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Sappho and Her Friends: The Poetry Thread


Swithin
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I'm still in London, so here's an appropriate poem for the season and spirit here. (Note that "keel" means to stir; the parson's "saw" means his sermon; and "crabs" refer to crabapples.)

 

Winter by William Shakespeare, from Love's Labour's Lost

 

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

 

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Doesn't look like we're going to have a white Christmas in NYC or in much of the Northeast.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it q u e e r
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
 
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We had only our second snowfall yesterday morning here in Colorado. And like the first one, most of it melted by afternoon. 

 

The mountain peaks surrounding the valley I live in have plenty of snow, for which the ski resorts are grateful-- but this area where I am located has a slightly desert climate and it tries to keep the snow and any potentially white Christmas at bay.

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it q u e e r
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
 

 

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We had only our second snowfall yesterday morning here in Colorado. And like the first one, most of it melted by afternoon. 

 

The mountain peaks surrounding the valley I live in have plenty of snow, for which the ski resorts are grateful-- but this area where I am located has a slightly desert climate and it tries to keep the snow and any potentially white Christmas at bay.

I am going to try to upload a picture of the Colorado scenery if I get a chance.

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I am going to try to upload a picture of the Colorado scenery if I get a chance.

 

Thanks -- I think it's fine for this thread to be poems as well as commentary about the poems. I'd like to see more people posting poetry here, and commenting about it, if they are moved to do so.

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Blow, blow, thou winter wind

by William Shakespeare (from As You Like It)

 

Thou art not so unkind 
As man's ingratitude; 
Thy tooth is not so keen, 
Because thou art not seen, 
Although thy breath be rude. 

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly: 
Then heigh-ho, the holly! 
This life is most jolly. 

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky, 
That does not bite so nigh 
As benefits forgot: 
Though thou the waters warp, 
Thy sting is not so sharp 
As a friend remembered not. 
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: 
Then heigh-ho, the holly! 
This life is most jolly. 

 

 

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In Drear-Nighted December 

John Keats

 

In drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne'er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne'er remember
Apollo's summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would 'twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

 

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  • 1 month later...

February

By Margaret Atwood

Winter. Time to eat fat 
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   
a black fur sausage with yellow 
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   
to get onto my head. It’s his 
way of telling whether or not I’m dead. 
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   
He’ll think of something. He settles 
on my chest, breathing his breath 
of burped-up meat and musty sofas, 
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   
which are what will finish us off 
in the long run. Some cat owners around here   
should snip a few ****. If we wise   
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,   
or eat our young, like sharks. 
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over   
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine 
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing   
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits   
thirty below, and pollution pours 
out of our chimneys to keep us warm. 
February, month of despair, 
with a skewered heart in the centre. 
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries   
with a splash of vinegar. 
Cat, enough of your greedy whining 
and your small pink bumhole. 
Off my face! You’re the life principle, 
more or less, so get going 
on a little optimism around here. 
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

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February

By Margaret Atwood

 

Winter. Time to eat fat 

and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   

a black fur sausage with yellow 

Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   

to get onto my head. It’s his 

way of telling whether or not I’m dead. 

If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   

He’ll think of something. He settles 

on my chest, breathing his breath 

of burped-up meat and musty sofas, 

purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   

not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   

declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   

which are what will finish us off 

in the long run. Some cat owners around here   

should snip a few ****. If we wise   

hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,   

or eat our young, like sharks. 

But it’s love that does us in. Over and over   

again, He shoots, he scores! and famine 

crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing   

eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits   

thirty below, and pollution pours 

out of our chimneys to keep us warm. 

February, month of despair, 

with a skewered heart in the centre. 

I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries   

with a splash of vinegar. 

Cat, enough of your greedy whining 

and your small pink bumhole. 

Off my face! You’re the life principle, 

more or less, so get going 

on a little optimism around here. 

Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

 

I'm going to heed what mothers everywhere intoned a generation or so (or three), namely, "...if you don't have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all." ...or have I just violated the rule. If so, I'll offer equal time to something nice. Margaret, you write fine novels.

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My truck with poetry is mainly via the writing of song. It is in this spirit that I offer a favorite in the form of lyric co-written by the recently deceased Glenn Frey of The Eagles.

 

Desperado (sans piano)

 

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?

