As the title may suggest, I managed to overcome all of the trials and tribulations that Europe’s public transport utterly failed to throw at me and made it to Ukraine, where I’m taking some time from my busy schedule of local cuisine, high-quality vodka and finer quality company to keep my appointment with Monday’s verse selection. Behold the sacrifices I make to enrich the lives of my beloved public.

The first poem today is an old favourite, and one of the very few that I can remember by heart. This, it transpires, is a complete waste of brain space, since it’s available in a million places on line. What can one expect of something written by William Blake?

The Clod and the Pebble

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven’s despite.”

Here Blake concisely sums up two opposing and equally unhealthy attitudes to love, both of which are conspicuous for the absence of any sense of reciprocal feeling. Both the clod and the pebble assume that love is simply bestowed and never returned: the one is crushed by heedless cows, the other simply remains motionless and changeless in the uncaring water of the stream. Neither, it will be noted, is something that could be expected to receive or even understand love, so the attitude of each is ridiculous in the mouth that propounds it.

I have one book of poetry with me, and inevitably it’s about war. Today I visited a memorial that commemorates more dead than all Devonshire memorials put together. This poem was written about the British, but I think it has more scope than one time, one land or one war. It’s by W.H. Auden.

Yes, We Are Going to Suffer

Yes, we are going to suffer now; the sky
Throbs like a feverish forehead; pain is real;
The groping searchlights suddenly reveal
The little natures that will make us cry,

Who never quite believed they could exist,
Not where we were. They take us by surprise
Like ugly long-forgotten memories,
And like a conscience all the guns resist.

Behind each sociable home-loving eye
The private massacres are taking place;
All women, Jews, the Rich, the Human Race.

The mountains cannot judge us when we lie:
We dwell upon the earth; the earth obeys
The intelligent and evil till they die.

It’s a short post today, because my host’s friend has just arrived and I need to be sociable. My brief, shower-long annexation of the computer is at an end, and I leave you with three lines by Francis King.

Our three old landlords sit and quarrel,
For a dead rose
And a few sheaves of thistle, rue and sorrel.

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