And Not To Yield

 

Ulysses (An Excerpt)

by Alfred Lord Tennyson  (1809 – 1892)

….Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
 

Of Old Sat Freedom On The Heights

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Of old sat Freedom on the heights,
The thunders breaking at her feet:
Above her shook the starry lights:
She heard the torrents meet.

There in her place she did rejoice,
Self-gather’d in her prophet-mind,
But fragments of her mighty voice
Came rolling on the wind.

Then stept she down thro’ town and field
To mingle with the human race,
And part by part to men reveal’d
The fulness of her face—

Grave mother of majestic works,
From her isle-altar gazing down,
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks,
And, King-like, wears the crown:

Her open eyes desire the truth.
The wisdom of a thousand years
Is in them. May perpetual youth
Keep dry their light from tears;

That her fair form may stand and shine,
Make bright our days and light our dreams,
Turning to scorn with lips divine
The falsehood of extremes!

Then It Was Over

 In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast; In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest. In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove; In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The Wild Iris

by Louise Gluck

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out:
that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over:
that which you fear, being
a soul and unable

to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.


Iris have a way of waiting until the first week of June in Minnesota before they make a splash in our gardens.  The timing of their flowers coincide with peonies filling the air with their unique fragrance, while iris fill our eyes with unparalleled splendor.   There is nothing really like the blue/purple color of iris with their yellow beardish highlights.   Iris have six petals, not unusual in the flower world, but the way they present themselves is unique at least for Minnesota gardens, a visual treat we wait for anxiously each summer.  Sadly this year, we have been hit with an unprecedented early heat wave with temperatures in the high 90’s for 7 days in a row just as the iris started blooming.   The iris and peonies are both showing the stress effects of the high temperatures, dropping petals much too quickly.    There will be no slow languor of color this year in our iris beds, just a quick visit and then the promise of next year in their foliage the rest of the season. 

The origins of the English word iris – with meanings for both the flower and the colored portion of our eyes are the same; Greek for rainbow.   Apparently, flattery will get you everywhere, even in the ancient world, with a whispered compliment in your lover’s ear about the beauty of their eyes reminding you of flowers and rainbows the perfect way to set the mood. 

I was pleased to find multiple poems in which one form or the other of iris are used as inspiration to paint a verbal picture.  I was recently in California at a house with an incredible array of gardens and landscaping.  There was a very old pond that was in need of a bit of attention, but still had vestiges of a former gardener’s deft touch.  There was a wild iris overhanging its reflecting surface, long and gangly and brilliant green, with a single yellow flower that was utter perfection.  As I stared at it silently and took in the broader view of the entire pond, I realized there was a golden hued frog, with only its head and a bit of its back showing above the water line, directly below the embankment on which the iris stood prominently.  As I crouched down to get a better look at this fine froggy friend, it jumped and dove beneath the duck weed and lily pads and disappeared.  That encounter was a great reminder of how brief beauty can enter and exit our eye in a flash, and the need to let it live on in our memory and in our art to inspire us to keep looking for it to return when we least expect it. 


The Sadness Of The Moon

by Charles Baudelaire

THE Moon more indolently dreams to-night
Than a fair woman on her couch at rest,
Caressing, with a hand distraught and light,
Before she sleeps, the contour of her breast.

Upon her silken avalanche of down,
Dying she breathes a long and swooning sigh;
And watches the white visions past her flown,
Which rise like blossoms to the azure sky.

And when, at times, wrapped in her languor deep,
Earthward she lets a furtive tear-drop flow,
Some pious poet, enemy of sleep,

Takes in his hollow hand the tear of snow,
Whence gleams of iris and of opal start,
And hides it from the Sun, deep in his heart

As I Desire To Be

This is the 600th post on Fourteenlines

If I Were Loved

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

If I were loved, as I desire to be,
What is there in the great sphere of the earth,
And range of evil between death and birth,
That I should fear,–if I were loved by thee?
All the inner, all the outer world of pain
Clear Love would pierce and cleave, if thou wert mine
As I have heard that, somewhere in the main,
Fresh-water springs come up through bitter brine.

