchable, questionless visions.
Sing in renerving refrain of the resolute men,
Each a Lincoln in his smoldering patience,
Each a Luther in his fearless faith,
Who made a breach in the wall of darkness
And let the hosts of liberty march through.

Calm, eternal walls, tranquil, mature,
Which old voices, old songs, old kisses cover,
As mosses and lichens cover your ancient stones,
Teach me the secret of your serene repose;
Tell of the greater things to be,
When love and wisdom are the only creed,
And law and right are one.
Sing that the Lord cometh, the Lord cometh,
The fountain-head and spring of life!
Sing, steady, exultant walls, in strains hallowed and touched with fire,
Sing that the Lord shall build us all together.
As living stones build us, cemented together.
May He who knoweth every pleasant thing
That our sires forewent to teach the peoples law and truth,
Who counted every stone blessed by their consecrated hands,
Grant that we remain liberty-loving, substantial, elemental,
And that faith, the rock not fashioned of human hands,
Be the stability of our triumphant, toiling days.

~ ~ ~

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?