Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tuesday Poem: "In Westminster Abbey" by John Betjeman

Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,

And the beauteous fields of Eden

Bask beneath the Abbey bells.

Here, where England's statesmen lie,

Listen to a lady's cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,

Spare their women for Thy Sake,

And if that is not too easy

We will pardon Thy Mistake.

But, gracious Lord, whate'er shall be,

Don't let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered

Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,

Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,

Honduras and Togoland;

Protect them Lord in all their fights,

And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,

Books from Boots' and country lanes,

Free speech, free passes, class distinction,

Democracy and proper drains.

Lord, put beneath Thy special care

One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,

I have done no major crime;

Now I'll come to Evening Service

Whensoever I have the time.

So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,

And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,

Help our lads to win the war,

Send white feathers to the cowards

Join the Women's Army Corps,

Then wash the steps around Thy Throne

In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,

What a treat to hear Thy Word,

Where the bones of leading statesmen

Have so often been interr'd.

And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait

Because I have a luncheon date.

by John Betjeman

I love this poem. It's very funny and it cuts straight to the heart of the hypocrisy often paraded as devoutness.

For more about the poet, John Betjeman, see:

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tuesday Poem: "The Solitary" by Rainer Maria Rilke

No: my heart shall be a tower,
and I myself set at its highest rim:

where nothing else exists, once again pain

and the unsayable, once again world.

Still one thing alone in immensity,

growing dark then light again,

still one last face full of longing

thrust out into the unappeasable,

still one uttermost face made of stone

heeding only its own inner gravity,

while the distances that silently destroy it

drive it on to an ever deeper bliss.

by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated from the German by Edward Snow)

Rilke certainly had the remarkable ability to be concise, compact, succinct and yet say so much with so few words. The essence of poetry, I suppose. The maximum impact with the minimum possible words.

For more information on the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, see:

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Tuesday Poem: " Acceptance" by Robert Frost

When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,

No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud

At what has happened. Birds, at least must know

It is the change to darkness in the sky.

Murmuring something quiet in her breast,

One bird begins to close a faded eye;

Or overtaken too far from his nest,

Hurrying low above the grove, some waif

Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.

At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!

Now let the night be dark for all of me.

Let the night be too dark for me to see

Into the future. Let what will be, be.'

by Robert Frost

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tuesday Poem: "Exiles from the Dreamtime"

Tell me of the Dreamtime, Grandfather,
the young boy said.
Fill me with your memories
so you may live on in me.
Show me the past
so I might see the future.

There, under the cold light of the stars,
the fire of youth smouldered in the old man’s eyes
as they travelled the pathway of his tongue
and heard the unheard voices.

It was a time of wonders, he said,
but our currency was change.
We thought we could buy new miracles,
but we sold ourselves short.

The sea was lover to the land.
It knew where to kiss
and where to bite.
The seed of the sea was awash in our veins,
drawing us into it, on it, near it
and we were rewarded
by its majesty and generosity.
From some deep heart the malachite sculptures came,
refined by reef and wind,
until they exploded with white intensity
upon the beaches of the world,
some the cool, white velvet of crushed stars,
some warm and tawny like sleeping lions
and some black and hot with iron.
And in its depths we heard
the songs of our siblings,
but we had lost the lyric language.
Noble cetaceans whose forgiveness never waned
even as the last giant tail fluke
waved goodbye as it sank
into the cauldron of poison we had created.

Forests were the libraries of the land.
In life they charted the planet’s progress
and in death they froze fragments of history.
Like great ideas they affected our lives
and their shelves held the catalogues of Nature.
There were the cathedral canopies of the tropics
where soft light fell like a blessing
on a steamy palette of greens.
There were the eucalypts of the drier climates
which grew lean and tough, seeking the groundwater
like a seaside resort seeks the summer.
Or the mountain pines,
spectral in the moonlit snow,
alive with the red eyes of wolves
and the wind murmuring the secrets of the valleys.

But, like a petulant child,
we pulled the thread that unravelled the tapestry.
One day we awoke
to a desert of silence.

The ants we had taken for granted
were noticeably absent.
The bees, bereaved of flowers,
had nothing to live for.
The birds, robbed of progeny and homes,
plummeted from the sky,
made gangrenous by our excreta.
We had made the Sun an enemy
and it boiled the sea in its rage.

Tears extinguished the youthful fire
as the old man said, Forgive us, Grandson,
we squandered your inheritance
like callow, hedonistic youths
then fled the island
when the volcano erupted.
Surveying the barren landscape of their exile,
he said, It is fitting that
we banished ourselves to the Red Planet
because the blood of the Dreamtime
is on our hands.

Photo Credit: www.edgee.com

I offer my own sort of companion piece to last week's poem by W.S. Merwin just because I'm an old greenie hippie at heart, folks. I wrote this poem way back in 1988 and, sadly, things have probably only got worst since then. Let's be more careful with our precious planet. What say you?

Photo Credit: http://operationfailwhale.blogspot.co.nz

Photo Credit: Wolf Wallpapers