Is This The Last Of All

 

E. Farjeon
Eleanor Farjeon (1881 – 1965)

 

It always gives me a shiver when I see a cat seeing what I can’t see.

Eleanor Farjeon

Now That You Might Shortly Go

by Eleanor Farjeon

Now that you too must shortly go the way
Which in these bloodshot years uncounted men
Have gone in vanishing armies day by day,
And in their numbers will not come again:

I must not strain the moments of our meeting
Striving for each look, each accent, not to miss,
Or question of our parting and our greeting,
Is this the last of all? is this—or this?

Last sight of all it may be with these eyes,
Last touch, last hearing, since eyes, hands, and ears,
Even serving love, are our mortalities,
And cling to what they own in mortal fears:—
But oh, let end what will, I hold you fast
By immortal love, which has no first or last.

 


Eleanor Farjeon was a friend and correspondent with Edward Thomas.  They met in 1912 when Eleanor was 31, when Edward’s brother invited her to tea.  Their friendship rooted in literature and poetry, helped give Thomas confidence in the quality of his own writing.   Farjeon is probably best known for a song that modern day listener’s attribute to the person who made it famous.  Farjeon wrote the lyrics to Morning Has Broken as a hymn and Cat Steven’s had the genius to immortalize it as a pop hit.

Farjeon was not a one hit wonder, she wrote plays, novels, children’s books,  a libretto and poetry.  She never married, but had several long, enduring friendships with male companions.  She supported herself as a writer and won multiple awards during her lifetime for her contribution to children’s literature. The Farjeon Award was established in her honor and is awarded for outstanding work in childrens’s literature annually.

World War I poetry is remarkable in its humanity,  in ways that it is hard to imagine given the catastrophic level of human life lost in a conflict that was just 100 years ago.  Total casualties both military and civilian in World War I  is estimated at 40 million, with 15 to 19 million deaths and 23 million wounded, with 9 to 11 million military personnel killed on all sides of the conflict.  For England an estimated 700,000 young men lost their lives out of a mobilized force of 6 million, an entire generation of both men and women, sister’s and brothers, father’s and mother’s, who lost loved ones or witnessed their lives forever altered by their experiences.

I don’t think I agree with John Berryman’s quote that the “artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him.”   I don’t think anyone is lucky as an artist to have been touched by war and had it influence their art.   But I do appreciate and honor the war poets of all genders who share a part of their experience through their writing.

 


Cat!

by Eleanor Farjeon

Cat!
Atter her, atter her,
Sleeky flatterer,
Spitfire chatterer,
Scatter her, scatter her

Wuff!
Wuff!
Treat her rough!
Git her, git her,
Whiskery spitter!
Catch her, catch her,
Green-eyed scratcher!
Slathery
Slithery
Hisser,
Don’t miss her!
Run till you’re dithery,
Hithery
Thithery
Pfitts! pfitts!
How she spits!
Spitch! Spatch!
Can’t she scratch!
Scritching the bark
Of the sycamore-tree,
She’s reached her ark
And’s hissing at me
Pfitts!Pfitts!
Wuff! Wuff!
Scat,
Cat!
That’s
That!

Up The Long, Delirious, Burning Blue

WW1_howitzer
World War I Howitzer

On Seeing a Piece of our Heavy Artillery Brought Into Action

by Wilfred Owen

“Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse;
Spend our resentment, cannon,—yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men’s sakes whom they vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, thy spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!”

 

Original Copy of Wilfred Owen Sonnet On Seeing

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

 

As Its Calm Ravisher

lovelace
Richard Lovelace (1617-1657)
Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.
Richard Lovelace

Song to Amarantha, that she might Dishevel Her Hair

by Richard Lovelace

Amarantha sweet and fair
Ah braid no more that shining hair!
As my curious hand or eye
Hovering round thee let it fly.

Let it fly as unconfin’d
As its calm ravisher, the wind,
Who hath left his darling th’East,
To wanton o’er that spicy nest.

