Swithin

Sappho and Her Friends: The Poetry Thread

163 posts in this topic

Up in the Morning Early
Robert Burns
 
Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,
I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
I’m sure its winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
A’ day they fare but sparely;
And lang's the night frae e’en to morn,
I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
I’m sure its winter fairly.
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This poem came up in a conversation recently, so I thought I would post it here:

 

Lycidas

By John Milton

 
Yet once more, O ye laurels, and once more 
Ye myrtles brown, with ivy never sere, 
I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude, 
And with forc'd fingers rude 
Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year. 
Bitter constraint and sad occasion dear 
Compels me to disturb your season due; 
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, 
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer. 
Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew 
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme. 
He must not float upon his wat'ry bier 
Unwept, and welter to the parching wind, 
Without the meed of some melodious tear. 
 
      Begin then, Sisters of the sacred well 
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring; 
Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string. 
Hence with denial vain and coy excuse! 
So may some gentle muse 
With lucky words favour my destin'd urn, 
And as he passes turn 
And bid fair peace be to my sable shroud! 
 
      For we were nurs'd upon the self-same hill, 
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill; 
Together both, ere the high lawns appear'd 
Under the opening eyelids of the morn, 
We drove afield, and both together heard 
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn, 
Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night, 
Oft till the star that rose at ev'ning bright 
Toward heav'n's descent had slop'd his westering wheel. 
Meanwhile the rural ditties were not mute, 
Temper'd to th'oaten flute; 
Rough Satyrs danc'd, and Fauns with clov'n heel, 
From the glad sound would not be absent long; 
And old Damætas lov'd to hear our song. 
 
      But O the heavy change now thou art gone, 
Now thou art gone, and never must return! 
Thee, Shepherd, thee the woods and desert caves, 
With wild thyme and the gadding vine o'ergrown, 
And all their echoes mourn. 
The willows and the hazel copses green 
Shall now no more be seen 
Fanning their joyous leaves to thy soft lays. 
As killing as the canker to the rose, 
Or taint-worm to the weanling herds that graze, 
Or frost to flowers that their gay wardrobe wear 
When first the white thorn blows: 
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to shepherd's ear. 
 
      Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep 
Clos'd o'er the head of your lov'd Lycidas? 
For neither were ye playing on the steep 
Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie, 
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high, 
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream. 
Ay me! I fondly dream 
Had ye bin there'—for what could that have done? 
What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore, 
The Muse herself, for her enchanting son, 
Whom universal nature did lament, 
When by the rout that made the hideous roar 
His gory visage down the stream was sent, 
Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore? 
 
      Alas! what boots it with incessant care 
To tend the homely, slighted shepherd's trade, 
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse? 
Were it not better done, as others use, 
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade, 
Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair? 
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise 
(That last infirmity of noble mind) 
To scorn delights and live laborious days; 
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find, 
And think to burst out into sudden blaze, 
Comes the blind Fury with th'abhorred shears, 
And slits the thin-spun life. "But not the praise," 
Phoebus replied, and touch'd my trembling ears; 
"Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, 
Nor in the glistering foil 
Set off to th'world, nor in broad rumour lies, 
But lives and spreads aloft by those pure eyes 
And perfect witness of all-judging Jove; 
As he pronounces lastly on each deed, 
Of so much fame in Heav'n expect thy meed." 
 
      O fountain Arethuse, and thou honour'd flood, 
Smooth-sliding Mincius, crown'd with vocal reeds, 
That strain I heard was of a higher mood. 
But now my oat proceeds, 
And listens to the Herald of the Sea, 
That came in Neptune's plea. 
He ask'd the waves, and ask'd the felon winds, 
"What hard mishap hath doom'd this gentle swain?" 
And question'd every gust of rugged wings 
That blows from off each beaked promontory. 
They knew not of his story; 
And sage Hippotades their answer brings, 
That not a blast was from his dungeon stray'd; 
The air was calm, and on the level brine 
Sleek Panope with all her sisters play'd. 
It was that fatal and perfidious bark, 
Built in th'eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark, 
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine. 
 
      Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow, 
His mantle hairy, and his bonnet sedge, 
Inwrought with figures dim, and on the edge 
Like to that sanguine flower inscrib'd with woe. 
"Ah! who hath reft," quoth he, "my dearest pledge?" 
Last came, and last did go, 
The Pilot of the Galilean lake; 
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain 
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain). 
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake: 
"How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain, 
Enow of such as for their bellies' sake 
Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold? 
Of other care they little reck'ning make 
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast 
And shove away the worthy bidden guest. 
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold 
A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least 
That to the faithful herdman's art belongs! 
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped; 
And when they list their lean and flashy songs 
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw, 
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, 
But, swoll'n with wind and the rank mist they draw, 
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread; 
Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw 
Daily devours apace, and nothing said, 
But that two-handed engine at the door 
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more". 
 
