It’s been a ridiculously busy week, so Monday’s Poets’ Corner has been postponed until now. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve been preoccupied with my mother’s birthday this weekend and my forthcoming trip to Central Europe, but sadly it’s all been work. Anyway, without further ado, here’s your delayed dose of culture for this week.

First, here’s a Thomas Hardy poem that I was discussing with one of my friends last month, and which will either help him with his thesis or just irritatingly remind him of it at an awkward moment.

Mad Judy

When the hamlet hailed a birth
Judy used to cry:
When she heard our christening mirth
She would kneel and sigh.
She was crazed, we knew, and we
Humoured her infirmity.

When the daughters and the sons
Gathered them to wed,
And we like-intending ones
Danced till dawn was red,
She would rock and mutter, ‘More
Comers to this stony shore!’

When old Headsman Death laid hands
On a babe or twain,
She would feast, and by her brands
Sing her songs again.
What she liked we let her do,
Judy was insane, we knew.

I shall now proceed to alienate all of my female readers with the help of Robert Bridges. I hasten to add that I stand by none of this: I just like writing that’s calculated to offend people. I might be reading too much into this, but I think he may have been feeling a little bitter about someone.

XVII.

Triolet.

All women born are so perverse
No man need boast their love possessing.
If nought seem better, nothing’s worse:
All women born are so perverse.
From Adam’s wife, that proved a curse
Though God had made her for a blessing,
All women born are so perverse
No man need boast their love possessing.

For those of you who read through that and are still here, I’ve selected something a little more acceptable. This is a particular favourite of mine, and dates from a time when Byron had been digging for treasure in the grounds of his house (because of course that’s how any sensible fellow deals with a cash-flow crisis). What he found and what he did with it should be pretty clear from this poem.

Lines Inscribed upon a Cup Formed from a Skull

Start not – nor deem my spirit fled;
In me behold the only skull,
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaffed like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up – thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
The drink of gods, than reptile’s food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst: another race,
When thou and thine, like me, are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

I seem to remember hearing recently about moths and the fear thereof. What should I find on opening The Book of American Poetry but this by Benjamin de Casseres?

Moth-terror

I have killed the moth flying around my night-light: wingless and dead  it lies upon the floor.
(O who will kill the great Time-Moth that eats holes in my soul and that burrows in and through my secretest veils!)
My will against its will, and no more will it fly at my
night-light or be hidden behind the curtains that swing in the winds.
(But O who will shatter the Change-Moth that leaves me in rags – tattered old tapestries that swing in the winds that blow out of Chaos!)
Night-Moth, Change-Moth, Time-Moth, eaters of dreams and of me!

Something short and sweet next, from that perennial favourite, Robert Herrick. It’s not in a blockquote because the italics are significant.

The Rosemarie branch

Grow for two ends, it matters not at all,
Be’t for my Bridall or my Buriall.

Finally, a poem about a subject very close to my heart at the moment: the sheer irritation of early-morning birdsong outside my window. Abraham Cowley probably overstates it a little, but that’s poetry for you.

The Swallow

Foolish prater, what dost thou
So early at my window do?
Cruel bird, thou’st ta’en away
A dream out of my arms to-day;
A dream that ne’er must equall’d be
By all that waking eyes may see.
Thou this damage to repair
Nothing half so sweet and fair,
Nothing half so good, canst bring,
Tho’ men may say thou bring’st the Spring.

I trust that this selection justifies the long delay in posting it. Enjoy.

Advertisements