You been out ridin' fences for so long now

Oh, you're a hard one

I know that you got your reasons

These things that are pleasin' you

Can hurt you somehow

 

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

She'll beat you if she's able

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

 

Now it seems to me, some fine things

Have been laid upon your table

But you only want the ones that you can't get

 

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger

Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home

And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'

Your prison is walking through this world all alone

 

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?

The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine

It's hard to tell the night time from the day

You're losin' all your highs and lows

Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

 

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?

Come down from your fences, open the gate

It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you

You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)

You better let somebody love you before it's too late

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  • 2 months later...

‘Easter 1916’

W.B. Yeats

 

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-**** call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse –
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

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For Shakespeare's birthday:

 

 

SONNET 18:

 

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometimes the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometimes declines,

By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest;

     So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

     So long lives this, and this gives life to thee

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  • 2 months later...

==

 

Madame, Withouten Many Words

 

Madame, withouten many words,

Once I am sure ye will or no,

And if ye will, then leave your bordes, [jests]

And use your wit and show it so.

 

And with a beck ye shall me call,

And if of one that burneth alway

Ye have any pity at all,

Answer him fair with yea or nay.

 

If it be yea, I shall be fain,

If it be nay, friends as before;

Ye shall another man obtain

And I mine own and yours no more.

 

Sir Thomas Wyatt (the elder)

(1503-1542)

 

==

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William Wordsworth

(1770-1850)

 

The World Is Too Much With Us

 

The World is too much wth us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We gave given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The Sea that bears its bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

Are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.---Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lee,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

 

==

 

The last six lines (the sestet) ends the poem with a flourish

and is exhilarating.---L

 

--

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm still in London, so here's an appropriate poem for the season and spirit here. (Note that "keel" means to stir; the parson's "saw" means his sermon; and "crabs" refer to crabapples.)

 

Winter by William Shakespeare, from Love's Labour's Lost

 

When icicles hang by the wall,

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,

And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail,

When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,

Then nightly sings the staring owl,

Tu-whit;

Tu-who, a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

 

When all aloud the wind doth blow,

And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,

And birds sit brooding in the snow,

And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,

Then nightly sings the staring owl,

Tu-whit;

Tu-who, a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

 

I swear, the first words that came to mind this morning as I awoke were:

 

And Marian's nose looks red and raw

 

Strange things like that do happen and I thought there must be a reason for this, so why not an encore selection of Winter by the Bard.

 

(I hope I wake up tomorrow to "While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.")  I like that one.

 

:rolleyes:

Far gone ---Polonius

 

...but I have a weakness for the plight of young ladies in the cold of winter, especially oh so long ago. Alas, poor Marian. Alas, poor Joan.

 

P.S. ... but what a mighty evocation of winter. It may be August but I'm shivering.

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   ----

 

Anne Bronte (1820-1849)

 

Farewell

 

Farewell to thee! but not farewell

To all my fondest thoughts of thee:

Within my heart they still shall dwell;

And they shall cheer and comfort me.

O, beautiful, and full of grace!

If thou hadst never met mine eye,

I had not dreamed a living face

Could fancied charms so far outvie.

 

If I may ne'er behold again

That form and face so dear to me,

Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain

Preserve, for aye, their memory.

 

That voice, the magic of whose tone

Can wake an echo in my breast,

Creating feelings that, alone,

Can make my tranced spirit blest.

 

That laughing eye, whose sunny beam

My memory would not cherish less; --

And oh, that smile! whose joyous gleam

Nor mortal language can express.

 

Adieu, but let me cherish, still,

The hope with which I cannot part.

Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,

But still it lingers in my heart.

 

And who can tell but Heaven, at last,

May answer all my thousand prayers,

And bid the future pay the past

With joy for anguish, smiles for tears?

 

Farewell

 

 

----

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  • 3 weeks later...

For those who don't know the bulk of Baudelaire's poetry, it is primarily contained within a single great work, The Flowers of Evil. Baudelaire detested the Bourgeoisie and realized that many of his poems would not be accepted by them. But not only them, the authorities banned many of them as well. Baudelaire was more that his current society could take. This poem is about a book but in truth about his oeuvre. He addresses three types of readers.

 

==

 

Epigraph for a Condemned Book

 

Quiet and bucolic man resting

So at your ease, sober and pristine,

In quiet complacency languishing.

Throw away my book, so saturnine,

So wild and so melancholy waxing.

 

If your rhetoric does not meld with writhing

Satan, personified by the depths of Truth

Throw it away I say, you'd grasp nothing,

And if so think me quite mad or uncouth.