      Return, Alpheus: the dread voice is past 
That shrunk thy streams; return, Sicilian Muse, 
And call the vales and bid them hither cast 
Their bells and flow'rets of a thousand hues. 
Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use 
Of shades and wanton winds, and gushing brooks, 
On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks, 
Throw hither all your quaint enamel'd eyes, 
That on the green turf suck the honied showers 
And purple all the ground with vernal flowers. 
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, 
The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine, 
The white pink, and the pansy freak'd with jet, 
The glowing violet, 
The musk-rose, and the well attir'd woodbine, 
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head, 
And every flower that sad embroidery wears; 
Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed, 
And daffadillies fill their cups with tears, 
To strew the laureate hearse where Lycid lies. 
For so to interpose a little ease, 
Let our frail thoughts dally with false surmise. 
Ay me! Whilst thee the shores and sounding seas 
Wash far away, where'er thy bones are hurl'd; 
Whether beyond the stormy Hebrides, 
Where thou perhaps under the whelming tide 
Visit'st the bottom of the monstrous world, 
Or whether thou, to our moist vows denied, 
Sleep'st by the fable of Bellerus old, 
Where the great vision of the guarded mount 
Looks toward Namancos and Bayona's hold: 
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth; 
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth. 
 
      Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more, 
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead, 
Sunk though he be beneath the wat'ry floor; 
So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, 
And yet anon repairs his drooping head, 
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore 
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky: 
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high 
Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves; 
Where, other groves and other streams along, 
With nectar pure his oozy locks he laves, 
And hears the unexpressive nuptial song, 
In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love. 
There entertain him all the Saints above, 
In solemn troops, and sweet societies, 
That sing, and singing in their glory move, 
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes. 
Now, Lycidas, the shepherds weep no more: 
Henceforth thou art the Genius of the shore, 
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good 
To all that wander in that perilous flood. 
 
      Thus sang the uncouth swain to th'oaks and rills, 
While the still morn went out with sandals gray; 
He touch'd the tender stops of various quills, 
With eager thought warbling his Doric lay; 
And now the sun had stretch'd out all the hills, 
And now was dropp'd into the western bay; 
At last he rose, and twitch'd his mantle blue: 
To-morrow to fresh woods, and pastures new. 
 
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Thank you for Lycidas. A college prof of mine said that the poem always brought his college days back again on reading it. I think I feel that now. What a masterpiece is this poem!

 

Coincidentally, I've been listening to readings of Milton (and others) on some discs available on DVD and you tube, notably from Ian Richardson, who does a great job with these final verses from Paradise Lost, the departure of the"parents of mankind" from Eden. We see Mr Richardson in profile but at the verse five from the end turns his gaze towards us intoning that very human tendency (perhaps the First Tear, for who weeps in Eden?)  ...

 

 

 

... whereat

In either hand the hastening angel caught

Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate

Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast

To the subjected plain; then disappeared.

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld

Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,

Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate

With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms:

Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;

The world was all before them, where to choose

Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,

Through Eden took their solitary way.

 

----

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Midsummer

By Robert Fitzgerald





The adolescent night, breath of the town,   

Porchswings and whispers, maple leaves unseen   

Deploying moonlight quieter than a man dead   

After the locust’s song. These homes were mine   

And are not now forever, these on the steps   

Children I think removed to many places, 

Lost among hushed years, and so strangely known. 

 

This business is well ended. If in the dark 

The firefly made his gleam and sank therefrom,   

Yet someone’s hand would have him, the wet grass   

Bed him no more. From corners of the lawn 

The dusk-white dresses flutter and are past. 

Before our bed time there were things to say,   

Remembering tree-bark, crickets, and the first star… 

 

After, and as the sullenness of time 

Went on from summer, here in a land alien   

Made I my perfect fears and flower of thought:   

Sleep being no longer swift in the arms of pain,   

Revisitations are convenient with a cough,   

And there is something I would say again   

If I had not forever, if there were time.

 




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When Nat King Cole croons about his Beloved,

Sweet Lorraine, he makes no mistake about her ...

 

"Now, when it's rainin', I don't miss the sun,

'Cause it's in my baby's smile, oh oh ..."

 

...which is more that the speaker of

Shakespeare's sonnet #130 is willing to say

about his Beloved ...... and yet ...

 

***

 

130

 

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

   As any she belied with false compare.

 

---Shakespeare

 

***

 

Go girl; you rock.

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Knoxville: Summer of 1915

 

A beautiful poem by James Agee set to glorious music by Samuel Barber, sung by Eileen Farrell, conducted by Bernard Herrmann and the CBS Symphony Orchestra. 

 

 

 

Knoxville: Summer of 1915

It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street

and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees,
of birds’ hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by.

