Giving It Verbal Hell

Dublin Bar

300 – The Dream Songs
Henry Comforted

by John Berryman

Your first day in Dublin is always your worst
& today is better, as when thirty years ago
I recovered my spirits at once.
Unshaven, tieless, with the most expensive drink in the room,
I have recovered a little.  The room is filling
with Irish types – one gorgeous girl,

pipe-men, cigarette-men, a portentous black beard,
& the accents are flying: the all-service man
is a giant with a shock of red hair & and easy air.
Henry is feeling better,
owing to three gin-&-vermouths.
He is seeking where to live & pursue his work.

The Irish are not neat, except in the Book of Kells,
The skirts are as short here as in Minnesota.
What the services need
is a teen-age H-bomb: fashions their elders can follow,
His shoes are monumental, Egyptian, ay
the two at me left are giving it verbal hell.


I wonder what Berryman and Dowden would have ordered in a Dublin bar together if time travel made that meeting possible?   Guinness? Irish whisky?  Or hard cider?   Let’s make it a double and sit down for a while, the conversation around poetry is going to run well into the night.

From their poetry I would deduce that both Berryman and Dowden had the gift for listening, though Berryman toiled with much greater freedom in how to set his fellow man’s tongue upon the page.  Greater freedom was not enough to save Berryman, or maybe I miss the point of his demise, being too judgmental. Maybe freedom is precisely what he achieved.

Today’s post is number 300 for Fourteenlines.  The journey continues to be entertaining and challenging, at least for me.  I sometimes worry that my format might not stand up to the test of 1,000 posts, becoming mundane and formulaic in the eyes of readers other than myself. I hope I deliver a surprise now and again in both the varied authors poetry that I share and in a couple of lines in my commentary.  I appreciate the people from all over the world that touch base with Fourteenlines, either as a regular visitor or as a one time interaction, looking for the exact poem to fill up their cup.  Remember, I welcome feedback, take requests and am open to guest bloggers. Be well, write without judgement of yourself and breathe.


Darwinism in Morals

Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

High instincts, dim perversions, sacred fears,
–Whence issuing? Are they but the brain’s amassed
Tradition, shapings of a barbarous past,
Remoulded ever by the younger years,
Mixed with fresh clay, and kneaded with new tears?
No more? The dead chief’s ghost a shadow cast
Across the roving clan, and thence at last
Comes God, who in the soul His law uprears?
Is this the whole? Has not the Future powers
To match the Past,–attractions, pulsings, tides,
And voices for purged ears? Is all our light
The glow of ancient sunsets and lost hours?
Advance no banners up heaven’s eastern sides?
Trembles the margin with no portent bright?

The World’s True Lover

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

“Some things are too great to come at directly. Just as we may weave back and forth as we climb a hill, and appear to be going round in circles, yet all the while are coming closer to the summit, so in our religious and spiritual life things may seem circuitous; we may think we have come back to the same spot, but always, if we press on, it is a little higher, a little closer to the truth.”

Malcolm Guite

The Anointing At Bethany

by Malcolm Guite

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

 

A friend asked me recently, “Do any of us really see what is going on in another person’s life?” It was in reference to an unimaginable tragedy, the death of a beloved spouse. My answer was yes we do.  Its what death brings, a spotlight into the reality of our friends and families lives.  There’s no hiding in death for the grieving. Grief is a public, communal act.  An act of giving to each other the gift of remembrance, support, and sharing of sadness.  But that spotlight doesn’t last very long before the community moves on, because it must move on, beyond the place of just love and loss, and back to the place of love and life, to see beyond the cross.

Malcolm Guite is one of those big minds whose energy comes through his poetry, his oratory, his intention.   He is a fellow lover of sonnets.   The video below is an example of his clever wisdom and a good reminder on the power of words.

The God Of Opportunity

 

Vachel-Lindsay
Vachel Lindsay

Never be a cynic, even a gentle one.  Never help out a sneer, not even at the Devil.

Vachel Lindsay

To the God of Opportunity

by Susie Frances Harrison (1859 – 1935)

Strange, that no idol hath been roughly wrought,
Or fairly carven, bearing on its base
A name so potent! Strange, no ancient race,
Workers in whitest Parian, ever sought
To reproduce thy beauty, slyly fraught
With vast suggestion! Strange, thou couldst not brace
The dull Assyrian, didst not tempt from chase,
Trophy and battle, the sons of literal thought.

We who are tired of gods must yet to thee
Render allegiance. Chance and Love are blind,
And Cause is soulless, Art is deaf and vain,
All unavailing looms the God of Pain
Disclaiming these, we choose with prescient mind
The unknown God of Opportunity.


Abraham Lincoln Walks At Midnight

by Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931)

(In Springfield, Illinois)

It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:—as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long,
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks of men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why;
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free:
A league of sober folk, the Workers’ Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that things must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

 

 

I Remember Adelstrop

 

edward-thomas-in-nature-2_thumb.jpg
Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917)

Today’s Fourteenlines is a guest blog by Frank Hudson.   Please check out his marvelous website and commentary on Edward Thomas including his creative interpretations in music by clicking on the link below.

Edward Thomas and World War 1

If you have an interest in guest blogging on Fourteenlines contact me at fourteenlines10@gmail.com.   Enjoy today’s blog and thank you Frank!

The Owl

by Edward Thomas

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.


Adelstrop

By Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Full On Thy Bloom

Scottish Daisy
Scottish Highlands

The Night is dark, the waters deep,
Yet soft the billows roll;
Alas! at every breeze I weep –
The storm is in my soul.

