Poems of the Day

Thruth

Big Winter Daddy
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the music crept by us - leonard cohen

i would like to remind
the management
that the drinks are watered
and the hat-check girl
has syphilis
and the band is composed
of former ss monsters
However since it is
new year's eve
and i have lip cancer
i will place my
paper hat on my
concussion and dance
 
What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why (Sonnet XLIII) - Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
 
The Man in the Dead Machine - Donald Hall

High on a slope in New Guinea
The Grumman Hellcat
lodges among bright vines
as thick as arms. In 1943,
the clenched hand of a pilot
glided it here
where no one has ever been.

In the cockpit, the helmeted
skeleton sits
upright, held
by dry sinews at neck
and shoulder, and webbing
that straps the pelvic cross
to the cracked
leather of the seat, and the breastbone
to the canvas cover
of the parachute.

Or say the shrapnel
missed him, he flew
back to the carrier, and every
morning takes the train, his pale
hands on the black case, and sits
upright, held
by the firm webbing.
 
A good thread - thanks for starting it, Thruth.

Here are a few of my favourites.

Firstly, a haiku by Matsuo Basho, perhaps the greatest writer of haiku - short poems arranged in a three line, 5-7-5 syllable format. Basho wrote a lot of his most famous haiku during his wanderings through the Japanese countryside. After finishing his wanderings, he spent his days living in a small hut as a virtual hermit, although he did accept students of poetry.

"Nomi, shirami
Uma no shito suru
Makura mo to."


"Fleas, lice
And a horse pissing
By my pillow."
 
ee cummings is by far my favourite poet given his juxtaposition of words, syntax and the visual structure of how his poems are committed to paper

i like my body when it is with your body

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh ... And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new
 
^ I like ee cummings too, and that's a nice poem.

Here's another one by ee:

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but -- though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but -- though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”

our president, being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see; and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me : more blond than you.
 
That is a solid one. cummings could be soft and harsh

this one to me has the most melancholy last line of all

It may not always be so; and I say
That if your lips, which I have loved, should touch
Another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
His heart, as mine in time not far away;
If on another's face your sweet hair lay
In such a silence as I know, or such
Great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
Stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

If this should be, I say if this should be --
You of my heart, send me a little word;
That I may go to him, and take his hands,
Saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then I shall turn my face, and hear one bird
Sing terribly afar in the lost lands.
 
William Carlos Williams

The Widow's Lament in Springtime

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them
 
THE BEAR ON THE DELHI ROAD - Earle Birney

Unreal tall as a myth
by the road the Himalayan bear
is beating the brilliant air
with his crooked arms
About him two men bare
spindly as locusts leap

One pulls on a ring
in the great soft nose His mate
flicks flicks with a stick
up at the rolling eyes

They have not led him here
down from the fabulous hills
to this bald alien plain
and the clamorous world to kill
but simply to teach him to dance

They are peaceful both these spare
men of Kashmir and the bear
alive is their living too
If far on the Delhi way
around him galvanic they dance
it is merely to wear wear
from his shaggy body the tranced
wish forever to stay
only an ambling bear
four-footed in berries

It is no more joyous for them
in this hot dust to prance
out of reach of the praying claws
sharpened to paw for ants
in the shadows ofdeodars
It is not easy to free
myth from reality
or rear this fellow up
to lurch lurch with them
in the tranced dancing of men
 
THE DEAD POET - Al Purdy

I was altered in the placenta
by the dead brother before me
who built a place in the womb
knowing I was coming:
he wrote words on the walls of flesh
painting a woman inside a woman
whispering a faint lullaby
that sings in my blind heart still

The others were lumberjacks
backwoods wrestlers and farmers
their women were meek and mild
nothing of them survives
but an image inside an image
of a cookstove and the kettle boiling
— how else explain myself to myself
where does the song come from?