‘T were joy, not fear, claspt hand-in-hand with thee,
To wait for death–mute–careless of all ills,
Apart upon a mountain, tho’ the surge
Of some new deluge from a thousand hills
Flung leagues of roaring foam into the gorge
Below us, as far on as eye could see.


The Charge of The Light Brigade

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

I
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.

VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

Dearest, Teach Me How To Hope

Lincoln_Beachey_at_Grant_Park_in_1911
Lincoln Beachey in 1911

The Skipping Rope

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

SURE never yet was antelope
Could skip so lightly by.
Stand off, or else my skipping-rope
Will hit you in the eye.
How lightly Whirls the skipping-rope !
How fairy-like you fly !
Go, get you gone, you muse and mope –
I hate that silly sigh.
Nay, dearest, teach me how to hope,
Or tell me how to die.
There, take it, take my skipping-rope,
And hang yourself thereby.


Lincoln Beachey was a pilot and daredevil beyond compare during the hey day of the bi-plane in the early days of human flight. Beachey mastered flying in ways that other pilots couldn’t conceive, maneuvers so difficult that copycats often lost their lives in their attempt to learn them. Then Beachey committed the greatest flaw of the human condition, he made an assumption that proved fatal. When the monoplane came along, the early versions were constructed with the same flimsy materials that bi-planes were made of, but since monoplanes require faster speeds to provide lift, it meant the g-forces exerted on the structure of the plane are greater as well in aerial manuevers, and when Beachey took his first monoplane up to test its ability to execute the skills he had mastered in a bi-plane, the wings fell off and he plummeted to his death.  Some mistakes you don’t come back from.

Beachey’s ignoble death has relegated him to the back lot of history, with the only early aviators who are commonly known are the Minnesotan Charles Lindbergh who made the first crossing of the Atlantic in 1927 and Amelia Earhart who is famous for crashing into the Pacific Ocean somewhere and was never heard from again.

What does Beachey have to do with poetry? Sometimes we have to fly faster than our wings were designed, and then like Tennyson says, “Teach me how to hope, or tell me how to die.”

Check out the Radiolab podcast link below to hear the whole wonderful story about Lincoln Beachy and how he became immortalized in San Francisco culture as a line in a jump rope song.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/159748-loop-loop


Sonnet

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Me my own fate to lasting sorrow doometh:
Thy woes are birds of passage, transitory:
Thy spirit, circled with a living glory,
In summer still a summer joy resumeth.
Alone my hopeless melancholy gloometh,
Like a lone cypress, through the twilight hoary,
From an old garden where no flower bloometh,
One cypress on an inland promontory.
But yet my lonely spirit follows thine,
As round the rolling earth night follows day:
But yet thy lights on my horizon shine
Into my night when thou art far away;
I am so dark, alas! and thou so bright,
When we two meet there’s never perfect light.

Ring in Nobler Modes of Life

Hope smiles from the threshold of years to come, whispering; “It will be happier.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Biography-of-Alfred-Lord-Tennyson
Alfred Lord Tennyson

The New Year

by Henry Wilmarth Hazzen (1842 – 1899)

 

As speed the years in their unceasing roll,
A sense of newness fills each breaking morn;
And aims, by which we would our lives dorn,
Fresh impulse gain from out each anxious soul.
Yet with each falling night misgivings come
From partial failure, warding off dismay
By new resolves that wait the coming day,—
When, lo! the Fates our purpose will benumb.
Master is he, thus conscious of life’s stress,
Who, year by year thro’ toil, a path has found
To best from better, as its vantage ground;
And he whose mission, too, has been far less,
To strive in sunshine, than in shadows grope,
Still finds his heart replete with youth and hope.

 


In Memoriam (Ring Out, Wild Bells)

by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.