Tag: poem

Was there ever a cat so clever?

Thursday, 5 November, 2015 0 Comments

The cat

“He is quiet and small, he is black
From his ears to the tip of his tail;
He can creep through the tiniest crack
He can walk on the narrowest rail.
He can pick any card from a pack,
He is equally cunning with dice;
He is always deceiving you into believing
That he’s only hunting for mice.
He can play any trick with a cork
Or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste;
If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced —
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
But you’ll find it next week lying out on the lawn.
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever.”

T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats


In Memory Of My Mother

Sunday, 6 September, 2015 1 Comment

Our loss is enormous. Our hearts are broken. Our sorrow is great. Our hope is that our mother, Catherine O’Donnell-Fitzgerald (29 July 1928 – 6 September 2015), will smile up at us and down on us — eternally — because we will be forever in her debt.

In Memory Of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday —
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle — ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life —
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us — eternally.

Patrick Kavanagh

Mammy


Huxley forgets

Sunday, 26 July, 2015 1 Comment

On this day in 1894, the English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley was born. He is best known for his novel, Brave New World, set in a dystopian, futuristic London, and for The Doors of Perception, a non-fiction book that recalls his experiences when taking the drug mescaline. In his poem, Social Amenities, Huxley confronts forgetfulness, a condition associated with, but not limited to, ageing.

Social Amenities

I am getting on well with this anecdote,
When suddenly I recall
The many times I have told it of old,
And all the worked-up phrases, and the dying fall
Of voice, well timed in the crisis, the note
Of mock-heroic ingeniously struck —
The whole thing sticks in my throat,
And my face all tingles and pricks with shame
For myself and my hearers.
These are the social pleasures, my God!
But I finish the story triumphantly all the same.

Aldous Huxley (26 July 1894 — 22 November 1963)

Aldous Huxley


Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted

Monday, 20 July, 2015 0 Comments

We’d like to thank Noel and Patricia and Shane Connolly for an excellent experience of the Burren. For them, here’s an excerpt from Ireland With Emily by Sir John Betjeman:

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
Stony hills poured over space,
Stony outcrop of the Burren,
Stones in every fertile place,
Little fields with boulders dotted,
Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
Where a Stone Age people breeds
The last of Europe’s stone age race.

The Burren


Thermopylae today

Sunday, 5 July, 2015 0 Comments

Thermopylae is famed for the battle that took place there in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force (including 300 Spartans) held off a substantially larger army of Persians under Xerxes. In his poem Thermopylae, C.P. Cavafy points out that although the Greeks knew they would be defeated, they were not deterred. They fought and died for their principles. Cavafy says that if we have values, we should defend them even if we know there is the danger of failure, loss and betrayal.

Thermopylae

Honour to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
Never betraying what is right,
consistent and just in all they do
but showing pity also, and compassion;
generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
still generous in small ways,
still helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hating those who lie.

And even more honour is due to them
when they foresee (as many do foresee)
that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.

(translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

C.P. Cavafy


She bid me take life easy

Saturday, 13 June, 2015 0 Comments

The repertoire of the Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt is Celtic to its core. For the 150th birthday of the poet W.B. Yeats, her rendition of Down by the Salley Gardens, with its meditations on love, life and the passing of time is most appropriate.

Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)


Dorothy Parker and the passionate Freudian

Sunday, 7 June, 2015 0 Comments

Dorothy Parker When times were more Hobbesian, poets appreciated the meaning of the Latin aphorism carpe diem (“seize the day”). They knew that life could be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” so they urged their readers to make the best of it. Christopher Marlowe’s carpe diem poem, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, inspired a famous response by Sir Walter Raleigh, The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, and 400 years later Dorothy Parker wrote a parody titled The Passionate Freudian to His Love.

The delightfully acidic Parker, who said things like “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone,” and “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think,” died on this day in 1967.

The Passionate Freudian to His Love

Only name the day, and we’ll fly away
In the face of old traditions,
To a sheltered spot, by the world forgot,
Where we’ll park our inhibitions.
Come and gaze in eyes where the lovelight lies
As it psychoanalyzes,
And when once you glean what your fantasies mean
Life will hold no more surprises.
When you’ve told your love what you’re thinking of
Things will be much more informal;
Through a sunlit land we’ll go hand-in-hand,
Drifting gently back to normal.

While the pale moon gleams, we will dream sweet dreams,
And I’ll win your admiration,
For it’s only fair to admit I’m there
With a mean interpretation.
In the sunrise glow we will whisper low
Of the scenes our dreams have painted,
And when you’re advised what they symbolized
We’ll begin to feel acquainted.
So we’ll gaily float in a slumber boat
Where subconscious waves dash wildly;
In the stars’ soft light, we will say good-night—
And “good-night!” will put it mildly.

Our desires shall be from repressions free—
As it’s only right to treat them.
To your ego’s whims I will sing sweet hymns,
And ad libido repeat them.
With your hand in mine, idly we’ll recline
Amid bowers of neuroses,
While the sun seeks rest in the great red west
We will sit and match psychoses.
So come dwell a while on that distant isle
In the brilliant tropic weather;
Where a Freud in need is a Freud indeed,
We’ll always be Jung together.

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)


Found poem

Sunday, 31 May, 2015 0 Comments

Given that “This Is Just To Say” was written as though it were a note left on a kitchen table, William Carlos Williams was once asked what makes it a poem. He replied, “In the first place, it’s metrically absolutely regular. So, dogmatically speaking, it has to be a poem because it goes that way, don’t you see!” Critic Marjorie Perloff described it as “typography rather than any kind of phonemic recurrence”. For some scholars, “This Is Just To Say” belongs between the urinals of Marcel Duchamp and the soup tins of Andy Warhol. It’s Pop Art, in other words. In fact, the term “found poetry” was created to help categorize the phenomenon.

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams, (1883 – 1963)


Leap Before You Look

Sunday, 10 May, 2015 0 Comments

The proverb “Look before you leap” was first recorded in John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, published in 1546. Some believe that it originated in the wisdom of checking a fence before jumping over it on horseback, but others say it expresses an ancient warning about rashly rushing into marriage.

W. H. Auden turned the proverb on its head 75 years ago and urged readers to experience all that life has to offer instead of worrying about every possible outcome. Danger is everywhere: “Our dream of safety has to disappear.” The best place to be is in the present says Auden. If “tough minded men” have no problem breaking silly “by-laws” that any “fool can keep”, why should the rest of us live in fear?

Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

W. H. Auden


Edible Easter Leporidae

Sunday, 5 April, 2015 0 Comments

It was Georg Franck von Frankenau who first mentioned the traditional role of the Leporidae family (hares and rabbits) in connection with Easter. That was in 1682 and he was commenting on customs in Alsace in De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs). Fast forward to the 20th century and James Laughlin recalls Easter in Pittsburgh:

“I liked

Thanksgiving better be-
cause that was the day

father took us down to
the mills but Easter I

liked next best and the
rabbits died because we

fed them beet tops and
the lamb pulled up the

grass by the roots and
was sold to Mr. Page the

butcher”

Easter


Death, be not proud

Thursday, 2 April, 2015 0 Comments

Daddy

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)