A horse, drawing a buggy,
breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt:
a loud auto: a quiet auto:
people in pairs, not in a hurry,
scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually,
the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard, and starched milk,
the image upon them of lovers and horsement, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising into iron moan; stopping;
belling and starting, stertorous; rousing and raising again

its iron increasing moan
and swimming its gold windows and straw seats
on past and past and past,
the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it
like a small malignant spirit
set to dog its tracks;
the iron whine rises on rising speed;
still risen, faints; halts;
the faint stinging bell;
rises again, still fainter;
fainting, lifting lifts,
faints foregone;
forgotten.
Now is the night one blue dew;
my father has drained,
he has coiled the hose.
Low on the length of lawns,
a frailing of fire who breathes.
Parents on porches:
rock and rock.
From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass
of the backyard
my father and mother have spread quilts
We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there.
They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet,
of nothing in particular,
of nothing at all.
The stars are wide and alive,
they all seem like a smile
of great sweetness,
and they seem very near.
All my people are larger bodies than mine,
with voices gentle and meaningless
like the voices of sleeping birds.
One is an artist, he is living at home.
One is a musician, she is living at home.
One is my mother who is good to me.
One is my father who is good to me.
By some chance, here they are,
all on this earth;
and who shall ever tell the sorrow
of being on this earth, lying, on quilts,
on the grass,
in a summer evening,
among the sounds of the night.
May God bless my people,
my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father,
oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble;
and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little
I am taken in
and put to bed.
Sleep, soft smiling,
draws me unto her;
and those receive me,
who quietly treat me,
as one familiar and well-beloved in that home:
but will not, oh, will not,
not now, not ever;
but will not ever tell me who I am.

---James Agee 

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I'll surely listen to this when I have more time. I love this piece. I grew up with Eleanor Steber singing this and it's believed that Barber composed this for her though this may be in dispute.

 

Swithin, you may or not know that the lyrics are not from a poem, although I like the scansion as you present it, and it would certainly making a convincing poem. It was actually taken from a page of prose (contiguous). Barber was perceptive to notice in this in the first place (I'm sure he was not specifically hunting for something he could put in song, he was probably just reading) and luckily for us had the ingenuity to realize that he could do something with it.

 

Great post.

 

https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/samuel-barber/knoxville-summer-of-1915-35

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I'll surely listen to this when I have more time. I love this piece. I grew up with Eleanor Steber singing this and it's believed that Barber composed this for her though this may be in dispute.

 

Swithin, you may or not know that the lyrics are not from a poem, although I like the scansion as you present it, and it would certainly making a convincing poem. It was actually taken from a page of prose (contiguous). Barber was perceptive to notice in this in the first place (I'm sure he was not specifically hunting for something he could put in song, he was probably just reading) and luckily for us had the ingenuity to realize that he could do something with it.

 

Great post.

 

Yes -- I knew that about the text, but I think it has sort of achieved poetic status, loosely stated. (I've seen it referred to as a "prose poem.") Barber didn't use all of the piece -- I just lifted a convenient example for this thread.

 

I was not familiar with this piece until recently. I was visiting a friend, who had been in the music business. He said he thought the piece had been commissioned by Steber. My friend has a Barber multi-CD set which includes the Farrell, Steber, and Price recordings. He played the Farrell for me, which is his favorite, but said that you can understand the words a bit better with the Steber. He liked the Price well enough, but least of the three.

 

I'm so glad to have been introduced to this piece. I haven't read much of Agee's work, apart from film criticism, but now want to read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

 

"Knoxville: Summer 1915" reminds me a little of another favorite piece of music: "Ain't It a Pretty Night," from Carlisle Floyd's opera Susannah, sung by Phyllis Curtin

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Another poem set to music:

 

"Sleep" by Peter Warlock (poem by John Fletcher)

 

 

 

 

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The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; 
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she 
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 
 
 

 

 
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Oh, oh, oh, I hate to cover up this beautiful poem so soon. I was familiar with a couple of the most famous verses but I don't think I ever read the entire poem before now and I (shamefully perhaps) didn't even know who wrote it.

 

Absolutely beautiful.

 

Emma Lazarus, I salute you !!

 

There is a lovely drawing of her on her wiki page.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Lazarus

 

Thanks, Swithin, I needed to see this.

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When the British Nazi girl Unity Mitford returned to England from Germany, at the start of World War II, Noel Coward wrote this poem:

 

Notes on Our New National Heroine

 

Unity, Unity – daughter of sorrow,

Creature of tragedy, child of distress,

Read her sad tale in the Mirror tomorrow,

Learn of her life in the Daily Express.

 

Think how she publicly postured and pandered,

Screeching her views on the Nazi regime,

Weep with her now in the News and the Standard,

Everything’s over, the end of a dream.

 

Sigh for this amateur social Egeria,

Think how she suffered and suffered in vain,

Caught in the toils of neurotic hysteria,

Ne’er to take tea with her Fuhrer again.

 

No more photography – no more publicity,

No more defiance and devil may care.

Back to old England and bleak domesticity,

Nothing but decency, truth and despair.

 

No concentration camps – nothing exciting here,

Nothing sadistic, no national slaves,

Only the freedom for which we are fighting here,

Only Britannia still ruling the waves.

 

Unity – Unity – daughter of sorrow,

Sad, disillusioned and pampered and rich,

How can she hope for a happy tomorrow?

What is there left for this tiresome ****?

Edited by TCMModerator1
Edited For Language

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