Now on my wanderings:
at the Alhambra's lyric dazzle
where the Moors built stone poems
a wan white face peering out
— and the shadow in Plato's cave
remembers the small dead one
— at Samarkand in pale blue light
the words came slowly from him
— I recall the music of blood
on the Street of the Silversmiths

Sleep softly spirit of earth
as the days and nights join hands
when everything becomes one thing
wait softly brother
but do not expect it to happen
that great whoop announcing resurrection
expect only a small whisper
of birds nesting and green things growing
and a brief saying of them
and know where the words came from
 
SONNET 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Wm. Shakespear
 
^ I love that one - probably my favourite of his sonnets for the deliberate irony and the big middle finger that Shakespeare was showing to the poetic metaphors of the time.

Of course, Sonnet 116 is justly famous, too:

SONNET 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
 
Why Weighs the Heart Heavy - Taras Shevchenko

Why weighs the heart heavy? Why drags life so dreary?
Why is the heart weeping and sobbing and sighing
As a child cries from hunger? Heart, heavy and weary,
What do you long for? Why are you sighing?
Are you longing for food or for drink or repose?
Slumber, my heart, for eternity sleeping,
Uncovered and shattered... Let hateful people
Rage on... O my heart, let your eyes gently close!

...
 
Those sonnets remind me that i have not paid enough attention to poetry prior to the 1800's.

Keep an eye out for a second-copy of Volume 1 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. It's a brilliant anthology, containing editorial notes and brief biographies of a lot of poets, playwrights and authors, in addition to a good selection of plays, poem and writing.
 
John Donne is one of my favourite pre-modern poets. A very interesting character, he had an eventful life, eventually taking orders as an Anglican priest and being appointed Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London. It was in that latter period, the last 15 years of his life, that he wrote some of his finest works, including the well-known passage about "No man is an island", taken from one of his sermons, later published as "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions".

Here are a couple of his poems.

The first is "The Flea", a rather unconventional love poem:

The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deny'st me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be;
Thou knowest that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead.
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered, swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we are met
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and sayest that thou
Find'st not thyself, nor me, the weaker now.
'Tis true, then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honor, when thou yieldst to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.

Donne, being religious, also wrote a lot of religious poetry, including a wonderful series of sonnets. I particularly like this one, Holy Sonnet XIV, for the force of its imagery, the forceful alliteration that is employed in a couple of lines and the somewhat daring metaphors:

Holy Sonnet XIV

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
 
Good choices Russell Street Russell Street & Journeyman Journeyman . Those sonnets remind me that i have not paid enough attention to poetry prior to the 1800's.
Should I cite Andrew Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress" the quintessential metaphysical poem? I always refer to it when discussing pervy high school English teachers or being metaphysical and explaining to girls that they should bang me before they are dead.
 
Keep an eye out for a second-copy of Volume 1 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. It's a brilliant anthology, containing editorial notes and brief biographies of a lot of poets, playwrights and authors, in addition to a good selection of plays, poem and writing.

I have that somewhere or more correctly had. When we were remodelling I put my books in a shed for storage. One day I went out for them and there they were, gone.

My wife figured it was time to get rid of those dusty things and donated them. Didn't want them back in the house. Even got rid of the built-in bookshelves they sat upon.

But all of her crime mysteries made their way safely back to "her" shelves
 
Should I cite Andrew Marvel's "To His Coy Mistress" the quintessential metaphysical poem? I always refer to it when discussing pervy high school English teachers or being metaphysical and explaining to girls that they should bang me before they are dead.

Absolutely
 
I always get upset when bitches, especially friggin English majors and shit, have never heard of this one. Oops, it's Andrew Marvell.
To His Coy Mistress
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
A hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
 
"To his Coy Mistress" is a great poem and, in its own way, is similar to Donne's "The Flea" (as they're both trying to persuade their girlfriends/mistresses to give them the goods, so to speak).

I particularly like the concluding lines:

"Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run."


A similar poem, with a much more Arcadian tone, is Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love":


COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.


There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.


There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.


A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.


A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.


Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.


The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.

The poem prompted a response by Sir Walter Raleigh (yes, the same Raleigh who was a soldier, spy, explorer and favourite of Queen Elizabeth I), entitled "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd".