 

But if, succumbing not to sentimentality,

Rather casting your eye to the depths of my creed,

Read me then, to love me and understand my screed.

 

O Inquisitive One! You there! The Soul that does Suffer

And relentlessly pursues You're own Paradise real and versed,

So then I ask you, do Pity me well! ... If not, let you be cursed!

 

— translated by William Aggeler (with an unauthorized assist from laffite)

 

I love Baudelaire and my erstwhile French studies has enabled me

to understand some poems just as a native speaker would. Most English

translations are good or very good (including William Aggeler's) but

these translations never satisfy me. The meaning is always right there

but they fail to capture the rhythm and the beauty. I've tried to remedy

that by my upstart changes to reflect how I would like it read in English.

I didn't intend to include rhymes but they help at least a little with what I'm

trying to do. Some of then are forced. And there is more verbiage.You can

see that the stanzas get longer and longer (oops!) but this is all in fun.

Apologies to Mr Charles Baudelaire and Mr William Aggeler.

Below is the original Baudelaire---laffite

 

-

 

Épigraphe pour un livre condamné

 

Lecteur paisible et bucolique,

Sobre et naïf homme de bien,

Jette ce livre saturnien,

Orgiaque et mélancolique.

 

Si tu n'as fait ta rhétorique

Chez Satan, le rusé doyen,

Jette! tu n'y comprendrais rien,

Ou tu me croirais hysthérique.

 

Mais si, sans se laisser charmer,

Ton oeil sait plonger dans les gouffres,

Lis-moi, pour apprendre à m'aimer;

 

Âme curieuse qui souffres

Et vas cherchant ton paradis,

Plains-moi!... Sinon, je te maudis!

 

— Charles Baudelaire

 

Oh Charles, you do it with such great economy.

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Laffite-- Anywhere out of this world was the poem that we usually read in class-- and I believe the English title is the title of the French poem.

 

Les fleurs du mal-- is primarily maligned because of the lesbian content.

 

If I recall correctly, they actually seized the copies and closed down the printer.

 

Baudelaire had to flee to Belgium where he tried to make a living giving lectures.

 

But the worsening condition of his syphilis caused him to collapse and he was sent home to die.

 

I found his life very interesting to study, but I also found his poetry very difficult to understand.

 

As a consequence I think I spent more time with Verlaine. I can relate to it a little better.

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As a lad, I cherished Enid Starkie's brilliant biography of Baudelaire, a book which was famous for introducing English readers to the poet. I still have the yellowing Pelican paperback, 1971 edition of her 1933 book. Starkie precedes her introduction with this quote from "Epigraph for a Condemned Book" (with appropriate accents, of course):

 

Mais si, sans se laisser charmer

Ton oeil plonger dans les gouffres,

Lis moi pour apprendre a m'aimer.

 

I thought then, as a callow youth, that Starkie was a lesbian, and Joanna Richardson's 1973 biography of Starkie touches gingerly on the subject. 

 

I recommend both biographies -- Starkie's of Baudelaire; and Richardson's of Starkie.

 

Starkie was active in Oxford politics. She campaigned vigorously for the election of Cecil Day-Lewis to the Chair of Poetry, the oldest Chair in Oxford. Day-Lewis won (the Poetry Chair was by election). He was father to Daniel Day-Lewis.

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Baudelaire was always strapped for money, even though his deceased father left him well off. His mother was a great deal younger than his father. He was very young when his father died so his money was left in trust under her control.

 

She had doubts about baudelaire's lifestyle, so she always kept him on a tight leash. It didn't help that she was remarried to a Napoleonic officer who was the antithesis of Baudelaire's character.

 

Something that I always thought was fantastic - - he made a living by translating Edgar Allan Poe into French. After that I always thought of them as being of maybe similar type personalities.

 

But Edgar Allan Poe was truly ruined by alcoholism - - whereas so much of what Baudelaire wrote about--he really wasn't taking part in. It was part of his image.

 

L'INVITATION au Voyage was published in Les Fleur du Mal but it's a non controversial poem that is often found in High School French textbooks.

For many French students, it's the first Baudelaire they will read.

 

 

I remember the refrain--

 

Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et béauté

Luxe, calme et volupté

 

" there, all is order and beauty

Luxury, peace, and pleasure."

 

 

The Richardson biography is the most thorough of those recently written and it was published in 1994.

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