Ev’ry tress must be confest
But neatly tangled at the best;
Like a clue of golden thread,
Most excellently ravelled.

Do not then wind up that light
In ribands, and o’er-cloud in night;
Like the sun in’s early ray,
But shake your head and scatter day.

See ’tis broke! Within this grove
The bower, and the walks of love,
Weary lie we down and rest,
And fan each other’s panting breast.

Here we’ll strip and cool our fire
In cream below, in milk-baths higher:
And when all wells are drawn dry,
I’ll drink a tear out of thine eye,

Which our very joys shall leave
That sorrows thus we can deceive;
Or our very sorrows weep,
That joys so ripe, so little keep.


Richard Lovelace (pronounced loveless) obvious did not live up to his literal namesake, nor did he adhere to the idea of strictly platonic love among the Cavalier poets.  There is plenty of zest in his poetry.  The Cavalier poets were a group of poets who wrote to the tastes of King Charles I and who in turn was their benefactor.  Many were loyalists who fought in support of the King.  Lovelace was not on the winning side of things politically and died destitute.

I wonder if he would find it amusing that his poems have survived 300 years later and still bring a smile to readers?  His poem is a Revlon commercial on men’s universal lusting after beautiful women with great hair.


To Lucasta, Going To War

by Richard Lovelace

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.

 

Her World Never Knew A Yard Un-Dogged

ancient rock painting

 

The Dog

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

Ogden Nash

De’an

by Heid E. Erdrich

Dogs so long with us we forget
that wolves allowed as how
they might be tamed and sprang up
all over the globe, with all humans,
all at once, like a good idea.

So we tamed our own hearts.
Leashed them or sent them to camp’s edge.
Even the shrinks once agreed, in dreams
our dogs are our deepest selves.

Ur Dog, a Siberian, dogged
the heels of nomads,
then turned south to Egypt
to keep Pharaoh safe.

Seemed strange, my mother sighed,
when finally we got a hound,
. . . a house without a dog. 

Her world never knew
a yard un-dogged and thus
unlocked. Sudden intrusions
impossible where yappers yap.

Or maybe she objected
to empty armchairs,
rooms too quiet
without the beat
of tail thump or paw thud.

N’de, Ojibwe say, my pet, 
which also suggests ode, that spot in the chest,
the part you point to when you pray,
or say with great feeling—great meaning,
meaning dog-love goes that deep.


There is ancient rhythm to the dance between dogs and humans.   It could be asked, who domesticated whom?   Did our canine brothers and sisters see as an unruly, unorganized clan in need of fostering and decided to bring us into their fold, as their own lost “tribe” as it were, or do we still persist in believing the myth in the manifest destiny of man?   Ask a dog, they will tell you the truth.

I have no doubt that dogs write poetry.   After all what is poetry?  An emotion the author creates within ourselves, and dogs are masters at creating emotions within us.  If we are looking for examples of unconditional love in our midst, most of us would not have to look farther than a dog in our household. God Dog may be the oldest and shortest palindrome in the English language other than I. I do think that this is a coincidence as language arises from our subconscious more than it does our conscious times when it comes to creating names.  Don’t believe me, name a new puppy sometime.  So next time you are petting your dog who has lovingly put he or she’s head on your knee and you feel your heart rate slowing and your mind becoming calmer, give thanks that this ancient bond is alive and well in your life.   Soak in the unconditional love and loyalty that is connected to you.  And then ask what can I do to wag my appreciation?


Lost Dog

by Ellen Bass

It’s just getting dark, fog drifting in,
damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,
and though I call his name
until my voice cracks,
there’s no faint tinkling
of tag against collar, no sleek
black silhouette with tall ears rushing
toward me through the wild radish.

As it turns out, he’s trotted home,
tracing the route of his trusty urine.
Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead,
not stolen by a car on West Cliff Drive.

Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I’m suffused with contentment.

If I could lose him like this every day
I’d be the happiest woman alive.