Helen Maria Williams

Sonnet On Reading Burns’ To A Mountain Daisy

By Helen Maria Williams (1759 – 1827)

While soon the “garden’s flaunting flowers” decay,
And, scatter’d on the earth, neglected lie,
The “Mountain Daisy,” cherish’d by the ray
A poet drew from heav’n, shall never die.
Ah! like that lovely flower the poet rose!
‘Mid penury’s bare soil and bitter gale;
He felt each storm that on the mountain blows,
Nor ever knew the shelter of the vale.
By Genius in her native vigour nurst,
On Nature with impassion’d look he gazed,
Then through the cloud of adverse fortune burst
Indignant, and in light unborrow’d blaz’d.
Shield from rude sorrow, SCOTIA! shield thy bard:–
His heav’n-taught numbers Fame herself will guard.

 


Described during her lifetime by her detractors as politically radical and sexually wanton, Helen Maria Williams sounds like my kind of woman, a poet with a mind of her own and the will (and means) to do what she wanted.  I find it a bit humorous that part of her sentence during a brief stay in prison in France included the ominous warning that she was only allowed to write sonnets and do translation work while behind bars.  The judge apparently feeling that penning sonnets was sufficient punishment for a writer.

Helen’s sonnets were not so magical as to launch a thousand ships, but she has a certain flair and the chops to have lived a bona fide poetic life, such that her writing has managed to avoid the dust bin of history.   I find her defense and admiration of Burns’ poem charming.

I read Burns’ poetry aloud much more convincingly if I drink a bit of whiskey before hand.  I recommend you try a single malt aged for 10 years or more of anything that costs at least $35/bottle USD and whose brand is difficult to pronounce on the bottle, it will be good practice for Burns. My pro tip, is like all good fake speakers of a foreign language, when you get to a sticky wicket of a word and don’t know how it’s pronounced, don’t slow down, do your best and say it loudly with confidence and with your own version of a fake Scottish accent and you’ll fool most everyone but a real Scot.


To A Mountain Daisy

by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

On Turning One Down with the Plow, in April, 1786

Wee, modest, crimson-tippèd flow’r,
Thou’s met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
   .Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow’r,
   .Thou bonie gem.

Alas! it’s no thy neibor sweet,
The bonie lark, companion meet,
Bending thee ‘mang the dewy weet
  .Wi’ spreck’d breast,
When upward-springing, blythe, to greet
   .The purpling east.

Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
  . Amid the storm,
Scarce rear’d above the parent-earth
      . Thy tender form.

The flaunting flowers our gardens yield
High shelt’ring woods an’ wa’s maun shield:
But thou, beneath the random bield
    . O’ clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble-field
   . Unseen, alane.

There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snawie-bosom sun-ward spread,
Thou lifts thy unassuming head
   . In humble guise;
But now the share uptears thy bed,
     . And low thou lies!

Such is the fate of artless maid,
Sweet flow’ret of the rural shade!
By love’s simplicity betray’d
   . And guileless trust;
Till she, like thee, all soil’d, is laid
    . Low i’ the dust.

Such is the fate of simple bard,
On life’s rough ocean luckless starr’d!
Unskilful he to note the card
   .  Of prudent lore,
Till billows rage and gales blow hard,
  .  And whelm him o’er!

Such fate to suffering Worth is giv’n,
Who long with wants and woes has striv’n,
By human pride or cunning driv’n
   . To mis’ry’s brink;
Till, wrench’d of ev’ry stay but Heav’n,
     . He ruin’d sink!

Ev’n thou who mourn’st the Daisy’s fate,
That fate is thine—no distant date;
Stern Ruin’s ploughshare drives elate,
   . Full on thy bloom,
Till crush’d beneath the furrow’s weight
    .  Shall be thy doom.

And The Heart That Fed

ozymandias
The Relic of Ramses II that inspired Ozymandias

Ozymandias

by Horace Smith

IN Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desart knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.


Ozymandias

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 


Where does inspiration arise?   In the case of Shelley’s famous poem, it came from a little gamesmenship between two friends, a modest wager of who could write the better poem after seeing a drawing of Ozymandias pictured above.   Smith was a friend of Shelley’s and the two each wrote a sonnet after reading a portion of Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca historica, a history of the known world in the last century BC, much of which survives.

It does not seem such an odd place for poetic inspiration.  My parents invested in a complete Encyclopedia Britanica as a child, a very expensive addition to our library, and placed it on the lowest book shelf to give all of us easy access.  It served two purposes as a child.  It was the perfect building material for adding height and variation to hot wheel tracks, when hot wheels were only powered by gravity, and on rainy days, I would sit by the heater with the cats, and pull out a letter and browse through it, stumbling upon all kinds of interesting things I knew nothing about.   In grade school the Encyclopedia was the first place you went to begin a book report or paper on any subject.  Today, you see them out for free at yard sales, the owners hoping someone will cart them off.

I will never completely succumb to the lure of the simplicity of the digital era.  I don’t want an algorithm dictating what I do and don’t see based on past searches.  I want the freedom to stumble across something completely foreign and inviting.   I still look at maps, instead of relying on GPS for the same reason.   A map gives you context.  A map can tell you things about your surroundings that you had no idea existed.  A map can help you take the detour that turns out to be your real destination after all.  And I still enjoy finding an encyclopedia and pulling out a letter and opening it up randomly to find out what cool thing in Volume W might contain.

Music, When Soft Voices Die

file-13.jpeg
Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Music, When Soft Voices Die

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

 


life is more true than reason will deceive

by e. e. cummings

life is more true than reason will deceive
(more secret or than madness did reveal)
deeper is life than lose:higher than have
—but beauty is more each than living’s

all multiplied by infinity sans if
the mightiest meditations of mankind
cancelled are by one merely opening leaf
(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)

or does some littler bird than eyes can learn
look up to silence and completely sing?
futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn
(here less than nothing’s more than everything)

death, as men call him, ends what they call men
—but beauty is more now than dying’s when