There’s no justice. I did so little work last week that the meeting I had scheduled with a website client this afternoon was all set to turn into an embarrassing dressing down. What should I find on arriving at work this morning but an e-mail from said client postponing the meeting until a week tomorrow? My sole punishment was to wear a suit to work for no reason, which would have happened anyway. My heart rejoices in the knowledge that sloth has paid off once again. It always does: I was going to wash my car on Saturday, but didn’t because I was too lazy. This morning it rained, so I saved myself hours of fruitless labour there too.

It’s another mixed bag this week, presented as I found them in the books. Hopefully I can maintain a more cheerful tone than in previous selections, thanks to my completely unmerited good fortune. The first poem is by Ruth Mason Price. The simplicity of her verse echoes that of the picture she describes, and her final two lines could be a general instruction to the artist on how to avoid gilding the lily.

A Japanese Print

A curve for the shore,
A line for the lea,
A tint for the sky
Where the sunrise will be.
A stroke for a gull, a sweep for the main;
The skill to do more –
With the will to refrain.

The next poem is merely a link, because it’s far too long for my idle fingers to want to reproduce it here. I find it particularly appealing, from the Latin title to the general tendency to encourage luxury and vice. I give you Coronemus nos Rosis antequam Marcescant (Let us crown ourselves with roses before they fade away) by Thomas Jordan.

For health, wealth and beauty, wit, learning and sense,
Must all come to nothing a hundred years hence.

So much for my intention to be cheerful. This next one echoes a train of thought I had some months ago so closely that it deserves to be included here. It’s by Thomas R. Jones Jr.

Sometimes

Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play –
The lad I used to be.

And yet he smiles so wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder if he hopes to see
The man I might have been.

In a similar vein to Jordan’s verses, Henry Carey sings in praise of the fruit of the vine and his own unlikely capacity for it.

A Drinking Song

BACCHUS must now his power resign—
I am the only God of Wine!
It is not fit the wretch should be
In competition set with me,
Who can drink ten times more than he.

Make a new world, ye powers divine!
Stock’d with nothing else but Wine:
Let Wine its only product be,
Let Wine be earth, and air, and sea—
And let that Wine be all for me!

It wouldn’t be a real verse selection if I didn’t include at least one household name. This poem by Shelley has managed not to bestow a stock household phrase on the language, so it’s worth pointing out.

From the Arabic
AN IMITATION

My faint spirit was sitting in the light
Of thy looks, my love;
It panted for thee like the hind at noon
For the brooks, my love.
Thy barb, whose hoofs outspeed the tempest’s flight,
Bore thee far from me;
My heart, for my weak feet were weary soon,
Did companion thee.

Ah! fleeter far than fleetest storm or steed,
Or the death they bear,
The heart which tender thought clothes like a dove
With the wings of care;
In the battle, in the darkness, in the need,
Shall mine cling to thee,
Nor claim one smile for all the comfort, love,
It may bring to thee.

Rail journeys encourage, indeed enforce, deep thought. This is particularly true after dark, when it’s impossible to gaze vacantly at the scenery. James Thomson has made good use of one journey in producing this.

In the Train

As we rush, as we rush in the Train,
The trees and the houses go wheeling back,
But the starry heavens above the plain
Come flying on our track.

All the beautiful stars of the sky,
The silver doves of the forest of Night,
Over the dull earth swarm and fly,
Companions of our flight.

We will rush ever on without fear;
Let the goal be far, the flight be fleet!
For we carry the Heavens with us, dear,
While the earth slips from our feet!

It’s been a slightly longer selection this week, partly because I found more good poems this time around and partly because I’ve been neglecting these pages in favour of televisual pursuits and it’s about time I took myself in hand. I think I’ve hit on some good ones this week, and I hope you agree.

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