Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Poem: " The Children's Hour" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
   That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the early 1980s, there was a New Zealand band called Children's Hour, but apparently they didn't take their name from this poem.

Longfellow is probably fairly well known to most English students in English-speaking countries, but for more on this poet, see:


You have to be a jolly famous poet to feature on a Postage Stamp:

I aspire to be on a Postage Stamp someday, but with the decline of snail mail, will anyone still be licking the backs of poets in ten years time?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Poem: "Braided River" (In memory of Norris Hickey)

Love and family
are the twin tributaries that flowed into your heart
like a braided river.
Somewhat of a paradox, a sociable man
who often preferred to be alone
on some braided river,
basking in the peace of the wilderness,
hearing only the song of the birds
and the gentle whirr of the fly line,
its nylon whipping to that spot
where you hoped the fish would rise.
Patience comes more easily in
peaceful surroundings,
but not so easy waiting for the blessing
of grandchildren.
Like awaiting the trout and salmon,
your patience was rewarded
when the spawning started.
Five blessings eventually
and you always said what a lucky man you were.
What you would have been too modest to say
was that we were all lucky too.
For you filled all our lives with your love,
your boxing tales
and your big, generous heart.

POET'S NOTE: My father-in-law, Norris Hickey, died on Saturday 27 September 2014, after a protracted battle with prostate cancer. He was fortunate in that he died in his home where he had brought up his family for the past 40 years and his beloved wife and his much-loved four daughters were around his bedside when he breathed his last breath. RIP Norris.

Norris Hickey in 1998 at the Wedding of his second daughter
Photo Credit: Bronwyn Evans

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Poem: "We Two On The Still Strand" by Christian Matras

It was in a world of fair-weather fog
the islands out there had gone
and soft small waves came back and forth to shore,
they hardly wanted to break.
We two alone on the foreshore
waded quietly out
and began to play with the cool wavelets quietly, 
yes, with the whole unspoiled world
that God had made in the first days. 

     -- Christian Matras (translated from the Faroese by George Johnston)

To find out more about this poet:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Poem: "Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower" by Taha Muhammad Ali

In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn’t raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in, please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”

his case is hopeless,
his situation
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
sunny-side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.

by Taha Muhammad Ali 
(translated from the Arabic by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin)

Photo Credit: Nina Subin

For more about this poet, see:

If we take the time to study the modern history of the Middle East and not just see the region in terms of a simplistic Arab versus Jew dualism, we can see that colonial powers have meddled with the Middle Eastern countries and territories for reasons of power, influence, military posturing and exploitation of the area's resources, such as oil.

If you would like to have more in-depth knowledge of this Western interference, I highly recommend reading Robert Fisk's collection of columns for The Independent which is called Age of the Warrior:


I think this poem by Taha Muhammad Ali accurately portrays the plight of the average Palestinian, indeed the plight of many poor Arab people throughout the Arab region who have no thoughts of Jihad because they are too busy just getting by with the details of everyday life. This might seem like sacrilege to George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the majority of Muslim Arabs, I suspect, want much the same as any citizen of this planet, to give their children better food, better housing, better education and generally better lives than they themselves have had.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

NEW ZEALAND ELECTION DAY POEM: "Looking Backwards" by Kendrick Smithyman

The first Labour Government was in office.
A fait accompli, without consulting us
Mother went into time payment, again we had
a radio. We were in touch,
                                         broadcasts from the House,
Eb and Zeb, Fred and Maggie, Father's good ear pressed
to the Speaker (this was better than Hansard)
and Gordon Hutter. Sense of purpose -
everything being built all over,
they hadn't yet started quite to fall apart?
On the horizon a shimmering like a pearl.

Au fond du temple saint:
soon I was getting into opera, would rather
had been girls but girls were difficult.
Even so after Evensong I ratted on Maury,
left him with both choirgirls on his hands,
scuttling home to hear the latest tenor,
Jussi Björling.
                      Mother closed her eyes, Father leaned
against E lucevan le stelle, to La donna è mobile.
How right. "As good as Caruso, or better,
when I heard him in Philadelphia."
"Like Melba," Mum declared, "you don't know
whether to laugh or cry." We'd missed
Uncle Scrim.

                         Along skies westward stars were
shining, a flickering like not so distant gunfire.

     -- Kendrick Smithyman

Photo Credit: www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz

For more on this often underrated New Zealand poet, see:

Friday, September 19, 2014


As you are all probably aware, the NO vote won and poor old Scotland is still tied to England...and so, for that matter, are our Gaelic cousins in Wales and Northern Ireland.

People (often English people and conservative Scots) were so horrified at the thought of an Independent Scotland, but how is it any different from an Independent France or Germany or Spain?

I'm disappointed, but that's democracy, I guess. You win some, you lose some.

Let's try again soon, Scotland! Don't give up, Glasgow, you wanted to go free and clear, but the rest of the country weren't with you this time.

Go Scottish Independence!!! - "It was a' for our Rightful King" by wee Robbie Burns

It was a' for our rightful king
         That we left fair Scotland's strand;
It was a' for our rightful king
         We e'er saw Irish land,
                My dear,
         We e'er saw Irish land.

Now a' is done that men can do,
         And a' is done in vain!
My love, and native land, fareweel!
         For I maun cross the main,
                My dear,
         For I maun cross the main.

He turn'd him right and round about,
         Upon the Irish shore,
He gave his bridle-reins a shake,
         With, Adieu for evermore,
                My dear!
         And adieu for evermore!

The soldier frae the war returns,
         And the merchant frae the main.
But I hae parted frae my love,
         Never to meet again,
                My dear,
         Never to meet again.

When day is gone and night is come,
         And a' folk bound to sleep,
I think on him that's far awa
         The lee-lang night, and weep,
                My dear,
         The lee-lang night, and weep.

by Robert Burns (unofficial Poet Laureate of Scotland)

I think wee Robbie will weep with joy in Heaven if the YES vote is successful today.

As a proud descendant of Scots on my paternal side, I hope all the English scaremongers are crestfallen today and that Scotland finally throws off the English yoke! When the Sassenachs were throwing my ancestors off their land, they never dreamed that one day we would rise up and throw them off! Emperor Hadrian built a wall because he couldn't conquer the fierce Picts and Gaels. May Scottish pride be restored by the YES vote today!

Shame, Bob Geldof, shame! Today Scotland, tomorrow a free, independent, united Ireland.

Raise the true flag of Scotland high!