I think that Raleigh's witty, satirical response is better than Marlowe's overly-romantic original:

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.


Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.


The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.


The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten, -
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.


Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.


But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.
 
I love this:

The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten, -
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
 
I just stumbled on this - what an amazing oasis of civilisation hiding in full view in the midst of all this detritus .

I have out of the library at the moment a huge thick book of Larkin. I knew he was ok but never realised he was soo good.
 
I have out of the library at the moment a huge thick book of Larkin. I knew he was ok but never realised he was soo good.

I like Larkin - I read The Whitsun Weddings at high school and shared it with my dad (who was born in England less than a year after Larkin). My dad enjoyed them but said that he also found some of them a bit gloomy, a thought with which I agreed.

Here's one of Larkin's poems that I remember:

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
 
yeah -of course the parents one is best known. And rightly so.
 
The Time Around Scars - Michael Ondaatje

A girl whom I've not spoken to
or shared coffee with for several years
writes of an old scar.

On her wrist it sleeps, smooth and white,
the size of a leech.

I gave it to her
brandishing a new Italian penknife.

Look, I said turning,
and blood spat onto her shirt.


My wife has scars like spread raindrops
on knees and ankles,
she talks of broken greenhouse panes
and yet, apart from imagining red feet,
(a nymph out of Chagall)
I bring little to that scene.

We remember the time around scars,
they freeze irrelevant emotions
and divide us from present friends.

I remember this girl's face,
the widening rise of surprise.


And would she
moving with lover or husband
conceal or flaunt it,
or keep it at her wrist
a mysterious watch.

And this scar I then remember
is a medallion of no emotion.


I would meet you now
and I would wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred between us.
 
8 Fragments for Kurt Kobain - Jim Carroll

1/
Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover
And it resents fame
With bitter vengeance

Pills and powdres only placate it awhile
Then it puts you in a place where the planet's poles reverse
Where the currents of electricity shift

Your Body becomes a magnet and pulls to it despair and rotten teeth,
Cheese whiz and guns

Whose triggers are shaped tenderly into a false lust
In timeless illusion

2/
The guitar claws kept tightening, I guess on your heart stem.
The loops of feedback and distortion, threaded right thru
Lucifer's wisdom teeth, and never stopped their reverbrating
In your mind

And from the stage
All the faces out front seemed so hungry
With an unbearably wholesome misunderstanding

From where they sat, you seemed so far up there
High and live and diving

And instead you were swamp crawling
Down, deeper
Until you tasted the Earth's own blood
And chatted with the Buzzing-eyed insects that heroin breeds

3/
You should have talked more with the monkey
He's always willing to negotiate
I'm still paying him off...
The greater the money and fame
The slower the Pendulum of fortune swings

Your will could have sped it up...
But you left that in a plane
Because it wouldn't pass customs and immigration

4/
Here's synchronicity for you:

Your music's tape was inside my walkman
When my best friend from summer camp
Called with the news about you

I listened them...
It was all there!
Your music kept cutting deeper and deeper valleys of sound
Less and less light
Until you hit solid rock

The drill bit broke
and the valley became
A thin crevice, impassible in time,
As time itself stopped.

And the walls became cages of brilliant notes
Pressing in...
Pressure
That's how diamonds are made
And that's WHERE it sometimes all collapses
Down in on you

5/
Then I translated your muttered lyrics
And the phrases were curious:
Like "incognito libido"
And "Chalk Skin Bending"

The words kept getting smaller and smaller
Until
Separated from their music
Each letter spilled out into a cartridge
Which fit only in the barrel of a gun

6/
And you shoved the barrel in as far as possible
Because that's where the pain came from
That's where the demons were digging

The world outside was blank
Its every cause was just a continuation
Of another unsolved effect

7/
But Kurt...
Didn't the thought that you would never write another song
Another feverish line or riff
Make you think twice?
That's what I don't understand
Because it's kept me alive, above any wounds

8/
If only you hadn't swallowed yourself into a coma in Roma...
You could have gone to Florence
And looked into the eyes of Bellinni or Rafael's Portraits

Perhaps inside them
You could have found a threshold back to beauty's arms
Where it all began...

No matter that you felt betrayed by her

That is always the cost
As Frank said,
Of a young artist's remorseless passion

Which starts out as a kiss
And follows like a curse
 
The United Fruit Company - Pablo Neruda

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy
piece, the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.
 
As we come up to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, which occurred on April 25th 1915, I thought that it might be good to post a few poems.

Firstly, a well-known poem by Rupert Brooke. Brooke, as can be seen, had a very romantic view of war but he died of blood poisoning on his way to Gallipoli. Had he not died, it would have been interesting to see how his views changed once he actually experienced war.

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Next, a poem by Wilfred Owen. Owen is, for many, the quintessential WWI soldier-poet, and he is famous for his anti-war poems. However, early in the war, like Brooke, Owen was writing romantic poetry about honour and so on. It's very interesting to compare his early poems, with their romantic visions of war, to his later ones such as this one.

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Owen was, of course, greatly guided and influenced by Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated officer who was known as "Mad Jack" for his almost suicidal bravery in the trenches. He was awarded the Military Cross, mentioned in despatches, and (unsuccessfully) nominated for the Victoria Cross.

In 1917, increasingly disillusioned by the way that WWI was being conducted, Sassoon took the brave and unusual step of writing to his commanding officer to express his disillusionment. The letter was subsequently read out in the British parliament and published in the London Times:

Lt. Siegfried Sassoon.
3rd Batt: Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
July, 1917.
I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of agression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realise.

Sassoon wrote some very fine war poetry. This example is far from his best (it's really just doggerel) but it's brief and amusing as well as devastating in its accuracy:

The General

"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
 
William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

............
 
I just realised that we haven't mentioned "Ozymandias", by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my favourite poems:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away"

I really love the rhythm, and the evocative use of alliteration in the last two lines of the sonnet - boundless and bare, lone and level, sands stretch.
 
Another favourite from my liberal arts uni days... "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'"

How vain man can be.
 
When I was an emo-ey sad teenager, I always liked this one from Thomas Nashe:

In Time of Pestilence

ADIEU, farewell earth's bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life's lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade;
All things to end are made;
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen's eye;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate;
Earth still holds ope her gate;
Come, come! the bells do cry;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death's bitterness;
Hell's executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player's stage.
Mount we unto the sky;
I am sick, I must die—
Lord, have mercy on us!
 
And then, of course, Shakespeare's ode to cunnilingus, from Venus and Adonis:

'Fondling','she saith, 'since I have hemm'd thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
I'll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale:
Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain,
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest and from rain.
 
I also have an odd affinity for Joseph Auslander's Riders at the Gate. It's hard to find, and way to long to paste here, but it's worth a read if you're in a kind of apocalyptic renaissance fair sort of mood.
 
When I am feeling especially affected, this poem always get me in the right mood.

To Randolph Churchill, from John Betjeman, but not about him.

Broad of Church and broad of mind,
Broad before and broad behind,
A keen ecclesiologist,
A rather dirty Wykehamist.
‘Tis not for us to wonder why
He wears that curious knitted tie;
We should not cast reflections on
The very slightest kind of don.
We should not giggle as we like
At his appearance on his bike;
It’s something to become a bore,
And more than that, at twenty-four.
It’s something too to know your wants
And go full pelt for Norman fonts.
Just now the chestnut trees are dark
And full with shadow in the park,
And ‘ six o’clock! ‘ St. Mary calls
Above the mellow college walls.
The evening stretches arms to twist
And captivate her Wykehamist.
But not for him these autumn days,
He shuts them out with heavy baize;
He gives his Ovaltine a stir
And nibbles at a petit beurre,
And, satisfying fleshy wants,
He settles down to Norman fonts.
 
Not a poem but an Old Norse proverb.
Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man's life.
 
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
 

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